Philippians 1.6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
What a great promise! We can be confident, not in ourselves that we’ll somehow make it to the end, but if we belong to Him, He will finish the work He has started in us. God Himself is the guarantor of His promises.
It would be nice if He just sprinkled some pixy dust over us and we were instantly changed. But that’s not the way God usually does His work in us.
And … We often wish He would do that in other people’s lives, too.
When we’ve been unequally yoked and a husband comes to know the Lord, we want them to immediately be where we are. When someone close to us surrenders his or her life to God, especially if it has been a difficult relationship, we can be unrealistic in our expectations.
There is immediate change in our lives and the lives of others. Before we were lost and now we belong to God. 2 Cor. 5.17 says we are new creations; we were born again by the Spirit of God, but it takes time for those changes to work themselves out in our daily living.
That’s not an excuse. In fact, as God shows us areas where we need to change and grow we need to respond to those promptings.
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use (the NASB says PRACTICE) have their senses exercised (TRAINED) to discern both good and evil.
Some of us are still babies sucking on milk because we don’t do the things God has told us to do. AMEN … or OH MY.
Even then, God doesn’t stop doing His work in us, but it’s going to take longer and probably involve more pain and hardship.
What processes does He use to complete the work He started in us? I like to talk about five major ways.
God changes us as we learn to do 5 things:
1. Count it all joy (James 1.2-8).
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually feel like being joyful when I’m in the midst of a trial. How can we count it all joy when we’re in a trial?
Notice James 1.3 said we can “know” something … “that the testing of our faith produces patience or endurance” and that when that is achieved … we will be “perfect and complete”—MATURE.
Several people in our church family have been battling cancer. They have undergone chemo and radiation and it’s not fun! Why would anyone subject themselves to that? Only because they believe it has a purpose.
We can endure things and be thankful for them, even joyful, if we believe they will save our lives. And we can be joyful in the midst of a trial if we understand the pain has a purpose.
James 1 goes on …
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
If we look to Him, God will give us the wisdom we need to get through a trial, but we are not to be double minded. We’ve got to set our hearts on pleasing Him.
2. Accept His discipline (Heb. 12.5-17).
The second way God works to complete His work in us is found in Heb. 12.
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”
Notice who the Lord chastens or disciplines. It’s those He loves. It’s His children.
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.
He disciples us because he loves us and so “we may be partakers of His holiness.” That’s the work He’s completing in us.
11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
When we co-operate with His work in us, when we accept His discipline and benefit from it, it “yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.”
14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:
15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
If we want others to see Christ in us, it’s important that we respond to His correction without anger and bitterness.
The third way God completes His work in us is teaching us to obey the Scriptures, summed up in Matthew 22.37-40.
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
As we learn to love others unselfishly, beginning with those closest to us …
As we learn to be patient when tempted to be impatient … kind even when others aren’t …
As we refuse to be rude or jealous or prideful …
As we learn to forgive and not keep score of wrongs suffered …
As we chose to believe the best of others, as we rejoice when others repent or are blessed in some way, instead of vengefully hoping others get what’s due to them …
As we learn to love others biblically, we change and grow and His work is being completed in us.
4. Overcome evil with good (Rom. 12.9-21).
The fourth way He completes His work in us is found in Romans 12.
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
Isn’t that a beautiful picture of a Christian life!
But let’s keep going …
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
God had given us a secret weapon in the spiritual battles of life … and they’re all spiritual. That weapon is love. It’s doing good for those who sin against us, those who spitefully use us, those who disappoint and hurt us.
You overcome evil with good … and as you do, you become more and more like our Savior!
Finally, the fifth way …
5. Trust in His sovereignty (1 Cor. 10.13; Rom. 8.28-29).
1 Cor. 10.13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
The things we go through, other people have gone through them, too, and come out the other side. They’re “common to man.”
And God is faithful. He won’t leave us or forsake us. He’ll finish what He has started in us.
He won’t allow it to be more than we can handle, if we will keep our focus on Him and purpose to respond as He wants us to.
He’ll make a way of escape, but the way of escape is often through it, “that you may be able to bear it.”
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8.28-29).
God wants us to trust in His sovereignty, to trust that anything He allows in our lives (and He could stop anything He wants to or cause anything He wants to), He can and will use for good.
Job 42.1 says, “no plan of His can be stopped.”
We grow as we trust Him and respond in Christlike ways.
Once we have put our faith and trust in the Gospel of salvation, we have gone from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. We have been adopted into the family of God. We are new creations. And one day Jude 24 tells us He will cause us to stand before Him faultless.
Paul Tripp says we live between the “already,” and the “not yet.” The “already” is what we became on the day of our spiritual birth, and the “not yet” where we will be on the day we stand before Him. But there is a progression to it.
In the meantime He is completing the work he started in us as we:
- Count it all joy.
- Accept His discipline.
- Keep the 2 great commandments.
- Overcome evil with good.
- Trust in His sovereignty.
NEXT WEEK: RESPONDING TO DIFFICULT PEOPLE
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