all things through Christ

For years, Philippians 4:13 has been the one verse that has been universal in my life.  When I was asked recently what my favorite bible verse is, this immediately came to mind.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

I can’t think of one life circumstance or any situation that this verse cannot give wisdom and direction.  However, it is important that I keep this verse in context.  So often, we are tempted to use God’s Word like a fortune cookie. This is not a good luck charm. Why did Paul write this short but ever powerful sentence? Philippians 4:13 is the wrapping paper on the gift of contentment.

 “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

For years I did not understand the context that Paul wrote Philippians 4:13.  I have to admit I did use it as a motivator, my personal good luck charm. Then life was slammed by a crisis called divorce and single motherhood and I really wondered if I could do all things through Christ and if He would strengthen my very weak and wounded soul. As the days turned into months and the months into year 1 and so on; I did learn that I could do whatever the “all things” were for that day and His strength is perfect.  I did not experience Philippians 4:13 fully until I understood and began to “learn that whatever state I am, to be content”.

The verse that I discovered in my early teens became my most challenging truth. We like the motivational feel of Paul’s words but dare we really experience the depth of these words with the blood, sweat and tears of really being content in WHATEVER state we find ourselves. Can we really live everyday, “in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need”. If we only choose to quote Philippians 4:13 as a way to pump ourselves up for selfish gain and personal motivations then we cheapen the truth and we miss the perfection of His strength and the sufficiency of His grace.

We cannot have one without the other.  When I choose to be content in whatever state I am in then I fully experience that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I did find contentment in abandonment and rejection.  I did find contentment in my singleness and parenting alone. I learned that when one chooses contentment, Jesus is there. When Jesus is your resting place,you stop wanting and you begin to be satisfied in Him – the one who sustains you and the one who keeps you.

It is only THROUGH CHRIST that we can do whatever our “all things” are.  However it is only in choosing contentment in those “all things” that we experience a strength that cannot let go.

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A Mess In Need of Mercy

God allows the pain that throws me into the path of his glory so that I might experience his sovereignty, love, and unlimited grace. I don’t know what pain has been allowed into your life. I don’t know what crisis has left you shaken. You may be asking, “Now what?” What is the next step that needs to be taken so the pieces are put
together? Maybe your crisis began yesterday, or months or years ago. Whenever it struck, I am sure you are looking for the direction that will provide peace and credibility, since your crisis may have caused you to lose your identity. You can’t separate who you are from the crisis that has slammed into your life. This predicament seems to
define you. When the landscape of my life was permanently changed I didn’t want to hear Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV). I didn’t want to be told that “all things work together for good.” I wanted to know what to pick
up, where to take what had survived the storm, and how to rebuild and become credible. What I didn’t grasp in those early days was the deeper meaning of this verse. As I studied it, I learned that “causes” and “work together” have identical definitions. They both mean to be a fellow worker, to cooperate—help with and work —together. How can a crisis that has taken place under the watchful eye of the sovereign God work together for good? You may wonder where God was when the crisis began. Did God look away and that’s why this happened? You may have wondered the age-old question: If God is so good then why do bad things happen? If there is ever a reason to do the good work of rebuilding, it is found in that word. Good. It is everything I longed for that was agreeable, excellent, pleasant, joyful, upright, and honorable. I am sure that as you find yourself in the debris of your own crisis, you long for everything to be good. This word is the box that will hold all the tools you need to rebuild. The broken one living in a crisis longs for the good, the happy, the honorable. The sovereign God works with us so that when we submit to his way of working, we begin to not only see the good, but experience the good.
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