One of the coolest, yet annoying, machines on the face of planet earth is the souvenir penny machine. If you’ve been to a zoo, park, or museum you’ve probably seen one of them. You’re probably wondering why I believe it’s one of the most annoying machines. The annoyance comes when my children ask me for .51cents. For crying out loud, who carries change in their pocket anymore! But, the coolest feature is how the machine can smoosh Abraham Lincoln— transforming him—into (let’s say) Mickey Mouse.
The penny souvenir machine serves as a great example of what Paul tells the church at Philippi when he pens these words, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in your will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).
Think about the process of the penny souvenir machine. To see your penny transformed into a souvenir with the image of that place, person, or character, it would cost you .50cents (really .51). As you insert your coins, the penny is then yielded to the work of the machine that has been activated by the sacrifice of the two quarters. The penny does nothing. It only subjects itself to the machine and its transforming power.
Paul clearly states that the work started in the life of the believers at Philippi was done by God, not them. Believing in the truth of this verse isn’t difficult when you have the wind at your back, everything clicking on all cylinders, and life and ministry are going according to plan. However, it’s another thing when your life and ministry are met with struggle, heartache, loss, affliction, disappointment, difficulty, opposition, and suffering. Those moments make it harder to believe and trust that any good work is taking place. In these moments, we must look at the track record of God and see how he has delivered on this promise. We don’t have to go any further than Genesis 1 to see how God completes what He begins.
God, as Moses pens in Genesis 1, brought creation into existence out of nothingness, emptiness, darkness, and chaos. Could you imagine being alongside God during the creation project without knowing the specificity of His plan? I’m sure that we would have been like the classic five-year old constantly asking questions: “God what is that for?” “Are you going to do anything else?” “What are you going to put in that big body of water?” “Are you done yet?” “How does that work?” “Why did you create that?” “What’s up with this molded piece of dirt?”But, as God methodically and intentionally works, day-by-day, through His Word, He brings and shapes something very good into existence—including His prized creation, man.
Pastor, church planter, ministry leader, I know where you may be. Ministry and all the pressures is tough, difficult, and weighty. Things don’t go according to plan. What you thought was…isn’t. You thought you would be further along than you are. Some of the people that were with you in the beginning, aren’t with you anymore. People you thought had your back, stabbed you. People are nitpicking your leadership, your messages, your style. Money has dried up. Maybe you’re seeking a new season of ministry and you feel as though no one is looking at you and giving you a second look. And you are left wondering if it (ministry), if you (the minister), are even good. And if I could encourage you, “He who began a good work in you will carry it out until the day of completion.”
Ministry, similar to salvation, is a good work that God begun in you—when He called you—and will carry it out through you. So, when we read Philippians 1:6, Paul is touching on something that God has historically done since the beginning of creation, which is clearly seen in Jesus movement from redemption to consummation. And now, through His body (the church) and in the cranking power of the Holy Spirit, God is continuing His work in the life of believers until one day He will fully and gloriously complete what He began (Rev 21).
In closing, if you are in a season of struggle, dryness, brokenness, sadness, despair, hopelessness, or anxiousness, rest assure that God is certainly there with you working to complete the good work He started in you when He saved you and called you! So, see yourself as the penny. Surrender yourself to the rigorous and crushing work of God as He conforms and transforms you more into the image of Jesus.