Being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: (Philippians 1:6, ESV)
Paul, having greeted, blessed, and encouraged the Philippians all in the space of the first five verses, gives them a double-dose of gospel courage. His love for them could not be more obvious. Paul surprises us a little when we see this side of him. We tend to think of him as hard and driven and always aggressively pressing forward. Rarely do you hear anyone speak of ‘gentle Paul’ but that is exactly who shows up in this letter of friendship to a church he helped establish. His heart is tender towards them. He is concerned for their well-being in the midst of persecution and trouble.
First, Paul expresses his own assurance in the work of God on their behalf. He is confident, sure, convinced. Now, it is an easy thing to say we are confident in God’s ability, sure of His love, convinced of His concern. It is quite another to own assurance where people are involved. God can do whatever he wants when he chooses to act (we profess), as long as He is the only party to the action. As soon as people enter the picture, all bets are off. Is it any wonder that we think this way, given the shining failures displayed in the lives of Peter, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, and nearly every other biblical character, not to mention our own lives, the sin and failure we experience daily? Thinking of God and the church this way is a trap. It’s not how Paul views the Philippians.
The first part of the double-dose of gospel courage he gives them is a profession of his assurance for them. Not that they are giants in the land or super-human in their devotion and purity. No, Paul’s assurance on their behalf is not rooted in the Philippians themselves. Paul’s assurance is rooted in God, who has begun a good work in them and will see it through to completion. Paul digs a deep well for the Philippians to draw from whenever they stumble or doubt – the well of God’s providential care for them. When trouble comes, when their hearts are faint, when the accuser raises his objection, all is not lost. Paul reminds them to come to the well, draw, and drink deeply of their God. He is confident, sure, convinced of God’s promised and sufficient care for the Philippians.
The second part of the double-dose of gospel courage is to set their eyes firmly on the return of Christ. Paul knows that he knows that he knows that God will continue His good work in them until the day of Jesus Christ. From our perspective, we might say “God will continue this good work in you until you die”. In essence this is what Paul is saying but rather than setting their eyes on death, which is precious little encouragement when viewed in the midst of trouble, Paul displays Christ and his glorious return as the fountainhead of courage for the beleaguered church. Troubles, conflicts, and doubts fade in the light of Christ’s glorious return. They are released from their battle stations only when the war is finished or they pass into glory. Until then, God is their shield and fortress.
Dear brother and sister, Christ has saved you and brought you to life. Press on in the battle until He returns. We don’t know when He is coming, so set your sights today to live for Him today. Don’t forestall your life by targeting some unknown years in the future when you think death will likely come calling. Live today for your Savior and Lord. I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.