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"I Can Do All Things Through Christ"
Rightly Dividing the Word
I Can Do All Things through Christ Who Strengthens Me”
Philippians 4:10-13
 
I want to take a look at another verse of Scripture tonight that is often misunderstood or misapplied and outside of John 3:16, it may be the best-known and most memorized verse in the New Testament. Say it with me: 
 
Philippians 4:13
 
Now, as I’ve pointed out throughout this series, every verse has a context and we need to always remember to keep these verses within the framework of what is said around them. And to really understand this verse we should back all the way up to the beginning of the book and start there. Or at least we should begin at the eighth verse of chapter 4.   
 
But for the sake of time, we’ll cover
 
verses 10-13
 
If I were to pull one primary thought from that passage and use it to place a title on this message, I would use verse 11 where Paul says, “I have learned”. 
In reality, Paul is sharing a secret, something he has discovered that he didn’t know before and it is the secret to contentment. 
 
Now we love secrets, right? Our ears really perk up when somebody says, “I have a secret I want to share with you.”  You do know what a secret is, don’t you? 
 
A secret is something you tell everybody, one person at a time. There is an entire sales market that capitalizes on the sharing of secrets called tabloids and gossip magazines. 
 
Did you ever notice all the secrets you can learn while you’re checking out at the grocery store or Wal-Mart?   You can discover the secret diet of the stars or a secret pill that will cure cancer. You can find out who the secret lovers of the rich and famous are or which old what’s her name gained 150 pounds. 
 
Of course, I never would buy one of those things, you understand.  But I do read pretty quickly while I'm in the checkout line.  We love secrets! 
 
And we love them in church also.  I've heard and preached sermons on the secret of power, the secret of prayer, the secret of building a great church and on and on.  It is one of those words that has been so over-used and abused that we tend to pay little or no attention to it any longer. 
 
But tonight I want to use that word to speak to you about this passage of Scripture because it is so appropriate. That is exactly what Paul is telling us here. I’ve learned the secret to being content, no matter what are my circumstances. 
 
Now contentment is a very interesting word. It means to be satisfied, to be at peace with yourself.  I think one of the characteristic marks of our day is the discontent of people. In many ways, discontentment walks hand-in-hand with covetousness. In fact, the truth of the matter is that everybody here tonight is either covetous or content. 
 
And keep in mind, the word “covetous” applies to more than just money or material possessions. Being covetous means simply that you are not satisfied with what you have, and you are trying your best to get more. 
 
There are a lot of people who are not content with the circumstances of their life.  They aren’t satisfied with their spouse or with their job. Because of that, they very often have strife and anger and hostility.  They may eventually go through a separation or divorce or career change or depression or anxiety.  Their discontent may affect their health and well-being.  
 
Discontent is a curse upon man. Listen, Adam lost paradise because he was discontented. God had given him everything. He and Eve had everything they needed and beyond.  There was only one tree in the garden they couldn’t eat of, but they didn’t need to eat from it to be satisfied.   
 
But they were not content with what God had given them and because of that. Adam and Eve lost paradise and plunged the human race into sin. Even pre-dating the Garden experience, angels who sinned were kicked out of heaven because they were discontent.
 
All over the landscape of our country, including the leadership of church after church, we find people who aren’t experiencing contentment and satisfaction, and are looking for something else. Every person on earth, whether they call it that or not long and yearn for contentment. 
 
Well, Paul is a man who found it.  He said, I have learned to be content whatever my circumstances. 
 
I have three simple things I want to share with you about the Secret to Contentment. 
 
First of all,  
 
1.  There Really is a Secret to Contentment
 
Paul said, I have learned to be content whatever my circumstances. That word “content” is a very picturesque word. It literally means to be self sufficient, or self contained, needing no outside assistance. 
 
Notice how he addresses this subject. 
 
Verse 10
 
He begins by thanking them for their generosity in sending a care package.  Their care and concern for him expressed itself in a tangible way, and he deeply appreciates it. 
 
But notice how he continues.
 
Verse 11a
 
In other words, he doesn't want any misunderstanding. He is rejoicing that the Philippians have given him a gift, but he wants them to know that the joy comes from his contentment, not from the gift. 
 
He doesn't want them to misunderstand when he says he rejoices at their gift by thinking he was going out to check the mailbox two or three times a day to see if the check was in the mail. He was not worried about what was going to happen to him. 
 
He says, “I’m not expressing my appreciation to you because I was so needy.”  How could he say that? 
 
Verse 11b
 
I have learned whatever my circumstances to be self contained, self sufficient, needing no outside assistance.
        
In the ancient world, this phrase he uses to say he was content was the word that was used to describe cities that were self contained.  In other words, they had their own water and food supplies. 
 
In the ancient days, when an army went to war against a city, they would surround that city to cut off every supply route. They would wait and starve them out. If that city was a contented city, that had its own food and water supply, they couldn't be starved out.  They were independent of outside circumstances. 
 
That is what Paul means. He says, I have learned that I am self contained, that I have within me everything that I need to be satisfied and I am not dependent upon outside circumstances. Therefore, whatever the circumstances, whatever the situation, it doesn't affect me one way or the other. I maintain my equilibrium through any kind of circumstance. 
 
Now, wouldn't that be a good thing for all of us to be able to say? Let’s think about how we could test that in our own lives. For instance, are we as quick to praise the Lord in bad times as we are in good times? 
        
