This Week’s Reading: Philippians 1
I live off of details.
Like the song humming in the background of meaningful conversations on a road trip or the one blaring through an iPhone on the side of the bathroom counter while dancing around apartments getting ready for a football game.
When those melodies catch my ear months, years later, I can remember those moments.
I love the way people gesture, the emotions in their eyes when they speak. I love memorizing familiar smells and sounds, colors, every shade in a sunset. I file them all away, one by one.
My love of details spreads into the way I work as well. I suppose I’m a little neurotic in my approach. Every section has to be perfectly in order before I can move forward. It’s all in the details.
It’s in the way the words are pieced together. Already, I have backspaced these words what seems like a thousand times. That whole rough draft thing, just write what’s in your head and fix it later approach, has never really been a viable option for me. I have to address each part before I can comfortably move forward.
So call me crazy — actually please don’t — but I am the epitome of a detail-oriented person. The one who will go over step-by-step plans for a “spontaneous” weekend trip before I even turn open the doorknob and who writes already accomplished tasks on my to-do list just so I can check them off and see all the steps that were involved to getting to point B.
Alright, perhaps a little neurotic was a wee bit of an understatement.
So what does this have to do with Philippians 1, you may be asking? Well, bear with me because I promise I’ve worked out the details on how these things intertwine.
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 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
This passage is the one that stuck out to me most when I first began to look at this chapter, but my first reaction to it is not what has stuck with me.
I absolutely love how unified in faith and prayer Paul and Timothy were with the people of the church of Philippi, to whom they were writing this letter. And as I sit here, writing words people could see almost instantly from all across the world, I am even more amazed they could be that connected without the power of the internet.
Then again, I’m not at all surprised by the power of our God to bring together those who love Him.
But while my first love of this passage was the beauty of the body of Christ, what I want to shed some light on, dear friends, are two words tucked inside verse 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 1:6 (emphasis added)
When I looked at this verse, I have to be honest — I completely glossed over the beauty of that promise. That God, who began a good work in us, will carry it to completion.
And you know the sad reason I glossed over the weight of this?
Or lack thereof.
When I read it, I thought, that’s not the kind of promise I am looking for, God.
I want to know every step to this completion. Every path, right and wrong. I need a road map, a timeline. I want to know exactly what I’m getting into with this whole “good work” thing.
What does it look like for me, God? This can’t be all You’ll give me.
But oh, how wrong that is. How impatient and distrusting that is. And how so far off is it to think that anything God promises isn’t going to be good, regardless of all the hows and whys and whens.
“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.” —Nahum 1:7
And every single thing God promises, no matter how we get there or how long it takes, comes to be.
Look at Noah, who built an ark despite no knowledge of ship-building or even what rain was (Genesis 6-8). See how God brought goodness to Ruth’s life even when she lost her husband and her homeland (Ruth). Don’t forget just because it’s January about the promise God gave to Mary, an engaged teenage virgin who brought the world a Savior (Luke 1-2).
Look at your own life.
Did you ever imagine this is how God would bring about a good work in your life?
I didn’t imagine how any good could come from waiting to hear from the University of Alabama until the last minute of my senior year of high school. But in that last minute decision-making, I found three girls to live with who were the best part of my first year of college — and one of them became my best friend.
I never expected to leave college single, but as one of the most indecisive people on the planet, I have learned to rely on myself and on God to plan for my future, instead of piggy-backing off someone else’s plan. Waiting on a someone actually turned into growing on my own.
I couldn’t have anticipated my grandfather passing away this week, but I trust that even in all of the sadness and sorrow, there will be good that comes. Because there has always been good.
So whether you are starting the new year on momentum from a wonderful season of growth, a painful season of waiting, or you are so far in a rut you feel like you’ll never understand how God can bring anything good from this…
Whether your life is exactly how you pictured, though I am amazed if it is, or you feel so far away from where you want to be…
Remember all the ways God has worked in the lives of those who love Him, even yours.
And in case you missed this detail when reading, Paul wrote Philippians after being thrown in prison. God’s perfect completion of His good plan for Paul put him in prison and persecution over and over again.
If God handed me a detailed road map like I said I wanted with any of that, especially Paul’s journey, on the list, I would have been terrified. And I probably would have run away from the path God had for me.
Guess what, I’m still terrified.
But God has taught me to trust better by revealing pieces of His good work little by little, in His timing.
And it has all been good.
So while “good” can seem a little vague for my detail-oriented taste, I can rest in the faith that God will do what He says He will do, just as He’s done before.
He is good, and He has promised me good.
He has promised a good work in your life, too.
Most importantly, He has promised us Himself — the embodiment of all the good we could ever hope and imagine.
And He has planned how you fit into it all, friends. Down to the smallest detail.