Sermonette on Philippians 4:13, Essay Example

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Essay

Philippians 4:13

This text paraphrased reads, “Christ strengthens me and, therefore, I can do all things.” In the preceding verse, 12, Paul cites some eventualities people can face. Paul claims that no adversity could daunt him. He was content whatever came his way. He was content whether poor, rich, in prison, or free. He never suffered discouragement even while in prison. He is not down though destitute. Paul accomplished this through Christ and not by own power lest he could boast about self. Paul was triumphant through the influence of Christ in his life.

Bugg asserts that the text does not imply a superman in Paul[1]. Paul, like any other person, was not independent of God’s help and thus he needed Jesus as we need Him today.

The phrase that Paul can do all things needs a contextual understanding, with a limitation, and not understood in the greatest latitude. The sense here is that the apostle could know how to behave in prosperity and adversity, that he could be content in every state whether with plenty or poverty. We can extend this to Paul’s duties both as an apostle and as a Christian as to take care of all the churches; to exercise a conscience void of an offence towards God and men; to bear all reproaches, afflictions and persecutions because of the Gospel; and to labor more abundantly over others in taking the Gospel. We should mark that Paul is not claiming that he could do it by own power but through the strength from Jesus Christ.

It is clear that quoting a person out of context makes him or her say something totally different from the intended message. This normally happens in politics, and it is unfortunate for some people who do the same with Biblical texts such as Philippians 4:13. What men can make the Bible say for their own interests is so remarkable considering the numerous interpretations of biblical texts. A biblical text, which is out of context, translates into a pretext according to Westerholm[2]. This is because people use such in presentation of ideas, which are in line with the speaker’s mind rather than God’s mind.

Philippians 4:13 certainly does not refer to all things, but all things in Christ. It does not include a person lifting 500 bounds because he has faith. It does not mean that one could jump off a skyscraper and survive because of possessing supernatural power. It does not mean that one can walk on water because Jesus walked on the Galilean Sea. [3]According MacArthur, a Christian with a sober mind will not take this text to a far extent, out of context, like this.

Most motivational speakers emphasize that success lies in the mind. They assert that what a person thinks he or she can do, then he or she can. People have imported the idea into Christianity through the misuse and use of the text in question, Philippians 4:13. This verse has become so popular because of the positive message it carries.

Paul’s message does not carry much of positive thinking as many have taken it. It is rather about “right thinking”. When we combine the “I can do” and “in Christ” we get right thinking in contrast to “humanism” from positive thinking a lone.

In this text, we get the promise of God’s victory, God’s power, God’s strength in our daily walk with Jesus. I would like to talk concerning experiencing the strength of God as Paul expresses in Philippians 4:13 in three aspects: The sphere (or operation) of His strength, the sufficiency of His strength, and the Source of His Strength.

The Sufficiency of God’s Strength: “I can do”

In this case, we mean what the strength that comes from God can do. Paul is a victor and not a victim of his circumstances. According to Paul, God is in full control, but it is man’s choice to choose to trust the Lord in all circumstances[4]. Paul has chosen to trust despite the circumstances he is facing. The “I can do’s” Paul mentions includes (1) all the life experiences he has encountered. Although the experiences might have been as difficult as they could have been, Paul learned to be content and relied on God’s strength.

A look at Paul’s tough experiences gives all that he endured. For instance, in 2 Corinthians 11:22-33, Paul tells of life in prison (23), repeated exposure to death(23), beating with rods (25), flogged (23), whipping five times (24), in constant danger and constant move (26), prolonged periods without food, sleep or place of stay (27), carrying the burdens of churches amongst others.

In addition to the above Paul had what he termed ‘a thorn in his flesh’ in 2 Corinthians 12:7. This perhaps was a physical problem, “Satan’s messenger tormenting Paul”, that Paul experienced. Paul claims to have pleaded with the Lord three times about the problem, but God did not take it away. 2 Corinthians 12:9 gives an answer that the Lord’s grace was sufficient for Paul, that God’s strength is perfect in weakness. Paul later realized God’s strength sufficiency, that when weak, then he was strong. Paul had a conviction that God would lead him through anything to which He led him. This made him assert doing all things through Him who bestows him strength.

You have a choice to be content in your good and bad life experiences; you can choose to trust in God and strength from Him. We feel powerless of fate many times taking our attitude; “I can’t” overcome, “I can’t” endure, “I can’t” make it. Paul in this text gives us an assurance that through Christ “I can’t” translates to “I can”. It is crucial to note that this spirit of “I can do” is something we can learn.

I would like to beseech you to strive memorizing a scriptural verse, for each week you attend our services. [5]It is so valuable to commit a scripture by memorizing it for when a person needs God’s word, the Lord will always retrieve it from ones soul. I beseech you to put into your memory this famous promise about God’s strength in Philippians 4:13. It is worth noting that the memory of this verse alone does not guarantee God’s strength, but constant learning to rely on His strength in life situations while exercising the faith counts a lot. We learn to depend on the Lord’s strength through life experiences, choosing one thing at a time, and we discover our faith progressively growing the subsequent times we face difficulties. This is so true about Paul whose faith grew with a constant walk with God. We find Paul on a daily trust learning to rely on the strength from above (Nehemiah 8:10).

