Summary: Paul’s confidence that he could do all things through Christ is specifically related to the ability to be content in all situations.
Sunday, August 25, 2002
As you go through life their are certain moments that are captured in your mind with absolute clarity. With the right reminder you can go back to that moment and see the whole picture in the most vivid detail. I have one of those flashbacks whenever I hear the words of one of the verses in our passage for this morning. When I hear this verse I can still picture the moment at training camp for summer missions when I was finishing the obstacle course that was part of our morning ritual. You would reach up and grab the hands of the two guys at the top of the wall and then lean back and walk up the wall until you could hook a leg over the top. At that point you would be hanging upside down with the rest of the team down below you. It is that moment that comes back - because normally the whole team would be shouting Philippians 4:13. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
At the time and many times in the years since, I have wondered what the apostle Paul might have thought about us using this verse this way.
1. Does all things, mean all things?
A. No from the larger biblical context
I have known too many people who have treated this verse as a parachute as they have been about to do some silly things. They strap this verse on, and then metaphorically jump off a cliff with the presumption that God is obligated to pull them through just because of this verse. No matter how foolish - God has promised them that they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them. It reminds me of the temptation of the Lord by the devil. He took him to the pinnacle of the temple and told him to jump, because God has promised that you won’t even dash your foot against a stone. How does Jesus answer -
9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here.
10 For it is written: "’He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’"
12 Jesus answered, "It says: ’Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’"
B. No from the present biblical context
What is the context in which Paul speaks these words?
A situation every minister has difficulty with. He has been given a gift. With all of the charlatans out there who are only after money, how does he say thanks without coming across like he wants more?
Verse 10 - they had sent Epaphroditus with a gift - couldn’t wire money - had to have someone you could trust who could take it.
Verse 11 - I am not just thanking you because I want more
-- I have learned to be content regardless of the circumstances
content - feeling of satisfaction with one’s possessions, status or situation.
Verse 12- the situations under which Paul had learned to be content
Paul certainly knew about living in adverse circumstances
2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been 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 laboured 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.
28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying.
32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me.