The 20 Verses You Love Most: #16 Start to Finish

The 20 Verses You Love Most | Liz Curtis Higgs

If you’re independent, in a hurry, and like to be in charge, this week’s favorite verse just might push a few buttons. (I confess, my hand is up.) If you’re a team player, happy to wait your turn, and don’t care who gets credit, then plaster a smile on your face, because you are going to love every word.

Our verse starts in the middle of a sentence, so we need to step back a verse or two (okay, three) to reach the beginning of the passage.

Reading Bible in Park

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-6

Such wonderful sentiments. Joyful. Hopeful. Paul is writing to the saints in Philippi, and he’s off to a great start, assuring them he gives thanks to the Lord whenever they cross his mind.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3

How many Christian greetings cards include this verse printed inside? Tons, right? With good reason. “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you” (HCSB) is a tender word of encouragement, both to give and to receive.

So simple, really: When I think about you, I thank the Lord.

In case I haven’t mentioned it lately, that’s the absolute truth, beloved.

Head Bowed in Prayer

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…” Philippians 1:4

Paul is using very inclusive phrases that most writers are cautioned to avoid. Taken at face value, all and always would mean he prays for every single one of them and every time he does so “with gladness” (GNV) and “delight” (AMP).

So, no whining about their weaknesses, no asking God to fix them, no complaints about their stewardship. Paul insists that praying for them makes him “happy” (CEV).

Oh dear. I’m thinking not all of us in ministry are quite so generous.

Sometime last century my husband and I met with a pastor before the Sunday morning service. We assumed we were gathering to pray for our time of worship. Instead the pastor spent a quarter hour grumbling about his congregation, running them down by name. No wonder his flock was dwindling each week! My heart ached for them, and for him too. Bitterness is a hard weed to pull out, once it takes root.

In good soil, though, joy flourishes. This week a letter appeared in our mailbox from a minister who wrote, “Of all the things I do in my role as pastor, the most important and humbling task is my call to pray for God’s people. It will be my honor to lift your name before the Lord in prayer during the week of May 12.”

Wow. That’s what Paul was talking about. All. Always. Joy.

Friends Form Heart

“…because of your partnership in the gospel…” Philippians 1:5

What sort of partnership are we talking about here? “Sympathetic cooperation and contributions” (AMP). Okay, so going along with the program, yes? And coughing up some cash. Shekels. Denarii. Mites. No ministry, large or small, can function without financial support.

But the partnership Paul is clearly more excited about is their mutual “furtherance of the gospel” (ASV), and the ways these Philippians have “shared in proclaiming the Good News” (CJB).

Yes, yes, yes. To minister as a team. To sense God’s Spirit moving among you, working through you, accomplishing his will. To know you are partnering with like-minded people for a cause far greater than yourselves. It’s thrilling beyond description.

“…from the first day until now,…” Philippians 1:5

These people were quick. From “day one” (OJB), when Paul showed up talking Jesus, the believers in Philippi embraced the truth and shared his vision. Right away they told others. Ushered friends and neighbors into God’s Kingdom. Participated in a hands-on kind of way.

Easy to see why Paul prays for them with joy.

And don’t worry about the words until now. These churches have been going strong “right up to the present” (MSG), with no sign of slowing down.

Because of all of the above—all the prayers, all the joy, all the fellowship—Paul can proclaim this week’s key verse without hesitation.


…being confident of this,…” Philippians 1:6

Confident is one of those words that can lean in the wrong direction. Not merely certain, but arrogant, prideful, overbearing, and egotistical. Paul doesn’t go there. He’s simply “convinced” (AMP), he’s “persuaded” (EXB), he’s “sure about this” (CEB).

”There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind” (MSG), he tells them. He planted healthy seeds and has watched them sprout. He sees evidence of their growth. His confidence isn’t a feel-good thing; it’s based on fact.

Truth is, we can’t accurately measure our own spiritual growth. We know our flaws too well, and realize how far we have to go. If someone who has watched our walk with the Lord—a pastor, a teacher, a parent—says, “You’ve really grown,” we may find that hard to believe.

Believe. Trust. Be at peace.

“…that he who began a good work in you…” Philippians 1:6

Of course, “God is the one who began this good work in you” (CEV). This desire to partner with other believers. This eagerness to share the gospel. This willingness to give of our resources. God alone “has inspired this generosity in you” (KNOX).

At the start I mentioned that, for those of us who are independent, in a hurry, and like to be in charge, this verse might sting rather than soothe. The “good work” God began in us might include making us less self-sufficient and more dependent on others. Less rushed and more relaxed. Less likely to lead, more likely to follow.

In other words, it may feel like God is breaking us down, rather than building us up.

Count on it.

The me-me-me, go-go-go approach to life is of no use to God. Pliable, flexible, adaptable—that’s what he’s going for. Those who come by those qualities naturally may find it easier to welcome God’s firm discipline and loving correction.

