E55: God always finishes what He starts - Philippians series
PODCAST: Do you believe that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it?
Do you believe that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it? In this episode of our Philippians series, Milenko and Kathy invite their friend Rolf to talk about this incredible conviction that Paul wrote to the Philippians about. What God has started, He always finishes, and our vision is that we will lay hold of what Christ has in store for us! Join us for this incredibly encouraging and hopeful conversation.
Transcript: “Living the Gospel” podcast, Episode 55: Philippians 1:6 – God always finishes what He starts (“He who has begun a good work in you will complete it …”) – Philippians series
Welcome to ActiveChristianity’s “Living the Gospel” podcast. Join us as we talk about how we can “live the gospel” every day, no matter who we are, where we live, and what our circumstances are.
Kathy: Hello podcast listeners, and welcome to another episode of Living the Gospel. I’m Kathy.
Milenko: And I’m Milenko. And in the studio with me today is a good friend of mine, Rolf. Welcome to the studio Rolf.
Rolf: Thank you, and hi everybody.
Milenko: And he’s done a lot of work with young people and I’m really looking forward to this session.
Kathy: Me too. So today we’re continuing with our series about Philippians. And we’re going to talk about two verses today. So, Milenko, do you want to read those verses?
Milenko: Yeah. The first one is Philippians 1:6: “... being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” That was the first one, and then we’re also going to talk about Philippians 3:12-14: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Kathy: So maybe we can just start off, Rolf, by asking you, what kind of is your initial thought when you think of those verses?
Rolf: Well, the fact, when we think of the good work that He has started in us... Now Paul, he was talking to the Philippians, and he was confident that God, not only in himself, but also in the Philippians, he was going to finish that good work that he had started. And what is then the good work? Well, when we read in Romans, we can see that everyone is under sin. Paul says there, there is no one who seeks God. There is no one who does anything good. And then we have gotten a desire to do God’s will. By nature, we don’t have that desire. By nature, we are rather the opposite. And that is the good work that He has started in us. He has ignited something in our hearts, that we want to serve God. Now that is the good work, and He will complete it in everyone who believes.
Milenko: Wow. Yeah, I mean, that’s really to think about that – that that’s not who we are by nature, but when we feel that in us, and we feel that longing for God, that’s God Himself who’s started something in us.
Rolf: Read Romans, I think it’s chapter 3, if you’re interested, to see where you are from. What your starting point is. And then see, He who has started a good work, He has ignited something in you, He has started that longing for eternity, started the longing to become good, which I am not.
Kathy: And it’s just so encouraging because we know that when God starts something, He already sees the end, and He knows already that it will succeed, right? Like, He doesn’t start a work and then think, well, we’ll see how this goes.
Milenko: And the other thing is, to think of, that He started it in me, not when I was perfect, but He started it in me when I wasn’t even looking for Him. When I had nothing in me at all that searched for Him, or had a love for Him. That’s when He started this work in me.
Milenko: And that’s what I have to respond to. That He is working in me.
Rolf: Exactly. And then we have to consider, Paul says to the Corinthians, he says that, “Consider your calling. Not many high people, not many good people, not many ... but that which was nothing, God chose.” And that you have a longing for God proves that He has started. And as Kathy said, He is a master in finishing what He has started. It only depends: am I on the same wavelength?
Milenko: And the thing is, another thing you have to get from this verse is that it is a process. So, He has started a good work, and He will complete it, and in between there is a lot happening. So, I have to be patient too. I have to learn to understand how God is working with me. And not expect it all to be done in one day and then give up if it hasn’t been. It’s really important.
Rolf: Yeah, Rome wasn’t built in one day and neither is your Christian life. It takes work.
Milenko: But it is God who is working.
Rolf: That’s exactly it.
