- Local News
- May 27, 2020
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. This is one of the most popular verses found in the Bible. It is a statement of hopeful inspiration for anyone facing difficult or challenging circumstances. Athletes use it as motivation to overcome training obstacles and opponents. It is a prayer offered by
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.
This is one of the most popular verses found in the Bible. It is a statement of hopeful inspiration for anyone facing difficult or challenging circumstances. Athletes use it as motivation to overcome training obstacles and opponents. It is a prayer offered by students as they take a final exam, by Little Leaguers as they step up to the plate, and by accident victims who are facing months of painful rehabilitation. Cancer patients meditate on it to get through an especially painful chemo treatment. Grieving spouses and parents whisper it to themselves as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death. It is repeated over and over by soldiers seeking courage in the midst of battle. It is a lifeline for believers around the world who face persecution, torture and death. I too have quoted that verse to power through difficult seasons in my life. I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write that verse. Frankly, I can’t imagine life without it.
A quick read of Philippians 4 reveals that Paul wrote that verse while declaring that he had learned the secret of being content in the midst of whatever circumstances he was facing. Those words, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, refer specifically to the ability to be content whatever the circumstances.
The word content is defined as being in a state of peaceful happiness.
So to put Paul’s words into context, he was saying that he had found the secret to enjoying peaceful happiness in the midst of any circumstance, good or bad. That’s quite a statement.
And Paul found himself in plenty of bad circumstances. Listen to how he describes his sufferings in II Corinthians 11, “I have . . . been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”
When Paul says he was pelted with stones, he is referring to an occasion when he was stoned to death and his body was drug outside the city to rot. Seriously, this guy faced a lot of trouble in life – a lot more than I have. We would be wise to listen to his advice.
So how does a person experience a state of peaceful happiness even in the midst of the worst circumstances? What is the secret to which Paul was referring? It is simply this: The strength that comes through experiencing an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Paul understood a very basic and vital truth: In Jesus Christ, our lives serve a higher purpose. In Galatians 2:20 he writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
With that understanding, he was able to see every thorn, setback, injury and betrayal as something God had designed or allowed to serve a higher purpose. New Testament believers often saw suffering and hardship as a privileged opportunity to bring glory to God. Paul shared this perspective and it inspired him to write II Corinthians 12:7-10, “in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
In Christ, life is bigger than us. God’s ways are higher than our ways. When we place our full trust in Him, our perspective changes and even the worst that life can throw our way becomes opportunities to serve God’s higher purposes as we allow His power to be put on full display. The Narcissistic self-worship perpetuated by those who preach and teach a prosperity based get-what-you-want gospel has stolen away the resolve of today’s believer to eagerly suffer for the cause of Christ. We have developed into powerless cry-babies who whine and complain about the very difficulties God has designed to bring about His higher purposes – both in and through us. We have gutted the gospel and many “believers” are nothing more than empty shells of true Christianity. I can speak with authority on this topic because too often I have been one of those empty shells.
Believer, are you suffering today? If so, be thankful, for God has chosen you to be a vessel through which He is displaying His mighty power. If you don’t see it that way, then it may be time to revisit your salvation and the glorious purposes for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus. Paul wasn’t perfect, and at times he needed to do the same thing. Listen to his statement found in Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
May God put the guts back into us believers. Through Christ, may we gain the courage, strength and perseverance to display genuine contentment regardless of the circumstances. May we be the ambassadors of Jesus Christ in a world that is starving for hope, peace and purpose.
In thanksgiving, I would like to mention the gut-filled believers who have demonstrated God’s power in the midst of their suffering and weakness, and in so doing, have rallied my spirit to also stand strong in the midst of bad circumstances. You “shine like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” I thank God for you. I want you to know that you have profoundly impacted my life. Thank you.