Reading through Philippians 1:6, I was reminded of the many ways God’s hand has been continually working in my life. From weaving me together in the womb to sustaining me this very moment, His love and involvement in my life have been inarguably present and unfailingly merciful. His love is woven into every good moment I experience, and His mercy woven into every dark one. I see His grace most tangibly when I spend time with people He has placed in my life, and His provision most clearly when I am isolated. There is still a greater gift He has given me, less visible, but more crucial: faith.
It took me a long time to realize faith is a gift. Like most Christians, I love to make Christianity about myself. This person-centered idea of Christianity is most clearly seen in ideologies such as works righteousness and synergistic salvation. Growing up in the Church, I was taught to recognize these teachings and reject them. Nevertheless, my drive to make salvation about myself was undeterred. I understood that it was not works that saved me, but faith—so I decided to quantify faith. Unfortunately, trying to have “enough” faith is essentially works righteousness disguised under a thin layer of bad theology. It took many Bible camps, such as FLY Beyond, our district AFLC Bible camp, and a particular workshop at FLY entitled “Getting off the Treadmill” (taught by our very own dean, Pastor Adam Osier) to hammer into my head that I have no active part in the work of my salvation. Even faith is a gift from God.
When Paul talks about the “good work” described in Philippians 1:6, he is referring to faith. John 6:29 makes this clear when Jesus states, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Working belief in the hearts and minds of humanity is God’s chief concern. Looking specifically at faith in the context of Philippians 1:6, I am reminded of the passive role I play in my justification. Scripture makes it clear that God is not only the one to complete the work of justification and faith, but He is also the one to begin it. This is important because the only dependable part of man is the certainty of his failure. God knows our inability to even begin to do what is best for ourselves and makes a way for us through the cross to be justified despite our spiritual deadness. He knows that in our sinfulness we could never hope to muster up enough faith due to our own piety or will, so He gives it to us as a gift through His Word.
Since through faith our assurance of salvation has been transferred to the certain and historical life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we stand before the throne justified. It is at the cross we find our wellspring of joy and our inescapable hope for we know that there will never come a day when the cross disappears. Other gifts may fade, but God entering history and dying to redeem us will endure throughout all eternity. The gift of faith will be brought to perfect completion at the day of Jesus Christ, where we will leave our sinful bodies and put on our eternal bodies, glorifying God for all He has given us.
Claire Olson [FLBC, first-year student] is a member of St. Paul’s Free Lutheran, Fargo, N.D.