“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6 NLT)
The term “work,” as used in this verse and as generally used in the Bible, means much the same as it means today. It’s essentially anything in which we engage with the express intent of accomplishing something meaningful and that has purpose. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something for which we are paid. Much of the work we do daily has little or nothing to do with our vocation.
It was always amusing to me, especially when we had small children, when someone would ask what my wife did. The implication was “what kind of work did she do for which she got paid.” And when I said she didn’t “work,” they often said something like: “Oh, so she’s just a housewife and mother.” In my mind there’s no greater calling for a woman than to be a godly wife and mother. The work is tireless, but the “pay” is rewarding and generates eternal dividends.
That speaks directly to how God works in us. It may not be visible, at least at first, but it is nonetheless fruitful and filled with purpose. His goal, of course, is for us to be as much like Jesus as we can possibly be, working toward the day we find wholeness and completeness in Him when we are given access to our heavenly home.
One way of thinking of God’s work in us is that it’s “behind the scenes.” So, what’s He seeking to accomplish? His goal is to develop godly character, enabling others to see Jesus when they see us. How does He do that? Primarily through trials and difficult seasons in our lives.
Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-4: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” Not giving up is a key to the completion of the good work the Lord is building within us.
Paul wrote in Galatians 6:9: “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Anything worth doing is tiring and, especially as we’re learning to be good at whatever it is, can be difficult. Often our perspective of how we’re doing is more discouraging than the work itself.
Recently I did a small wallpapering job for my daughter. I hadn’t wallpapered for years, but she asked me, and I decided to give it a try. Who was my biggest critic? I was. Why? Because I could see most clearly where I’d messed up. Several times I asked her if she’d like me just to tear down what I’d done and start over, to which she’d say: “It looks fine, dad!”
In those times of self-inspection, which the Lord directs us to do on occasion, who is our biggest critic? We are, right? Why? Because we see our flaws and failures first, and the longer we look at them the bigger they seem. But how does God see them?
Like the loving Father that He is. He’s our greatest cheerleader and advocate. He’s with us each step of the way, and when we fall, His hand is the first to stretch out in our direction to help us up. I love what Hudson Taylor wrote: “I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help Him. I ended up by asking God to do His work through me.”
That’s all He wants to do in us. All He asks is that we be willing to let Him do what only He can do, as He directs us to do what only we can do. It’s a cooperative effort. That’s just how He chooses to work.
Blessings, Ed 😊