How Long Does It Take to “Work Out Your Salvation?”

Alarm“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

In the United States, we have tried to reduce this life-long process of sanctification to a quantifiable, manageable, controllable event that can be doled out to our children, to churches, and ourselves. We try to fast track sanctification through events like:

  • Reading a best-selling book by a popular author.
  • Participating in a mission trip for the experience.
  • Listening to a top-rated podcast by a celebrity pastor.
  • Attending a camp or conference to hear a famous speaker.
  • Attending worship in a search for spiritual experience.

To be clear, I’m not opposed to books, mission trips, podcasts, camps, or conferences. I am concerned when we look for instant sanctification in “events.” I see this as our instant gratification culture creeping into our spirituality. We wrongly reason, “Why wait and struggle when there may be a faster, easier way to grow in our faith and work out our salvation?”

Unfortunately, our attempt to work out our own salvation with sound bites, weekends, and emotional experiences only results in shallow Christianity. We are like plants that spring up in rocky soil or that grow up among the thorns. Event based sanctification doesn’t last, and in the end we keep coming back for more like an addict looking for another high.

We must reckon with the fact that sanctification (working out our salvation), is a process, not an event. It isn’t flashy and it’s often boring. It can’t be measured in books sold, podcasts downloaded, or large crowds. Rather, it looks like this:

  • Participating and serving at church week in and week out.
  • Leading your family in both public and private worship.
  • Devoting time to talk to God in focused, uninterrupted prayer.
  • Sacrificially investing in others for the purpose of discipleship.
  • Showing hospitality to people inside and outside of church.

How long does it take to “work out your salvation?” I can’t give you a specific answer, but I can tell you there aren’t any shortcuts.

Originally published March 6, 2017 on