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God Is at Work

May 20, 2012 Preacher: Lyndon Shook Series: Philippians

Scripture: Philippians 1:6–6

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)

I am glad to be in verse 6 of Philippians 1 this morning. I believe that God has a word for us here, in this verse. One reason I like this verse so much is because in many ways it helps me to better define or better understand my role in ministry, and it can help you to understand better your role in ministry. I mean, we are all involved in ministry, right? We are all called to serve as Christians, to serve others. When I say that, I don’t mean that this verse tells you all that I should or should not do, or all that you should or should not do, but what it does is it takes, it can take immense pressure off of you and me as we serve other people. I sometimes talk with people who are very fearful about getting involved with others because of feelings of inadequacy or fear of not being the right person for the job. It’s like, “I can’t really help him, because he has really big problems. I know God has placed them in my path, but I can’t be the right person to be involved with them.” Maybe some of that is due to a misunderstanding of what our role is really supposed to be, or what our responsibilities are toward others.

Sometimes I think we work too hard at trying to do things that we are really not called to do. And when we try to do things outside of our role, our God given roles, life can get very frustrating. When we try to operate outside of our abilities, we can get in real trouble. Sometimes people pressure us to things that we simply cannot achieve. For example, I would not want to be a head football coach in a high school, a Texas high school. When I was younger, and I assume it is still this way, a head coach didn’t get much time to put together a winning team before he would be asked to move on. The problem was, he had no ability to effect, to legally effect, who went to his school. The raw talent was what it was. He could help develop that talent but still, he only had so much to work with, and was expected to do what with those kids? To win. Not to develop them well, not to make sure they do their best, not to teach them skills, not to work on their character, no, to do one thing: win! So in my high school what that meant was, every couple of years, a new head football coach; it was a revolving door because the new guy never had anything more to work with than did the man preceding him. It’s like being set up for failure.

Ministry for any of us can be really hard, very frustrating, if we are not operating within God’s parameters for us, and if we are not believing his promises as we can understand them. God does not set us up for failure in ministry to others. So this morning I want us to really embrace one of God’s promises to us, to all of us, you and me who are called to minister God’s Word in other peoples’ lives. I want us to be encouraged by this verse in at least two ways:

First, be encouraged that God is at work in every believer’s life with whom you are ministering according to His plan.
Secondly, I want us to be encouraged that God is at work in our lives, in your life as a believer as well; He is not absent from you, He is at work in you

So, two ways to be encouraged this morning and in addition to that, I want us to consider three of God’s attributes that we can see in this verse, that we can embrace, that will sustain this encouragement of God’s work in us and in those around us. So hopefully we can get to all of this today. But first let’s be sure we understand verse 6 within its context, as God gives it to us through the apostle Paul. 

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)

Paul begins with word of confidence in something. He says “I am sure of this,” or your version may say something like, “I am confident of this,” or “having been persuaded by this.” Paul expresses a belief that is well grounded in his mind. It is like, “I know this, I am sure of this, my mind is not going to be changed about this.” Paul speaks with such force, in fact, that you could say it is one of those hills that he would be willing to die on. “I am confident of this, I am persuaded, I am sure of this.” He again is expressing a rock solid belief in something. What is it? Well, he begins to digress some by saying, “that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Paul is confident in their lifelong participation in the gospel, that their beginning will continue until the day of Jesus Christ. But his confidence has very little to do with them, and everything to do with God, who both began that good work in them and who will bring it to completion. Paul has already expressed his joy in their past and present, he expressed this in verses 2-5, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,” remember that? He was thankful because of their past and present participation in the gospel. And now he turns her to the future. What God began, God will complete.

Now here is an important point. Who began the work of salvation in your life, in my life? God did. In fact, it had very little to do with you or me. We even read from Ephesians 1 that God chose us in Him, in Christ, before the foundation of the world, and that we were predestined to adoption as sons. All of that, this choosing, this predestining, happened before we were born. Christ died on the cross for His bride, the church, for Christians, before any of us here were born. At a point in time we then entered into His family, He rescued us while we were still His enemies, as we walked in ignorance, He changed our path, changed our hearts. God invaded our hearts and minds and changed us. In fact, in Ephesians 2 we are described as those who were dead, spiritually dead, ignorant, alienated from God’s grace. And then God came in and He called us His own and we were changed, made new, able now to see the destructive path we had been on, and now we tremble at where we were, but at the time we didn’t. Now we are enlightened, now we are thankful and even overwhelmed by His love. God did all of that. If He had not done that, revealed Himself to us, changed our hearts and minds, proactively gone after us to rescue us, then guess what? We would still be on that path leading to hell. What began in us at the point of salvation, justification, was begun by God. It had to be, not one of us initiated salvation, God did or we would not be saved. He started the work in us.

So God initiated this salvation in us, in them, what now? He continues what He started. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” The Galatian Christians were confused on this. 

2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:2-3)

Paul was rebuking the Galatians because they believed that they could finish in their own power what God had begun in them. In other words, they were trying to live the law as a means for maintaining God’s favor. They never had God’s favor through their works, and they were never going to earn His favor by more works. What God begins, God completes.

I want you to think of a timeline. A timeline that begins for you the day that you came to Christ, the day you received Him, that day when you said, “My life is yours.” I realize that some of you, and that would include me, may not know exactly when that day was, but get there the best you can in your mind. Think of that as the beginning for you. Now somewhere on that timeline is today. And if we keep going down that line there is a day, there will be time when we are with Christ, when we will meet him face-to-face. That day we can call the day of Jesus Christ. The day of the Lord is the day when believers will be glorified, when our salvation is complete and we are made perfect. That has not happened to anyone in this room yet, believe me, whatever you may think or what you want others to think of you, you are not yet perfect!

