Last weekend, I finally got it done. After two months of having a pair of doors sitting on sawhorses in the basement, I finally finished painting them and got them back where they belong. Like most projects I do around the house, it took way longer than it should have. But the slowness of the project’s completion only increased my satisfaction in finishing it. When I was finally able to stick those doors back on their hinges, I felt like I had truly accomplished something.
Finishing a job is a highly rewarding experience. Whether it’s turning in a term paper, mowing the yard, fixing that leaky faucet, or landing a new client, the sense of accomplishment is deeply gratifying. Your work is done, and now you get to take a deep breath and enjoy the fruit of your labor.
On the other hand, an unfinished project is a whole different story. It makes you feel restless. And anxious. And stressed out. Especially if it’s something important, the weight of its ongoing demands reminds you of the work yet to be done.
Recently these thoughts came to my mind as I was contemplating a familiar encouragement from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:6: “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.” Paul wanted his fellow believers to be comforted in knowing that God would finish what he started. Their lives may have been imperfect and messy. But God was at work, and he would not fail to complete their sanctification.
Yet as wonderful as all of this is for the Christian, I can’t help but think about what it means for God. If the completion of this work awaits “the day of Jesus Christ,” then it means that God is far from finished. It means that he can’t kick back and relax anytime soon. It means that he has willingly embraced the inconvenience of working on projects that will remain under construction for a very long time.
On the one hand, this fact should inspire contrition and humility in those of us who are on the receiving end of God’s work. Do you know why this is such a lengthy process? Because we’re really, really difficult people to work on. Our hearts are hard. Our sins are many. We’re slow to respond. Knowing that we are unfinished projects should motivate sorrowful repentance as we consider just what it is God has to put up with.
But on the other hand, this realization should lead us to new heights of joy as we understand more fully just how deep God’s love for us truly is. Looking at my own life, I can think of plenty of times when God could have given up and scrapped the project he began. But he hasn’t. His patient, faithful labor in my life communicates in a powerful way that he loves me. And despite my hard-heartedness and sin, he is resolutely committed to seeing me transformed into the image of his Son.
Someday, God will look at each of us and say, “My labor is done.” He’ll have successfully brought to completion the good work that he started. But until that day comes, he is content to bear with our unfinished state. He isn’t fazed by the mess. He doesn’t despise the overwhelming amount of work left to be done.
You may be annoyed by the unfinished projects sitting around your house. But God isn’t. He’s hard at work in your life. And he loves you enough to keep at it.