Right click on audio player to download mp3 or to change listening speed
A God You Can Count On
Please take out your Bibles and turn in them to the book of Philippians in the New Testament. If you don’t have a Bible, I would invite you to find one under a chair in front of you. You can turn in that in the back portion to page 154, and you will find yourself at Philippians and the first chapter. Now one of the things I’ve learned over the years is that God posts reminder notes throughout the universe. They are reminder notes that He is real, He is faithful, and He can be counted on. One of those reminder notes is creation itself. Creation is a reminder note that God is real, His power and His divine nature can be seen in creation. Romans, chapter 1, talks about that.
There is another reminder note He leaves behind. It’s something we occasionally see, but sometimes we forget it is a reminder note that God is real and He can be counted on. That is the rainbow. You know, when it storms and you have that light hit at a certain way. You see that rainbow, and it is a reminder that God is faithful with His promise to never destroy the world again with a flood. Genesis 9 talks about that. Another reminder note really is the Bible you have in front of you. Every time you see a Bible, it is a reminder of God’s promise when He said, “My Word will never pass away.” “It will endure forever” as it says in Isaiah 48. You can count on that. It’s been true for 27 centuries, and it will be true to the very end of time.
Now today we come to another kind of a reminder note from the Apostle Paul as the book of Philippians opens up. It’s a reminder that God is real. God is faithful. God can be counted on. Last week we began our study of the book of Philippians as we’re introducing this series…Spiritual Essentials for a Joy-Full Life. We just introduced the book, gave you a little background and flavor of it. Today we want to talk about how we have a God you can count on…a God you can count on. Or, we could say…God finishes what He starts.
Now as we open up this book, and we had a little bit of background last week. If you didn’t get that, I would encourage you to go to our website at wildwoodchurch.org, and you can get a hold of a copy of that message. But Paul knew what it was like in his life to experience difficulty. As he is writing this, he has spent the last two years under house arrest, chained to a soldier 24 hours a day, unable to leave, unable to go out to Wal-Mart, unable, you know, to go to Cheddar’s [restaurant] and grab a bite to eat. He was just in this house for two years chained to a soldier every day. Yet we see as this book opens up that he had a joy-full heart. You know what? I can learn from him. We can all learn from him.
Now today’s plan involves really two parts. First of all, we’re going to look at Paul’s celebration in prayer in verses 3 to 5. Then secondly, we’re going to look at Paul’s confidence in God in verse 6. So, we’re going to see his celebration in prayer (there is a lot we can learn from that), and then we’re going to look at his confidence in God. Believe me, there is a lot we can learn from that. So, if you have your Bible open, I would invite you to follow along as I read verses 3 to 6. Paul writes, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 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.”
So, the first thing we want to look at as he opens up this letter to the Philippians is Paul’s celebration in prayer. But before we go there, we just want to hit the pause button. I want to ask a couple of questions…questions for myself, questions for all of us. So, you just think about the answers to these questions. What do we pray about? I don’t mean what should we pray about. I mean what do we pray about? How do I pray? Think back on your past week. How do we pray? What do we pray about?
Now if we’re going to be transparent people, the answer to that question for many of us, and I’m including myself on this…when we start asking how do we pray, what do we pray about, it’s likely our prayers look something like this. “God, I need…” and then we fill in the blank. “God, I want…” and then we fill in the blank. Or maybe our prayers look something like this, “God, I’m in a fix. Get me out! Get me out!” Often times our prayers look very much like that. “Bless me, God. Bless my family. Do this. Do that.” Then of course, we always add, “and do it quickly. Do it quickly.” What do we pray about? How do we really pray?
Now as you are thinking about maybe your last week in prayer, I simply want you to keep that in mind. Then let’s look and see if there isn’t a contrast between how we pray and how Paul prays. So, let’s look at what he says there in verse 3. He says, “I thank my God.” It’s really interesting to me that the focus of his perspective in prayer was on the personal relationship he has with God. “My God…” He is thinking of Jesus as he says in another place, “the One who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” This is a relational thing talking to God. He says, “I thank my God.” He is expressing gratitude. He is expressing appreciation. He has a thankful heart.
