“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” These words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4 have been quoted by many athletes following a hard-fought victory in athletic competition. But is this really how Paul intended for us to apply these words? As we look in the overall context, we see that this statement has an even deeper meaning for us as followers of Christ.
Before Philippians 4 Paul tells the Philippian church how he has learned the importance of being content. He states that he knows how to live in times of plenty and times of hunger. Paul has experienced in his life and ministry seasons of incredible hardship and seasons of relative ease. Paul can remain content through all of this because his satisfaction and joy were not based upon what he possessed or how easy things were going for him. His contentment was found in his relationship with Jesus. Because of this, Paul’s joy was not based upon the changing nature of circumstances. It was based entirely in Christ.
Paul then goes on to state that he can do all things through the strengthening power of Jesus. Paul meant that he could endure whatever hardship or trial came into his life in his pursuit of Jesus. He was only able to endure and persevere through these seasons based upon the power that God supplied to him for him to obediently follow.
Paul provides us a great example to follow in our own lives when it comes to contentment and reliance on the power of God’s grace working within us. Paul was content with some things but not with others. When it came to material pleasures and creature comforts Paul was content. His happiness was founded in Jesus and not what he had in his bank account. His security was in a Sovereign King who loved him and promised to work all things for his good.
But, Paul was not content when it came to his pursuit of Jesus. We read in Philippians 3 that Paul was not satisfied with his relationship with Jesus. He pressed on to know God more and more. He was never spiritually content. His desire to know more of the grace, and love, and mercy of God created in him a passion for knowing God more and more.
I fear there are times in my own life in which these two things are reversed. I find that I can become content with my relationship with God and discontent with my financial situation or other life circumstances. But as we see in Philippians 3 and 4 we are called to trust God with our circumstances and place or focus on knowing Him more fully. Jesus would echo a similar idea in Matthew 6. In this passage, He calls us to not worry about the physical needs of life. Instead, we are to seek Him first and trust that God will take care of our needs.
Take time today to examine your contentment. What you may find is that as your satisfaction in Jesus grows, you become more content with the things of this world and your spiritual contentment decreases, causing you to want to know God even more.