“… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1: 6)
Harassed by a demon-possessed slave girl, beaten with rods and then thrown into prison, I don’t think anyone would say that Paul’s experience of planting a church in Philippi was an easy one. But the powerful conversion of a local business lady, Lydia, and her whole household; Paul’s miraculous release from jail and the conversion of the jailer and his household, revealed the presence and power of a mighty God.
No wonder Paul was able to remind the Philippian church that their humble beginning was a good work of the Lord. And if He did a good work back then, He is more than able to continue doing a good work today and into the future.
The same promise belongs to you and me, so what sort of ways might God continue His good works in and through us?
First, He can change us to be more like Jesus. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Cor 3: 18)
God loves us so much that he wants our unique personalities to reflect the love and character of His Son. The more we become like Him, the more His glory is revealed in us.
How do we become more like Him? Jesus spoke of us being branches in His vine. Every vineyard owner wants to see grapes of the highest quality, so she tends to the plant, making sure it has all the nutrients it needs. And she prunes it.
According to John 15: 2, Jesus “cuts off every branch in (him) that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
The hardships of life, the challenges, even the pains and sorrows are not wasted in God’s economy. The Lord uses them to prune, in order that the work He began in us may find completion. In order that we may become like Him.
But there are things we can do to contribute to the process. “Remain in me”, Jesus continues, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine” (John 15: 4). “Stay close to me”, he seems to be saying, “and then pray bold prayers”. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15: 7). It is to the Father’s glory that we bear spiritual fruit in our lives – “so ask of me what you need”, He says.
No wonder Paul encouraged the Philippians by saying “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3: 12 – 14).
The Lord will complete the work He started in us. He will transform us to be more like Him. He will make us fruitful, but we need to cooperate with him by doing everything we can to run the race that is in front of us, staying close to Jesus, sparing no request back in our prayers, and holding on in faith when His secateurs do their pruning work.