Now here is what’s really interesting. When we emphasize gratitude and appreciation to God, you know what happens? It has a ripple effect. It will begin to affect your entire outlook on life when you just take time to be thankful, time to express gratitude and appreciation to Him. I know in my own life I find that when I am cultivating gratitude and appreciation, this is what happens. I find myself being less critical of other people. I find that the concerns of the world that are going on around me…we have a lot going on economically right now…when I’m cultivating appreciation and gratitude before God, those things are a whole lot less potent for me.
You know what else? When we are emphasizing gratitude and appreciation to God, here is what happens to me. It just warms my heart with joy. It’s a perspective shifter that takes place. That’s what we see out of Paul. He says, “I thank my God.” Then he goes on to say “…in all my remembrance of you.” Who would the you be? Well we looked at that last week. When he says “in the remembrance of you” he is thinking of Lydia and her family who came to faith. He is thinking of the servant girl who was delivered from the demon. He is thinking of the jailer and his family who had trusted in Christ. He says, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” Then he puts together some interesting thoughts here. He says, “…in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.”
Now, men and women, I believe there is some great stuff in these verses that will invigorate your own prayer life if you can just catch them and see them. Now when he says what he says here, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all” what was he really doing when he was praying? He was praying for others. He was praying for others. What a contrast to the way I often tend to pray. You know, my prayers are very me, me, me, me, mine. Paul’s were very others-oriented…very different.
Have you ever had that experience, you know, when you knew someone was praying for you, and the lift that gave to you? You know what I’m talking about? When you know people were praying for you, and you sensed that lift? I am so grateful to my mom because for decades and decades and decades my mother has been praying for me. I know my mother has been praying for me. She needed to through several phases of my life. That gives me such a lift when I know she is praying for me.
My friend, Joel Householder, when I first got my diagnosis of prostate cancer, sent me a note. He said, “I just want you to know Cindy and I are praying for you every day.” The single best thing he could do for me and knowing he was praying for me just gave me this incredible lift.
Years ago, when I first came to Wildwood, one of the guys coming to Wildwood was a guy by the name of John O’Haver. We became friends. John eventually grew up to be really somebody and went on to become a professor at the University of Mississippi where he is today with his family. But John and I stay in contact. We e-mail occasionally. In fact, he visited here not too awfully long ago. We talk on the phone occasionally. But every time I talk to John, this is what he says to me, “I just want to remind you that we pray for you and your family every week.” To know that John prays for me and my family every week, I mean, it just gives me a lift…so significant.
Paul says, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.” Now I don’t know about you. I’m going to be a little bit transparent with you, okay? I don’t know what it’s like for you, but to me, a lot of times prayer, especially prayer needs, can be overwhelming. You know what I’m talking about? You know, Bill Fix does a great job of putting together a prayer needs list here at the church. Several of us are on multiple prayer needs lists. I get prayer needs sent to me from people I’m involved with with Family Life [national organization-Bruce is on the speaker team]. I have people I know around the country.
Then you’re going to know situations and relationships, and people are going to say to you, “Could you pray for this?” Or you’ll find out families are going through certain things. One of the OU [University of Oklahoma] football families is going through that because one of their players just had an automobile accident. So, there are all of these prayer needs. Sometimes it just overwhelms me. I mean, I feel like everything is stacked around me. I don’t know how much victory I am having in really praying for other people even though I do do that.
Well, I want you to see one thing I’ve learned somewhere in the past that has really helped me and given me a lot of joy when it comes to prayer. I think that’s exactly what Paul was doing here when he said, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.” I don’t think it means he was just non-stop praying for the Philippians, and he just never talked about anything else. All he did was always praying for the Philippians. That’s not it. Here is the idea, I think. As he remembered them and they came back to his mind, he would pray for them. That’s the thing that’s really helped me out a lot with prayer. As people come across my thoughts, I start praying for them. Why did such and such a person pop into my head? Well, I have some confidence in the Holy Spirit that the Spirit of God brings that person to my mind, and I pray for them.