For the rest of us, there’s a great deal of “Ouch!” and “Not that, Lord!” and “Good grief.” It’s okay. We’re getting there. Like Paul says, be confident. God isn’t finished with any of us yet.

“…will carry it on to completion…” Philippians 1:6

God’s work in us “will continue” (AMP), and he won’t quit until it’s “perfection” (KNOX). What a relief! I’ve never finished any project I thought was truly complete. I’d love to redo every speech I’ve ever given, every book I’ve ever written, every song I’ve ever sung.

But God will “go on developing it” (PHILLIPS), he will “stay with you to complete the job” (CEB), he won’t “stop in mid-design but will keep perfecting you” (VOICE).

We may not notice the changes, may not be able to measure the truth taking root in us, the strength of our branches, or the sweetness of our fruit. Just as well. That’s all God, not us. It’s his work, not our work. His doing, not our doing. Only God “will keep it growing” (CJB) until it’s time for the harvest.

Mature Apple Trees

“…until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Does this mean a specific day? Yes, it does. It’s the very day, the very hour when “Christ Jesus returns” (CEV), “the final day of judgment and reward” (EXB), “the day when Jesus Christ comes again” (ERV).

God is going to continue his redeeming work in us “right up to the time of His return” (AMP). The perfectionist in me loves this. This isn’t the final package. We’re not stuck where we are. He is still pruning, shaping, fertilizing. He won’t walk away from us, leaving us to finish the work.

That last splash of water, that last snip of his shears will come at the moment of his Son’s return. He will “bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” (MSG).

See why we love Philippians 1:6? It’s all God, all good, and all done when he says it is.

As Kathleen shared, “When I get down on myself for failing in my walk, I remember this verse, and that I’m a work in progress. Thankfully, Jesus is not going to give up on me, no matter what. He is for me, and it doesn’t get any better than that!”

You are so right, my sister. He is for you, with you, and at work in you.

And all the people of God said “Whew…”

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:4-6

Now it’s your turn

Paul is quite confident that God will continue his good work in those whom he loves. Are you fully convinced? What evidence have you seen in the life of someone close to you (maybe really close, like yourself), assuring you that God is still watering, pruning, fertilizing, as he has from day one until the day he’s done?

To share your thoughts, simply add your response under Post a Comment below. Thanks so much for giving us a glimpse of your heart.

Next week, we’ll linger in the New Testament and unpack #15 of the verses you love. It’s actually two verses—fifty words in all—yet a single, powerful statement that has changed many lives, including my own. Can’t wait to explore it with you!

Your sister, Liz

Your Sister in Christ, Liz Curtis Higgs

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31 Responses to The 20 Verses You Love Most: #16 Start to Finish

  1. Cindy Kempert May 8, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    This is loaded! Great stuff and Amen!

  2. Sheri Bailey May 8, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    You will never know how much I needed these words. God has used your book “The Girls Still Got It” in my life on both sides of the spectrum now. Thank you so much for being willing to write so others can learn.

  3. Linda Casella May 8, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    This was the verse I needed today and as always God knew that. I so often feel that I have failed to meet God’s standards and my Christian brothers and sisters. But this verse reminds me that He will not give up on me and I need to not give up also. Thank you for picking this verse.

  4. Cyn Rogalski May 8, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    AFFIRMATION! I just read another blog post, with a different slant, but speaking directly to me. My comment on that post is right along with your post. So, thank you Liz, for allowing God to use you to reach others.

  5. Teresa Warren May 8, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Thank you for this reminder that God does not give up and that I am a work in progress,so is others. God doesn’t give up so why should we. We are all a progress and non is perfect, but to look at those around you to see what God has done in their lives is amazing to see God at work.

  6. Karen May 8, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    I love your reminder that often we don’t see what God is doing in our lives, but others can. We’re too close to our own struggles. I believe this is one of the most important functions of the church; to encourage one another and to give perspective others can’t see it for themselves. It’s important for me to remember that often I need to be the encourager. I don’t do it often enough because I don’t realize my encouragement is significant. Recently I had the opportunity (in a Facebook chat, no less) to encourage a young mom in our church. She came to me a few days later with tears of joy shining in her eyes to thank me for the few simple words I gave her. I didn’t think much of it as we wrote those words back and forth but they made her week. She needed to hear that she and her husband ARE raising their family well. And, unbeknownst to me, they came at a critical time when she was feeling low about her job as a mom. God did that!

  7. Zuda Gay Pease May 8, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    Thank you for this message of hope! I must have really needed to be reminded that God is NOT finished with me yet. As I was reading this I really wasn’t paying attention to what was playing on the radio until the singer sang the phrase, “He’s not finished with me yet.” When I finished reading I looked up the song. It is Wait and See by Brandon Heath. Thank You, Father, that You are not finished with me yet and You are faithful to carry it on to completion. AMEN!

