Take It To Heart: Steadfastness
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Our last years in Atlanta paralleled the end of the last recession which affected so many jobs and lives. One of my lasting memories of those days is of a beautiful home that was being built at that same time along the route that I often took between home and church. I loved the style and location of that particular house. It was a large home, in a nice area and truth be told there were several times when I passed by and secretly wished that I was going to live there one day. It was a good place to day -dream about and I often did just that.
One day, about two thirds of the way through construction, I began to notice that the workers had stopped coming. I didn’t think much of it at first but a few days gave way to a week and then a month which eventually lead to my realization that something had happened. In the end, I never did find out what took place. But, when we moved here to Laurens, that beautiful home, was still sitting there with weeds growing up all around it and with no sign that it would ever be completed.
The same sort of danger exists in so, so many aspects of our lives. From the priorities that we set, to our spiritual goals, to the things that we want to accomplish with our families, to the pledges that we make to God about changes that we want to make in our lives, it is so easy to begin well only to never carry to completion the good work that we have started.
I think this is a particular danger in the early days of a new year. So often we set before us wonderful goals. We make terrific plans. And, we have excellent ideas about what is going to be important in the days and months ahead. But, then, just like that beautiful home, other things began to become more important, or, we slip back into old patterns and that which we started well begins to go untended to and the weeds began to grow.
Let me invite us to think about it this way. I am not looking for a show of hands but I want to ask you something. How many of you made a New Year’s resolution or two back about 28 days ago? Maybe you wanted to loose some weight, get more sleep, work less, spend more time with your kids or read the Bible every day. Now, how many of us, only 28 days later, are still on track as far as those goals are concerned? It isn’t easy is it?
I think that is why Paul’s words in today’s verse were so important for himself and for the people of Philippi as well as equally important to us. As Paul writes these words he and the Philippians are at tough places. He is in prison, likely in Rome, for his work in starting churches and spreading the gospel. As a human, he is struggling with the question of how the good work begun in his life will reach its conclusion. At the same time, the Philippians are a young group of believers, they are facing their own persecution and obstacles and Paul understands that they too are worried about their own ability to remain steadfast and committed to the faith.
So, Paul reminds himself and he reminds them that God is faithful. The God who invited them all to be a part of his work would not abandon them or leave them. God would be just as faithful to them in the days to come as God was in the beginning. He who began the good work, would see it through to completion. This was also an excellent way for Paul to remind himself and the Philippians that they needed to match God’s faithfulness with steadfastness of their own.
The same is true for us. If God gave us the goals, plans and visions of what he wants us to do in this year, then rest assured, he won’t abandon us. He will see us through every step of the way. Our job then is to match God’s resolve with resolve of our own. It won’t be easy or simple but our job is to agree with God that this good work must be seen to its completion.
Communion in essence symbolizes this same idea of steadfastness. It is the ultimate symbol of God’s ongoing nourishment which reminds us of his presence and his faithfulness at all times and in all places. It calls us and challenges us to keep going, not to give up and to stick with it. God will be faith and thus the good work begun is the good work must be completed.
When I was growing up and playing JV sports, we had a guy one of our teams whose mom always left a note and a snack at his locker on game days. Unlike the varsity, we didn’t have any pregame meals. In turn, those were long days with most of us not eating until after we got home after the game was over. It was a simple but real way that he was encouraged to keep on going, giving his best until the day was fully over. This meal says the same. We’re not there yet, but don’t give up. Know that God is with us not only in the beginning but to see us through till the end. Amen.