10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
I’ve referenced verse 13 a lot lately, finally I get to it in my devotional to talk about it and explore the context of its meaning.
Today’s devotional comes with a lot on my mind. Anxiety, stress, (my usual reaction to which is anger, God’s fighting that battle for me as I write this and assuredly as you read it), as well as the busyness of life and the many distractions that are trying to pull me away from Him and His word today. It’s a struggle indeed: a struggle to not try to take it on myself as I have done so many times in the past, and failed. It is not of coincidence that I sit here and read this verse over and over today.
Paul begins this passage in a peculiar way. I had to read it a couple times to try to discern his message to the readers (the church of Philippi as well as those of us reading it today). What can we gain from this? He mentioned just before this passage that he graciously received the gift from them and that they should be united as one body, one unit. He is rejoicing in the fact that they were able to exercise their concern. Have you ever told someone “let me know if I can do anything for you”? Normally, we say that because we literally don’t know what we can do for the person (that is, those of us who are genuine when we say it). It sucks when we want to help but don’t know how, doesn’t it? Imagine this church, who has looked up to Paul for teaching and guidance. A congregation of people with whom Paul shares a deep relationship with and by the tone and indications of this letter, they keep in touch regularly. They have always wanted to help him and finally they were able to. I think part of his rejoicing is that their zeal has not faded. Not necessarily for him alone, but for serving God’s purpose in whole.
He transitions into another lesson for the church and us. I always feel that “the world” looks at Christians in one of two ways in regards to prosperity. 1) that because of God’s rules, we are forced to live in despair and depravity. or 2) that God blessed us with prosperity but we keep it to ourselves. Why is that? Why does the world have this view? Because that is what we portray. Here, Paul is exemplifying that our situation isn’t the point, but that how we handle it is. Regardless of where we are in life, we are to always worship and praise the Lord. This should be seen across the globe. If we are poor and weak in finances and physical form, we should look odd because we smile, worship and praise (think of Job). If we are blessed with money, good health, etc. we should give it away in praise and worship (think of the man who “did everything” but refused to sell all his treasures for God). We can always worship and praise, but it is our situation in life that dictates how we can do it.
The only “but” to this whole point is “but God…” anything other than that is a lame excuse. Period. This leads us to verse 13. How can we praise in sickness? How can we let go of wealth? through Him who strengthens me. It is Christ that gives us the strength to let go when we don’t want to. It is Jesus that helps us lift our arms in praise when we are ill. It is God who helps us overcome our internal struggles so we can continue serving Him instead of focusing on our own problems.
Where are you today? Are you trying to do all things through you or through Him?