The Sphere of God’s strength: “all things” or “everything”

We ask a question of where the “can do” spirit or attitude operates. Does it mean that the spirit works only in cases of success? Certainly not so, the “can do” attitude includes “all things” or “everything”. Paul means that his circumstances have no bearing with his ability of being in a perfect contentment state[6]. It is extremely crucial to consider the promise’s context in this biblical text. Paul does not say that he can do everything and anything. He does not claim to be a superman. The context deals with Paul’s life and his economic status. Paul is destitute, in prison, with nothing but God, and God for him is all what he needs. Paul has everything, even though he has nothing, especially he has the Lord’s strength to tackle his circumstances.

We at times feel that our relationship with God is not right when we encounter difficult life experiences. We feel that it is not decent for Christians to go through such experiences. The truth of all this is that you can be in right walk with the Lord and still pass through trying moments. We are giving exhibit “A” in the example of Paul. [7] However, hope is there for Christians because God’s grace and power are available under difficult times. We do not only see Jesus’ help in opportune times but also in times of lows, when we can experience God’s tender mercy and strength. Thus, we should not fear, though we find our lives going through rocky and bumpy “roads”, the Lord almighty will always be with us (Psalms 46:1-2,11).

The Source of Paul’s Strength: “through him who provides me strength”

Even when he was in prison, from where did Paul’s hopeful outlook come? Where did he get the strength to go through the unimaginable suffering? When Paul was hungry and without food, who enabled him to be happy? Who gave him strength and courage to tell the word of the Lord? The Lord Jesus, the sovereign Lord (Habakkuk 3:19), strengthened Paul in every trying moment[8]. The same Lord, the sovereign Lord, promises triumph for you today, trust him, and you will see.

The source of strength is Christ, and in a personal relationship with Him, we experience His strength. Proverbs 24:5 gives assurance that a person of knowledge increases in strength[9]. This further emphasizes that we enjoy God’s strength. If a person remains in the Lord, that is sanctification and salvation, he, or she will realize much fruit that is the strength. When we rely on our strength, we will do nothing; we will produce “I can’t” instead of the “I can do”. Left to your own, you will do nothing but with Jesus who gives you strength you can do everything.

We notice a balance working in this verse. Some have emphasized the “I can do” alone, which is positive thinking and pure humanism. Still, others have emphasized the “through Christ” alone meaning that a person does not have a choice. [10]An important key for the balance lies in “en Christo” or “through Him” which means “through the means of.” Thus, Paul means he could do everything by means of Christ’s strength dwelling in Paul. Jesus is the power, and I am the instrument.

Do you rely on Jesus’ strength today? Where do you feel a need of God’s strength today? God’s grace is sufficient. Trust God my friend, He is all for you, none other can be able to meet your needs. Surrender your life unto Him for He is faithful in all circumstances. He gives assurance for those in trials like Paul and likewise to you. He assures in Psalms 23:4 He is your Shepherd even when you pass through the valley of the death’s shadow.

Bibliography

Aune, David E. 2010. “Philippians.” Blackwell Companion To The New Testament 475. EDS Foundation Index, EBSCOhost (accessed July 29, 2012).

Bugg, Charles B. 1991. “Philippians 4:4-13.” Review & Expositor 88, no. 3: 253-257. ATLA Religion Database, EBSCOhost (accessed July 29, 2012).

MacArthur, John. 2007. Philippians. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.

Westerholm, Stephen. 2011. “Paul and Scripture.” Blackwell Companion To Paul 154. EDS Foundation Index, EBSCOhost (accessed July 29, 2012).

[1] Bugg, Charles B. 1991. “Philippians 4:4-13.” Review & Expositor 88, no. 3: 253-257. ATLA Religion Database, EBSCOhost (accessed July 29, 2012).

[2] Westerholm, Stephen. 2011. “Paul and Scripture.” Blackwell Companion To Paul 154. EDS Foundation Index, EBSCOhost (accessed July 29, 2012).

[3] MacArthur, John. 2007. Philippians. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.

[4] Westerholm, Stephen. 2011. “Paul and Scripture.” Blackwell Companion To Paul 154. EDS Foundation Index, EBSCOhost (accessed July 29, 2012).

[5] Aune, David E. 2010. “Philippians.” Blackwell Companion To The New Testament 475. EDS Foundation Index, EBSCOhost (accessed July 29, 2012).

[6] Bugg, Charles B. 1991. “Philippians 4:4-13.” Review & Expositor 88, no. 3: 253-257. ATLA Religion Database, EBSCOhost (accessed July 29, 2012).

[7] MacArthur, John. 2007. Philippians. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.

[8] Aune, David E. 2010. “Philippians.” Blackwell Companion To The New Testament 475. EDS Foundation Index, EBSCOhost (accessed July 29, 2012).

[9] Westerholm, Stephen. 2011. “Paul and Scripture.” Blackwell Companion To Paul 154. EDS Foundation Index, EBSCOhost (accessed July 29, 2012).

[10] Aune, David E. 2010. “Philippians.” Blackwell Companion To The New Testament 475. EDS Foundation Index, EBSCOhost (accessed July 29, 2012).

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