After my father-in-law’s beloved passed away he wanted to come visit us for a while. We had just gotten our first home and we badly needed a porch and a ramp. So my father-in-law came down and he and my husband were eager to take on this project. Larry* assured us he knew what to do and my husband was confident it was a simple enough project for a DIY job.
I admit I had a few red flags going up in my mind as I heard the pair of men talking. Larry was confident they could do the job and my husband was eager to become a DIY pro. What did I know about building a deck with a ramp? Nothing that I hadn’t seen on numerous HGTV shows and that wasn’t in the trenches knowledge. So I held my tongue and the two men piled our shopping card high with drills, saws, screws, nails, work gloves, footings, braces, levels, measuring tape, work horses; it looked like we were outfitting a workshop by the time we were done shopping. We arranged for the lumber to be delivered.
The next day I went off to work and the men began work on the deck. We repeated the arrangement for three days. In those three days the pair had made a few more runs to the home improvement stores, burned out a drill and at last we had an 8×8 deck with a ramp. It only cost us around $500 in supplies and if you threw in the cost of Larry’s plane ticket we spent a little over $800. The men were proud of themselves. Who was I to worry about it swaying when anyone walked across it? That was the deck “settling”, perfectly normal.
A few months later my husband and I came in from work well after dark. He went on ahead to unlock the front door and was standing in front of it while I was just about half-way up the ramp when the “slight swaying” we’d experienced turned into more of an amusement park ride complete with fright, lacking in fun. The support beams went one way, the decking another, nails and screws went flying, braces were popping and my husband and I went down with the deck. Praise God neither of us was hurt. It was a complete loss. A DIY turned DYI – Do Yourself In.
We laugh now about our roller coaster ride in our front yard and our $1200 deck that measured 8×8 without including the ramp. Grateful that the Brotherhood Ministry of our church came to our rescue when I began getting dangerously sick and built us a solid deck and that they were able to re-use some of the decking wood from our original purchase. Our DYI is a great metaphor to a DIY approach to our walk with Christ.
Paul told the Philippians in Philippians 2:12-13, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work our your salvations with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” And he repeatedly warns throughout his letters to the churches in the New Testament to beware of false teachers, of being led astray by people who had been deceived and of being deceived themselves.
(Least anyone be confused, salvation is a gift of God to us through the death of His Son on Calvary’s cross, who died and rose from the grave to bridge the gap between the Holy Father and we, His creations. It cannot be earned according to Scripture. The only way to receive salvation, a restoration of the created to the Creator is through Jesus Christ as He Himself told His disciples responding to a question from Thomas in John 4:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this not from yourselves it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” So I will often refer to working out your own salvation as your Faith Journey instead of your salvation. Simply for a means of clear communication.)
There are some very practical approaches to working out your own salvation that we as Christians must remember to follow:
- Pray. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you as you read the Bible and study the writings it contains. Ask for enlightenment and for Godly wisdom.
- Be careful not to take a verse or passage of verses out of context and apply it to other situations, both from the Bible and from the life you are living now. While it is true that John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” could be the only scripture necessary to start a Believer’s faith journey, in order to build a solid spiritual life you need the whole Bible, not just bits and pieces.
Have a plan. Failure to plan can have you riding down your DIY salvation as it crumbles beneath you.
Spend time in God’s word daily. Not just a quick reading of a few verses and a dash of a prayer but time you truly devote to enriching your salvation.
- A devotional time is fantastic and needs to be a part of your spending time in God’s word but as we mature in our salvation we must seek the meat not the milk. Hebrews 5:12-14 through 6:1-3 reads, “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food. Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore, let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.”
- Study from any number of available Bible study aids that are helping you learn Biblical truths. Seek out teachers of God’s word, ministers, pastors, friends who are further along in their walk than you and LEARN from them.
- As you learn, do not be afraid to question what you are being taught to be sure it is based on sound Biblical foundations. If what you are being told is the Spiritual truth then it will be supported by Scripture.
- If something doesn’t make sense, suppose what you are learning appears to be Biblically supported but the Holy Spirit within you isn’t at peace then pray, seeking the intervention of the Holy Spirit to guide you. Be sure the Scripture you are being given as proof of the teaching is supported by more than one Scripture and that it hasn’t been pieced together with bits and pieces of verses that have been supported by inadequate foundational material. You are building on your Faith house and it must have a solid foundation. See Matthew 7:24-27.
- Allow yourself adequate time to improve your Faith Journey. Working out your salvation takes time. A solid foundation is key. Your plan needs to be one that sees the larger picture, but also the smaller steps necessary to get there. Don’t take it all on at once! You will be overwhelmed, discouraged and quit. As a marathon runner in this Faith journey you must remember what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified from the prize.”
My husband and his father took on a project neither of them really had knowledge enough to complete. Instead of seeking help they dove into building that deck based on their own reasoning and limited experience. The only plans they had were in their heads and their plans didn’t look the same in both their minds so when decisions had to be made they were made based on what the individual was thinking not one plan. Perhaps using the right tools for the job would have meant once screws were drilled in they stayed where they were placed. Our deck lacked a solid foundation so when the winds and rains of everyday use came it collapsed like a deck of cards hit by the hands of an angry three-year-old.
My deepest encouragement for your Faith journey! Pray. Study. Pray. Invest the necessary time for it will make the whole of your life sweeter in the long term. And of course, as revealed to Timothy in II Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”