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God Will Finish What He Started in You


Years ago, I read the story of a young missionary wife who, with her husband, moved to another country. She looked at the dirty floor in their new house, promptly got a brush and pail, and got down on her hands and knees and began to scrub.

She scrubbed and scrubbed and mopped and rinsed and scrubbed and scrubbed and mopped and rinsed, but she could not get the dirt off the floor. One of the locals revealed the reason for her problem by telling her, "The reason you can't get the dirt off the floor is because it's a dirt floor!"

Some people try to develop a character like that: they scrub, they rub, they wash, they rinse, they mop, they dry; but there's really nothing there to scrub until you've been born again.

  1. What promise does God make in Philippians 1:6?
    Once you've been saved, God begins a new work in you. He starts something in you; and He will complete it.
  2. God wants to complete what He started in you. He wants to build character into your life, and there are four ways He does this. Read Romans 5:3-5 and fill in the blanks to identify those ways.

"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that ___________ worketh ______________; And patience, _____________; and experience, __________: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."

Pressure

I'm sorry to say this, but according to verse three, the process begins with tribulations. The word tribulation literally means "pressure." In that day, it was the word used to describe the crushing of grapes or olives. In order to receive wine or oil, the grapes or the olives had to go through tribulation. God wants the wine of joy and the oil of gladness in your life, but the only way He will get it is to press it out of you.

  1. What is happening in your life right now that you would consider to be pressure or tribulation?

  2. How can you look at it not as an obstacle but as an opportunity?
  3. Who experiences tribulations?
    • Non-Christians only
    • Christians only
    • Both Christians and non-Christians
  4. Why do you think this is?
  5. Why do you think God allows troubles into a Christian's life?
    If you cannot understand the trouble and the pressure that you're having, then just stand under it. The great pilgrim, Thomas Watson, once said, "Where reason cannot wade, there faith may swim."
  6. What does that statement mean to you?
  7. Describe a time when you experienced the truth of this statement.

Patience

So, what are we to do while we're in the wine vat being pressed? The Bible says we are to develop a character trait known as patience. You have to experience the pressure in order to have something to be patient about.

When troubles come, some Christians just drop out. Others get cynical and shake their fist in the face of God? But you must endure! One of the greatest marks of your faith and your confidence in the Almighty is your endurance, your perseverance, and your constancy when trouble comes.

  1. What are some ways people try to escape tribulation rather than let it build patience and endurance in their lives?
  2. How does patience show your faith in God?
  3. What does patience look like in the life of a Christian?
  4. What tribulation has God allowed into your life in order to build your patience?
  5. On a scale of 1-10, where do you think you rank in having patience?

Purity

After pressure and patience comes purity. Paul used the word experience, and it is translated many times as character. It is used to speak of gold that has been put in the fire and refined until it is pure. God burns the dross, the impurities, out of your life.

They say that a refiner knows the gold is pure when he can see his own face reflected in it. Likewise, our Lord wants to see His character reflected in us.

  1. What do Job 23:10 and Malachi 3:3 have to say about this process?
  2. When do we really grow in our spiritual lives-when everything is smooth or when we experience trouble, heartache, pressure, and pain?
  3. How is this like the process of burning the dross off of the gold?
  4. What is God trying to remove from your life right now?
  5. If you are being refined and have nowhere to go but to God, it might be that He wants you to pray something like this:
    • Oh, God, what's wrong?
    • God, what are You trying to tell me?
    • What are You trying to teach me?
    • What do You want me to confess?

Hope

Now, we come to the fourth quality used to build Christian character-hope. Hope doesn't mean a wish or a desire. It means rock-ribbed assurance based on the Word of God and the character of God. When we go through pressure and receive patience and purity, we come out on the other side knowing that God is faithful. We know that God saw us through, and He did not fail.

  1. Read Romans 8:38-39. According to these verses, is there anything left that can separate you from God?
  2. How does that give you hope?
  3. How do you think Paul could speak with such authority on this subject?
  4. Think about God's faithfulness in your life---how He's brought you through difficult times in the past. How does this give you hope now?
  5. How does knowing God is in charge and is working to bring good in your life, even through tribulations, help you to stand strong in difficult times?

So, here's the plan: first of all pressure, then patience, after patience purity, and finally rock-ribbed confidence in Almighty God. And through that process, God will work wonderful Christian character into your life.

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