Kathy: But that kind of leads me to my next question here. So, it’s written that He will complete the work in us and it’s Him that works in us, right? But in that other verse that we read there, in Philippians 3, it says I press on, I press toward the goal, I lay hold of. So, what is it that I am doing? We know God is working in us. What part is it that He is doing and what is it that I am doing?
Rolf: Well, my thoughts go right to Israel, when they were led out of Egypt. God had promised them a land to be their own after 400 years of slavery in Egypt. And He had appointed a country that was going to be their own. And He had prepared everything for them. And I want to read something in Deuteronomy. It’s a fantastic verse that actually explains some of what we were talking about here. That I press on, I do this, and so on. Because in Deuteronomy chapter 33, then it starts from verse 26. I’m going to read a few verses here. Then he says, “There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to your help, and through the skies in His majesty. The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms; and He drove out the enemy from before you, and said, ‘Destroy!’” (Deuteronomy 33:26-27, NASB.) There you see, even back then, when they were going to get this country that God had chosen, He had given it to them, but there were enemies in that country. So it is, He has started a good work in us, but in our flesh, there is resistance, and that is our enemy. So, in that promised land, we can say we’re coming into a new life, we are coming into this, “Oh, I want to be like God, I want to be good, I want to be patient.” I mean, I have a few kids, and I thought before I was married that I could not be impatient with children. And I was used as a babysitter a lot, just because of that ability. Then I got my own kids, and boy, did the world turn around. And I found myself being irritated. I found myself caught in a trap of doing what I hated to do. In my own “country,” my own promised country. The way of salvation. Now. Is it something wrong with what God is doing? Or is it just what we read? “He drove out the enemy.” Suddenly I see irritation that I’ve never seen before. And He tells me, “Here it is. Destroy!”
Milenko: That’s the point. We really need to begin to look at it with God’s eyes too. That this is the enemy – that’s God’s enemy. And it’s also my enemy then. And it dwells in me; it’s in that promised land that’s promised to me. There’s the enemy. It’s got no right to be there. So, God’s going to drive it out. And then He wants to use me to do that. So that’s what becomes so fantastic when I see that. The almighty God is driving out the enemy before me. And I have to be along in that battle.
Kathy: And I shouldn’t be surprised when I see it, right? Because it is there, the enemy is there.
Rolf: Exactly. And they knew that the enemies were in the country. They sent out spies, twelve of them, one from each tribe, and only two looked at it the same way as God did. They were not surprised when they saw the children of Anak. They knew them; they had seen them before. But their motto was, “God has given the country to us, we will take them as if it was a piece of bread.” It didn’t say that God was going to chase them away and destroy them. But He was pushing them out so you could see them, out from their hiding places, they were driven out by God, so that I could take them as a piece of bread. Now that’s the eyes of faith.
Kathy: And then, when He drives them out, He’s also giving you everything you need to then overcome them, right? He doesn’t drive them out and then leave you to your own kind of resources, or whatever, to overcome them.
Rolf: No. He has, as it says here, He rides the heaven to your help. And in another verse in the old covenant it says that the eyes of God go to and fro to the whole earth to powerfully strengthen them whose heart is fully with Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9.) With His power. So, everything is there for us.
Milenko: And we have to do with, it says here, He is an eternal God, who rides the heavens to help you! I mean, this is incredible, when you read what’s written there.
Rolf: It is.
Milenko: This is the God – and this was the old covenant. How much more in the new covenant? Where this work that He sent His own Son to do is now being completed in us. In me personally. Isn’t He going to ride the heavens to help me? To thrust out the enemy. Say “Destroy!” And that’s the strength He gives me through the Holy Spirit. And I can now go and do that.
Rolf: Exactly. And by faith. Now, the Bible is a fairly thick book, with a lot of verses, and it’s hard to understand it all, but take one verse, bind it to your heart, bind it to your mind, use it as a weapon. For example, 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted ...” Listen to what Paul says here. He will not let you be tempted [beyond what you are able] ... So, every enemy He drives out in front of you, every temptation that comes up from around next corner … Bam, there it was! Now, no temptation will ever, from this day right into eternity, be stronger than what I am by faith in God’s word.