You know, this week I had a couple of interesting little experiences. I was out driving, and I came to where you have Main Street and Porter hit. When you do that, you know, you can only turn left if you’re in one lane, and the opposite lane can only turn right. Sometimes that can get a little bit adventurous as to who is going to do what. I turned left, I think, well in front of a guy who was to me like half of a block down. But when I turned left and he was going to turn right, he didn’t like that.
He came roaring in this giant pick-up truck, you know, right behind me. I looked in my rearview mirror. He is giving me this little salute. I said, “Man, this guy is pretty uptight about something.” You know? Then he kind of spooked me out because he came roaring right up, you know, with his truck. He was, you know, obviously wanted to get into some sort of an eyeball battle with me and all this kind of stuff. I actually got a little nervous about that because you never know who these people are and why…? You know what? He was certainly on my mind. So, I prayed for him. I don’t know what he was going through. I don’t know if he just got fired from his job. I don’t know if there was some ugly medical diagnosis. I don’t know what was happening, but I prayed for him.
Another thing that happened is when I was driving around yesterday and going to some stores… Another friend of mine I’ve gotten to know through Family Life…his name is Jose Alvarez. He is involved with FCA. Suddenly I’m listening on the radio, and there is Jose being interviewed. It wasn’t very long. It was only about a four-minute interview or something like that. But there was Jose. It was fun to hear him talking on the radio. It would have been very easy to go, “Hey, isn’t that cool?” You know, “I know that guy! He is doing a great work in the golfing world with FCA [Fellowship of Christian Athletes].”
But you know what? It’s like, okay, I wasn’t planning to think right at that moment about Jose Alvarez, but God brought him to my mind. I made a commitment with Jose a while back that I would pray for his two teenage boys. So, I enjoyed the broadcast and immediately before I got out of the car, I’m praying for Jose, for his two teenage boys, and that God would continue to use Jose to be the kind of model his teenage boys need.
But you see, I think that’s the idea of how this was working. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.” “When God brings you to mind, I just pray for you.” You notice, he says “…always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.” You see, when people are brought to our mind and we take time to pray for them, we get joy out of that…joy that goes beyond circumstances, beyond the fact that he was chained down to a soldier 24 hours a day. Beyond the way that people treat us. Beyond what we have. Paul didn’t have very much. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.”
By the way, you know in the Bible, joy is not a feeling. Joy is an attitude. It is a perspective. It’s the perspective that God is in control of everything…everything that happens, including being locked up in a house for two years, chained to soldiers with, by the way, the prospect of being executed on the horizon, still would lead to joy because He is in control. What’s happening is a part of His plan.
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel.” The word here that’s translated participation in the original is the word koinonia. Koinonia…we use that term. But really koinonia means partnership. He says, “I pray for you as God brings you to mind because of our partnership. We are partners in grace.” He is saying, “We’ve all drunk from the fountain of grace.”
William Cowper was a very troubled kid. He was a very troubled kid. He was born in 1731, the fourth child of a British clergyman. But as would often happen in that day, even though he was the fourth child, his three siblings died at a very young age. Then his mom died attempting to give birth to her fifth child. William Cowper was very wounded by these events.
As he grew up, his father wanted to make something out of his son. So, he wanted his son to become an attorney. So, he went through schooling aiming in that direction and actually came to the point when he was preparing for the bar exam. As he was preparing for the bar exam, William had an anxiety attack. He just felt this distance between him and God. In fact, he felt damned by God. So, he took the Bible he had from when he was a young man and just tossed it away. Then he went out and attempted suicide…wasn’t successful.
