And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)
Can you think of someone in your life that just… wouldn’t listen? Can you think of someone who seemed like a lost cause? Someone that seemed like they’d never grow or change? Or maybe you feel a similar despair towards yourself: “Why won’t I grow? Why do those Christians seem to have it all together, when I seem to keep falling back into the same traps again and again? What is wrong with me?”
Whether you’ve thought or felt that way about someone else or about yourself (or both), hold the memory of those thoughts and feelings in your mind, and then read this week’s Fighter verse again. The truth expressed in this verse really begins three verses before that. Paul writes to the believers in Philippi: I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the Gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
So Paul pretty much starts his letter to these people by saying, “I’m thankful for you. I’m so deeply happy to know you, that every time I think about you, every time you cross my mind, I thank my God for you.” He expands on that thought: I’m always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all. He thanks God for them by joyfully praying for them every time he prays for them. Every time he goes before the throne of God, he cries out in joy, “Look at your kids, Father! Look at them! Look at how great they are! Thank you SO so much for putting them in my life!” Why is he so happy about them? Because they relationally connected with him (that’s the sense of the word “participation” here) in the good news (gospel) from the day he met them until now.
And then Paul says what enables that connection: being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
It’s hard for me to express how much this little tiny sentence amazes me. First, that little word translated “being confident” (or in the ESV, “I am sure”) doesn’t even begin to convey the punch this packed in the original language. This word uses a special verb form that basically indicates extreme certainty — like, he is SO certain of this truth that he was convinced of it a long time ago and he is continuously and forevermore putting his trust or confidence in what he already knows to be true. He’s so sure of it that he’s banking on it. He’s betting his whole life on it.
What is he betting his life on? What is he so sure of? That He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ. In other words, what Jesus started, He will begin. He saved you, beginning the transformation. He began your metamorphosis into a butterfly. And He will finish the job. He won’t leave you in the chrysalis. Because ultimately, your growth does not depend on you.
Now ponder how this post began. Remember that person you chalked off as a lost cause? If they have trusted Jesus, they are not a lost cause. We can be 110% sure that God will finish the good work in them. And if the person you thought about was you, the same is true. If Jesus began the work — if He saved you — He ABSOLUTELY WILL FINISH it! So stop focusing on yourself and turning your thoughts inward, because it’s not like salvation is up to God and then it’s our job after that. We can’t climb into Heaven by self-effort, but we also can’t climb into godliness by pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, either. No, the whole work of salvation from beginning to end is guaranteed by the cross and the empty tomb.
Questions to ask each other:
- Has there ever been anyone in your ministry or life that you thought was a lost cause? Talk about it.
- According to this verse, how should we feel about those so-called “lost causes?”
- Have you ever felt like you’re not growing or changing? What was that like for you?
- How can this verse encourage you when you feel like you’re not growing?