Friday, August 26, 2011

I am confident that the good work God has begun in me will be perfected (Philippians 1:6)

As I look back at my life, there are places where I can feel twinges of regret over things I started but never finished.  When I was about 10 years old I thought the theme song of "The Beverly Hillbillies" TV show was really cool and so I decided to learn how to play it.  My parents were all for my learning a musical instrument (my brother had started learning guitar), so they eagerly signed me up for banjo lessons and rented a used banjo for me to practice on.  After four half-hour lessons, I quit.  My fingertips were inflamed and sore and I still hadn't a clue how to play "The Beverly Hillbillies" theme song.  Imagine that!

My baseball career lasted longer.  In Little League I was a decent pitcher (I even pitched a no-hitter once, though I think I walked eight batters!).  I made an All-Star team though we were never good enough to make it to Williamsport and the Little League World Series.  One year I had progressed so well in my pitching that I was moved up to a higher level of play than most of my peers.  I got scared because most of the kids were older and bigger and stronger than I was.  I actually started developing chest pains due to the stress.  After a few weeks, I quit baseball.  Even though I got back into it a few years later, I had lost some valuable years of experience and so eventually dropped it altogether.

I used to paint.  I don't paint anymore.  "I'm too busy," I tell myself, and maybe I am...too busy.  There is this really cool painting I started probably 30 years ago of a grist mill by a stream with all these trees and sunlight shining through the leaves.  I never finished it.  I don't even know if that unfinished painting is around anymore.  I've lost track of where it is.

Probably all of us have those areas where we say, "I wish..."  I wish I had stuck with piano...  I wish I had kept on going and got that black belt...  I wish I had finished that nursing degree...  I wish I had worked harder on my first marriage...  And so on.

Even more painful, we may recall people that hung with us for a while but then dumped us.  People we thought were our best friends who suddenly stopped calling or didn't want to hang out with us anymore because...well...they found somebody else they thought was more cool.  Teachers who seemed to like us at first but who then later discovered another student-phenom onto whom they directed their efforts.  Coaches who paid attention to us and called on us in important parts of the game until an injury sidelined us or somebody else got hot.  Maybe even parents who lost respect for us and favored another sibling...letting us know in no uncertain terms that they wished we were more like our brother or sister.  The litany of disapproval, disinterest, disrespect and even disgust from those who we once thought were on our side goes on and on.

Is God like that?  Does He play favorites?  Does He hang with us for a while but when we are slow to "get it" does He move on to other, "better" Christians?  Does God ever get disgusted, throw in the towel, give up on us and bench us?

Of course, we would like to hope He doesn't do that kind of thing, but today's Scripture assures us that He won't.  Here are two renderings of Philippians 1:6:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  (NASB)

There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you will keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. (The Message)

Wow!  What a relief!  No matter how slow we are to learn, no matter how many times we blow it, God doesn't give up on us.  Never.  He keeps on keeping on with the good work of making Jesus shine through our lives more and more and more.

Even when we get scared and quit for a while, He doesn't.  He keeps on working on us and in us behind the scenes.  Later in that same book of Philippians, Paul wrote:  "for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

Have you been wondering lately if God is doing anything in your life?  Have you had this gnawing suspicion that He may be a bit weary of your wanderings or frustrated with your failures and that He might be close to saying, "I've had it with you!"?  Are you worried that He might just trade you for a fourth round draft pick and a player to be named later?

No worries, mate!  You are not a partially finished painting that God has lost interest in or forgotten its whereabouts.  You are His precious child and He is eternally committed to making you like His precious Son until the day of His return.  Paul was confident of that truth and so am I.  I hope you are, too!

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