I spent some time this morning with a long term friend of mine. We were discussing his current situation. He’s going through several life challenges right now, including significant financial challenges. He’s absorbed deep losses that were not anticipated and came as a result of COVID19. He’s also staring down some difficulties in his marriage. Not difficulties between him and his wife, per se, but her health is not good at all and when combined with all the financial struggles, it’s been a discouraging and tiring time in their lives. It’s not fun, to say the least.
He also has several young, adult children. All of them are doing well except one in particular. This child has decided that they no longer want to be involved in the family. They’ve pulled away. This is very distressing to him and his wife, and weighing heavily on their hearts. My friend has spent a lot of time praying and walking the pathway with Christ, but like he said to me today: “Some days are diamonds and some days are stones.” Some periods in our lives are seasons that are really great and then others, well, not so much. As he said to me, “I feel like I’m going through a dark valley, like what Psalm 23:4 talks about.” He has served the Lord with dignity, honor, and commitment through all this, but it still hurts. He has drawn close to the Lord, but he told me, some days it feels like the Lord has given up on me and moved on to other things.
God Will Never Give Up on Us
When we go through those challenging times on the pathway with Christ, we need to know that God has not given up on us. We need to know that we’ve not made a fatal mistake, that we’ve not, in some way, brought an end to His plan for our lives. If we’ve sinned against Him or others, let’s confess it now and be restored to the Lord and others. But, many times, through no sin of our own, we’re hit with life and it seems that God has given up on us. Paul, however, thinks differently, and we would do well to meditate on his words in Philippians 1:6 to be strengthened and encouraged in the Lord.
When we’ve been serving Christ and the evidence of God’s grace is in our lives – through our genuine, Christ-centered worship, giving, serving and witness – we can be confident, Paul says, in Philippians 1:6, that the One who began a good work in us will carry it on or perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Do you see what Paul is saying? You don’t need to take confidence in yourself, in your past, in your background, prowess, abilities or your potential because your confidence for living the Christian life rests in God. In short, you can be confident that He has not abandoned you because he who began a good work in you will perfect it. He will carry it forward until the Day of Christ Jesus. We were sinners when Christ died for us and though the dominion of sin has been broken in our lives through our union with Christ, we still struggle with its presence and power. We will remain in this condition until it pleases the Lord to return or take us home to be with Him. In the meantime, He’s working a very good work in our lives.
What is that good work? Well, that good work is the work of transforming us into Christlikeness. And, yes, that process can be painful sometimes. It can be difficult. He has many different ways to get our attention and refine our hearts, for our good and His glory (cf. Heb 12:1-13). He is working in us to strengthen our resolve to hate sin, i.e., greed, deceit, and all sorts of what we’ll call vices. He wants us to trust Him enough to renounce and leave these evils. He is calling us to turn from our old life in Adam to our new life in Christ. He’s working in us to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in our relationships (cf. Phil 2:12-13). He wants to show forth Christlikeness in and through us, that is, His love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Put together these “fruit” reveal a portrait of Christ and constitute the good work He will carry on in us until His return. This is no small matter.
So, we can be very confident that He’s the One doing this good work and that He hasn’t given up on us when things get difficult. When we struggle, let us look away from ourselves to Christ and Him alone, to assure us of His presence and His commitment to follow through on what He began in our lives. Paul says that He will indeed perfect this good work until the Day of Christ or the day He takes us home. At that time He will transform us in the twinkling of an eye and we will be just like Him (cf. 1 John 3:2-3).
Is trusting Christ and following Him on the narrow pathway always easy? No, it isn’t. But He is always present, working in and through us, and we can be utterly and humbly confident that His cross cleanses us from all sin and is the sure foundation for His continued work in our lives. Philippians 1:6 is a great passage. It has been memorized by many Christians and we ought to consider doing likewise.