Paul says, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6, NLT)[i]
Let me ask you a question. What are you certain of?
I am fairly certain that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. A lifetime of experience gave me this certainty. In my lifetime, the sun has risen every morning. I have missed a couple mornings, but the sun has not missed a single morning. Historically, all indications are that this has always been the case.
Certainty comes in varying degrees. I believe that it will be warm tomorrow. It is warm today. It is near the end of June in Kansas, which is usually warm. However, I have experienced unexpected weather in Kansas, and, consequently, the degree of certainty is not as high as for the sun rising.
Experience and history are two things that help to increase our degree of certainty. Both experience and history give me my confidence in the sun rising and the weather being warm tomorrow.
While experience and history are not infallible proofs of anything, they are reliable enough that we operate on confidence developed by experience and history.
Paul’s confidence is based on experience and history. In addition, the Word of God also figures into his confidence.
Paul has made a simple statement of his certainty that God will continue His work in us, and before we examine what that work might be, I want to examine what his confidence is based on. Can we trust it?
Certainty or confidence implies that we can trust or rely on that which we place our confidence in.
We put our confidence in all kinds of things every day. Have you ever had your brakes fail while you were driving? I have and it is terrifying. Our lives depend upon the reliability of the things we put our confidence in. We put our confidence in the cars and drivers we ride with, despite the worldwide study that revealed that over two out of every 100 of us will die in automobile accidents.
What we put our confidence in has consequences.
Let’s examine Paul’s confidence.
His statement, once again, is:
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6, NLT)
As we look at this passage, it is clear that his confidence is in God. God began the work. God will continue the work.
Historically, we have examples of those who have put their confidence in God.
We have the testimony of family members, fathers, mothers and grandparents. Not everyone has this testimony, but many do. My grandmother loved the Lord, and I literally cannot think of a day when she did not talk about Him. The Lord Jesus was faithful to her. She relied on Him, and from her I saw that I too could put my confidence in Him.
Historically, we also have the examples of the heroes of the faith: Billy Graham, D.L. Moody, Hudson Taylor, John and Charles Wesley, David Livingston, Jonathan Edwards, and the list of people goes on and on. I literally have hundreds of biographies on my shelf and there are many thousands available. All of these tell us and show us that we can safely put our confidence in God.
In addition, we have the examples of those recorded in Scripture - Noah, Abraham, Moses, David along with many others including Paul himself – all showing us that it is safe to put our confidence in God.
We all put our confidence in cars and drivers, accepting the risk. I do not think two out of 100 deaths are great odds, and the odds of injury are much higher. However, no one has ever lost by taking God at His word. I must put a caution or a qualifier on this statement though. Many have been deceived. Our enemy, the devil, is a liar and he deceives many. God warns us:
Look to God's instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. (Isaiah 8:20, NLT)
Don't let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. (Colossians 2:8, NLT)
All teaching must be measured by the Word of God. If we are not measuring everything by the Word of God, then our confidence is not in God. You can have confidence in me only as far as I am faithful to the Word of God and my confidence in God.
Paul, whose statement we are looking at, was a violent persecutor of those who believed in Jesus Christ. His own testimony is that he did it out of zeal for God. He says:
…I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. (1 Timothy 1:13, NLT)
In speaking of our confidence, I must also speak of the danger of misplaced confidence. Let me again borrow from the Apostle Paul who said:
17Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. 18For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. (Philippians 3:17-19, NLT)
History is full of the examples of these enemies of the cross of Christ, and many are turned away because of this. Many see the fruit of such lives and think that God is not reliable. However, as Paul says, the conduct of these people shows that they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. Do not judge God by the conduct of His enemies.
I have gone far afield in pursuit of the idea that our confidence is in God. Experience and history teach us that we can rely on Him. It is also experience and history that teach us that His Word is absolutely reliable. His Word is so reliable that Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.” (Matthew 24:35, NLT) God’s Word is more sure than the sunrise.
Paul brings up his confidence in the context of expressing his gratitude for the Philippian believers. He says, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.” (Philippians 1:3, NLT)
Paul labored hard for the benefit of the churches. In Philippians 2:17, he likens his labor to pouring out his life as a sacrifice. He invested everything in these people and therefore he needed to know his labor was not meaningless or wasted. Because of his confidence in God, Paul overflowed with gratitude.
His confidence in God in relation to the Philippians was that God would continue the work He had begun in them.
I want you to know how much joy and confidence this gives me. I want you to share in my joy and confidence.
My heart breaks when I see a person in pain and in my role as pastor, I get to see people in pain.
However, I know the answer.
Our problems all exist because of sin. Jesus died for our sins and rose again to give us life. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we have eternal life and our sins are forgiven. However, we are not yet free from the presence of sin. We still sin, and we still suffer the consequences of sin in our bodies. For example, we all still grow old and die. Our sins are forgiven, but the physical death of the body is still there because of sin. We also are still subject to disease. Sickness and disease came into the world because of sin. Jesus died and defeated sin and paid the price for our sins and one day all sickness and disease will be done away with because of what Jesus did – just not yet. We are waiting.
Salvation is God beginning a good work in us. Paul’s statement assumes that the work is not yet completed. His confidence, our confidence, is that God will continue what He started. This is exactly why James 1:2-4 says:
2Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (NLT)
Peter says it this way:
6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7, ESV)[ii]
We can rejoice in trials because we are confident that God is working. We can rejoice in difficulties because we are confident that God is working. We can rejoice in suffering because we are confident God is working.
Do you have a habit you have not been able to shake?
Do you believe that it is beyond God’s ability to deliver you?
Are you facing a particularly hard work situation? You know of course that God is good and works all things for the good of those that love Him. How confident does this make you?
Are you facing a particularly hard family situation? You know of course that God is there in the middle of it all with you, and you can ask Him to have His will and His way.
You can trust God completely.
Talk with Him now about the trial in your life that is challenging your faith.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.