I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13 ESV)
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” is perhaps one of the most misquoted verses of all time. I have to confess that as a young athlete I thought this verse was awesome because I thought that quoting it before I tried to make my free-throw shots in basketball would somehow help me become a better player.
The Apostle Paul is actually talking about suffering for the sake of the gospel. I confess I wasn’t as willing to sign up for suffering for Jesus as I was to sign up for free-throws. Paul says in this passage that he has learned to be content. He’s been in situations where he’s had plenty. There was lots of food to go around. Everyone had good clothes to wear. The shelter was adequate and life was good. He’s also been in situations where he’s had less than enough. He’s been beaten, locked in a smelly prison without restrooms, shipwrecked, tortured, and given rations that would make a rat starve. He’s learned to be content in both situations.
How could he be content in such a terrible prison? Or always being chained to a Roman guard? How can you be content when you are hungry? You might ask. This is where that world famous verse comes in to play. Paul says that he’s content because he knows he can accomplish everything set before him that Jesus gives him the strength to do. In other words, God is in control, he knows Paul’s needs.
Paul is not a victim of his circumstances. He may be a prisoner in chains, but he has been set free in Jesus. His energy, his boldness, his triumphant attitude doesn’t flow from his environment. He’s not “on top of the world.” He’s probably about to be executed and the one word he keeps writing over and over again through this letter is “Rejoice” and he’s not offering it as a suggestion, plea, or persuasive argument… it’s a command.
If you are a believer you have a lot to be joyful about despite whatever present circumstance you find yourself. Your joy doesn’t come from being voted in as the prom queen or most likely to succeed. Your joy, real joy comes from the hope you have in Jesus. People can steal your stuff, but they can’t steal Jesus. You may be betrayed by friends, but never by Jesus. You may be hunted down and persecuted for your belief, but Jesus is right there with you. They can kill your body… but even then, they haven’t taken Jesus.
I don’t know what kind of evil you will face in life. I don’t know where God will lead you, but what Paul declares here in this verse is that JESUS is enough! He is enough for every situation and that should and does provoke the heart to joy. You may be facing the saddest moment of your life, for me it was the loss of a loved one and in the midst of it there was joy… not at loss, but at what I had gained that could never be lost again… Jesus
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