His family decided William needed to go into an asylum. It was an asylum led by a man by the name of Dr. Cotton. Dr. Cotton was a follower of Jesus. He kept trying to bring Jesus back to William. One day while in the asylum at the age of 33, William Cowper trusted Jesus Christ as his Savior as he was reading in his Bible Romans 3, verse 25, where speaking of Jesus it says, “Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood as a legal satisfaction of payment by His blood.” It was a number of years later that William Cowper wrote a hymn called “There is a Fountain” with the words “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains.”
Paul was so excited to pray as God brought the Philippians to mind in part because they were partners in the fountain of grace. Lydia, you remember her? The wealthy, affluent businesswoman at the top of the social crest. Then you have the slave girl who was demented and degraded by those who owned her for profit. Then you had that tough jailer…oh those were tough guys…who himself was rescued from the brink of suicide.
Isn’t it interesting how there is just equal footing at the Cross? It makes no difference. We all have to drink from the same fountain of grace. Paul knew that. He said, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day…” Remember what happened with Lydia as she comes to faith in Christ, and she says, “I want you all to come to my house. I want to minister to you, and I want to help you.” “…from the first day until now” as Paul writes this letter. We’re going to learn more as we unpack Philippians that there was an ongoing involvement and investment, partnering together having drunk from the same fountain of grace.
Now that’s Paul’s celebration in prayer. Again, I want to go back to the pause we did earlier and think about, What does my prayer life look like? I want to just share this. When we make a shift in our prayers from “I want…,” “I need…,” “Get me out of this, God…” to begin to pray for others as God brings them to mind, you know what happens? This is what happens in my life. There is joy there. There is joy there. Let me ask you a question. Who do you lift up in prayer? Oh, you know, we all want people doing that for us. Who is it that you pray for?
So, the first thing we see is Paul just begins to unpack what is an incredibly dynamic letter. We see his celebration in prayer. But I want us to move now to the second thing we see here, and that’s Paul’s confidence in God. I think his celebration in prayer is partly built on his confidence in God. Notice verse 6. He says, “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.”
We’re going to see two things here. The first thing we’re going to see as we look at Paul’s confidence in God is that our salvation is secure. The second thing we’re going to see is that our shaping is in His plan. He has a plan, and that is that you and I would be shaped. So, we’re going to see our salvation is secure as we look at his confidence in God, and that our shaping is His plan.
Let’s start first of all with…our salvation is secure. Notice he says in verse 6, “For I am confident…” It’s not a case of where he says, “You know, I sort of think… You know, maybe… I really, really, really hope perhaps…” He doesn’t say that. He says, “I am confident of this very thing, that He (God) who began a good work in you will perfect it.” Not might…maybe He would do it. No, He will complete it. What God starts; God finishes.
Now there are some people running around the Christian world today…the Christian community today…who would say that it is possible for a follower of Jesus to lose their salvation. It’s possible for someone to come to know Christ personally and then to fall out of that relationship permanently to lose their salvation, and I have a couple of thoughts with that. That is very difficult to compute for me because when we believe in Jesus Christ, we have eternal life. That’s what it says. Eternal life in and of itself is indestructible. See once you have eternal life, it is indestructible.
So, you say, “Well why is it that there would be people running around in the Christian community who would say it is possible for a follower of Jesus to lose their salvation?” I think the answer is this. There are some statements in Scripture that are somewhat unclear. But one of the first rules of interpretation is we don’t build key theology on passages that are a little bit unclear. All unclear passages need to be interpreted in light of the clear ones. Just a basic rule of interpretation.
So, what I want to look at are two irrefutably clear statements from the Word of God that our salvation is secure…two irrefutable proofs. So, let’s look at them. The first irrefutable, clear statement that our salvation is secure, once we know Him it is true forever is…
1. The sealing of the Holy Spirit. You can turn with me to Ephesians, chapter 1, verse 13.Paul couldn’t be any clearer than he is here. He says, “In Him (in Christ), you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation…” So, someone is confronted with the good news of Christ, and notice the response. “…having also believed (had faith in Him).” Notice what it says next, “…you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” You hear the message about who Christ is and what He came to do for you, and you believe and trust in that. Then it says, “We are sealed with the Holy Spirit.”
