“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13)
“Let a Christian begin to boast, “I can do all things,” without adding, “through Christ who strengthens me,” and before long he will have to groan, “I can do nothing.” Charles Spurgeon
Philippians 4:13 is one of those favorite “pull-out” verses for believers, and it is a good reminder when we face big tasks. But do you know this verse in its context? It really isn’t about strength at all. It follows up a different principle altogether.
Paul is in prison – and 1st century prisons were nothing like our modern American facilities. There were no cots, no pillows or blankets, and no meals provided. Prisoners slept on hard floors and were at the mercy of others for their basic needs. If family, friends or a kind benevolent soul did not bring them food, they would starve to death in prison. This “strength” verse comes as Paul thanks the Philippian church for their gifts and concern for him. He wants to assure them that, despite his situation, he is not in despair. Rather, he says, “I have learned to be content’ whatever the circumstances . . . In any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:11-12). Paul is making a point about contentment. And he said that the secret behind his unshakable state of contentment is the strength he receives from the Lord.
This is not a power-lifting verse. It’s not a touchdown verse (and I do love Tim Tebow). It’s a getting through life verse. Paul is not trying to perform great feats of strength – he’s trying to endure his chains.
The beauty of this verse is that the same strength that sustained Paul in prison is there for you and me in the challenges we face every day. I can do all things . . . be gentle with my frustrating child this morning – face my overly demanding boss – have a Christ-like spirit towards those co-workers who reject my faith – eat beans and hot dogs for supper for the third time this week – bathe my aging parent who can’t remember my name. We don’t just need Christ’s strength in the gym or on the ball field. We need it in our homes and workplaces and relationships.
Beloved, whatever your “all things” is today, God will give you strength, not just to do the thing that needs to be done, but to do it with a heart of contentment, knowing that One who provides the strength also holds you in the palm of His great and loving hand. Yes, you can – through Him.
Charles Spurgeon wrote: “The most precious [metals] are tested in the fire . . . ” The Psalmist said, “For You, O God tested us; You refined us like silver” (Psalm 66:10). Peter said, “These [trials] have come so that your faith – of great worth than gold . . . may be proved genuine” (1 Peter 1:7)
A “proving ground” is a military term. It is “an environment that serves to demonstrate whether something, such as a theory or product, really works.” Say a company has created something they want to market to the United States military. Do you think Uncle Sam is just going to take their word for it, buy this thing and put it into a soldier’s hands. No – they are going to take it into situations and places in which it will be used and they will put it through rigorous tests. They may discover a weakness and will work on that area to strengthen it. And they’ll test it again. Only after it stands up in the proving grounds will it be put into use.
When God wants to “prove” the faith of His child He uses the fires of adversity, struggle, trial, heartache, disappointment, discouragement . . . I think you understand. When you and I ask God, “What are You doing?” The answer will always be, “I am proving your faith. I am finding the weak places so that I can strengthen you. I am making sure you are fit for the good work I have for you.” God is not out to destroy you beloved, He is working to build your faith. The proving ground is the place where your faith takes root so you can produce fruit – fruit that will last. Fruit that will glorify the one who brought you all the way through the fire.