Perhaps Paul’s joy in these people at Philippi was that he was seeing them by faith. Not as they were, but as they would be when God’s work was done. He was looking at them with the eye of faith. He was sure that He who began a good work in them was going to finish it, so Paul could say that, even though you rub me the wrong way once in a while, I know what you are going to be. …
This is the key to getting along with other Christians. Sometimes it’s difficult, but when we realize what they will be we can do it. I heard of an artist who called a friend in and asked him to comment on a picture he was painting. He said,
this is my masterpiece. It is beautiful. The man said
I guess I don’t see what you see. It just looks like dabs of different colors to me, without form or anything. The artist said,
Oh I forgot. I’m seeing it as it will be when finished. You are seeing it as it is now.
This is what Paul was doing. He was seeing these Christians as they would be and he thanks God it’s going to happen. What a comforting verse. Many times, when I am discouraged with myself, I utterly despair of being what I ought to be. I am so aware of the deceitfulness and subtlety of the flesh. Even when I want to be what I ought to be, I end up deceiving myself. I see the utter futility of depending on me to get this job done. In those times, I try to remember this verse,
being confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
This means that life is not perfect yet. It has an adequate goal, and it is a goal which will be reached, and the final responsibility is not in my hands but in God’s. I love that! Paul’s confidence is placed in a Person, not on himself. We are all, if we know Christ, in the hands of the One who can change us. Sometimes we don’t want to be what God wants us to be, but it’s being done in us despite us. God knows how to bring us into the circumstances that will make us willing to be made willing, if He needs to. It’s a great consolation to recognize in whose hands we are. The impression is often given by we Christians today that our main task is to keep Christianity going. Christianity didn’t start that way. These early Christians gave the very clear impression that it was their faith in Christ that kept them going. There are those who tell us that we can lose our Christian life, but if this is something we can lose, then it must be based on some human factor — that it depends on us. But if it depends on us, then we can’t depend on it. I am so grateful that this rests upon a Person who is capable of doing the work, and who has promised to complete it. Thanks be to God who is able to keep us from falling.
Lord, keep me from the folly of thinking that it is the crusade I launch or the activity that I fulfill or my busyness that accomplishes your will today, rather than what I am in Jesus Christ, and all that marvelous love of Your being flooding through my soul, into my experience and actions.
Joy is ‘the serious business of heaven’. It is a consequence of being preoccupied with the living and indwelling Christ, confident that He will complete His redeeming work in us and through us. Are we there yet? No, but God isn’t finished either, so let’s pay attention.