Philippians 4:13 (NIV)
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
As we read this scripture, we may easily jump to our own conclusion about what the Apostle Paul is trying to tell us, that through Christ’s strength and presence in our lives, we can do all things. Really? All things? Can I jump off a bridge and fly because Christ lives in me? Can I deliberately, and foolishly put myself in danger because of this verse?
As we study the Bible, what we must learn to do is to read all verses in context. We must challenge our understanding with a series of questions. What is contained within the scripture both before and after the verse in question? What is the theme of the chapter as a whole, and the book it is contained in? Who was the author writing to? What was their situation? All of these questions are a starting point to ensure that we do not take scripture out of context to make it mean something it does not, or to make it mean something we want it to.
As we look at the preceding verses of this chapter in the Letter to the Philippians, we will see what the Apostle Paul is describing. He is describing what our attitude and our thoughts must be as we journey through life with Christ. We must understand first that this letter was written during a time of extreme persecution to the church. There were attacks from the local culture and from the Jews as they saw their proselytes moving towards Jesus and away from their faith. When this letter was written, Paul was actually in a Roman prison suffering in a way that cannot be understood in our current circumstances.
So Paul starts this chapter by describing some challenging life situations for the early church in these verses of scripture. Although we may not encounter these same set of circumstances, Paul gives us a foundation on how to handle trials in our life in these first thirteen verses of Philippians chapter 4. Life situations that we, as Christians, must decide what our attitude and thoughts must be before we journey through them. Below, we will look at the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to rejoice in the face of these challenges that may come our way.
Philippians 4:4 (NIV)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
As we think about life challenges, it is not always easy to rejoice. Life has a way of loading us up with burdens, our hands being so full of our own thoughts and troubles, that we cannot lift them up to God. The psalmist in Psalms 32:11 calls us to “Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” We should rejoice in The Lord no matter what our current situation may be, because we are righteous. We are known by God. We are saved from eternal separation from Him by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are upright before God. We have right standing before Him. This is cause for celebration, no matter what our life situation may be. This is cause for rejoicing!
It was important for Paul to start with this admonition because too often we forget. We get so caught up in our current drama that we forget where we stand with Christ as believers. We forget the price that has been paid for us, the blood spilled on our behalf. We forget what that single act of Christ ensures us, and that is eternity in Heaven. We forget that our life is short in suffering compared to the eternity of joy waiting for us in the presence of God. The psalmist writes, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow (Psalm 144:4 ESV).”
What our salvation does not promise us is a life without complications or challenges. As Paul describes these challenges, some of us may have or be facing them now. We may know someone who has faced them. We may not be facing any of them, but may be afraid that someday we will. Wherever you may find yourself in this list, Paul it telling us, in spite of these, rejoice. Paul is calling us to rejoice in the face of:
Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Philippians 4:7 (NIV)
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
- Doubt and fear
Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
- Negative thoughts about ourselves and others
Philippians 4:11 (NIV)
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
- Discontent or unhappiness
Philippians 4:12 (NIV)
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
- When mistreated by others
- When facing hunger or thirst
- When daunted by financial concerns
- When facing lack or loss
Why is Paul instructing us to rejoice in the midst of these challenges? How is it possible that he is suffering from hunger and neglect while in prison, but he can write for us to rejoice? How can he be content in this circumstance? Because of what he states in verse 13 “ I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” No matter what we will face, we can choose to rejoice and ask Jesus for the strength to persevere. We can know that He will be with us at all times. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). We can stand upon His word in these areas and know that through Him we will come through.
Why can Paul write these things? Because he lived them. Paul faced hunger and thirst, he faced lack, he was mistreated and cast down. I can only suggest that he faced the opportunities to have anxiety, bad thoughts and fears. However, Paul knew who God is. He knew who Christ is. Further, Paul knew that he was in God’s will and purpose for his life. In that, Paul could stand and rejoice. As he wrote in this letter, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). No matter the external circumstances Paul found himself facing, He knew that Christ lived in Him. He knew that in all things, Christ would strengthen him.
So as we journey through life, we can choose each day the approach we take. We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we do get to choose how we respond to each situation. Will we stand and rejoice, or will we lower our head and walk with a heavy burden. I encourage you, rejoice! For, you are a child of God Almighty. The very presence of God lives within you. Face the situation, seek comfort in prayer and God’s Holy Word, lift your hands and praise Him, for He will strengthen you to face this day, and every day thereafter.