When we have done something successfully before, we might be confident to do it again. But when the job, journey, relationship or study course is new, how do we know that we will be able to carry on to the end? That uncertainty is magnified when we have previously had trouble or failure. Paul suffered persecution and was writing from prison to new believers who were also facing opposition (Philippians 1:29). None of them knew what each day would bring. Would they let their Lord down?
Paul knew that the primary spiritual work in their lives was not what they did for God, but what He was doing in them. The apostle wanted to reassure them that God never fails. He can be trusted to complete the work He has started in them - the work to make them like Jesus (Romans 8:29). Such confidence may appear bold, knowing how fragile our faith is under pressure and our track record of failure. And indeed, if those were the only factors determining the outcome of our faith, we would all fail. None of us can make ourselves like Jesus. That requires an internal transformation which only God can achieve in us.
True faith in Jesus does not start because we have a bright idea. We can only begin to believe in Jesus because God speaks to us through the gospel (Romans 10:13-14), convicts us of sin (John 16:8) and helps our early steps of faith (see www.crosscheck.org.uk to know more). After that, every covering-over of sin is by His mercy (Psalm 32:1), and every blessing is through His grace (John 1:16). Every day we can receive grace to help us in our time of need as we cast our needy souls before Him (Hebrews 4:16).
God has been at work in us all the time: will He drop us now? Of course not! He has invested so much in us; He is not going to abandon us when things get tough (Hebrews 13:5). We are not just an investment in the future of His kingdom; we are His children. That should give us even more reason for being confident that He will not forsake us. Jesus is looking forward to the day when He will be physically recognised by all the people who have trusted Him, even though they have never seen Him (John 20:29). He will keep on working in our hearts by His Word to get us ready for that great event, and the whole of eternity to come (1 Thessalonians 2:13). So be encouraged! The Lord is at work in you (Philippians 2:13); and He is also working in your friends and colleagues who trust Him too. Why not encourage them and find time to pray together, giving thanks that your future is secure in God's hands.
© Dr Paul Adams