Now sealing in that day had several ideas to it. One was the idea of ownership. When you wanted to mark something as your property, something that belonged to you, you would put your seal on it. When we as followers of Christ believed in Him, and we received this relationship with Him and salvation, He puts His seal through the Holy Spirit of promise on us. “That person belongs to Me…part of My property, part of My family, part of My forever family.”
Then the second idea involved with sealing wasn’t just ownership, but it was the idea of security. If you wanted to guarantee the safe arrival of something that needed to go from point A to point B, you would put your seal on it. If you were a person of authority, you were basically saying, “I am guaranteeing that that will get from here to there, and I will guarantee its arrival.” That’s exactly what the sealing of the Holy Spirit ultimately means.
In fact, if you let your fingers flip over to chapter 4 of Ephesians and you look at verse 30, we know the sealing begins when we believe in Christ as our Savior. Where does it end? Well he says in verse 30, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom (verse 30 of chapter 4) you were sealed for the day of redemption.” The day of redemption is when we come face to face with Him.
You see how this works? This is an irrefutable, clear statement of the security of our salvation. We believe. We’re sealed with the Holy Spirit. It’s a guarantee that we’re going to arrive right at the gates of heaven. Our salvation is secure. We see it through the sealing of the Holy Spirit…irrefutable proof of that. But the second one I want us to see is…
2. Jesus Christ is our High Priest. This one is pretty exciting too. You can turn with me to the book of Hebrews, chapter 4. In particular, I want us to notice verse 14. In chapter 4, it just simply says… In fact, the idea of Jesus being our High Priest surfaces and bobbles up and down in the book of Hebrews. But in verse 14, it says, “…we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” The high priest was the one who would be the intermediary between the people and God Himself. What it’s saying is that Jesus Christ is our High Priest. It’s Old Testament terminology. The One who represents us with God is Jesus Christ. In fact, in chapter 9, verse 24, it says, “…He appears in the presence of God for us.”
Now think about that for a minute. The One who represents me as a follower of Christ is Jesus Himself who is representing us in the presence of the Heavenly Father. In fact, when John writes to his spiritual children in 1 John, he says, “I’m writing to you that you do not sin.” I mean, that’s not what believers ought to do and followers of Jesus. But he says, “If any of us sin,” he says, “we have an advocate with the Father in heaven who is Jesus Christ the Righteous.” You see, that’s why our salvation is secure. We have Christ the Righteous One representing us to the Heavenly Father. The idea is that when Bruce messes up and the righteousness of God needs to respond to that, Jesus Christ the Righteous One says, “Wait a minute. I took care of that one already. I paid for that; I paid for that. It’s all taken care of.”
Turn with me to the book of Romans and the eighth chapter. Look over at Romans, chapter 8. By the way, if you haven’t been in Romans 8 in a long time, man, you need to get in there. This chapter is chock-full [packed with] of incredible truth. But I want you to notice what Paul writes in Romans 8, verse 33. He is asking a question there. He says, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies (who declares people to be righteous).”
He says in verse 34, “Who is the One who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes rather who was raised (notice this), who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” I mean, who is ever going to bring a charge against a follower of Jesus when you have Jesus Christ the Righteous who is there interceding with the Heavenly Father? I mean, what charge is going to stick? No charge can stick because He is always there to say, “I took care of it. I took care of that. I took care of that.”
Then he goes on to just ask the question in verse 35. Because He is our High Priest “who will separate us from the love of Christ?” How are we ever going to get separated from the love of Christ? He says, “Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine” and so forth. All these things…can it separate us? The answer is no! In fact, he goes on in verses 38 and 39. He says, “I am convinced…” Then he comes up with everything he can think of.
“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things that are going on right now, nor things that could maybe happen in the future, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any created thing, including ourselves will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The message is, men and women, that God won’t ditch you [leave you behind] if you are His follower. He won’t write you off [dismiss you]. Isn’t that exciting to see our salvation is secure?
