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Confidence

Date: Jan. 3, 2016

Author: Bob Henkins

Philippians 1:1-30

Key Verse: Philippians 1:6

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

During the course of any competitive event, be it a football game, contract negotiation, chess match, or toddler beauty pageant, there are many momentum shifts, some of them you can almost feel the momentum go from one opponent to the other. Many professionals will tell you that it’s often not a matter of physical abilities but mental toughness that wins the battle. The same is true in our spiritual life. Our spiritual life is more of a marathon than a sprint. With such a long race there is a real danger that we can lose our momentum and lose the battle. How do we protect ourselves so that we don’t lose that momentum and complete our race of faith? I believe that confidence is key. If you don’t have confidence in your ability then you begin to doubt, likewise if you don’t have confidence in God then his power has little effect in your life. As we close out of 2015 and begin 2016, my hope and prayer is that each of us may encourage one another being confident in God so that we may finish what we’ve started.

In today’s passage Paul gives us three areas of encouragement in which we can be confident in God, partners in the gospel, advancing the gospel and living a life worthy of the gospel. During his life as a Christian, Paul was thankful for the church in Philippi. Over the years they grew to be such an encouragement to him. So I thought it would be good for us to learn what made him thankful. In verses 1-2 Paul greets them with the grace and peace of God but the meat of his letter starts in verses 3-5, Let’s take a look. “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now”. As soon as Paul accepted Jesus as his savior, he dedicated his life to tell others what Jesus has done for him. This is what is meant by proclaiming the gospel, sharing the good news of Jesus. However, undertaking this calling alone can get difficult and lonely as we face opposition, persecution and abandonment. However, Paul was thankful he was not alone in doing God’s work, he had partners. From the very beginning of the Philippian church they partnered with Paul and shared the same calling to proclaim the gospel that he did. Because of their shared life purpose they supported him throughout his ministry, not only through monetary gifts, but also through their personal love and attention for him. Because of their loving relationship, Paul trusted them and for this he was thankful.

As partners, they shared the work load together. If one becomes sick or injured, others are there to help them by taking on extra load, or care for them, or simply just to listen to their struggles. When I thought about this a verse popped into my head, Ecclesiastes 4:12 says it beautifully, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” I think a cord describes a partnership wonderfully. No one strand is more important than the other as they all rely on, and appreciate, one another. That’s why I love the Marines motto “Leave no man behind,” because that reveals how valuable each member of the team is.

Paul gives us a good example of how we should treat one another as partners. From the beginning Paul prayed for the Philippian Church. Even though he wasn’t with them, he remembered them personally calling out their names one by one in his letters. And as he prayed for them, he prayed with joy. He wasn’t burdened to pray for them as if it was some kind of detestable chore that he had to do. He genuinely cared for them and longed for them with the affection of Christ. He was thankful for their labor in the Lord.

Each one of us are partners in serving God’s work here. What we do here may not seem like much, like getting together a couple of times a week, but there is an awful lot of work goes on behind the scenes. That’s why I am soooo thankful that we have many good and faithful gospel coworkers. I would like to take a little time and acknowledge all that you do, M. Daniel takes care of students, helps with financial matters, the Bible house, communion and many other things. M. Deborah prepare prayer servants and helps with serving food. Mike and Dan help carry the load in message preparation and planning. They do so much, Mike works with the Bible club and Dan works on the web site. Mary serves the Bible club, prepares food, serves music and works on the Bible house. Viola prepares music and serves food. Gideon takes care of students, works on the Bible house, and carries the sound equipment. Rebecca serves food, serves offering and takes care of students and makes sure we have all the supplies for lunch. Julia serves food and serves the children at CBF. Monica serves lunch and is our chapter treasurer. Orlando welcomes all new comers and takes care of the sound equipment. Jimmy takes care of presiding. David has taken stewardship of the Bible club and helps run the sound and video equipment. Jumo plays guitar with the praise team and he also helps run the sound and video equipment. Ruth is part of the praise team and helps with song selection. Liz and Grace are also part of the praise team. If I have missed anyone, I am sorry please forgive me. I am so thankful and proud to say that I belong to our group because of all the things you do. This is just a small sample of what people do on a weekly basis. There is even more that I haven’t mentioned. We could summarize Paul’s attitude toward the Philippians in a word; love. When we genuinely love someone, it comes out in their actions.

While it’s good to have wonderful coworkers we still live in a fallen world full of sinners and sometimes partnerships can be difficult to keep together. Many music groups or sports teams can’t stay together because of clashes. Even Christians are not immune to this, just look at how many denominations there are. But it’s here that I like to remind you that even if we don’t have someone standing next to us, we have the best partner we could ever want for Jesus is always with us. Jesus told his disciples right before he ascended into heaven, “…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Even though Paul was a very talented and gifted man, his confidence didn’t come from himself, it came from his partnership with God. It would be great to have been partners with Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, George Washington or Julius Caesar, Thomas Edison, but who can be a better partner than Almighty God, the one who created everything? Jesus demonstrated his power again and again, even over death. And no one can question his commitment to that partnership, because he was willing to give his life to maintain it. Not only that, Jesus is loving, compassionate and forgiving. We can’t ask for a better partner than Jesus. To build upon the cord analogy, I don’t know if you’ve seen many ropes lately, but they have come a long way over the years. They have many strands and are plastic coated. Jesus becomes like the plastic coating that surrounds the rope that binds the strands together and keeps them from fraying and wearing out. Paul experienced God’s power through Jesus’ resurrection and his personal love through the forgiveness of his sins and this allowed him to build a strong trust relationship with Jesus.

