I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]
This is one of the most frequently quoted- and most often misunderstood- verses in the Bible. Many people see it as a blank check on God’s account that they can cash whenever they want His help to accomplish anything they want to do. Sorry, but that’s not Paul’s point at all.
The “all things” in this verse refers to his previous comments about contentment. Paul had explained that he had found the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether he was enjoying wealth, pleasure, and plenty or had very little of the world’s riches and comfort(Philippians 4:11-12). The secret, Paul relates, is to focus on Christ and be delighted in Him above all else.
But Paul was a realist. He knew that finding contentment in difficult times is hard. In those times, he needed Christ to give him perspective and strength to keep his heart focused on Him. Only then could he be truly content, at peace instead of gritting his teeth with each passing minute. Paul, though, was supremely confident that Christ would, in fact, give him the resources he needed to respond well to every situation.
We need to take a long, hard look at our hearts to see what disrupts our sense of contentment. Then, we can turn to Christ for wisdom to get His perspective and strength to endure difficulties with grace and gratitude. The world and our friends and family members want to know if our faith is genuine. If we complain when we experience a small bump in our comfortable road, they have reason to wonder. If, however, our contentment and joy are unshaken when we experience loss, they can see our hope in Christ is the real deal.
The Savior I love and worship in every day, every need Lord who knows my needs and supplies them even before I ask.
You never test the resources of God until you attempt the impossible.
Paul is very clear that life can change in a moment. There were times when things were going well for him and other times of great suffering and persecution. We are all familiar with the story of him and Silas. Upon hearing from the Holy Spirit that forbid them to go to go to Asia (Acts 16:6), Paul is given a vision of a man inviting him to Macedonia. Not long after arriving he and Silas are arrested and beaten and thrown into the inner prison. It would have been easy to despair or to question their circumstances. Instead they begin to sing and praise God. Most of us can sing when we’re happy or blessed. Most of us can give God praise when things are going well. It can we sing in the storm or praise in adversity? It’s easy to forget that the God who leads us in times of blessing is still leading us in times of adversity. This is the point that Paul is making when he says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” If we’re going to learn to be content in times of blessing and times of need, we’re going to need the strength of Christ. Otherwise we will be as much of a yo-yo as the rest of the world. Most everybody knows how to handle good times but difficult times are another thing. In the story of Paul and Silas we see how learning to be consistent irregardless of the inconsistency of life can bring about God’s plans. Had they not have been consistent, the opportunity to witness to the other prisoners and then to the jailer would have been lost. I have no doubt that there was great rejoicing in the jailer’s home as he and his household received Christ. Because they trusted in the strength of Christ and not their own, they were able to give God praise even in their suffering.
The world around us is being shaken because their hopes lie in unstable things. In the last couple years we have experienced the devastation of a pandemic with thousands becoming sick and thousands more dying. There seems to be no clear solutions and fear, anxiety and even anger have become the average responses. But sadly the reaction of Christians hasn’t been much better. There are those who accuse others of a lack of faith if they have taken precautions. Others are angry at any who haven’t responded just like they have. However, I think the worst response has been from those who have just checked out. Somewhere around 40% of church attendees have dropped out of church. A myriad of reasons for doing so have been given. Mostly it’s been because life has changed and some of the preferences haven’t been possible. Could it be that it’s more a heart condition than anything else? I’m sure that Paul and Silas would have preferred being in a house of worship rather than in the inner prison, but they chose to not allow their circumstances to interfere or interrupt their worship of God. It’s not easy to be consistent with our praise and worship in a ever changing environment. But Paul reminds us that we “can do all things through Christ that strengthens us.
Oh how our world needs to see a picture of a Christian. You see we don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t have to be able to explain why things are as they are. We don’t have to pretend that reality doesn’t exist. Nor do we need to pretend that adversity and difficulties aren’t a challenge to us. But we do need to learn to be content in whatever condition we are in at the moment because we know that the Holy Spirit is leading us and sometimes He leads us into adversity so that the Kingdom of God may become visible to those around us. I’ve discovered in my own life that those who aren’t Christian pay particular attention to me when life is difficult. You see they know how to respond with joy when life’s good but when they see someone who has joy in the midst of adversity it causes them to ask questions. I think that is exactly what happened with Paul and Silas. The jailer was used to incarcerating prisoners. He was used to having them beaten. And he was also used to seeing them respond with anger, cursing, weeping, and complaining. He had never encountered prisoners who could sing at midnight after being beaten and put into stocks. It got his attention.
If there has ever been a time for Christians to decide to be Christian, surely it is now. As the world rocks around us. As people lose hope. As the response to adversity continues to be fear, anxiety, anger, violence, and division, our witness ought to be in keeping with the example of Paul and Silas.
Paul says that our strength to be faithful, to rejoice in every situation, to walk in the peace that passes all understanding comes from being in Christ and knowing that everything He allows, He will use for our benefit and for the blessing of those around us.
I call every believer to examine their heart, their attitude and their commitment to Christ. Are there things that have been allowed to steal our joy and peace? Have we allowed the disruptions of life to disrupt our relationship with Christ and His church? Have we allowed our disappointments and frustrations to draw us away from our faith? Have the distractions- good and bad- been successful in grabbing and keeping our attention?
Let us admit that these are troubling days. Let us acknowledge that we don’t like a lot of what is happening in the world. Let us confess that there are things that are scary and fear and anxiety dog our steps. Let us also acknowledge that there doesn’t seem to be a solution at least short term to these things. So then we must decide how we will respond. Will our response be one of trust and faith, believing that God is at work in the chaos? Will we choose to seek what God wants to do through us even if it’s different than how He has worked through us before? Will we trust that we “can do all (these) things through Christ that strengthens us?
Dr. John Thompson