I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

There are some wonderful promises in the Bible. Some verses which look fantastic on posters and T-shirts and Bibles. But some of those texts tend to be misunderstood because they are always taken by themselves and out of context. They are still fantastic promises – but we just don’t understand or apply them properly. And one such verse is Philippians 4:13
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”
The obvious question to ask with this text to begin with, and one reason why it is sometimes misquoted, is, what does Paul mean by ALL THINGS? Surely Paul wasn’t saying he could fly, or walk through walls! This verse is not a guarantee that every Christians will have a successful career, or that we will be brilliant at every hobby we enjoy. In America it is a very popular slogan for the tracksuits of Christian athletes and sportsmen and sportswomen. But surely Paul is not saying that every person wearing that text is going to win their event. We need to look at the context to see what “all things” means here and the context is that Paul is talking about everything he had suffered for Christ’s sake
Paul had been through tough times. He was writing to the Philippians while he was in prison in Rome because of corrupt officials, waiting for possible execution on false charges. But it hadn’t been an easy ride for Paul to that point either! Years earlier he had made a list of the ways he had suffered for Christ up until that point when he wrote to the Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 1123 I have in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 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.
In another place Paul summed up what he had suffered for Christ like this.
2 Corinthians 6 4 great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; … 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
In J.B.Phillips’ translation, “Knocked down but never knocked out.”
Yet still Paul could write “I have learned the secret of being content it any and every situation.”
MESSAGE I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty.
If only all Christians could learn to be content with what God has chosen to give us, however much or however little. If only we could learn to the secret of contentment whether we are well-fed or hungry, full or empty. If only we could learn not to chase after things God does not want us to have!
We all long to be content. People look in all kinds of directions to find contentment.
Nice job, success, nice house, nice care, lots of friends. All these material things may bring superficial happiness but they don’t make anybody content.
Very many people look to money and possessions to make them happy. A wise man once said, “Money can’t buy happiness but you sure can have a good time renting it.” So many people pin their dreams on winning the lottery. The recent explosion in online gambling is very worrying. The truth is that money does not make anybody truly content.
1 Timothy 6 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
When they face problems, many people think they can just buy their way out. They rely on money to avoid troubles and hardship. We have all faced money problems sometimes. The money runs out before the month does! But the truth is that Money can’t solve every problem and possessions don’t bring contentment – materialism brings so many problems and doesn’t solve any.
Some people think they can achieve contentment through sheer hard work. When they face problem they just try to plough on through by their own efforts. Other people rely on their own willpower, to bring them happiness and get them through the hard times. Still others put their trust in their own strength of character. The fact is there is nothing any of us can do for ourselves which will guarantee contentment. And we just don’t have it within ourselves to cope with every problem we may face in life.
In these days, many people put their trust in science to solve not only their problems but the whole world’s problems. Others turn to technology to make them happy. It is staggering the number of people, and increasingly of younger and younger children, who seek to escape the realities of their lives in virtual worlds online on their smartphones, tablets and laptop computers. We all face problems with our health at some time in our lives. When life is tough some folk look to medicine or therapy to help them cope, and at times this is absolutely the right thing to do of course. But too many people who don’t need them rely on prescriptions. Not to mention those who try to drown their sorrows with alcohol, or illegal drugs. All to find the contentment which these things can never provide.
In contrast, Paul had found the secret of true contentment. “I have learned the secret of being content it any and every situation.”
For Paul contentment meant an inner sense of rest or peace that comes from being right with God and knowing that He is in control of all that happens to us. It is not always easy to be content, especially when life is not going well and things get tough. I don’t know how well any of us would have coped with all those things which Paul went through. Prison, flogged, whipped, beaten with rods, stoned. Never mind shipwrecked or adrift at sea! Danger from all sides. Going without sleep and food. Troubles, hardships, distresses indeed. And we sometimes think life is tough for us!
