Saturday, February 7, 2009

I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me

How often has someone quoted Philippians 4:13 to you? "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." In the past, when I have heard or read this verse, I have not really understood the context of the message. Certainly we all want to be able to do great things for God like the Apostle Paul did. A careful re-reading of Chapter 3 will shed some light on how this can happen. In chapter 3, verses 4-8, Paul gives a short history of his spiritual background. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, righteous in the sight of the law! The next line, however, delivers the death blow to his boasting. Read verse 7 and 8. "But what things were gain to me, those things I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
Well, what had Paul lost? Simply put; ALL THINGS. That's what he said. He lost everything to follow Christ. What are all things? Here's what we know. He lost his prominence in the Jewish Church. Even if they had been open to the message of Christ for the Jews; the idea of preaching to Gentiles would be absolutely repugnant to them. Eating, drinking and fellowshiping with Gentiles alone would have made Paul and outcast to the Jews. Perhaps he lost close friendships and relationships with family members. He lost his freedom. Looking back and chapter one, we will remember that Paul was writing this letter from a prison cell in Rome. Not only could he no longer fellowship with the Jews; he had lost the freedom to personally fellowship with believers, except through letters. How many lonely days did he spend in prison? How often did he suffer physically from the rigors of prison. (Many Christian historians claim that a sewer ran through the cell that Paul stayed in; and that sometimes he could have been standing knee deep in raw sewage.) How's that for losing everything!
Now fast forward to Philippians 4:9-23. Here Paul describes his ability to be content in any state he finds himself; whether full or hungry. It is in this context that we read; I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. He's telling the Philippian church that God will supply the strength to deal with any situation that one finds oneself in.
Is it true than, that the believer can do anything through Christ. Indeed. And the first and best thing that the believer may do is to abandon himself to the will of God. Herein is the strength found. How many miserable Christians are trying to use this verse to get God to strengthen them in pursuits to which they were never called. Would to God that we would be strengthened to pare our ambitions down to one do-able goal: Philippians 3:13 ...this ONE THING I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Do we really think that Paul was telling us that we can dream up anything we want to do; and then call upon God to make it work out? Or in looking at the context of the whole book of Philippians, is it more likely that he was telling us that in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, the power of God is available to us to make us more than a conqueror?
Earlier this week the Holy Spirit brought this verse to my remembrance. I was going through some difficulty and was wondering what to do. Now in the past, when I would think of this verse; I would imaging Paul, standing on a mountain, preaching his heart out and winning countless souls to the kingdom. I couldn't relate. But what the Holy Spirit showed me was, that in my everyday life I can do what I need to do through Christ's strength and not mine. When I am sick, I can be healed through Christ's strength. When I'm at work and need to have patience with my students, I can do it through Christ's strength. When I am lonely; I can lean upon Christ's strength to get me by. When I am grappling with my flesh, and need to put His will above my own; only through Christ strength can I succeed.
So whether on the mountain or in the valley; in the prison or free; doing the mundane or the spectacular; it's all done through Christ.
The challenge then, is to do whatever is facing you through Christ's strength. Right now. Today.

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