Let your eyes back up a few verses to verse 29. It says, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He (that is Jesus) would be the Firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called (into His family); and these whom He called, He also justified (declared them righteous); and these whom He declared righteous, He also glorified.”
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not glorified yet. If you were married to me, you would know that would be true. There is a long way I have yet to go. But he is saying, “Listen, this is the way it works. The ones He foreknew, the ones He predestined, the ones He called, the ones He declared righteous are the ones He glorified.” The process is a closed process. See, no one drops out. One writer…I love this…calls this the Godness of God. That’s such a great phrase. This is the Godness of God. Our salvation is secure.
The second thing is…our shaping is His plan. “He who began a good work in you,” Philippians 1:6. The word good it means noble. If you have your finger still in Romans 8, in verse 29 there is a little hint of what the good work really is all about. It says, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined (here it comes) to become conformed to the image of His Son.” Our shaping is His plan. In 1 John 3:2 it says, “…now we are (right now we are) children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be (yet in the future). We know that when He appears, we will be like Him.” It doesn’t mean I become the Creator God. It means His character becomes my character…we have Christ-like character.
A story is told of a sculptor who was really good at just taking, you know, big rocks and sculpting them into something really fascinating and beautiful. He had taken this one big rock and had actually sculpted it into a beautiful horse. Someone said, “How do you do that? You know, how do you take this big rock, and you make a beautiful image of a horse?” Here is what his answer was. He said this: “I simply chip away everything that doesn’t look like a horse.”
You know what? That’s what God is really doing in my life and yours. He is just chipping away everything that doesn’t look like Christ. Paul understood that. He understood that in his own life, a lot of what was happening was God chipping away. He understood that about the Philippians’ lives. He understands that about your life and my life.
See the idea is our shaping is in His plan. Here is the idea…He wants to take my character and make it like Christ’s character. That means He needs to keep whittling away. It means I need to continue to learn about the weakness of my own flesh. It means I need to continue to learn that I need Him every hour. It means I need to be transforming my thinking and having God transform my heart. But that means God is going to have to do a little whittling and chipping away.
I came across this great illustration by James Boice. He is now in heaven with the Lord, but this is such a great picture because this is so much of what the Christian life is all about. He said, “I spent a number of summers at a Christian camp in Canada. One summer, I spent several hours watching one of the campers learn to climb a telephone pole. See in those days, some boys who really couldn’t afford to pay for camp would come and partially pay for it by working at the camp.” He said, “Since the camp needed more adequate wiring, this guy had the job of stringing the wires. For that he had to learn how to climb a pole.”
He says, “The secret of climbing a telephone pole is to learn to lean back, allowing your weight to rest on the broad leather belt that encircles you and the pole, allowing your spikes to dig into the pole at a broad angle.” You know what we’re talking about. You have that big belt that goes around the pole, and you have the spikes on. You learn to lean way back, you see. “If you fail to lean back and you pull yourself toward the pole, then your spikes will not dig in, and you’ll slip.” Then he says, “It isn’t very pleasant to slip because the pole is covered with splinters that can easily dig into your body.”
He said, “At first my friend would not lean at all. So, as a result, he never even got off the ground. The spikes simply wouldn’t go into the wood. It was frustrating to him. After awhile he learned to lean back a bit and got started. But as soon as he was just a few feet off the ground, he would become afraid, and he would pull himself close to the pole. That practice would mean he would go down with a big bump, getting covered with splinters in the process. This practice went on until he learned he had to lean fully into the belt that held him. When he learned that, he began to climb.”
