Discussion starter: I cooked our meal tonight in the crock pot. Did you know God is like a crock pot?
Read: Philippians 1:1-9, Acts 16:11-15
In Philippians, Paul says that God, “who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Do you know how long God had already been working in the Philippians’ lives?
The first mention of Philippian Christians is in Acts 16. There’s a lady named Lydia who converts to Christianity during one of Paul’s missionary journeys. That particular incident happened at least 12 years before Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians. Twelve years. For twelve years, the Philippians had been, in Paul’s words “partners in the Gospel.” Twelve years while Paul traveled to Thessolonica, and Athens, and Corinth and Ephesus. They were faithful, and loving, and learning, and the end of Philippians says they were still taking care of Paul, sending him gifts and help. But God wasn’t finished with them.
The Philippians were still a work in progress, and God had not given up working on them. Sometimes in church we talk about how the devil doesn’t leave you alone when you’re doing God’s work. The good news of Philippians is that God doesn’t leave you alone either. As hard as you’re working, and as much good as you’re doing, God is still working in you to bring His work to completion. And he’ll continue working in you until He comes back to collect you. His plans are long term. He knows that no matter how hard you work or how faithful you are, you don’t look quite like Him yet. But you will. Philippians tells us at the end of chapter 3 that He will return to “transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
The other good news is that He doesn’t just continue His work in those who are working for Him. The flip side of this message is that He longs to bring us back when we are far away, to “forgive us our sins” and be “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”(1 John 1:9).
And when we do sin, He is again concerned with His long term plan for our lives rather than any short term emotion. Way back in Exodus 34, He introduced Himself as “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” And this was just after His people had built a golden calf to worship!
How long ago did you become a Christian? Have you seen God work in your life? What things has He changed in you? What things is He still working on? What if we told our families what God had worked on in us? What if we became vulnerable and accountable to our husbands and children about what God is still working on in our lives? Do you think that would change the degree to which we began to look more like Christ?
Michael Pollan has this incredible documentary series on Cooking that is on Netflix right now. It’s four parts and the first part is called “Fire.” It’s about our ability to cook food and how that changed us as people. He, of course, is looking at it from a different worldview, but there are some valuable lessons in it for us as Christians. In one part, he points out that we are the only species that cooks our food. The only species. If you really think about it, fire sets us apart from all the other animals. It gives us a different place in the universe. It was part of letting us “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s part of Genesis 1, where God is explaining how to make us in His image.
Every time we exercise dominion over the animals (by using them for food) and demonstrate that we are made a little higher than the animals (by using unique gifts like fire to cook), we look a little more like the image that God intended for us. I’m not saying we become like gods every time we break out a box of Hamburger Helper. I’m saying that we can make cooking an act of worship and learn the lessons God has for us even in this simple act of service. And one of those lessons is taking our time. The crock pot teaches us to be patient. To put in the time required to finish good things. To put in the things we have to contribute and then to give them over to an outside power and let go. In cooking, that outside power is whoever made your crock pot. In life, it should be God. Put in what you have to contribute, give it to God, and let him make something that tastes and smells amazing.