Are you ever going to finish that meek book, Abigail? Give birth already. It’s been six years since you started.
Kate was blunt. But she was not the first one to mention my unfinished book.
Do you have piles of unfinished projects? I do.
A glance at piles of notebooks with unfinished drafts reveals I start a lot of projects I do not complete. Which, in the writing world, need not be a bad thing. Those idea notebooks belong in Jeff Goins’ bucket #1. Many are best left there.
There are also piles of baggies of bugs on the top shelf in the pantry part of half-finished 4H entomology project—only half the insects are pinned. But since it was my son’s 4H project, I’ll only take half the blame.
But my biggest piles of unfinished are mounting bedside. They are pictured bove. I counted. Of the 25 books there, I’ve finished 11—in fact, I’m re-reading a few. Still, that means I’ve only completed 44%.
But I rest in these words from Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books—a book that I did in fact finish.
Often readers don’t stop reading because they don’t have “permission” to stop. You have permission. The only book you should read entirely is the Bible. All other books must prove their value along the way. Don’t allow unfinished books to pile up in a mountain of guilt.Tony Reinke, Lit!, p. 115
Side note: You do have permission. No guilt. You don’t have to finish that book.
What Is The Good Work?
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.
Those are Paul’s much loved words from Philippians 1 verse 6. But what is the good work to which Paul refers? Does it mean that every
Is it when an unsaved friend comes to church or when a family member watches The Chosen with you? Does that mean that he will be with you in heaven forever? Or even that my book will make it to print or your home remodel will finally get done?
To answer that we’ve got to see the Philippians 1 verse 6 in context. Paul had just called his readers saints in Christ Jesus. They were of the faith in Christ Jesus.
God finishes what he starts. He’s even called the starter and finisher, or perfecter, of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). God “started” and gave us faith ( 2 Peter 1:1, Philippians 1:29, and Acts 3:16). Since our faith in Christ is a good thing, we can be sure God will complete it.
In other words, Philippians 1 verse 6. The context shows us that the good work God will complete is the faith of believers. It doesn’t promise any less, or any more. Because he completes all of his good works.
Or Does He?
But what about Jeremiah’s field trip to the potter’s house? You can read about that in Jeremiah 18. Does God ever give a project up? Didn’t God show Jeremiah that he might just rework that lopsided pot? That the potter has the right to return the partly formed pot back into a lump?
He does. Which means that you might be asking, “So doesn’t that negate Philippians 1:6—that God always finishes what he starts?”
Because Paul wrote those words to Christians, individuals, and “fellow partners in the gospel.” But the context of Jeremiah 18 is nations. When nations go bad, God declares the right to do with them as he wishes. (That’s not the point of this post, but if you want me to take it up, please do let me know.)
God reserves divine prerogative to let rebel nations them go their own way. The good work in Philippians 1 verse 6 is a work of faith, which is the gift of faith (Phil. 1:29). This means it is a work that God will complete.
The unbroken chain of Romans 8 relates: Whom God calls, he also justifies, and whom he justifies he also glorifies. No one falls out. The chain will be completed. The circle will be unbroken. The good work starts with faith and is finished when we—perfected and complete—see Jesus face to face.
God will complete it.
Why It Matters
It matters because we fail. We lose heart when we make the same mistakes and break every resolution by January 18th. It matters because perfectionism paralyzes some of us. We want to be perfect, but when we fail, we freeze.
But we can rejoice knowing that if we are in Christ nothing is wasted. Nothing includes everything now imperfect and incomplete. Because God’s ways, his word, and his works are perfect (Psalm 18:30, Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalm 12:6).
As far as I can tell, perfect means a thing can’t get any better. There is no improving on it. When God undertakes a work, it will be as good as it is possible to be. It will be finished, perfect, complete.
Everything will be pulled together. There are not any dangling, unseemly threads from God’s vantage point, from the top of the tapestry.
Take that to the bank next time you mess up. Or at least consider “The Talking Teacup.”
The Talking Teacup
I read about an American couple, both connoisseurs of pottery and fine China who celebrated their 40th anniversary in Sussex, England. There in a little antique shop, their eyes landed on a lovely teacup on the top shelf.
Here I beg your pardon for this uncharacteristic, Disney-esque twist.
As the man gently strokes the teacup, it begins to speak.
“You don’t understand, I haven’t always been a tea cup. There was a time when I was red and that I was clay. My master rolled me, then patted me over and over and over. I yelled, ‘Let me be!” But he smiled and said, ‘Not yet.’
Then I was placed on a spinning wheel. Suddenly I was spun around and around and around. ‘Stop it! I’m getting dizzy,’ I said. The master nodded and said, ‘Not yet.’
Then he put me in an oven where I’d never felt such heat. I wondered why he wanted to burn me and I yelled and I knocked on the door. I could see him through the opening. He nodded his head as I read his lips. They said, ‘Not yet.’
Finally the door opened and he put me on a shelf where I began to cool. But suddenly he grabbed me again and brushed and painted me all over. I thought I would suffocate, the fumes were so bad. But he just smiled and said, ‘Not yet.’
He put me back into an oven, not the first one but one twice as hot, and I knew that I was going to suffocate. I begged and screamed, and all the while I still saw him through the opening, smiling and nodding his head, repeating, ‘Not yet, not yet.’
I was just ready to give up when the door opened and he took me out and he put me on a shelf. An hour later he came back and he handed me a mirror. “Now just look at yourself.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
He continued, ‘I know that it hurt to be rolled and patted but if I had left you, you would have dried out. I know that it made you dizzy to spin you around on a spinning wheel but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled. And I know that it was horribly hot in the oven but if I had I not fired you, you would have cracked. I know that the fumes were awful while I painted and brushed you, but if I had not, you wouldn’t have hardened or had any color. Had I skipped the second oven. you wouldn’t have survived. Your hardness would not have held.
But now you are complete. You are what I had in mind when I first began with you.'”
What His Grace Has Begun, His Strength Will Complete
“We are confident of this very thing: that He who began the good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus.”
That last phrase is both encouraging and wee bit disconcerting, isn’t it? This process of becoming like Jesus, called sanctification, will be completed. But it won’t be finished until the day of Christ Jesus.
Which means strap in. Get ready for more rolling and patting and spinning and more fumes and fires. God is still working on us.
But it also means we can take heart. Because God will complete us. One day will look like our brother Jesus (Romans 8:29). We will be perfect. Perfect.
Bible commentator F.B. Meyer wrote,
We go into the artist’s studio, and find there unfinished pictures covering large canvas and suggesting great designs, but which have been left, either because the genius was not competent to complete the work, or because paralysis laid the hand low in death.
But as we go into God’s great workshop, we find nothing that bears the mark of haste or insufficient power to finish, and we are sure that the work which His grace has begun, the arm of His strength will complete.
The word perfect means complete. God is going to complete those things that concern you. He is going to complete that work of His Spirit, that faith, even if it be small as a mustard seed. But He is not hasty.
Jesus Christ will complete it, because he is the author and the finisher of our faith—our faith. He doesn’t promise I’ll get a single book written, project completed or bedside pile read.
But he will perfect that which concerns me. His mercy is more. He will not forsake the work of his hands.
The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.