I Can Do All Things
". . .But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that
now at last your care for me has flourished again; though surely you
did care but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to
need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to
be abased and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in
all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to
abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who
strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well that you shared in
my distress. Philippians 4:10–14.
When Mary of Bethany poured her costly perfume on
Jesus, His disciples protested that it was an extravagant waste.
Jesus defended Mary by stating that she had done a good work on Him.
From the time she learned that He must die as a sacrifice for her
sins she had been saving up the perfume to anoint Him for His
burial. Jesus summed up her action by saying, "She has done what
she could…" Mark 14:8. By this He taught that when believers do
what they have ability to do in expressing their love for Him it
would be a memorial that endures for all eternity. To do what we can
is a great thing in the eyes of God.
In our text the apostle Paul takes us another
step beyond Mary’s sacrificial gift. He speaks of doing what we
We’re all familiar with that little phrase, "I can’t!" We’ve
heard it all our lives from others and we’ve probably said it many
times ourselves. As children growing up we probably said about
many household chores, "I can’t wash dishes…sweep the floor…wash the
clothes…take out garbage…mow the grass…pull the weeds…iron
As a student going through school we probably
employed "I can’t" in regard to several things. "I can’t understand
Some of us have said, "I can’t afford to go to
college." Others have said, "I can’t spend my life going to work
In regard to internal struggles some of us have
said, "I can’t get the victory over cigarettes…alcohol…drugs…immoral
As a pastor at the young age of 21, I certainly
became familiar with "I can’t". I look back on that first pastorate
and it seems that every Sunday night I went home saying to myself,
"I can’t do what it takes to become an effective pastor." In my mind
I resigned as pastor every Sunday night. I also learned why most
pastors want Monday as their day off.
While most of us go through life saying "I
can’t", Paul went through life saying, "I can". "I can do all
things through Him Who strengthens me."
It helps greatly to understand what Paul
meant. He was not saying "I can be faster than a speeding bullet and
jump tall buildings in a single bound like Superman." There are
things that none of us can do or will do in our earthly human
bodies. The consequences of trying to do so can be devastating. The
context makes clear that what Paul meant was, "I am more than
adequate for anything God calls upon me to do or face through
Christ Who strengthens me."
We can be greatly profited as we consider:
PAUL’S CONFIDENT AFFIRMATION
"I Can Endure Privation And Abundance
"…to get along with humble means, and…to live
in prosperity; …of being filled and going hungry, both of having
abundance and suffering need. Verse 12. For a greatly expanded
list of suffering, check out 2nd Corinthians 11:23-28.
Few of us in the USA have experienced suffering
to the extent Paul did. He knew what it was to be hungry with no
human means of food in sight. He knew what it was to be cold with no
source of warmth…to be lonesome with no source of companionship…to
be exhausted with no opportunity of rest…to be homeless with no
prospect of shelter and to be persecuted with no escape in sight.
Other scriptures speak of times when Paul was rejected, ridiculed,
betrayed, hated, beaten, jailed and stoned.
Paul also knew what it was to establish and
pastor churches where he was loved and revered and had every need
met. He could say, "I am more than adequate to face privation or
abundance through Christ Who strengthens me."
"I Can Rejoice In Persecution"
As Paul dictates the book of Philippians he does
so as a prisoner in Rome. He has spent two years in prison in
Caesarea. He has appealed his case to Caesar and awaits Caesar’s
decision as to whether he lives or dies. The real reason behind the
persecution was his preaching the good news of salvation through the
sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection of Christ
In contrast to Paul’s outward circumstances is
the theme of rejoicing that runs through the entire book of
Philippians. A form of "joy" or "rejoicing" appears 19 times in four
brief chapters. "…Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice,
yes, and will rejoice." 1:18.
"Yes, and if I am
being poured out as a drink
offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all." 2:17
"Rejoice in the Lord always.
Again I will say,
Happiness depends on outward circumstances, but
Christian joy is internal and continues even when outward
circumstances are what we might call bad.
On an earlier occasion we have Paul and Silas
arrested on trumped up charges; hastily beaten publicly and locked
up in maximum security with their feet locked in stocks. How did
this affect them? "But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying
and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening
to them." Acts 16:25.
