And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes I read one of those most familiar of verses and find that it has grown in its beauty and meaning. I have no idea the first time I heard a church choir singing, “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” I know that it was a long time ago.
But, I have to say that it is only over time and real life that this verse has truly grown in the beauty that it now holds for me. God is faithful. He does not fail to complete the work that he does in his people.
I think that it is only when I have found myself struggling, my heart hurting, my confidence shaken, my successes minimal that I have found this verse and its promise so sweet. God will complete the work he started in me. No matter how frustrated that I can get with myself with not being perfected, there is hope, real hope. Though I fail and fall short, God will not lose me. Though I have never accomplished all that my foolish self-confidence has told me would be easy, God is not shaking his head at me and wondering if he can make something of me. No, he will complete the work that he started.
Now, we need a little theology to make this beautiful. What is that work he began in his children? He began the work of ultimate redemption. This is the process from salvation, through sanctification, and to Ultimate glorification.
At the cross, Jesus paid for my sins. At my salvation, that payment was applied in full. Also, Christ has traded me his righteousness for my sin, thus crediting my eternal account with the reward of perfect righteousness, a righteous alien to me since I could never live it myself.
Then, from the moment of my salvation, God has been working on me. He changes me. I’m not good, not by far, but the work continues. From one degree to the next, God transforms me and conforms me to the image of his Son. There is still such a long way to go. This slow, step-by-step, 3-steps-forward-and-2-steps-back process is called sanctification. Sometimes it seems like it is working; sometimes it doesn’t. But God will not fail.
Eventually, at my death or Christ’s return, God will complete the work. He will not lose me. He will not turn me away. He will not give up on me. Eventually, I say, God will transform me into a new person. Yes, I will still be me, but a me without sin. I will face no temptation. I will not fail again. He will have driven from me every vestige of sin until I can live forever with him in the state he intended from the beginning.
All that theological stuff is great. It all is important. But it only becomes sweet when I realize just how much work he still has to do. Sometimes this process is wonderful. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it seems like it’s moving along swimmingly. Other times it seems like I’m not moving at all. This is simply true of the Christian life—it is not smooth or easy.
And thus, I go back to my original statement. The verse above is sweet, very sweet. God will not fail. No matter how many times I fail, he will not. He is faithful. O, I want to please him. I want to experience his glory. I will not use my weakness as an excuse to live in a way that God has called sin. I will not sit back and give up and just assume that he will take care of it. I will work. But I know that only he can actually sanctify me. If I came to faith by God’s grace, I will only be sanctified by that same grace. The sweetness lies in the fact that I can remember that God will accomplish what he set out to do. He never, not ever, fails to fulfill his ultimate will. He who began a good work in me will complete it. He will complete his work in all who are his children by grace through faith in Christ.