One of the most comforting verses I have read in the New Testament is Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” The apostle Paul is writing to the Philippians and is encouraging them greatly with these words. He expresses his thanks for them and how he makes prayers with joy for them (Philippians 1:1-2).
When it comes to my life and the failures I see in it, sometimes the failures seem so great that I question if I am really even growing any more. Sometimes I may be lead to doubt in certain moments if I’m really overcoming sin and growing closer to the Lord. The answer to this, however, is Philippians 1:6. The reality of this is the fact that it is God who began the work and will continue the work and will one day finish the work. The verb for “began” is used in Galatians 3:3, which focuses on the fact that the Spirit began this work. It is comforting to know that the fact of your salvation is the reality that God Himself personally came to you and convicted your heart of the reality of who Jesus Christ is. There is nothing that can overcome or takeaway the work of God. This is security and truth that God will bring things into our lives to grow our faith, not destroy it. God is always disciplining the ones He loves and therefore there is nothing that will keep Him from doing His work in you and bringing it to completion if you are in Christ Jesus.
One example of this is Abraham and Sarah. Abraham was just another pagan in Ur with no intentions on following after the true God. Then God came to Abraham, at the time Abram in Genesis 12 and told him to go. This was God’s work beginning in Abraham. God initiated it just like the Holy Spirit must initiate it with any unbeliever. In faith Abraham went, and during these travels, God made a covenant with Abraham and promised him many descendants (Gen. 15:1-6) and Abraham believed God (15:6).
Now, the fact that Abraham had faith is not questioned, but as always our trust, our faith in God is always tested and God always desires to grow in us and perfect in us our faith and trust in Him and His word. The testing point comes in Genesis 17 when God calls to Abraham and tells him that He will give Abraham a son through Sarah. Abraham’s response is not to believe but question. In 17:17 Abraham laughs and questions God’s word. Abraham can’t see how he could have a child at such an old age. He was trusting in what he knew, in his physical limitations over the word of God. Even though Abraham, the man who believed and obeyed God and left his land, and believed God’s promises and was seen as righteous is here doubting the word of God now given to him. We often can fall into times of doubt. Often we have faith to believe some of God’s word and others we in our sinfulness will doubt the reality or truthfulness of it. This then manifests itself in our actions, our attitudes and our doubts.
But as always, God is faithful and will bring to completion what He desires and what He promises happens. In Genesis 21:1 it states, “The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as He promised.” This is a blatant and grand statement. God did exactly as He promised meaning His word can be absolutely trusted and our faith, when God does as He says grows.
How do we know this event really grew the faith of Abraham. We only have to look at Genesis 22. It states in verses 1-2, “After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham”! And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” This would make anyone stop and focus on the gravity of this situation. But God was using this opportunity to examine Abraham’s heart, but it is also an example of the faith that had grown in Abraham. When he was told he would have a son born to him, he laughed and wondered how, but here when asked to take up and sacrifice his only son, there is no recorded dispute. In Hebrews 11:17 it states clearly, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…” God had grown Abraham’s faith from a pagan from Ur that would laugh at the promise of a descendant to one who could in faith sacrifice his own son. God had grown Abraham’s faith in His word. Eve in the garden chose to believe what she saw over God’s word, but here Abraham chosen by God had believed in God’s promised word over even death.
In closing this reminds me of one topic in “The Cup and the Glory” where Dr. Harris talks about how suffering is a gift from God (Phil 1:29). When it comes to having faith in the good things of God, my faith is great. When it comes to having faith in the reality that even suffering is a gift, I have to exclaim with the faithless, “grow my faith Lord.” But, that is where faith is truly seen and where God is always growing us to be, where even in suffering we know “God works all things for good” (Rom. 8:28). Where is our faith? Do we only have faith to accept the good promises of God, or is our faith at a place where even if it means death, we can exclaim that God is good?