Confidence and Joy In God’s Sovereignty
“…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.” (Philippians 1:6 NASB)
In Acts 16 we read of God sovereignly summoning Paul to preach the gospel in Macedonia in which Philippi was located. (Acts 16:12) Upon his arrival, Paul meets a woman, Lydia, and the Scriptures say the Lord opened her heart to understand and respond to the gospel. (Acts 16:14) The next verse (15) implies the other members of her household got saved because they were baptized. Here we see the birth of the church at Philippi starting with God’s call to Paul. What I love about this scenario is we see the determined will of God being carried out through the obedience of Paul. It is obvious God loved people in Philippi because He redirected Paul’s journey from Asia (Acts 16:6-7) to Macedonia and opened the hearts of people in Philippi. I wonder what Paul was thinking when the Lord redirected His path. In going to Macedonia, Paul’s heart probably broke for the lost people of Asia that he planned to visit, but God does all things well. For His ways aren’t our ways, nor are His thoughts our thoughts. They are much higher!
As Paul is sitting in prison for preaching the gospel, he starts out this letter with a joyful thanksgiving prayer. Can you imagine being joyful in such circumstances? The root of Paul’s joy stemmed from God. More than likely Paul reflected on the call to go to Philippi, seeing the church being born there, seeing believers baptized and how they supported his ministry (v5). This fellowship (koinonia) brought him great joy as they joined him in the endeavor of being identified with Christ. In addition to the fellowship, Paul is also joyful for the faithfulness of God in the lives of the Philippian believers. Grasping God’s faithfulness to His own will is paramount if you want to be a confident and joyful Christian. We must hold fast to the correct teachings of who God is to successfully be His witnesses and advance His kingdom. We can not run from theology!
God’s faithfulness is the fruit of His sovereign will. Notice Paul’s words in describing the salvation of the Philippians. “He who began….will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” It is clear that Paul is attributing the work of salvation to God. God began it. God sustains it. God will complete it. This parallels with Romans 8:30, “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” The truth of God’s sovereignty in salvation is one that has been debated for centuries, as it appears to contradict human responsibility. But it doesn’t. God’s sovereignty and our responsibility are two perfectly true teachings in Scripture that are only reconciled in the mind of God. However Paul wasn’t confused about God’s sovereignty; rather he was joyful for it in His life and in the life of other believers. The confidence Paul had resulted from his understanding of God’s desire and ability to magnify His own righteousness by saving people. Paul understood Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.”
When you think about the person you were before you got saved and who you are now, to whom do you offer thanks? Do you think that you are responsible for your salvation? I know I don’t say, “Thank you David for saving me.” I’m 100% sure you don’t thank yourself for salvation either. Salvation is a gift from God to us. Also, we are a gift from the Father to the Son because He desires to honor the Son by giving Him a bride, a beautiful church. Jesus understood this as He said, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:39) and “I have revealed you (Father) to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word…..And glory has come to me through them.” (John 17:6,10b) We must understand that salvation is a work of God that He won’t renege on, but will complete for our good and His glory.
Like Paul, may we confidently and joyfully praise God for His amazing sovereign grace in our lives and in the lives of the members of the household of faith!