When I was young, I remember seeing a poster of a person dunking a basketball. Philippians 4:13 was written underneath – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But that picture only captured one aspect of this verse. The picture could just as easily show someone getting his shot blocked instead. Jesus strengthens us to be content not only in success but also in trials.
Consider the full context of Philippians 4:11-13:
“…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Right now, we’ve been brought low in many ways by the coronavirus pandemic. As I noted last week, our plans have been interrupted. Some are also suffering from health concerns, loss of employment, depression, anxiety about the future, or concerns for loved ones.
When we’re brought low, it’s extremely difficult to be content. In fact, none of us are naturally content in such times. That’s why Paul twice says “I have learned.” So how can we learn this secret of contentment?
First, rely on Jesus’ strength, not your own. Paul doesn’t say, “I can do all things I really set my mind to.” No, he says he can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. When we struggle to be content, we must go to God in prayer, asking for Christ’s strength. That was Paul’s secret.
Second, meditate on who you are in Christ. Jesus loved you so much that he didn’t count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but took on human flesh, and then died on a cross for your sins (Philippians 2:5-8). Ponder again that glorious truth. Jesus loves you so much he died for you!
Third, rejoice in the future he has planned for you. Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Our eternal inheritance is so great, that death is considered gain! And as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” All our current sufferings, real as they are, pale in comparison.
We may feel more like that person getting his shot blocked than the one dunking the ball right now. But we can learn to be content in our trials. We can learn to be content because we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Pastor Steve Brown