  8. Dalyn May 8, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    I’m so grateful that He is always tending us! It’s a relief to know that my children and husband and myself are under HIs diligent care!

  9. cherrie May 8, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Dear Liz:)
    thank you for reminding me that God is working in and thru me. It gives me hope.


  10. Gloria Gomez May 8, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Thank you Ms Liz, reading the scripture, is one thing, having you break it up in the way you did made it so much clearer in its true meaning… I loved it… you are an amazing woman and we are all so truly blessed that God put you in my path when he did.. thank you… and bless you.. and may our loving Father continue to use you as his blessed instrument to spread his holy word.

  11. Esnath ndlovu May 8, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    What a faithful God he did it for me and he is still doing it for one and only son seemed neutral abt the things of God but thru prayers he has changed so much he even wants to Go to bible college.on my side i am encouraged to know that God is not finished with me yet and i can not reach perfection by my own efforts but by his divine presence in my life

  12. Janet May 8, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    First of all, Liz, “I thank God every time I remember you.” You always encourage and uplift me through all your words–spoken and written. Thank you, and thank God for you and the encouragement He brought to you and you share so generously with others.

    When my son was in high school, I’d write him notes before an event he was participating in. This was a verse I’d include in the notes. He’s my only child, and, yes, every time I thought of him it was with joy.

    In the past few years, he’s been through some harrowing times, and sometimes there wasn’t any joy in sight. I knew there was nothing I could do for him. Only God could lead him through, could keep him, could save him.

    And God did. Again, I am thanking God every time I think of my son, praising Him for saving him. I have more confidence in God. I saw the miracle He brought about and know He can and will do this for others, and will continue working in our lives.

  13. Mary Kay May 8, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    Thanks, Liz, for pointing out that it’s difficult for us to measure our own spiritual growth. Makes sense when you say it!

    I can sense some yielding to God when I experience more peace, choosing to give up worrying/control. But I much prefer being informed by family when they comment on evidence of peace, patience, etc. Praise God. I’m so grateful that He is faithful and He does the work when I yield to Him.

    Thank you so much for this precious series.

  14. Julie Sunne May 8, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    I, too, love the truth that God is not through with me yet, but is continuing to mold me into a clearer reflection of Him. Oh, glory!

  15. Erin Pascal May 9, 2013 at 6:14 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing this post! Nothing beats the feeling of reading the gospel of the Lord. His words always gives me comfort and happiness. I truly enjoyed reading this. Thank you for being an inspiration and for giving me hope. May God bless you!

  16. Kim May 9, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    First of all, Liz, I love you!! Thank you for this Scriptural insight!! This encourages me to no end today as I sit in my office, among peple who openly deny God’s existence AT ALL. And I praise HIM for His faithfullness, for His mercy, for His grace!! Knowing that He will continue to draw me to His heart, lift me up, dust me off, and set me upon the right path from today until the day I reach Heaven’s gate…HOW ENCOURAGING!! To be loved by my Creator is a treasure of great worth INDEED!!

  17. Linda H. May 9, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Thank you Liz once again for bringing God’s truth to me. Always wanting to be perfect and expecting that in others causes so much grief. Aapproaching 60 this week I would think I’ve got it under control. This past year has been my hardest yet….this verse gives me so much hope. He is not finished with me and there is much more to come up until the very end! Why not embrace it with joy and cease striving to do it on my own.

  18. Lisa W May 9, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    Oh Liz! Thank you so much for this series. Sometimes we overlook these familiar verses. Oh, if we could just rest in The Lord and remember that it is His power, and strength and boldness and love that works through us by the Holy Spirit. We only have to be obedient and willing to be used for His glory. Why do we try to make it harder than it is? He is the I Am and It is finished….I’ve been redeemed, praise God! Thanks Liz for being obedient to His calling on your life! You are always such a blessing to me through your books, in person and now through the website! May The Lord bless you abundantly this day!

  19. Wanda May 9, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    Thank you Liz, for this bible study. I have always read the gospel and loved it, but have failed to do the ‘dig deeper’ stuff. I think I know and understand what it is saying and move on. I am learning there is so much more to know and understand and it’s well worth the time to dig for it.

  20. Agnes Butler May 9, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    Those pruning shears hurt! I am grateful that He cares enough for me and has a plan big enough for me that He lops away! You have a way of speaking and writing that I can easily relate to….thank God that He brought you into my world in 2000 when, I was given a 5% chance of survival, I was taking intensive chemo-therapy! Glad He had a plan and just wish I wasn’t so hard headed so that He still has to snip and lop! Thanks for being an encourager and great teacher! May He bless you sufficient for today!

