Monday, December 2, 2013
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
This is one of the most misused verses in all of scripture. It's the Christian superhero motto and to many it basically means we are invincible because we have Jesus. It's probably the poster verse for the works salvation gospel and it gives the believer the false understanding that they are unstoppable. Here's the problem - the verse has a context and without the context, you are manipulating scripture to fit your personal goals and desires.
Here's a cold bucket of truth - you can't do all things. You're not Superman. You're not God and you're not invincible.
Sorry. I know it's the holidays and I should be more upbeat, but in truth, this verse is really a great one for the holidays. So let's take a step back from this verse, read the context and see if we can figure out what Paul was talking about when he wrote it.
"But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction." Phil. 4:10-14
Paul is nearing the end of his letter to the church at Philippi. Apparently, they were unable to help him earlier (financially or with support), not that they didn't care but they didn't have extra to share. But now they were helping him and he was expressing gratitude. In his thankfulness, Paul explained to them that he had learned the secret behind contentment - the ability to live in abundance or in suffering need was Jesus - He was the One Who gave the strength in all things.
Strength to be content, to love, to forgive, to be patient, to be bold, to be quiet, to hold his tongue and to speak truth. Strength to deal with hunger and with runaway slaves, with snake bites and shipwrecks, with Roman soldiers and with prison cells. Strength to walk in the light, no matter what the road looked like. Strength to weather the storm and bathe in the sunlight. No matter what the circumstance, Paul was able to do all things in contentment because it was Christ in him Who empowered him.
This verse is really talking about the ability to obey, follow and serve Christ despite your current circumstance because the strength to do His will comes from an intimate relationship with Him. This is the secret to contentment.
So how does this apply to you today? Do you make excuses as to why you cannot be content where you are? Do you start your excuses with words like, "If only I had more money..." or "If only I had a better husband/job/church/house/child/health/friend, then I could..."? Or what about, "If only I knew the Bible better..." or "Well, next year I'll be in a better financial position to help..."? Or how about, "If only I wasn't so hurt..." or "If they say they're sorry, then I could move on, but until then..."
My list of questions could go on and on. Bottom line, if you lack contentment, you need to turn your eyes on Jesus and follow His lead. He doesn't want excuses, He wants faithfulness. Despite your circumstance, He wants to replace your anxiety with joy. Don't let the hustle and bustle of the gift giving season overwhelm your contentment of where the Lord has you right now - whether in want or in abundance, learn contentment and lean on His strength to do all things Christlike.
And the best place to start learning contentment is at the foot of the cross. Stop trying to pay your own way to heaven and fall upon the grace of your Savior. Find rest in Him and put your faith in what He has done and not what you cannot possibly do. Then chase after Jesus with abandon - for it is no longer you who live but Christ Who lives in you. How can you not be content when your life is not your own? He bought you, He dwells within you, He empowers you and He leads you to the places where you can see Him more clearly - follow Him! Find your contentment in exactly where He has you today.
You can do all things through Christ - you can be content exactly where He has you - because He will provide the strength to endure all things.