Notice that Paul does NOT say that his secret of contentment was that God miraculously rescued him from all those times of danger, although that did happen on several occasions. Paul does not say that he learned to be content because God always took his problems and hardships away. Some peddlers of the false “Health, wealth and prosperity” doctrines teach that the believing Christian will never have any problems like poverty or bad health or indeed any suffering of any kind. That is not what Paul says here and it’s not what the Bible says anywhere! Christians will all go through rough times. If Christ suffered, we can expect to suffer too. That is “the normal Christian life.” And something else Paul is NOT saying here is that when he had no money he had learned to be content because the Philippians had sent him a gift. They had in the past sent him money, and Paul was grateful to them for it. But this is not some veiled plea for another gift of money. Although I am sure their gift had been very useful at the time, Paul had learned not to rely on money to get him out of difficulties or to make him happy.
So what was Paul’s secret of contentment?
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” “I have strength for all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The Message translates the verse like this. “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”
Or in other words, Christ gives me the power to enjoy life no matter what comes my way. “I can make it through anything,” That was Paul’s honest testimony. Whatever life had thrown at him, he had come through. “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Paul’s secret for contentment was Christ Himself, giving him all the strength he ever needed for a joyful life and an effective ministry.
The earliest versions of the text literally say, “I am able for all things through Him strengthening me.”. Later manuscripts added the explanation that Him was of course Christ. The secret is clear. “Him strengthening me”. “Strengthening” there is a present participle and that implies an ongoing continuous or repeated action. Forgive me if I labour the point. Paul is not saying that at some point in his life Christ gave him some kind of strength which Paul can then use whenever he likes to help him cope. What Paul is saying instead is that whenever he is facing hardship, at that point he is able to cope because at that moment Christ strengthens and keeps on strengthening him. The strength and help come each time as Paul relies on the strength Christ gives him and not on his own human resources.
And this takes us right back to the passage we looked at last week:
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always and again I will say, rejoice!
Matthew Henry wrote, “Joy in God is a duty of great consequence in the Christian life; and Christians need to be again and again called to it. If good men have not a continual feast, it is their own fault”
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Everybody faces problems sometimes. We all have things to worry about. Jobs. Family. Money. Health. What the future may hold. And our worries will rob us of our joy and our peace and our contentment. Whenever we face problems or hardships, whenever anything burdens or distresses us, God does not want us to be anxious or worried or afraid. He simply invites us to come to Him in prayer. Prayer is our conversation drawing near to God and petitions are our specific requests to Him. And heartfelt thanksgiving to God for so many blessings is always appropriate. We can even thank God for the problems we may face, because these are opportunities for God to give us strength and for our faith to grow and for God to be glorified in our hours of weakness. Our contentment and our rejoicing and our peace and our strengthening will come to us directly from Christ and they come to us as God answers our prayers! Here again, for emphasis. “Present your requests to God” is another continuing action. “Keep on letting your requests be known to God.” And the result will be that each time God’s amazing peace will keep on garrisoning your mind keeping it safe in Christ. The peace of God will stand sentry over our minds and hearts keeping us safe from anxieties and fears. God does not offer anyone a guarantee that he will always take all our problems and all our sufferings away. What God does promise is strength to cope with whatever may come – the strength that comes from Christ Himself.
A woman once asked the preacher Campbell Morgan, “Do you think we should pray about the little things in our lives, or just the big things?” He retorted, “Madam, can you think of anything in your life that is big to God?”
Note again, there is no once-for-all-time experience from God which will give to a Christian some kind of permanent peace and contentment which will never go away whatever troubles we face. But Paul’s experience and God’s promise to us is that on every occasion as we bring our requests to Him, Christ WILL give us the strength to cope and the peace and contentment we all long for.
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.
It is precisely as we trust in God, and fix our minds on Him, and bring our requests and our needs to Him, that we experience His peace and His contentment and his strengthening.
“I can do all things through Christ strengthening me.” I was interested to discover that there are a handful of different words in the New Testament all meaning strength, But Paul uses this same word in his prayer for the Colossians. Colossians 1 9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
God wants us all to be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that we might have great endurance and patience whatever life may be throwing at us. In the week ahead, as we bring all our prayers and petitions to God, may we all discover that we too can make it through anything through Christ as He strengthens us!

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