Milenko: And then He says: “… but with the temptation, He provides a way of escape.”
Milenko: And what’s the way of escape?
Rolf: It is to come to that divine nature, to come to that ... Victory over sin! Destroying my enemy.
Milenko: So, He gives us the opportunity that we can come to that, with every temptation. And that means that I have to overcome. It is a battle, and that’s the work He started in me, but it will succeed. He’s guaranteed it.
Rolf: Exactly. He could have gone ahead of Israel, in the old times; He could have chased out every enemy of that country. And you should almost say, like, you would have come to a set table, no problems, no temptations, no nothing. But where is the glory then? What is the glory when you come to that? I don’t see any glory.
Milenko: No, there isn’t. The value lies in it that I’ve given something. That I have also shown that I want to do this, I want to lay hold of that which God has promised to me. And then I’m obedient to Him.
Rolf: Yeah, exactly. And obedience is, like Kathy said, I should not be surprised when I see the enemies. Because that is God who has now been riding heavens to help me, to drive them out so I can see them, so I shouldn’t be surprised that they are there, but rather, “Oh, yes! Here is an opportunity for me.” To actually come ... I wanted to be good. How am I going to be good if I don’t see that which is evil and can do something about it?
Milenko: Then we get to that next part what Paul writes about. That he says, “I haven’t yet attained it, but I forget what’s behind and I reach out for that which is ahead, that I can lay hold of that which Christ has laid hold of me.” And that’s the thing, that I can also, like you said, you think you’ve come to a certain stage where, “I’m pretty good now. I haven’t got any more impatience,” or, “I’m not impatient by nature.” And then you come into a situation where you actually see, that enemy suddenly pops up. Right? And then you see, I haven’t yet got to that point where I am perfect. I still have something to do. But I forget what’s behind, forget all that, you know, what I thought was good, and all the things that ... Also, all the defeats and so on. Now I’ve got this enemy ahead of me, and now I have to reach ahead for what God has promised me.
Rolf: Yeah, and it’s those verses are in Philippians 3, I mean, they are fantastic. You should read the whole chapter, but we don’t do that now. But we can read it from verse 13. I’ll read them again. “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do ...” And you have to ask yourself now and then, how many things are you occupied with? Paul was only occupied with this one thing: “… forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14, NASB.) He has seen what he could attain. If you read further, a little bit ahead of these verses, you could see that he was so gripped of Jesus Christ and what this new life could give Him. And then he says, “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you.” (Philippians 3:15, NASB.) In other words, he’s talking about, I’m not perfect, I have not yet attained perfection, but he was perfect in this mindset, “One thing I do. I press on to that which I have not yet attained.” Then you’re not surprised by the enemies that you see. That is my opportunity to take yet another step. To reach even further in to that which I’m so gripped of.
Milenko: Yeah. And that means that whatever comes up, I have that one goal. It makes it very, very specific, what I’m doing, very goal-oriented. And it makes very clear. So, no matter what I meet in life, and if it’s unexpected enemies, or whatever it is, I have that one goal. And I know what I have to do.
Kathy: And it’s actually God’s grace over me that I see that, right? Like, I’m reaching forward towards perfection, and I have to take those steps then, towards perfection. So, it’s His grace that He shows me those things so that I can make progress. Because we start to see progress then, it’s not just that like, I mean, we’re going to have a battle always, but we start to see progress, and we start to see that something happens, and something changes.
