“…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Does the Bible really say that? I was stunned sitting in that pew on a Sunday night… and deeply moved.
A few months earlier I had been sitting in my dorm room at the University of Texas in Austin, when someone knocked on my door. David Procter, a staff member from Hyde Park Baptist Church, had dropped by to invite me to their college ministry. He later introduced me to a deacon, Alphonce Brown, who soon started picking me up for church on Sundays. As a year-old Christian, I had nothing to offer the church, but they invested time in me. Their love for Jesus was infectious… and their influence on me would last for decades.
So that’s how I came to be sitting in that pew on a Sunday night. That was the moment when I heard our pastor, Ralph Smith, mention a verse of scripture I had not heard before. I don’t recall anything else about the sermon, except I couldn’t wait to figure out where that verse was located in the Bible. After the service, I moved down to the front, surprised that no one else was lined up to speak to Dr. Smith (usually there was).
“Pastor,” I asked, “you quoted a verse… something about God completing a work that He begins.” He smiled. I was one of those who regularly queried him after his sermons. With a notebook in hand, I wasn’t challenging anything he said, but I always had questions. He told me where to find Philippians 1:6 and then, as we briefly discussed what it means, a truth formed in my heart that has never left: what God starts, God finishes! I really needed to hear that.
As a young believer, all I could see were my ongoing struggles with sin and my failed attempts to live for Him. I wanted to get it right, but it seemed like I was always getting it wrong. I was focusing on what I wanted to do for God, instead of what God was already doing in me. I needed to understand that when I first trusted Jesus, God began a work in me that is unstoppable. What God starts, God finishes!
In me — just me — nothing good dwells (Romans 7:18). On my own, I will always stumble and fall.
Every failure reminds me that I cannot live without Him. Jesus Himself said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Today, I am thankful that He never fails to finish what He starts, and that He long ago started to work in me. Steadily, unfailingly, and relentlessly…
He is finishing what He started.
“Things are not as bad as they seem, things could get worse, but they will get better.” ~ Ralph Smith (1931-2017)
Dr. Smith was the pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas for 36 years. Click here for a brief account of his life from the Austin-American Statesman newspaper.
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!” – Philippians 2:5-8
The baby in the manger reflects a revolutionary way of thinking that inverts this world’s system of values. Releasing His infinite majesty and absolute rule, and limiting Himself to the insignificance and lowly place of a house servant, Jesus lived a life that was absolutely yielded to the will of His Father. Why did He do this?
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” – 2 Corinthians 8:9
Jesus became a servant so that your life could be transformed. With one life to spend, He spent it all… on you. His obedience changes you. And if His attitude seeps into your thinking, you’re going to become a revolutionary presence in your world too.
Obedience is an offensive concept in our culture: it seems demeaning to obey someone. Yet, for Jesus, it was essential to doing life the way God intended. The obedient life is simply a dependent life, an active exhibition of faith in God. You cannot fulfill His assignment for your life by drawing on your ingenuity and resources alone. The God-sized work He gives you is always more than you can do in your own strength. Although Jesus was fully God, He did life within the limitations and frailties of His humanity — just like you and me. Jesus had a divine mission, but He could only accomplish it through the enabling presence and power of God.
- When Jesus needed to know what to say, God guided Him (John 12:49).
- When Jesus needed to know what to do, God showed Him (John 5:19).
- When Jesus needed supernatural help, God helped Him (Luke 11:20).
Jesus is not only our Savior. He’s our model for how to live in a dependent relationship with God. “Obedience” is about trading in your meager “powers” and tapping into His power. It’s not about losing your worth and value, but finding your significance through His purpose for your life. This is the attitude of Jesus… and it started with His arrival in Bethlehem.
According to Paul, this is the mindset of Jesus that must infect your own thinking. Welcome to the Christmas Revolution!
Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.
Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
The man was seen on national television by millions each week. Bill had acted in 25 feature films with superstars. He made more money in a month than I made in two years. He was continuously reading scripts on upcoming film roles and commercials — he was a success by every material definition. And I was sitting in his dressing room on the backlot of a major studio.
For two years Bill had been attending our worship services in Beverly Hills, California. He would come in and sit in the back, slipping out during the last song to avoid talking with church members or pastors — he was painfully shy! He had recently committed his life to Christ. I called him to see if we could place him in a service role in the church — due to his shooting schedule he apologetically asked if I could drop by his dressing room on the studio lot. “Sure!” I said.
Bill was overwhelmed that I would take time out of my busy schedule to come see him at work! He hated to bother me, but was willing to serve if we had a place for him. I was dumbstruck by his attitude, which was absolutely void of pretense or condescension. He felt unworthy to do what we wanted him to do. He valued highly his relationships with others in the church — some wealthy, some on welfare — it didn’t matter. In his mind they were light years ahead of him in their walk with God.
I left the studio with a sense of brokenness that afternoon. Bill valued my position as a child of God more than I did. He greatly honored and treasured his church family. He truly “esteemed others better than himself.”