Have you ever been asked to do something that you felt you were not able to do?
I remember one day when I was sitting with two other ministers as we were involved in our Master’s Degree program. One of the men suddenly shivered and said, “I’m having one of those anxiety attacks—I am overwhelmed with the requirements and I feel there is no way I can meet them!” Then he asked us, “Do you ever have those moments when it just seems impossible to do what is being asked of you?” And we both replied, “Yes we do!”
In our humanness so often we feel so inadequate for the task before us.
In my junior high football practices the coach had an exercise he called “4th Quarter.” When we had done an extensive workout and felt like we were ready to drop, he would require us to run laps around the football field, or do wind sprints. In my mind I would think, “No way—I’m going to pass out!” But somehow we survived. (There were a few that did collapse, but I never did!)
I remember when I went to the first class of Beginning New Testament Greek. Our first assignment was to memorize the Greek alphabet before the next class. And then the assignments just got harder. Several dropped out of the course. The rest of us wondered if it were possible to learn what we were being asked to learn.
I remember several years ago talking to a man who had just discovered his wife had secretly run up a credit card debt of over $40,000. He was overwhelmed and angry. He wasn’t sure if he could pay the debt and he wasn’t sure if he would ever trust his wife again. But with God’s help he was able to do both and they are still happily married.
Some of you have really been tested. The doctor has told you that there was something seriously wrong and the treatments would be extremely intense—maybe chemo-therapy or radiation, or heart by-pass. And when you heard the diagnoses and the prescribed treatment, you thought, “I’ll never make it through that!” But somehow you did.
And here in this passage of scripture we find Paul writing from a prison cell to a church that had just sent him a gift to help provide for his basic needs while in prison.
From what I can gather, the prison system in those days was made up of cells with no frills. And if friends and family didn’t bring food, the prisoners would just starve to death. If they got sick, they just were allowed to die. The conditions were inhumane compared to today’s standards.
Yet, in spite of the difficult conditions in which Paul found himself, this letter, written to the Philippians to thank them for their gift, is one of the most positive books in the Bible. It is often called “The Epistle of Joy.”
And it is in that context that Paul writes in verse 13, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
As I studied this passage I was impressed with these thoughts:
- CONTENTMENT IS NOT DEPENDENT ON CIRCUMSTANCES.
- Paul clearly states that his contentment is not tied to his circumstances. He had been on both sides—blessed with plenty at times, while at other times left with nothing. In His writings in 2 Corinthians 11 he gives a list of some of those “left with nothing” experiences: Shipwrecked and afloat with the debris, beaten and left for dead; imprisoned though falsely accused, and on and on goes the list. So Paul wasn’t just making polite talk as he wrote to the Philippians. He was seriously letting them know that as much as he appreciated their gift, his ultimate trust was in the living God.
- To face the demands of life and remain calm and content requires a tremendous amount of trust. There are always expenses—food, shelter, clothing, car payments, unexpected repairs, mortgage payments, medical expenses—it just never ends. How do we handle those demands and keep our sanity?
- Be careful not to get into debt. In Romans 13:8 Paul gave this advice: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”
- Make honoring God your top priority. Matthew 6: 25-32 tells us not to worry about life’s basic necessities, and, then verse 33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
- Practice living on less. We really don’t have to have the newest model of Iphone, or the most expensive car, or the latest fashion of clothes. We must learn the difference between necessities and luxuries!
- Be generous towards God and others. In Luke 6:38 Jesus instructed those listening, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” I’ve heard so many people over the years say they just could not pay their tithes because they only had enough for their basic needs. The tragedy of that way of thinking is they never allowed God to show them how He would provide if they would just trust Him to do so. Tithing isn’t about owing God—The fact is we do owe Him everything—Tithing is about demonstrating our trust in God—that He will keep His word and bless us.
- Yes, there are times when our situations are desperate—but God is the One who has pledged Himself to us even in the midst of those desperate situations!
- Contentment means fully trusting God!
- BLESSINGS ARE THE RESULT OF OBEDIENCE.
- In verse 19 of Philippians 4 we find another verse that is often quoted: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” It is important that we do not take this verse out of context. Paul is giving thanks to the Philippians for their love gift to support him during this trying time. He reminds them that he had not personally asked for any support but that their gift was based on their love for him and their obedience to God’s leading. And because they are being obedient to God and giving from a heart of love –His love that has been placed in their hearts—God would supply their needs just He was supplying his needs. If we are going to claim this promise for ourselves, then we too must be obedient to God and generous in our obedience to His leadership.
- Over the years I have on several occasions run across this illustration of the importance of being generous in giving based on a geography illustration. In Israel the Jordan River begins in the heights of Mount Herman and runs in an Easterly direction. It then pours into the Sea of Galilee—a large fresh water lake that supports large commercial fishing as well as providing food for those living close by. After that, the water continues on to the east until it flows into the Dead Sea. It has no outlet from the Dead Sea. And because the water stops, the Dead Sea supports no water life. The point is that we are to be like the Sea of Galilee and let God’s Blessings flow through us and touch other and we are to avoid being like the Dead Sea, hoarding God’s blessings and not sharing with others.
- STRENGTH IS BECAUSE OF GOD’S GRACE.
- Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all this through him who give me strength.”
- So Who gives me strength? Philippians 2: 13 gives us the answer: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
- In an ancient prison, falsely accused, persecuted for his faith in God, how was Paul able to express Joy and Contentment? It was because his trust was not in his circumstance, but, rather, was in God!
>THE IMPOSSIBLE FLEES FROM THE FACE OF GOD!
Yes, in this fallen world we will face circumstances that seem impossible. We will doubt our finances, our strength, our abilities, and our support. But these humanly impossible circumstances, cannot overcome the abilities of our God. He specializes in things thought impossible.
Consider these verses:
Matthew 19:26 – But Jesus beheld [them], and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Luke 1:37 – For with God nothing shall be impossible.
Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Mark 10:27 – And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men [it is] impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
Mark 9:23 – Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things [are] possible to him that believeth.
Matthew 17:20 – And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Isaiah 41:10 – Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
Whatever you are facing, just remember Paul’s words: “I can do all this through him who strengthens me.”
And trust Him to make a way!