Milenko: Yeah. And that’s also what’s amazing here. Like, when I just read those verses again, it’s a really, really high calling we have, and a really high confession, that we are going to come to resurrection from the dead. And it says here that I press toward the goal for the prize – I read in another translation, when I was doing a bit of research, here it says, I reach toward the goal for the supreme prize – so there is no greater prize – of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. And that call of God, that’s what we were speaking about right at the start, that God wakens something in me. That’s that calling. To that supreme prize, which is that I can be together with Jesus, inherit all things together with Him, and be like Him. That I can actually attain to that nature that is in Him. And where does that happen? It happens in these daily situations. You were talking about this irritation. In the middle of irritation, you don’t feel any supreme prize. What you feel is irritation. Right? And it can look completely the opposite. If I’ve got that one goal, then I’m reaching for that. And that means, now I have something to fight for and against.
Rolf: That irritation is what is between me – in this situation – between me and that upright call. Get rid of it!
Milenko: Get rid of it! Yeah.
Rolf: Get rid of it. Destroy it!
Milenko: It’s very direct what I’m doing then.
Rolf: Exactly. Then you live a very conscious life, of your heavenly calling, and the work that God has started in us. Then you can be sure, as sure as Paul was with the Philippians, that He who has started this work, He will complete it.
Kathy: And I think that’s why we can agree with what James writes, that we can count it all joy.
Rolf: Yeah. I mean, that’s a ... what should I say? When James comes up with that, “count it all joy,” when you’re into various temptations. You cannot manage to do that unless you have that heavenly goal, the vision before you, that Paul was not disobedient to. But in that mindset, that this is between me and that upright call, in that mindset then I can count it all joy that I see what is hindering me from my goal. So, Peter he says too, that we should arm ourself with the mind that he who has suffered in flesh, he has ceased from sin. So, when I meet my enemy, irritation, it becomes a suffering, I suffer in the flesh, and I cease from sin. So, it takes more and more before I get tempted. In other words, I’ve partaken more and more of God’s nature, who cannot be tempted by anything. What a goal!
Milenko: What a goal. And it’s not something we have to do in our own strength. We have God on our side. And the thing is that we all come into temptations. Young people, they have all kinds of temptations, in their daily life. I think we sometimes just have to collect our thoughts. Sit down and really think about this, what is my calling? And then read about it. Go and read God’s word. What is my calling? Right now, in this situation, I meet myself, I meet what’s in my nature. You mentioned impatience and there’s that irritation. Paul speaks about youthful lusts, which can be very many things. All that there, that is the enemy. And now we’ve got God who is saying. “Destroy!” And He’s given us the tools to do it. And we have to go and do that. We have to suffer in the flesh. I mean, we’ll feel that, when that impatience comes up, and I have to deny that. That’s a suffering. But that is where the battle lies. And that’s the work that God is doing in me. That I want to do that now.
Rolf: And if you want to have a Scripture from the new testament to prove what Deuteronomy said, look at what Paul writes to Corinthians, in 2 Corinthians 4:6: “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness ...’” this was long before there were any electricians; there was no cable laid anywhere, and He created light by saying, “Let there be light,” and there was. And then it says He “... is the One who has shone in our hearts ...” In another translation it says, “Who has let that light shine into our hearts.” In other words, He drives the enemies out in front of us and now He says, “Destroy!” As it says further on here, always carrying about in our flesh the dying of the Lord Jesus Christ. So that the life of Jesus also should be manifested in our mortal bodies. (1 Corinthians 4:10.)
Milenko: That’s incredible.
Rolf: As human beings we believe that that shall happen over there. Yes, hallelujah, we are over in heaven and everything is fixed by God Himself. But then he repeats what he just said, “That the life of Jesus Christ should be manifested in our mortal bodies.” In other words, while we are here and we are beings that are going to die, sooner or later. And before that point, the life of Jesus Christ should shine forth from us!
Milenko: And when does that happen, Rolf? It’s right there when I’m feeling a temptation to be impatient, which means I feel impatient, right there, the life of Christ is going to come out of my body. How? By destroying impatience.
Rolf: Destroy! And don’t forget it is God who, in His mercy, has let that shine into our darkness. Because we only see impatience, but if we do not have, as Paul, I press onward to that goal of perfection, I see the imperfection. But now I can do something about it. And I’ve proven through reading these verses that God hasn’t changed His mind from the old covenant to the new covenant. He will still help you, shine light into your darkness. In other words, drive out the enemy in front of me. And then He says, “Destroy!” By how? Carrying about in my body the dying of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Milenko: And that’s the thing, that that light shows me my enemies, it shines in a dark place. And there’s enemies there. I didn’t see them. But now I see them, and now I can do something about it. And then that light becomes the light of the life of Christ that starts radiating from me. And that’s transformation. And that’s the work that God is doing in me; He’s started it, I have to believe that. And if I haven’t seen it that way before, just the longing that I feel for God, that’s God working in me. He’s started a work. And now I have to be along in that. And He’ll complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. So, Jesus will come back and then He’ll fetch all of those that this work has taken place in.
Rolf: Finally, flesh of my flesh and bones of my bones. The same qualities. The same life. In our mortal bodies. Hallelujah!
Kathy: It’s unbelievable. So I think, we can ask ourselves, do we really believe this? You know, and do I really believe that this work will be completed in me? And I think that this has been so incredibly encouraging; I can’t believe I get to start my morning with this kind of encouragement. But I think, like, to encourage our listeners here to commit these verses to memory and believe in them when you’re tempted.
Rolf: That’s when you need to believe.
Milenko: So we’ve got some really fantastic verses here, those ones in Philippians, and we’ve also got those from Deuteronomy 33. Go back and read that, about the God who rides the heavens for us. Take it to yourself. This is literally the truth. And then we’ve got this from 2 Corinthians 4, where we really can ... the same God that was in Deuteronomy, the same God we have today, shining that light.
Rolf: And if you read from ... read the whole chapter 4 ... but when you come towards the end of it, then you see what Paul puts into the equation. While we do not look at that things which is present, but at that things which is eternal. Then our tribulations are but short and light.
Milenko: And there it is again. One thing I do. Look ahead, press ahead. And anything that’s between me and that goal, that has to be destroyed.
Rolf: Yeah, exactly. And you are allowed to look behind, be quiet, and see what God has done for you. If you compare yourself today, when you see all the enemies, look behind you in a year’s time, when you have been faithful in destroying, and see how much advance you have made on this way. You are allowed to do that. In order to boost your confidence in God and your good self-esteem, that God is actually doing a work in you.
Milenko: And the thing is that all that, that is God’s glory. God has done a work in you. I was the one who didn’t seek Him at all. I had no nothing in me that was good at all. And now I see that there has been progress. And it is God who’s done that in me. Wow!
Rolf: Exactly. Be still and see the wonders. Because it is a miracle. When I look behind, like, I’m getting a little bit greyish; I’m turning 60 this year. And looking behind me, seeing what actually has taken place in my life, because I have chosen to believe. It says about Israel: who did He swore that they were not going to come into His rest, or they were not going to come into the country that He had given them – was it not but those who said I do not want to believe, it says in one translation. It was because of unbelief. And when I see back where I have had faith, which is becoming my everyday life, I must say, when I see what faith has brought me and compared to the times where I was, ugh, I don’t think it will succeed for me, see the difference, I must say, be still and see the wonders and miracles.
Kathy: Thank you very much Rolf for coming in. That was incredibly encouraging. So thanks very much. And maybe we’ll have to have you back again sometime.
Rolf: Anytime. If I can strengthen young people in achieving our common goal to be partakers of Jesus Christ, I’m ready anytime.
Milenko: Yes! We’re right with you there.
Kathy: OK, so we actually have an email address now, so if you have any questions about anything you heard, or if you’d like to reach out to us, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And we’ll put that in our episode description for today as well, so you can find it there. So, thank you for joining us again. And I truly hope this has been as encouraging and helpful for you as it has been for me.
Milenko: Yup. Thanks everyone. And join in next week again. Bye!
Kathy: Bye everyone.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.