This trusting partnership gave Paul such confidence in God that it enabled him to dedicate his life to serve God even in very difficult circumstances. Take a look at verse 6. “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” It was because of Jesus’ faithfulness, power, and commitment that Paul was confident that God would carry on his work to completion. God is not about to start something and then not finish it, he finishes what he starts. Jesus gave proof of this as he hung on the cross, he said, “It is finished.” It wasn’t easy, Jesus struggled hard praying all night in the garden of Gethsemane, but he did it. It is comforting to know that when God begins his good work in us, that it wasn’t a mistake, like a wrong number phone call, “whoops sorry about that, I was looking for someone else.” No, God’s call is no mistake, for he works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his good purpose (Ro 8:28). Paul’s partnership with Almighty God gave him the confidence he needed to carry on his life of mission: encouraging others that their love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that they would be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (v9-10).

Another thing that gave Paul confidence in God was seeing the advancement of the gospel. At the time when Paul was writing this letter to the Philippians he was in jail. He was under house arrest awaiting trial. As he sat there in chains, because of this opposition, it may have looked like the end. Not only for him, but maybe even for the gospel but in verses 12 to 26 we see how Paul became even more confident in God. Not only was the gospel going to continue, it was advancing. Jail was not going to be the end for Paul it was merely a pit stop in his race of faith. Paul saw his time in jail as part of God’s plan to be able to meet the palace guard, a group of people he would normally never have had the opportunity to connect with. But now he could talk with them freely, in fact it was their job to stay near him. They were getting paid to hear the gospel. In addition to this, Paul also saw how God raised up people in his absence to proclaim the gospel who may have not had that opportunity if Paul was there. But since Paul was gone, they could step up and fill the need. To go even further, Paul saw how God used even people’s wrong motives in preaching the gospel (because they were trying to get him in more trouble) to further advance the gospel. What Paul came to realize through all these incidents, is that nothing could stop the gospel, not jail, not people’s wrong motives, nothing because God was the one who was advancing the gospel, not him. The whole future didn’t hinge upon him; it was God doing the work. This gave Paul such confidence because he could see it happening, as people were proclaiming the gospel without fear. When Paul saw this, he was full of joy even though his personal situation was not very good.

Another thing that gave Paul confidence in God is living a life worthy of the gospel. Take a look at verses 27-28. “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.” Paul saw that as we begin to live a new life in Christ, we begin to grow in strength. Paul’s confidence in God grew through right living, because being able to live like this comes from God. We can’t do it by our own strength. God makes us aware of our actions and helps us to make corrections so that we can live worthy of the gospel. And the amazing thing is that as we grow closer to God, we grow closer together. As the Philippians strove to grow closer to God, they began to stand firm trusting in God not wavering. Their faith started to flourish and they were not afraid of those who opposed them. When Paul was not afraid to be locked up for Jesus, they were encouraged and they began to speak about Jesus even more boldly. Historically the church of Jesus increased during times of persecution. Even Paul didn’t sugar coat the fact that he was suffering for the gospel, and yet that didn’t discourage people, but emboldened them. And when they were emboldened, Paul was encouraged even more, so it became like a feedback loop and their spirits were amplified.

As we studied this passage we found and interesting phenomenon that occurred, right living helped build partnerships, and partnerships helped advance the gospel, and advancing the gospel helped them to live right. All three are intertwined and build off of each other. But in the end as verse 28 shows us, God will save those who stand firm in the faith. Therefore, we can have confidence in God that he who began a good work in us, will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. This kind of reminds me of the poem, “Footprints” where we see Jesus carrying us through the difficult times in our life when we are too weak even to walk ourselves.

I chose verse 6 as the key verse for our ministry this year because I hoped to encourage you by reminding you how much God loves you. And that he started something great in you and wants to complete what he’s started in you. Sometimes we are not motivated to make sacrifices because we’re afraid the outcome won’t be worth our efforts. But through verse 6, I want you to see that we’re not alone, God is our partner in all this and that he is the one who advances the gospel not us. For our part, we need to live lives worthy of the gospel. Through these we can have confidence that God will complete the work he started. However, we can’t just show up and expect God to bless us, but if we are faithful and sacrifice for God, we can be confident that God will finish his good work. We need to have Christ in our hearts for that is where joy comes from. We need to finish what we started. Nine years ago, we started a student ministry at IIT, fifteen years ago we started a Bible club at IIT, by God’s grace, we have been able to maintain his calling. But we should not just look to maintain God’s work, but it should advance and grow. Therefor I pray and hope that God may inspire us to rededicate our lives to serve him is whatever way he called us to work. We need to be re-focused in our tasks, whether it’s giving a message, serving food, singing, taking care of the offering, setting up the equipment, serving students through 1 to 1 or the bible club, we are partners and need unity with one another if we want to complete the tasks God called us to do. Five years ago God gave us a Bible house to serve his work. We started the remodeling project, may God help us to see it to completion so that it may be used for God’s glory. We need to hold each other accountable so that we may stand firm and go against: our complacency and procrastination, fear of persecution and opposition. I pray that each of us may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. I pray that you may have confidence in God that he will carry out the good work he started in you to completion.

What are you worried about not being able to complete?

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Amos 6:1-14

Key Verse: 6:8b

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

  “I abhor the pride of Jacob
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