There was a man who had been out of work for a long time and decided to inquire at the local zoo. He told the zookeeper, “I would like a job. I will clean cages. I will do whatever you need.”
The zookeeper said, “I’m sorry. We would love to hire you, but there just aren’t any openings right now.” Noticing how big and burly the man was, the zookeeper suddenly had an idea.
He said, “This is crazy, and you don’t have to agree to it, but would you be willing to put on a costume and pretend to be a gorilla? Our gorilla died last week. He was our most popular exhibit. If you will be the gorilla, we will have a suit custom-made for you. We’ll pay you really well.”
Desperate for work, the man took the job. Feeling a little apprehensive on his first day, he put on the gorilla suit and climbed into the cage. He made a few gorilla moves and beat his chest a little. The people loved it.
The next day, he tried shaking the bars, screaming, and running around. The crowds started growing. By the third day, he was really enjoying his job and began swinging on the vines. But he swung too far, went over the wall, and landed in the middle of the lion’s cage.
The lion turned and walked toward him rather quickly. The man knew that if he called for help, people would discover he wasn’t really a gorilla. But if he kept quiet, he would be the lion’s lunch. So he screamed, “Help!”
“Shut up, stupid!” the lion whispered back. “You’ll get us both fired!”
There are a lot of people like this in the church today. They are putting on a show. They are pretending to be something they are really not.
You may be a good representative of Jesus Christ, or you may be a bad one. Either way, you are His representative.
Some people may never open the Bible and read John 3:16. They may never look to see what the Scriptures say to them. But they will watch you. They will take note of the way you live, the way you treat your family, how you do your job, and the way you function as a follower of Jesus Christ. And they will make their evaluation about God accordingly.
Philippians 2 presents a powerful portion of Scripture that shows us how important a good example really is:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now 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 do for His good pleasure. (verses 12–13 nkjv)
There was a special bond between Paul and the believers in Philippi. They were in great agony over the fact that Paul was in prison and could not be with them. So Paul was saying, “I don’t want you to lower your guard spiritually, even if I am not around. I don’t want you go into some kind of a spiritual cruise control and not continue to move forward.”
Paul wanted the believers to stand on their own two feet spiritually. How were they to do this? We see the answer in verse 12: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
This doesn’t say to work for your own salvation. It says to work out your own salvation. This phrase, “work out,” means “to carry it to the goal and fully complete it.” In the original language, the phrase also could be translated to mean working a mine, as in mining for gold.
God wants us to carry on to the goal and fully complete our own salvation. In recognition of what God has done for us, we have to realize that He has placed the mother lode of His grace and forgiveness in our lives. We need to mine it. We need to discover it. We need to appropriate it. We need to carry it to the goal.
That may seem like a tall order. It is. But let’s not forget verse 13: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
Remember, the calling of God is the enabling of God. If God asks you to do something, then He will give you the power to do it.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!