Dr. Ric Walston is the founder and president of the distance-education school at Columbia Evangelical Seminary. You are encouraged to read this at his blog, Coffee Talk.
“I can do all [THESE] things
through Christ who strengthens me.”
A short lesson in context.
We’ve all heard people claim: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
But, was this verse written as a claim-it verse? And, what is this “all things” that Paul speaks of?
The “all things” – The Circumstances
The “all things” are the very things Paul was talking about in Philippians chapter 4 verses 10 through 12.
Paul said: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I’m in” 11b.
What circumstances are those Paul?
He goes on:
1. I know how to get along with humble means, i.e., like a poor person with very little material goods.
2. I also know how to live in prosperity. (Some people don’t ya know! They tend to forget Christ when they have all of the physical comforts of life).
3. In any and every circumstance [i.e., poor or rich], I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
Oh! What is that secret Paul?
Answer: Through Christ! “I can do all [THESE] things through Christ who strengthens me.” The NIV says it this way, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Note the “all this.” The “all this” is the “all things” that he was talking about, i.e., all these things.
And, then note what he says in verse 14:
“Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.”
Paul was afflicted with needs and wants.
So, he ends this point by saying that even though he can live for Christ in needs (poverty) or in plenty (rich), it was still good that they helped him during his time of poverty.
Backing up to verse 10, he says to them that he rejoiced in the Lord that they (the Philippian Christians) had once again revived their concern for him; he says that they were concerned before, but they lacked opportunity—that is they lacked the opportunity to help him in his time of poverty, probably because they themselves didn’t have much to give.
It is in the face of this that Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He’s talking about having nothing and living in poverty or being rich and having plenty; in either case or in both cases, he can do it through Christ who strengthened him.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is not a “catch-all phrase” that refers to throwing a football, or starting a business, or walking a tightrope, or on and on and on. It’s about Paul living in contentment in Jesus whether he was in poverty or in wealth, when he had a full tummy or when he was hungry, both when he had abundance and when he had needs.
Not a “Claim-it verse”
People attempt to “claim” this verse by making it about them. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
But, guess what. This is not a “claim-it verse.”
This verse is not even about you!
This is Paul’s personal report and testimony of his own maturity in Christ.
The “I” in this verse is about Paul himself, not you.
In the same chapter, Paul says, “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord” v. 2. But, no one seems to be confused about who the “I” is in this verse. It’s Paul, not you. It’s not you in verse 2 and it’s not you in verse 13.
What’s Our Report?
Most of us cannot live content lives while living in poverty. Most of us can hardly be content when we have all the material things that we need.
Again, this is not a claim-it verse; this is a report by a fellow Christian who tells us that he has found the secret on how to be content whether he is poor or rich: the secret is through Christ!
If you are not content in your station in life, Paul’s example is there for us to follow.
Once you can be content in poverty or in riches by the power of Christ living in you, then you can say, as Paul did, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” v. 11.
It is in this way that Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (NIV).
How about us?
Have we actually reached a point in our maturity in Christ where we too can say with Paul, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances . . . I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m still not there yet.