“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
At the close of his short letter to the Philippians the Apostle Paul makes an astounding claim that comes straight out of his experience of the sanctifying work of the Lord in his life. All through the letter Paul has been rejoicing in the triumphant way the Lord has been leading him, using every circumstance to advance the cause of the Gospel and to reveal the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ in his life. He has taken us into the reality that he now puts no confidence in his flesh. Neither should we trust in our flesh because it stands in the way of our receiving and growing into the righteousness of Christ. Along the way Paul illustrates the way God has solved a huge problem in Paul’s life. He has brought Paul to the point where he has learned the secret of being content in any and every circumstance. He has been brought to this point because God has infused into him the strength which comes from the Spirit of God. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
As I wrestle with what Paul writes in Philippians 4 I am brought to the point where I must ask how I can experience the growth that Paul describes here. He is pointing to the wonderful reality of a life that is lived in trust of the Lord’s provision for him. He is content because he has that one thing that is really needed in life, which is a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has come to recognise that the Lord Jesus is completely sufficient for everything. Therefore he can rest content because he is living in the will of God.
For most of us, and I am presuming for Paul as well it is not an easy process to come to such faith. Our flesh rebels against the will of God. We have our own self-centred, fleshly ambitions and desires which are in conflict with the work of the Holy Spirit within us. What Paul is describing in Philippians four is the culmination of a long process of crucifying the flesh. Such a process can be painful. Our flesh dies hard. It is absolutely crucial that we do indeed die to ourselves so that we can live to Christ. How then does this take place in us?
It is with this question that I found myself wrestling recently as I was reading a little book entitled Rejoice…..Always by John Gwyn-Thomas (Banner of Truth, 1989). In this short devotional study of the fourth chapter of Philippians Gwyn-Thomas reflects on the means by which we move into the reality of the contented life Paul describes in these verses.
“I also believe that we fail so often because we do not wrestle with God over our reactions to His will and purpose for us. We must realize that in the school of faith God is always calling on us to grow – to apply our faith afresh. It is not enough to say, ‘I am saved, I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ’, and then grumble like the unregenerate. That is not the Christian life as we see it in the Bible. We have got to recognize that there are times in our lives when there is a fundamental clash between what I believe God ought to give me and what God actually does give me, and the two things may be very different. There has to be a reconciliation, a real bending and breaking of my own will to accept the will of God; there has to be a conflict and the first thing we have to do is recognize that there is a conflict between our wills and the will of God. Then we must go back to God about this conflict and say to Him, as Job said to Him, ‘I do not understand You.’ What is more, we have to deal with God concerning this conflict. We must seek for a change of heart, we must seek strength from the Word of God and we must pray about it. Unless we are seriously concerned about the conflict between our will and God’s will for us, I do not believe that we will ever enter into that peace that Paul knew when he said, ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens [or empowers] me.’” (Pages 111-112)
All we can say to such wisdom is Amen!