Paul’s attitude was, "I may not be able to keep
the Devil from stirring up persecution against me, but I can keep
him from stealing my joy."
I Can Gain Victory Over Sin"
Paul learned from experience that the fallen sin
nature of the flesh is not eradicated when a lost person experiences
forgiveness of sin and salvation of soul. His own testimony as an
apostle of Christ was, "For I know that in me, (that is, in
my flesh) nothing good dwells;..." (Romans 7:18). He went on to cry out,
"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of
death?" (Romans 7:24) and then answers, "I thank
God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25).
In Romans 8 Paul explains that the law of sin and
death continues its efforts to control the believer’s flesh but "the
law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" sets the believer
free. (Romans 8:2). How can this be? It is identical to how the law
of aerodynamics sets us free from the law of gravity. An airplane or
any other vehicle of flight, does not eradicate the law of gravity,
but overcomes gravity by the laws of lift and thrust. We cannot
eradicate the law of gravity, but we can access a vehicle with the
laws of lift and thrust and be set free from the law of gravity. In
the same way Paul accesses the law of the Spirit of life in Christ
Jesus" and rose to freedom above the law of sin in his flesh.
We, too, can access the law of the Spirit of life
in Christ Jesus. We can rise in victory above the law of sin that
would hold us in bondage to envy jealousy, covetousness, greed,
lust, pride or any other sin.
"I Can Serve Christ Effectively"
If we had been interviewing prospects for the
position "Apostle To The Gentiles" Paul would not have come across
as a likely candidate. From scriptural and secular records we find
that Paul was short of stature, subject to bodily frailties, weak
eyes, baldhead, and bow legs. In his epistle to the Corinthians he
reminisced about coming to them in weakness, and fear, and in much
trembling and how he was criticized that his bodily presence was
weak and his speech contemptible.
And yet, the mighty Roman Empire felt a
sociological earthquake wherever this little Jew walked. People of
different religious backgrounds, ethnic heritage, social levels and
moral conditions came to put their total trust in Christ for their
eternal salvation. Only God knows how many souls were saved;
churches founded, and believers established in the faith during his
lifetime. We know he wrote 13 books of our New Testament and
probably the book of Hebrews. Who can estimate the millions of
millions who have been impacted by these writings these nearly 2000
years. An embarrassing number of Christians cringe and go
through life saying to themselves, "I can’t serve Christ." Paul
said, "I can."
PAUL’S DEPENDENCE ON CHRIST
"I can do all things through Him who
strengthens me." Paul cannot be classified as one who built his
self-confidence by building up his self-image. In the previous
chapter he stated, ". . .and have no confidence in the flesh."
We live in a day when the great emphasis on
achieving success is to build up our self image by improving our
appearance; cultivating a pleasing voice and a charming personality;
honing our powers of communication; accessing the latest and best
resources and becoming friends with all the right people.
Admittedly, these things will accomplish much from a human
standpoint, but none of them were a priority with Paul. He looked
beyond the very best he could accomplish in the flesh and said, "I
want to accomplish that which can only be done by the power of
Christ working in me and through me. What enabled Paul to go beyond
the natural and accomplish the supernatural was his total faith in
Christ from Whom he received supernatural strength.
Two verses that underscore Paul’s faith in Christ
are 2nd Corinthians 3:5, "Not that we are
ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our
sufficiency is from God." And 1st Timothy 1:12 "And I thank
Christ Jesus our Lord, who has enabled me…".
If we desire to rise above what we can do in the
natural realm we must replace our "I can’ts" with "I can…through
Christ…" The worst of sinners can say, "I can be saved and become a
child of God through Christ." The new Christian can say, "I can gain
victory over sin…live in fellowship with God…grow in knowledge of
God’s truth, and be a good testimony for my God and Savior. Through
Christ the mature Christian can say, "I can claim greater victories
through prayer…be a bolder and more effective witness for
Christ…serve God and my fellow believers with my spiritual gifts and
abilities…endure privation or abundance…rejoice in persecution…face
the enemies of Christ eye to eye without blinking."…through Christ.
May each one of us begin each day by saying in
faith, "I am more than adequate for anything God calls me to do
or face through Christ Who strengthens me."
Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scripture quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted