Can Do Christians
Text: Philippians 4:10-13
Paul was a missionary writing back to encourage a church which was worried about him and to thank them for sending support money that would help him in his work on the field. (This should sound familiar, because this is the way we do missions in our church.) In his thanks he writes back and tells them,
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. - Philippians 4:13
This is one of the most quoted but misapplied verses in the Bible.
Paul talks of three realities in his life that made him a can do Christian.
I am content. Vs. 11
I know how. Vs. 12
I can do all. Vs. 13.
Joke: One afternoon my 5-year-old daughter, Faith, and her preschool brother, Alfred, were doing "homework." Alfred had a habit of saying phrases like "I can't" or "I don't know how."
This particular afternoon, Faith responded with a Bible verse she had learned at school: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Alfred replied, "Then you do it." -- Michelle Baldwin, Brooklyn, NY, Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart."
That little boy is a lot like some of us today. We are sometimes I can’t Christians. We say things like, “I can’t witness, I can’t quit smoking, drinking, cursing, etc. I can’t lead my family, I can’t read my Bible, I can’t pray. Etc, etc, ad inifitum ad nausem. (which is Latin for “on and on until I’m sick”.)
How do we go from being Can’t Do to Can Do Christians? Paul has wonderful insight in the second half of Philippians chapter 4.
I Am Content Philippians 4:10-11
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
Paul as he is finishing his letter to the church at Philippi adds a thank you for the gift that has been brought to him by Epaphroditus, the messenger from the church. He tells them he rejoiced at their care for him, know that they were worried about not being able to get it to him, but they didn’t have the chance. Probably because they didn’t have anyone available to bring it.
Then he begins to tell them why they shouldn’t have worried. Paul says understand I’m not telling you this because I really needed these things or because I was worried they wouldn’t get here in time, because whatever situation I’m in, I can be self- sufficient. “vs. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
Paul is telling the Philippians how he deals with the ups and downs of life by not letting the external things around him control the internal reality of his life.
We see this throughout the life of Paul. In jail he sings, in the storm he eats and prays, in a town that dragged him outside the city gates and stoned him he gets back up and walks back into the center of the town. (Can you imagine what that must have looked like to those who tried to kill him. Talk about not letting the external upset the internal! Rocks meant to break his bones didn’t even make him change his destination.)
Paul was able to overcome the external situations in his life by the self-sufficiency he had through the Holy Spirit.
Now, why can’t we? If we were honest with ourselves we would admit that we are often affected by the external elements of life. They determine how I feel, act and even think rather than the internal things like my relationship with God, my forgiveness by Christ and my indwelling of the Spirit.
To many times in our life it is the external elements that affect us. We are dependent on external circumstances rather than those internal truths and the internal strength they should give us.
In order to be a “Can Do Christian” you must first learn the secret of contentment, the power of self-sufficiency
Let me give you some close but not quite ideas about contentment.
Better a handful of dry dates and content therewith than to own the Gate of Peacocks and be kicked in the eye by a broody camel. - Arabian Proverb (Well now after reading that it make understanding the Bible seem a lot simpler.)
How about the tory of man who went to the his village rabbi complaining about the noise of living with 3 children and his in-laws. The rabbi told him do you have a goat, Yes the man said. Then the rabbi said, “Bring the goat into the house.” The man expressed doubt but did as the rabbi said. Next week he was back. “The goat didn’t help, now its even noisier.” “Do you have a cow?” “Yes, bring the cow into the house.” What? Bring the cow into the house and see me in a week. In a week the man was back and said, “It is really terrible at my house, there is so much noise and its getting crowded not to mention very messy.” “Do you have any chickens?” “Yes but surely you don’t ….” “Yes, bring the chickens into the house with the goat and the cow. Then see me in a week.” “The man trusted his rabbi and for one week lived with this 3 kids his in-laws, a goat, a cow and 6 chickens all in his house. Finally, he went back to the rabbi ready to cry and the rabbi said, “Take the goat, the cow and chickens back outside and come see me in a week.” The man did so, when he returned the rabbi asked him, “How is it living with 3 children and your in-laws?” “It is wonderful, he said. I have never experienced so much peace in all my life.”
Now if you just listen to Paul speaking her in God’s word you can avoid having to bring chickens in your house, so listen carefully.
The real secret of contentment is this “Have something of great valuable that cannot be taken from you.” This is Paul’s power, his self-sufficiency no matter the external conditions he is in.
So, what can you have of great eternal value that can’t be taken?
Wealth? We all know how quickly that can go.
Land? Gone with the next missed tax payment!
Family? This is very valuable, but divorce or death can take away your family.
This is what the Bible says in Ecc 3:14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.”
