So often we see in others in a difficult patch and we yearn to encourage them… Our caring attitude often lead us to quote the Bible verse, “… He who began a good work in you, will carry it onto completion…” (Philippians 1:6)
I have been thinking of this the last few days and was reminded of Isaac and Ishmael. God promised Abraham that he would make him into a great nation. By this time itself Abraham was 75 years old and without child. During the course of the years, nothing seemed to happen in that realm so Sarah decided to help the situation. In her earthly wisdom, she suggested to Abraham to have a child through Hagar. The fruit of that action was Ishmael. Abraham was then 86 years old. Lots of unpleasant situations arose and when Hagar ran away Abraham was distressed and caught in between. Ishmael was his son after all.
However, God eventually told Abraham to let go of Ishmael. God could have turned it around instead but that hadn’t been His plan. Did God start this? No! Ishmael was not the result of His perfect plan but rather the product of the flesh, the fruit of human wisdom. Sarah and Abraham decided to help God fulfill His promise of a child and thus they retorted to the norms of the culture of that day – to conceive by using the maid servant. Ishamel was certainly not what God had started for Him to bring it to pass.. no, the promised child was due to be the fruit of Sarah’s womb and through Isaac God surely brought laughter to Sarah and brought glory to His Name as it was a divine intervention.
Adam & Eve ate of the fruit of the tree. Was it God’s plan for them to do so? No.. in fact God had clearly told Adam not to eat of that tree..
How can we expect God to bless or bring to completion or fruition something that we have initiated of our own fleshly desires, or of our selfish ambition or even of our own wisdom, wealth, power or influences? We often run ahead of God to grab what we want and do things our way.. As we see in the two examples of above, those attempts were futile and also led to being banished.
So now let’s take a good look at the verse quoted at the onset…
Paul writes this to Philippians – and that from jail – in the context of their “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now“.. Their perseverance is inevitable.. from the first day until now and this obviously brings joy to Paul. Then he goes on to write this verse with the qualifying factor, “being confident of this“. It is in the confidence of their partnership in the gospel that Paul writes, “He who began a good work in you will carry it onto completion”. He doesn’t end the verse there but also notes the duration, “until the day of Christ Jesus”. This verse is definitely in the context of God’s work. Having said that, yes the good work HE starts in us we can rest assured that He will bring to completion, to fruition, to fulfilment. However, what we start – whether good work or bad – we cannot have the assurance that He will carry it onto completion. In fact, we can often end up with adverse effects instead.
Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. – Psalm 127:1
I love the way Paul continues a little later in this passage – he writes out his prayer for them:
And this is my prayer:
that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.
- What does he pray that their love may abound more and more in?
- For what reason does he pray so?
- What does he desire that they may be able to discern? Does he want them to discern what is good from bad or does he desire that they discern what is best?
We need to discern what is best, not settle for what is good… Thus we will be able to discern what is from Him, the good work that He starts in us instead of rushing ahead and starting what we think is the good work. Likewise, we need to be cautious when encouraging someone else likewise – how do we know the “good work” they are doing is what He started or what they started? If we need to encourage, then we need to discern and hear from Him before saying so.. It’s always best to remember, that this particular verse was written in context of ministry.. of the good work of the gospel.. Paul is encouraging those who are taking partnership with him even though he is on the forefront and even in chains!
And on this note, I am grateful to God for all those who have partnered with me as Kenosis Ministries in various roles – words of encouragement, intercession, financial support – so to reach out to many. “All of you share in God’s grace“. One of the ministries of Kenosis is this blog and currently there have been views from 105 countries.. It’s His divine intervention and of course it’s not about numbers – even if one heart is touched or if the tears of one’s eyes are wiped away and replaced by a smile, then that’s more than plenty as it’s all about bringing people to God, leading people closer to God and to refresh the saints who could be discouraged at a particular moment 🙂 (Yes, not matter how mature we are in Christ, we do have discouraging moments and we do need another saint to help lift us up again!) May God bless each one of you and may Paul’s prayer speak to you too! You deserve that!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose – Romans 8:28