“It’s all in the finish work.”
A professional painter said this as he was showing me pictures of a recent, specialized painting job he had completed. Although the house was beautiful, it would have had only white walls if my friend and his crew hadn’t come in and painted those walls with color and artistic flair.
It is often the “finish work” we notice about a house: paint on the walls, furniture, throw pillows, crown molding, bullnose corners, and color temperature of the lighting.
As important as all parts of construction are, a house isn’t “done” until the finish work is finished. Our lives are the same way. And joy is often found in noticing the progress of the finish work.
A few weeks ago, I ran a survey to gather ideas about where to go next in this blog, Life Meets Theology. Several suggested either the book of Philippians or the subject of joy. Since the book of Philippians covers both, I’ve chosen to journey through this letter.
The Apostle Paul, the human author, was well-known to the church in the Roman city of Philippi. And after his customary greeting (Philippians 1:2), Paul pens in Philippians 1:3-6
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 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.
Philippians 1:3-6, NIV
There was obviously a warm relationship between the apostle-missionary and this church. He prays for them very often because of their missional success together. He then offers an encouragement that we might be too quick to overlook: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (verse 6).
In this phrase, we find a cornucopia of encouragement for joyful living.
First, the work in us is not ours. It is the work of Jesus in us. Jesus “began a good work” in us. How easy it is for us to forget this in the grind of day-to-day living. He started the work and it is His work!
Second, this work drives forward at the will and power of Jesus in us. He “will carry it on”. While there are certain aspects of our spiritual growth we are responsible for, the ultimate foundation of the process of being more like Jesus is His ongoing transformation inside of us. Jesus fixes the externals by fixing the internals.
Lastly, He will finish what He starts. This is the part we can relegate to “heady theology” having no real bearing on today. But we’d be missing a great source of joy if we did. Our Lord works in us “to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.
There is not a point in your journey with Jesus that He will tell you, “Well, you’ve gotten as far as I can get you. Maintain this.” Not at all! He continues working on us all the way until He finishes His work with us.
Whether that completion is our being welcomed into Heaven upon our death or His glorious return for His church and the establishing of His Kingdom, Jesus finishes what He starts.
While we’re traveling this spinning blue marble in space, take joy in the fact that Jesus started, continues, and will finish the “finish work” in your heart.