You need something that only God has done in your life. This is the only valuable thing that you may possess and never lose. If you have this from God then you can know the power of real contentment, of real sufficiency.
You need salvation to give you the ability to stand no matter what the world does trying to knock you down. You need to have Jesus, God’s own son as your Lord and Savior. He cannot be taken from you and He has promised never to leave you.
Paul says it this way in Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
"Because I have Christ, I already have the most valuable thing in the world. Why should I desire anything else?"
Illustration: Helen Keller’s Poem of Contentment
They took away what should have been my eyes,
(But I remembered Milton's Paradise)
They took away what should have been my ears,
(Beethoven came and wiped away my tears)
They took away what should have been my tongue,
(But I had talked with God when I was young)
He would not let them take away my soul,
Possessing that, I still possess the whole.
Helen Adams Keller (1880-1968)
Transition: The next step of being a can do Christian is in vs. 12
I Know How Phili 4:12
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
Before we can understand exactly does Paul means when he says, “I can do all things through Christ,” we must put it into the context of these verses, especially vs. 12.
He tells the Philippians that he had learned how to handle the extremes of life by experiencing the extremes of life. He says, I know how. Look at an example of some of the extremes Paul had lived through.
Scripture 2 Cor. 11:23-30 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
Because he had endured so much, suffered so much, He knew how to be strong in all circumstance through Christ.
Experience or Escape?
Before I can be a “Can Do” Christian I must know how to handle the hardships, the sorrows, the pain of life as well as the blessings, the joys and the glory of life. In order to know how to handle those extremes we must learn the way Paul learned.
We must go to the bottom of the valley and yes, find that Jesus strengthens me there. Then we must climb to the top of the mountain and find that yes, Jesus is still there.
One reason we often cannot truly say, "I Can Do all things," is because we are afraid of the pain, the sorrow, the brokeness that is in the valley or afraid of the heights, cold or the scarcity we would face on the mountain. We can’t do all things though Christ unless we are willing to experience all things with Christ.
Scripture: Luke 9:61-62 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
Jesus is saying, You can't go forward, you can't learn of me, you can't come to this kind of knowledge if you keep running back to the safety of home.
We must be willing to take risks, be willing to lose, to fall on our face and when we do we will still find "I can lose, but keep going. I can utterly fail and not quit because I know who to go through these things with Christ."
Illustration: My Grandfather told me a story about a farmer and his young son helping him work on a tractor after dark.
Transition: Now we get to the verse everyone loves to quote.
I Can Do Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Through Christ I can do all!
Keeping this verse in the context of who was writing, who he was writing to and why he was writing as well as the verses we just studied we understand that Paul is saying “I can do all these things, want, abasement, abundance, fullness, emptiness, having more than I need and having nothing at all. I can do all that because of Christ, who give me strength.
It was not Paul's nature nor his will or discipline and certainly not his positive attitude but the power of his relationship with Jesus Christ that made him say, “I can.”
This power in Christ gave him perfect contentment, a self-sufficiency the outward circumstances couldn’t affect. This power was tested in every extreme and not only found to be enough but was made even stronger by the trial.
Paul fairly shouts it, “Through Christ I can do all!”
Through Christ Will I?
Think about it, Peter walked on the water. Lazarus overcame death. Paul took the gospel to the pagan world. Mark who once deserted missionary service went on to write the Gospel of Mark. John a simple fisherman before he found Jesus became an apostle and saw the end of the world and the beginning of eternity. All these things they could do because of the power of Jesus Christ.
What about you?
Does fear prevent you from being a witness for Christ? You need the power of Christ. Is there a sinful habit that controls you and keeps you from the life you should have with God? You need the power of Christ. Is there bitterness in your life, are you slowly dying inside because you aren’t willing to forgive others even after you have been forgiven by God? You need the power of Christ.
What about our church? Are there lost people we need to reach. Are there missionaries we need to send? Is their growth we need to experience? We need the power of Christ.
What about your family? Is it under more stress and strain, more temptations and trials than ever before? Then you family needs the power of Christ.
Do you know when this power will begin to work? It starts when I find the contentment of my relationship with Christ.
It grows as I experience the extremes of life and find I can endure anything because of Christ in me.
Finally, real power in the Christian ignites when I realize that power through Christ is not an ability which allows me to do whatever I want, but it is a power which allows Christ to do with me whatever he wants.
Illustration: The Blessing of Unanswered Prayers - Unknown Confederate soldier
I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I had asked for,
but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered;
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.
To know Christ and His power, as Paul did, is to have joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the face of conflict, strength in the onset of weakness, contentment in spite of want. The key is always Christ. The longer, deeper and wider that I know Him in the experiences of life the more I know He is all I need. Are you willing to do all things through Christ?