We are predestined to be conformed into the image of Christ, that is going to happen in a glorious way down the road, down that timeline. But for now we are in-between the beginning and the end in this period of our lives as we now know it. So in this sense we are not set up for failure, God will do this work. Paul is persuaded that it will happen, and we can and should be as confident as Paul. This is where we are, we are all here together, in the in-between, all of us who are Christ followers. We have begun the journey but we have not yet arrived. We will arrive. Here is what arrival will look like:

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:4)

This will take place, no failure in this, God will bring it to fruition in every Christian’s life. So hopefully we are all together here. God began the work of salvation in us, that beginning is our justification, He continues His work in us of moving us spiritually in growth, that is the ongoing growth that we all experience in the Christian life, and the end is a completion of our salvation, that is when we come face-to-face with Christ. This is the process for every one who has believed. This is not the super Christian path, or the special Christian path, this is the path for all Christians. There will be no failures in this process, for every one, for every Christ follower, this is true, we can be confident that it is true.

Okay, what about the points I said we would make? First, I said that from this passage we can “be encouraged that God is at work in every believer’s life with whom you are ministering according to His plan.” What do I mean by that?

Here is what I mean. As a Christian, you no doubt are involved with other Christians. You may be discipling other Christians. We are to be disciple makers, right? Go into all the world and make disciples, right? You can do this, in your family, with your kids, your spouse, extended family members. You associate with Christians in other places, at church, in ministry activities, at work, in your neighborhoods, the clubs you take part in. You have coffee with believers, lunch, phone conversations. I hope you are all engaging in spiritual conversation and discipleship activities. But let’s face it, sometimes we may get frustrated with some of those Christians. In fact, we may begin to lose hope because of their lack of a willingness to change. We may even begin to wonder if God is really at work in them. We may get worked up because they aren’t changing at the pace we would like them to change. We may even get desperate, lament, and think, or begin to develop an attitude that, “They really need to change, and I don’t see it, so I need to work harder to bring about their change.” As if that is our responsibility or even something we can do at all. And so if we find ourselves getting frustrated, or anxious, or desperate about other peoples’ spiritual growth or the pace of their growth, we need to come back to passages like this one, Philippians 1:6, and read it: “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.”

It is God’s work. Sanctification is God’s work. He saves and He sanctifies. So what is our role? To speak the truth in love. To be a faithful friend. To endure suffering, To love the way of 1 Corinthians 13, to reprove, to rebuke at the proper time, to think of them as more important than ourselves, to be humble in our interactions. Right? To do all these things faithfully. Because we love them, and we love Christ, He died for them, but to also remind ourselves that we don’t grow anyone. Can I say, we aren’t that important to the process? I mean, again, ultimately we don’t grow anyone in Christ, He does. We are merely faithful servants, God directly effects growth. So be encouraged that God is at work in every believer’s life with whom you are ministering according to His plan.

Secondly, I want us to be encouraged that God is at work in our lives, in your life as a believer as well; He is not absent from you, He is at work in you

This passage is not just about “those people,” not about everyone else, it is also about whom? You, if you are a Christian, and me! This promise is for us. If you are a Christian, it doesn’t matter what you are dealing with or going through right now, God is at work in you, conforming you into the image of Christ, He has predestined you to that. If the trial you are in is severe, be confident that He who began a good work in you is bringing you to a completed state in Christ. We can take a deep breath and say, “Yes, I believe God is working through this in my life because of Philippians 1:6.”

It is a way to reign in fear and confusion and bad thoughts about the future, that is to say, “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.” That is to say, “I am on the path, God has me on the path, and there is purpose to it, and the end is glory with Him forever in a perfect state of sinlessness, forever. I am getting there, that is where I am headed.”

Now just in conclusion, I want to lead us in worship by looking at, quickly, just to recognize three aspects of God’s character in this passage.

First, consider and glory in God’s love from this verse. The fact that any of us were ever one of those whom God began a work in is astounding. Why did God begin a 

work of salvation in us? Because He is love.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

If you ever tempted to complain about the path you are on, then go back to the beginning and consider God’s love for you. God is love. He has loved you, He has rescued you and me.

Secondly, consider His faithfulness. God began a work in you and He will finish it. No one begins and gets dropped. None of us deserve His faithfulness. We have received Him and we still sin terribly against Him, and yet what does He do? He remains faithful to finish what He began. He takes us in our sin, and He continues to work, to shape us, to teach us, to discipline us, to move us forward. When we are rebellious He is faithful, when we willingly sin He is faithful, when we fail to trust Him He is faithful. Again and again, He refuses to give us what we deserve, and instead He is faithful to do just what He said He would do, to finish His work in us until the day of Christ Jesus.

Lastly, consider His power. It is not like He has made this promise and someone or something can knock Him off track. It is not like anyone can thwart His will, His plan. There is no danger that He will fail to fulfill what He promised, what He has started. He will do this, no one can stay His hand. There is no option for failure, for all power is His, it all belongs to Him.

Be encouraged that God is at work in every believer’s life with whom you are ministering according to His plan. Be encouraged that God is at work in our lives, in your life as a believer as well, He is not absent from you, He is at work in you. Don’t forget when you may be tempted to doubt: God is a loving Father, He is forever faithful to His Word, and He is all-powerful to carry out His revealed will.

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)

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