  21. Lisa Kerr May 9, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    The irony in you sharing this verse is that I was just writing Mothers’ Day greetings to my preschool class families using this very verse, trying to share with them about by thankfulness for their care and involvement. At the very same time, I myself really need the reminder. The part of the verse that spoke to my heart is the final part,”he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6). You see, our family is going through a struggle involving one of our children, and things, while not bleak, seem out of order right now. So, this verse reminds me that God will work out even seemingly bad situations for our good, and will never stop working for us. It is just the heart tug that I needed today! Please pray for my family, but know that you gave us a ray of hope in God’s Word just for us today! Thank you, and God Bless!

    • Beth Stout May 10, 2013 at 5:17 am #

      Will be praying for you and your family, Lisa Kerr. Your post touched me!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs May 11, 2013 at 8:39 am #

      Honored to pray for you this morning, Lisa. I’m SO sorry your family is struggling. God is faithful, and he is with you. So are your sisters in Christ.

  22. Helene Wegmann May 9, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    Thanks for the reminder! I too often forget that I am a work in progress. Looking forward to more of these verses. You make my week with the studies. I too look forward to God’s return but am glad He is still working on me. I want to be ready, don’t you all??

  23. Karla Cox May 9, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    This is such encouragement because I believe it also says that though I may have already passed on to my Father’s house, the works that He began in my life to be a witness and encourager to others will continue,even though I may not see the fruit in my lifetime. Prayerfully they will keep on keeping on in the lives of my loved ones until Christ comes.

  24. Dee Bright May 9, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

    Thank you, Liz, for this beautiful post. I’ve often quoted it for others but today He spoke to me through your words. I’m so thankful I don’t have to complete what He began in me many years ago, that I can “let go, and let God.” This gives me comfort and peace, and, yes, excitement for the future for He does all things well.

    Thank you for this series of Bible studies. I’m learning a lot and loving it.

  25. Beth Stout May 10, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    Liz, thank you for blessing me with your uplifting messages! You need to know that when I see your beautiful photo, God’s love, comfort and joy radiates!! You truly make me feel wonderful with your words and your face! 🙂

  26. Brandi Luiz May 10, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    Yup!! I needed this one. Thanks so much!

  27. Bonnie Brown May 10, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    Love it ! Before I forget, Your photo on this blog is beautiful and your inner beauty shines in your smile. I love you!
    I recently attended an Emmaus Walk at age 64. I thought I was doing everything I could possibly do at church and in my life. I learned quickly there were so many blessings I was to blind to see. I was confident, but arrogant and prideful. I am so thankful for this verse that reminds me always to discipline myself in The Word daily because He is NOT finished with me yet. He has been so faithful and loving all these years and He deserves all the credit. Thank you Jesus.

  28. sue filieau May 11, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Thank you for the encouragement. We are a work in progress and God isn’t finished with us yet. Isn’t it amazing He goes before us and prepares the way.

  29. Marge Schaffer May 14, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    Yes, yes, and yes, God is always chipping away our self pride and perfecting his way in us.

    Four and a half years ago my husband and I resigned from the church we had been at in order to pastor at another church. We loved the people in the church we were leaving, but it was in Gods plan for us to move on. We had been at our new church 6 months, it was VBS, everyone helping in their area. My husband asked me to tell the ladies in charge of snacks that the games were over please bring the snacks now. In the presence of 10 or more ladies one of them looks at me and says ” we don’t want you here, you need to take your husband and leave, just move away.” this was the third time she had made nasty remarks to me, but this was the first time she did so in front of others. I excused myself, went to the parsonage (same grounds as church) trying to calm myself down when in walks my husband, He asks what is wrong I tell him , no I yell and scream at him ” you better thank God that his spirit dwells in me because if his spirit didn’t dwell in me I would have ripped out her tounge and shoved it down her throat.” he being the wise man that he is left the house.

    I tell you this because at our former church I truly was loved by the ladies, I was full of a false pride that I had arrived and look how good I am doing, everyone appreciates me. There was no reason for me to be angry or unhappy. The above experance was God shining his light into a corner of my heart that needed to be cleaned out. I needed that pruning, I did not need the fertulizing because I already stunk in the nostrels of God.

    That same lady is still in the church ( has been here sence birth, she is 68 years young) After yet another nasty commet in front of others I asked for a meeting withher and the board, after that meeting the only time she has talked to me was after our revival meetings when I went to her and asked if we could put the past behind us so that we could pray together. Needless to say that did not happen. At that moment I decided to pour out love to her every time I saw her.

    In myself I would have reacted in an unchrist like manner like I have done in the past. I would like to tell you that I am young and still learning, however the truth is I am retirement age and i am still learning. I thank God for chipping away at me, to build me up, to complete the task he has set before me.

    Once again your teaching has reached my heart and allowed me to be honest wit myself and God.