"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"2
Paul said in Philippians 4:12 that he had “learned” to be content in all circumstances. In v. 13 he “knows” and again “in any and every circumstance” he has “learned” the secret of how to thrive. So what specifically had he “learned” and what was his “secret”? Continue reading . . .
Paul said in Philippians 4:12 that he had “learned” to be content in all circumstances. In v. 13 he “knows” and again “in any and every circumstance” he has “learned” the secret of how to thrive. So what specifically had he “learned” and what was his “secret”? The answer is in v. 13. It was through the intimacy of his relationship with Jesus, or more literally, “in union with the one who infuses me with strength.” Here again is the entire paragraph:
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:10-13).
When he says it is “through” Christ he doesn’t mean merely that Christ is the instrumental cause. Paul is referring to his life “in” Christ, his daily existence in loving and trusting intimacy with Jesus who enables him.
He has in mind the beauty and glory of Christ’s person, the wonder and love of his saving work on the cross, the power and sustaining energy of his resurrection life, the consistency and constancy of his intercession on our behalf, and the hope and expectation of his second coming.
Paul had learned that when a person becomes consumed with Christ, with his glory and his praise and immersed in his service, that the otherwise painful sharp edge of deprivation and loss and opposition simply doesn’t carry the same painful punch it otherwise would.
The more majestic Christ appears the less glamorous and appealing will be the things of this earth.
Also, we must not wrench this text from its context and make it apply to everything in life. He is not talking about finding strength to walk on water or perform miracles or serve sacrificially or cultivate humility. He is talking about the ability to remain free of bitterness and envy and mistrust when his circumstances turn for the bad. He is talking about his ability to remain humble and not grow arrogant or prideful or self-reliant when his circumstances turn for the good.
In other words, the “all things” in v. 13 is not universal in scope. It is a reference back to the “in any and every circumstance” of v. 12.
Neither should this be manipulated to get people in church to do things they otherwise are not inclined to do. I would be badly twisting this verse if I used it this way: “Hey folks, we need your help in youth ministry. We need some mature adults to help lead the small groups. And you can’t say No to this appeal simply because you’ve never worked with youth before or because you don’t speak well or because you are convinced you don’t have the spiritual gifts needed for this sort of thing. After all, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!”
The “all things” refers to the variety of circumstances in which Paul finds himself: be they an overabundance of food and physical comforts and safety and money for ministry and large crowds who listen to him and follow him or spending undeserved time in a prison in Rome or being vilified by his enemies or going without adequate food and clothing and being exposed daily to the possibility of execution.
Let me bring this to a conclusion by issuing a challenge. Let’s play fill in the blank.
“I can be content in life if only ____________.” If only what?
“I can experience genuine and lasting fulfillment during my time on earth when I have ______________.” When you have what?
“Life will prove to be worth living if and only if ____________.” If and only if what?
“Life right now would be joyful and satisfying and I could truly enjoy all that God is for me in Jesus if it weren’t the case that ___________.” If it weren’t the case that what?
“I can be assured that God is good and I can trust him with my life, if ____________.” If what?
My prayer and our aim ought to be to fill in the blank by saying: “I can be content and experience genuine fulfillment and believe that life is worth living and that God is good and trustworthy, if I have Christ. Period.”