by LeAundra Stewart-Boyice, guest preacher for Martha Stearns Marshall Sunday. (Apologies to LeAundra for the misspelling of Boyice in the video overlay.)
Philippians 1: 5-6 reads, “In view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
From the very moment you were formed in the womb, God knew who you were. God knew your name and God knew exactly what your purpose was in this life. He knew it then and He knows it now. Even if you have doubts, fears, or uncertainties, God made plans for you and for your life. From the very beginning, you were predestined for greatness, your life was predestined to be used for God’s glory.
There are many things that can happen from the first day until now. There are ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments. All kinds of things that you will go through while God is creating this good work in you. Did God say everything in your life was going to go smoothly? NO—He didn’t say that. Did God say that you were never going to run into brick walls or trip over stumbling blocks? NOPE—I don’t believe He made that promise either. God didn’t promise that we would have the sunshine without the rain, or experience joy without ever experiencing some pain. He didn’t say that we weren’t going to suffer daily attacks from the enemy.
So what are some of the things God DID say? What are some of the things that God did proclaim? Well, Psalms 91 says, “Whoever goes to the Lord for safety, whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty can say to Him, “You are my defender and protector. You are my God; in you I trust.” He will keep you safe.” Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the Lord is like a strong tower, where the righteous run in are they are saved. Also 2nd Corinthians 12:9 proclaims that God’s grace is sufficient for us and His power is made perfect in our weakness. AND another thing, for I am certain of this…He who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion or perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Well, that’s good news—RIGHT?
To know that God will be our protection and our defender. God will keep us safe. He will be like a strong tower, he will always have enough grace for us ANNND………..when we are weak, His strength is perfect! Yes, that’s AWESOME news! But even through all of this GOOD NEWS, the one that seems to give some people pause is Philippians 1:6. “For I am certain of this, He who began a good work in me….will carry it on to completion”? Really, in me? Even with all the
things that are designed to hold me back and trip me up, God will complete a good work in me? Because I can count numerous occasions where that statement didn’t pertain to me. I can count the times where I’ve done some questionable things. I can even remember what I did last summer!
So again, in the midst of all of this GOOD NEWS, doubt and insecurity can creep up. You may end up having some doubts that God can-not and will-not use you because of certain instances that may have occurred in your life—or cycles of toxic situations you may have found yourself in or even put yourself in. Situations you feel you just can’t get out of, or it took you a long time to get out of, or you still may even be in the midst of your situation. Some of these situations were orchestrated by others and some really were self-inflicted.
What if maybe you just got off the path a bit, or somewhere along the way you went left when God told you to go right? Or you zigged when you were supposed to zag? It could be something as simple as that—or it could be something major. Either way, any one circumstance can change the whole course of your life. So you start thinking, if I am this far gone, how could God complete a “good” work in me? You start believing that the things that you did in your life can and will keep you down or hold you back from fulfilling the purpose God has for you. It can keep you from your Good Work.
But then somewhere in our faith walk, we start believing that we can do this! You may even get to the point where you start encouraging yourself and believing in the God that is inside of you. You’re like a lion ready to roar! You start rising up a lil’ taller, square your shoulders, stand sure-footed, you start walking in your purpose—YOU START FEELING SO GOOD—you start running through the fields in slow motion with your hair blowing in the wind, cotton candy and rainbows start falling from the sky and you’re just skipping along enjoying the love of God and then BOOM!
Here comes somebody who remembers what you did, when you did, what you did—last summer! AND they not only remember what it was that you did, but they remember THE DAY YOU DID IT, THE TIME YOU DID IT, WHAT YOU WERE WEARING WHEN YOU DID IT, IF THE SUN WAS SHINING WHEN YOU DID IT. They remember EVERY LITTLE DETAIL of YOUR transgression, every little detail of what YOU did. They will bring up every little piece of evidence that was used to convict and condemn you—but the worst part is they will try their best to get YOU to remember it too. That’s one of the jobs of the enemy. The enemy will try to bring those things UP to tear you DOWN. The enemy will try to convince you that your past is so checkered that anything that you even try to do for God will be null and void, laughed at, or considered a joke. With the details of your past, the enemy will try to use every trick in the book to undermine your good work—to hold you prisoner to what you did, when you did, what you did—last summer.
