I can remember when I played basketball in high school. I wasn’t really that valuable to the team, in fact I really couldn’t shoot to save my life. It was weird, I was pretty good when I was playing at the park with friends, but when it came to games or practice at school I always fell short of the mark. I could pass like no body’s business, but shooting, forget about it. I can remember one game in particular, I didn’t get much playing time and the coach was forced to put me in the game due to our starting point guard not getting the grades to continue. I was pretty solid, doing what I do best and getting the ball into the hands of the people who could put the ball in the basket. One thing I had going for me was that I was fast, and I had a pretty good idea of where the ball was going to go, not sure what it was but I just knew. There I was in the right place at the right time and on the run I intercepted a pass and made my way down the court on a fast break. All alone, finally my time to shine! It was an away game and I was on the freshman team so JV and Varsity were in the stands watching. I hear them go nuts and cheer me on from the stands. As I approach the goal and leap into the air for the lay-up I can see my hands right next to the rim, what a jump! As soon as the ball leaves my hand it hits the backboard and shoots the wrong way; my approach was too fast and the ball went the wrong way. My moment of glory turned into a moment for someone else who was chasing me down who collected the rebound only to dunk it right behind me. I couldn’t finish, and this is an example of most of my life.
I am not finisher, starter sure, but when it comes to finishing things or closing the deal I am not able to do it. My life is marked by this and lately it has hit me pretty hard. I couldn’t finish my dreams to play soccer for the rest of my life because of a stupid choice made tumbling. I didn’t graduate high school, failed in car sales because of a lack of ability to close the deal, start jobs only to start more, started ministries for them to fall apart, started bible college only to run out of resources to finish. I have even started writing 4 different books only to get discouraged and stop before I even get rolling.
The past couple of days have been pretty difficult for me as this reality comes to play. As I sit here and evaluate my life I can’t help but feel like a failure. “I can’t finish anything, no wonder I never made it to ministry.” I begin to think that God has no use for someone who like me, someone who just can’t seem to finish anything. Then some words from Paul ring aloud in my head. “
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
Freedom! I have been liberated to know that I don’t have to finish this. He (the Holy Spirit) who has began this work in me is going to be the one to finish. Not my willpower, not my effort, not my ability or inability to finish things, but the power and wiliness of God to finish the work in me that He began. Finally, something that I can finally know will be seen through to its end. I know that when Jesus returns, I will be complete. The man who I am becoming, the one who God wants me to be, and the things He will have me do here on earth are not going to come by my efforts by but the work of He who is in me.
Before the verse above, Paul was greeting them and telling them how thankful he was for their partnership in the gospel and how much he loved the church in Philippi. He was confident that the thing that the Holy Spirit started in their lives; their desire to see the Gospel spread, their willingness to give and help Paul in his ministry as he spread the gospel among the Gentiles, was going to continue and grow in them until it is completed on the day of Jesus! These things, these promptings, these passions and ministries were begun by the Spirit and continued and He was working and growing them constantly and forevermore.
Paul says to the church in Galatia that it is foolish to believe that you can continue on in something that you didn’t even start.
3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Galatians 3:3
Paul is talking to a group of people who are trading the gospel of faith and grace for one that adds to the work of Jesus. He is asking why they would abandon that faith life that was started by the spirit and trade it for one of works and human efforts that have proven to fall short time and time again. It is by the Spirit that these things work, it is His work in us who has brought us to a new life and is continuing to work in us, and grow us through trials and testing.
When He calls us to something, He empowers us and does the work through us and for us. We are to be faithful and follow Him in this. My problem is not that I start things on my own – well not all of the time anyway, but that after starting by the Spirit trading His work for my own efforts. How foolish can I be? Why don’t I finish? Why don’t I close? Because he is the Finisher, He is the Closer! When I try and finish on my own, I have traded the perfect work of God for the imperfect and incapable work of my own flesh which just like in my moment in high school basketball I fall short over and over. That’s the point though isn’t it? It is He who started, and He who finishes.
Often time I mess it up by allowing my humanity get in the way, or so I think. Sure, if it were me doing the work then it my have come to a screeching halt long ago, but it isn’t me doing the work and the work isn’t finished yet. I am an unfinished work and the things that He is doing in me are also unfinished. I have to think about those people in Philippi going through similar things that I go through. After all, the rest of the letter is kind of warning them about false teaching and being like minded and get along with one another. They too were works in progress and if Paul was confident that God would finish what He started in them I have to be confident of the same thing in me.
My works are not my works, my growth is not my doing, my ministry is not mine either, it is He who does it and He will finish it. Though I was depressed I am now relieved, case the Holy Spirit will finish, He always does.