Then he goes on to write this. He says, “It’s the same in the Christian life. God wants you to climb. This is His purpose in saving you. He wants you to rise to Christ’s own stature. What is more, He is going to insist on it. He is going to teach you to climb by resting on Him. There will be times when you think you can hold on better by grasping the pole than by leaning on the belt. When you do, you will slip spiritually, and God will let you get covered with splinters. He will do it because He knows that is the only way that you will learn to trust Him, and to trust Him is the only way to climb. What is more, He will keep at you. He will not let you quit. He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Anyone taken some splinters recently? You see, He is very committed to building a replica of the Savior in each one of us. We are destined for glorification. He wants to shape us to have the same kind of character Christ had. You know, I remember when I first began to grow spiritually. I came to Christ when I was younger as a child. Then it wasn’t until I was in college I began to grow. You know, you begin to understand the kind of a character that God wants of you. This is sort of the way it went for me. This is another little analogy.
As I remember, you know, when you’re first growing, you’re thinking, You know, there are these huge boulders in my life. If I’m going to be like Christ through His power, I need to get those rolled out of my life. You know, and you see these huge boulders. So, you begin to, in His power, deal with those things in your life. You get the huge boulders rolled out, and then suddenly, you know, there are a bunch of big rocks in here. I didn’t see those big rocks before. This is part of growing into Christ-like character. I dealt with some boulders. Now I have a bunch of big rocks.
So, we begin through His power to address some of those big rocks in our lives. Then, you know, you get the rocks removed, and then you notice there are just a whole bunch of stones everywhere. There are stones everywhere. No matter how much you get to be more like Christ, there is always another layer there. I haven’t really gotten past any of the stones yet, but I know from talking to other people that you move the stones, and then there are just piles of pebbles everywhere, and that’s part of the process. God wants to shape you and me into the very character of Jesus Christ.
He, men and women, is a God we can count on. I don’t care what happens to the economy. Well, I do. But you know what I’m saying. What difference does that make ultimately? If everything unravels, we have a God who we can count on. “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.” He will bring it to completion. What God started will end well. I’ll tell you, men and women; these are some amazing truths that will alter our perspective of life.
Now we have been looking face to face with some scriptural principles and truths. I think it’s important we talk about some life response as we get ready to walk out into our week. I want to suggest three items of life response that we can have having looked at Philippians 3 to 6. The first one is this. The first life response I would like to suggest is that we…
1. Pray for others. Start this practice. Whenever God brings people to mind, pray for them. If you haven’t yet read the sports pages, you will read about a football player who has been seriously injured. You can read that, and you can have all kinds of responses to that. “He was stupid not to have his seatbelt on. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah.” But what if you just said… You read that, and you go, “You know what? I’m going to pray for that young man right now.” It will revolutionize your prayer life. You need to pray for others. Who are you lifting up? The second life response is to…
2. Express gratitude to Him. Too many weeks sometimes go by before we do that where we’re expressing appreciation to God. If you struggle with that…you think, I don’t know; I don’t feel that appreciative…just do a little tango [interact with] with Psalm 103 for a little while this week. See if that doesn’t help. So, by way of life response, number one, pray for others; number two, express gratitude to Him. Then third…
3. Give Him the glory. Give Him the honor. I’m not a big symphony guy. I’ve been, I’m just not a big symphony guy, but one time Arturo Toscanini directed a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. You know how he is working with the orchestra. Then afterwards, you turn around to the audience. So, he did that. As he turned around to the audience, there just erupted this incredible, spontaneous applause that grew into a roaring acclaim of Toscanini and the whole orchestra. When the cheering began to subside after they had taken many bows, Toscanini turned back to the orchestra, and in a very heavy whisper he said to them, “Men and women, I am nothing. You are nothing. Beethoven is everything…everything…everything!” Men and women, we are nothing; Jesus Christ is everything. He is everything.
Let’s pray together. Father, we thank You for the living Book, the Word of God, and for the practical truth that is here. Father, I believe You are calling many of us up to pray for others…maybe a whole new approach. As we look at verses like this, how can we not, as we look at the fact our salvation is secure, and that You’re shaping of us into the image of Christ is part of Your plan? How can we not express gratitude to You? Father, when it really comes down to it, ultimately, we need to give You all the glory and all the honor because the truth of the matter is that we are nothing and Jesus is everything. Amen.