But God has forgotten! God forgot!
See, God forgives us our sins and according to Micah 7:19, God hurls our iniquities into the depths of the sea. Isaiah 43:25 says, “I [meaning God], even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
“I am He who blots out…” (meaning to cancel a debt, not take account of) “…your transgressions for my own sake” (not because you deserve it or should not receive punishment for it—but to show God’s character or compassion toward us). Then God “remembers our sins no more.”
We, like God, should not only forgive others their transgressions, we have to learn to forgive ourselves as well. We have to take back the power that was stolen from us and stop living in the prison of our past mistakes. Our past discrepancies. We have to stop giving so much consideration to what we or others remember about the facts of our past. We have to start recognizing the difference between what the facts are and what the truth is.
The facts say: “I can’t serve God the way I am.”
But the truth is: “You have been redeemed for my glory.”
The facts say: “My past is horrible. I’ve made too many mistakes.”
But the truth is: “You are a new creature.”
The facts say: “I have a debilitating disease.”
But the truth is: “By my stripes you are healed.”
The facts say: “I am broke.”
But the truth is: “Your Father is rich in houses and land.”
The facts say: “No one will listen to me. I’m not special.”
But the truth is: “Your gifts will make room for you.”
The facts say: “I’m guilty. I’ve sinned.
But the truth is: “Jesus paid the price”
There’s a story in the 8th chapter of John about the woman caught in adultery who was brought to him by the teachers of the law and the Pharisees:
1 …but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
That is the gift that God wants to give you. The gift of no condemnation. God wants us all to know and understand that His grace and mercy is sufficient for us in all of our shortcomings. God is faithful and just to forgive our sins. Even for the woman that was caught in the very act of her sin. From the beginning of her life, God started a great work in her. No matter what obstacles she encountered, no matter what act of sin she was caught in, God had a plan and a purpose for her life.
I’m not sure what happened to the woman after Jesus told her to go and sin no more, but I can imagine that she allowed God to complete the good work he had started in her. By the Law of Moses, her fate was sealed…but Jesus stepped in and cancelled out her transgression and gave her the authority to walk in her purpose. I would venture to believe that after that situation, she wanted to tell people all about what Jesus had done for her. If I were a betting woman, I would bet you that people could not wait to throw it up in her face and to remind her of what she did, when she did, what she did.
Just as the enemy wants to do to you.
Don’t allow the enemy to threaten you with the things you’ve done in your life. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on the things that had you imprisoned in your mind. Don’t stay stagnant in your faith or in your purpose just because people remember what you did last summer.
Allow God to erase and elevate. Erase the marks of your past and elevate you for His glory.
Take your power back. You are forgiven! You are worthy! You are fearfully and wonderfully made. From the beginning, God has begun a great work in you. You are that great work! And the next time the enemy comes around to remind you of your past, you stand tall and just remind him of his future!
In closing, a poem [written by LeAundra]
A Good Work
At times you feel as if you’re buried
Under such a heavy weight
You try and you fight but then you ask
God, how much more can I take?
From others you’ll hear—Who you are
Who you’re not; what you should or could be
And the emotional place it leaves you
Can have you lost totally
The taller you try to stand
The more your heart can ache
From all the bumps and bruises
That hurtful words can make.
Like: “You won’t amount to much,” “We remember what you did”
Or “God won’t use you that way”
With all the background noise, you wonder
What did God really say?
It’s time to shake off the heaviness
From the shackles of your past
Don’t carry around the put-downs,
The insults and the laughs.
The cruel cycle you may find yourself
Can definitely be man-made.
But the cost of freedom from your past
At the cross, Jesus already paid.
So lighten up your load, stand up straight
And don’t you dare fret
Because no matter how messed up you think you are
God is not finished with you yet!
From the beginning until now
Your life’s plans God already knew
So don’t be afraid to allow God to complete
The Good Work He’s started in you.