Who doesn’t love hearing a secret? I am not talking about gossip. Gossip is gross. But, there is something about secrets. Book writers use that in their titles all the time: “The Secret to a Happy Life” “The Secret to Successful Investing” “The Secret Life of Pets”. Paul said that he had learned a secret. It was a secret that I need everyday. I’m glad he shared it with us!
Paul says, “I can do all things through Him [Christ] who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
There’s a weird type of procrastination that happens with this verse. It isn’t the delaying of a task. It is the delay of responding to the invitation to be empowered. What do I mean? I mean Paul says that we can be strengthened by Jesus, yet we consistently say, “I’ll do that with the next big thing that God asks me to do.” We always think about future grace. Have we considered how this empowerment is supposed to be today’s grace?
When I listen to Christians talk about this verse I usually hear them say something about their next mission trip or the next time they are asked to lead in church. The idea is that when that “future time” comes they will be empowered to follow. However, I don’t hear people use this verse the way Paul used it. The context of this verse is Paul is comforting the Philippian church that their struggle to give to his ministry in the past somehow hurt Paul. He is happy that they can give now, but he wants them to know that their lack of giving did not prevent him from following God’s leading in the past. Why? Because he had learned the secret of living the Christian life in plenty and in want. How? Because he learned that he could do all things through Him who strengthens! This was not a future empowerment that Paul was living in. It was his present reality. To paraphrase the verse, he had learned, “I can do all things that I presently face through Christ who strengthens me today.” Paul did not use this truth to face the future. He used this truth to face today.
What does this mean for us? It means that we can face the doctor today through Christ who strengthens us. It means that we can be patient with our strong-willed child through Christ who strengthens us. It means that we can respond with grace to that irritable coworker through Christ who strengthens us. It means that
Christians never have to say, “I just couldn’t take it any more, so I lost control.”
Let me pause here – let no one hear me say that I do this perfectly. As the New Testament declares clearly in both the writings of Paul and the writings of James, all of us mess up in this Christian life. So, no condemnation here. This isn’t about judgment… this is about hope. There is hope in these words. Although I may have failed in past in finding my strength to endure and overcome in Christ, it isn’t hopeless. I may have lost my cool yesterday, but I am not destined to forever lose my cool. I may have forgot to pray and worry took over yesterday, but I am not doomed to forever forget my faith. No… and this is the wonderful promise and power of grace — I can do all things that I face today through Christ who strengthens me!
So, who will join me in learning the secret that Paul learned? Who will join me in depending on Christ for today and not just that faith adventure of tomorrow? I want to learn the secret. I suspect that in learning it, I will discover how much power Jesus truly gives. Everyday.
Something to think about,
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