Jesus finishes what He starts…
Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom to understand this portion of the Bible and faith to live out what He reveals to you.
Read: Philippians 1:1-11
I opened my mailbox recently and pulled out a letter from an inmate here in Tallahassee. An unexpected surprise from our state penitentiary! It felt strange but I was intrigued. I wondered what goes on in the mind of an imprisoned man. I was eager to open it and see what he had to say. Similarly, the church at Philippi received such a letter from the apostle Paul about 2000 years ago; penned in a dark, grimy Roman prison cell…and Paul had a lot to say! What would you think about all day in jail? Who would you write to? What would you write about?
As those early Christians opened (or unraveled) Paul’s letter, they must have been struck by at least three things in the first few lines.
1. Paul’s deep love for them (vs. 8)
2. Paul’s constant prayer for them. (vs. 3-4; 9-11)
3. Paul’s confidence in Jesus to finish the work He started in them. (Vs. 6)
Years before Paul was in jail, he planted the church in Philippi. This means that he personally helped lead many Philippians to Jesus and got to watch their rebirth, baptism and initial spiritual growth as baby Christians. This is where his tender fatherly affection came from. But his love and special bond with them runs deeper than that. He also battled alongside them through “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now”. (Vs.5)
They fought for the advance of the gospel together! They prayed together, worshiped together, laughed together, learned together, suffered together, shared the gospel together, made disciples together, planted the church together and so it is no surprise that there was a robust bond between them. Anyone who has ever been on a mission trip, or served in the military recognizes this special brotherly bond. Deep down we all long for community and friendship like this don’t we? We all need Jesus to work His love through us toward others. Paul describes it best as having the “affection of Christ” for one another. (Vs.8)
This deep love drove him to deep prayer. Don’t we pray the most for people we love the most? I’m struck by how much joy Paul had in his prayers for the Philippians and how little that happens in my prayers…maybe yours too? Sometimes praying for others seems like a drag, but Paul seemed so excited to pray for them as if it actually brought him joy. He prayed so confidently like his prayers made a difference. He prayed as if God were eager and able to answer his prayers. Why? How?
Paul knew a secret to God’s will…God not only desires our sanctification (1 Thess 4:3) but God sovereignly completes that sanctifying work in us. In other words, we are all under construction but Jesus will finish the job He started in us. God is just as sovereign over our sanctification as He is in our salvation. He is relentlessly growing us more like Jesus, for His glory. This is why Paul could so joyfully, boldly and confidently declare and pray things like “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”(vs. 6)
Be encouraged, God is at work! Do you believe this? Does it make its way into your prayers? It’s tempting to believe we can never change, we can’t make it out of this dry spot we're in, we can’t overcome that sin that so easily entangles or that there is no hope for your lost friend…but don’t give up, don’t give in, and don’t forget that Jesus finishes what he starts. Trust Jesus today!
1. Do you have the ‘affection of Christ’ towards other Christians? (vs. 8) What are some ways you can grow in your love for others?
2. What is it about Jesus that can help you grow in your love for others, and joy in prayer?
3. Where in your life are you struggling to believe that Jesus really is at work and that He will finish the job He started in you?
Memorize: Phil. 1: 6