What You Can Do Through Christ
Paul wrote to the Philippians:
“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 circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, and abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:10-13).
I don’t know about you, but I’ve frequently heard that last line used in reference to some Herculean task that needs to be done. Juggling too many balls in the air? Need to raise funds for that upcoming missions trip? Need to achieve a big project at work? Don’t worry; you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
As nice as these sentiments sound, they, unfortunately, miss the context of what Paul is addressing. Note first that he’s saying this in reference to contentment in circumstances. Another observation concerning the context of this passage is that Paul refers to tangible needs being met, specifically financial needs. But there’s something else here that often gets missed: Christ gives strength through whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, whether we’re flourishing or in need.
I don’t think anyone would complain about prospering, but being in need is a different story. While Paul refers specifically to financial circumstances, there’s an application for the loss and/or deficiency in various situations. It could be that you’re unemployed or underemployed and unsure how a financial gap will be met. Or maybe you’ve been knocked out of the career loop or been demoted. Or maybe you lost your house or took a hit in ministry. Such losses can be devastating, especially when it impacts your reputation, and it can make you feel underachieving or unaccomplished.
In these contexts, Paul says he can learn contentment and do all things through Christ who strengthens him. When we’re in need and frustrated that things aren’t working out, and the situation prolongs itself, we’re apt to say, “I can’t take this anymore.” We wonder if the Lord will come through and meet our needs. Paul’s words provide encouragement and comfort for these moments. In and of ourselves, we can’t. But we can endure through the deficits because Christ strengthens us to do so.
What is your need today? What is lacking in your life? Rather than focusing on the deficit, focus on Christ and God’s promises through him. The Lord may very well allow a prolonged period where we can do without. Yet, at the same time he assures us that, through Christ, we can walk through it and learn contentment.