 
 
 
Every so often I hear people talking about tragic circumstances or events that have happened and if they came out of it ok with no long-lasting and far-reaching results, it is common to hear someone talk about how good God is.
 
For instance, two teenagers are in a car accident.  One is killed and the other lives.  The mother of the one who survives says, “God is so good! He spared our Son.” 
 
So does that mean God was not good to the other family? And yet, very seldom if ever will you hear the momma of a dead son talk about how good God when it’s her son who died.   
 
But there is something about maintaining your equilibrium no matter what the circumstances so that you are the same in bad times and in good times. 
 
This is what Paul is saying. The outward circumstances have no effect upon me. The world can say to me, “Paul, if you don't bow down and worship us and go our way, we are going to take away all your possessions.”
 
But Paul said, “It really doesn’t matter what you take away because I’m self contained. I have within me everything I need to make my life worth living.” 
 
What a tremendous thing it is to not be dependent upon favorable circumstances and to be independent of unfavorable circumstances. Paul had learned that secret.  
 
 
 
Now, I say this carefully, and I've thought a lot about it but I want you to hear it: “If your joy depends upon how your kids are doing, you've not learned to be content.”
 
I realize it is hard for you to have joy when your teenage son has run off, or when there is rebellion in your home.  But if you let that circumstance rule your life and dominate your every thought, you cannot be happy and you will never experience joy and contentment. 
 
If your joy depends upon the circumstances of what is going on around you, then you have not learned the secret to contentment because contentment is discovering that through my relationship with Christ, I have everything resident within me to be content. 
 
Here’s the second thing. Not only is there a secret to contentment, but
 
2.  It is a Secret that Must be Learned
 
Notice, Paul didn't say, “I have heard the secret”, or “Somebody told me the secret”.  He said, “I have learned the secret.”
 
You know I love to look at the words that are used and try to discover how they were used in the original language and I found it interesting that in verses 11 and 12, where we see the word “learned” used two times, it was two different words in the original language. 
 
In verse 11, he says, “I have learned to be content”, and the word learn there is the ordinary word for learn. 
It means to increase one's knowledge or to hear and be informed, to learn by use and practice.
 
But when he comes to verse 12 and he says, “I have learned”, it means to initiate into the mysteries, to teach fully, to give one an intimate acquaintance with a thing.  
 
It was a very unusual word that was used by the mystery religions of that day. It reminds me of the Masons. They have secrets and if you are a Mason, you cannot divulge the secrets of Masonry to anybody else. 
 
But when you join the Masons, everything changes.  And as you learn and move up the ladder, you are initiated into certain secrets. 
 
That's the word Paul is using here in the second occurrence. And one of the primary things that differentiated this word from the other is that it always involved a long, difficult process. 
 
In other words, you don't get contentment by saying, “Lord, give me contentment”, and then God zaps you with it. I wish it were that way, but that's not it. It is a secret that must be learned, and it is a slow and difficult process. You don't learn it overnight, and you can't cram for the final exam.
        
So what school did Paul attend to learn contentment?  Well, notice what he says about the required curriculum of this school. 
 
verse 12
 
 
Notice the opposites and extremes. Paul says there had been times when he had been abased and had nothing and there had been times when he had everything and lived in abundance. 
 
There had been times when he had been hungry, and times when he had been so stuffed he thought he would never eat another bite of food.  He said he had gone to the extremes. 
 
And through that, he learned that having nothing didn't diminish him, and having everything did not enhance him. You could take away everything from Paul, but you didn't take away from him. You could give everything to Paul, but you didn't add a single thing to him. 
 
One of the lessons we find here is that you and I can never really learn to be content until we have gone through the extremes of life. Most all of us have had those good times. And all of us have had those "hit bottom" times, the dry times, the hard times.  We've gone to the extremes in our lives.  We've known joy, and we've know heartache.  We've laughed, and we have cried.  It is in the extremities of life, you see, that God is teaching us. 
 
And you and I need to get to the place where we understand that for the believer nothing is incidental and nothing is accidental. God has a purpose for everything that He is doing in your life. Right now you may be going through a hard time. God is trying to teach you something.
 
Or you may be going through a prosperous time, a boom period in your life. And again, God is trying to teach you something. 
In other words, he is trying to say to us that if we are self contained, if we are content, that having everything doesn't add anything to us, and losing everything doesn't take anything away from us. 
 
Now, you know, as well as I, that is exactly opposite of how the world believes. The world believes the more you have, the more you are. They believe that having is being, that what you have constitutes who you are.  And it is hard to escape.
 
We tend to judge a person by the car that he drives, the house he lives in, which side of the tracks he lives on, the hairdo and fashions and appearance.
 
We are very materialistic in that regard. We judge people by what they have and what they do not have.  And the problem is that the church has fallen into that way of thinking. We do the same thing.
 
Churches like to brag about how many millionaires they have in the congregation. They don’t say much about how many day laborers or oil field workers they have. Why not?  It doesn’t enhance the reputation of the church.  It doesn’t increase the bragging rights. 
 
So we ignore those who don’t measure up or appear to be more valuable than the others and highlight those who increase our testimony. And in that regard, we have adopted the ways of the world.
 
But Paul says, there is a secret to living a life of contentment and it must be learned in the extremities of life. You see the world's way to contentment is increasing your possessions; God's way of contentment is decreasing your desires.
 
Here’s the third thing:
 
3.  The Secret of Contentment is Christ
 
Verse 13
 
I love Paul because he always comes back to Jesus.  He was a Christ-focused man.
 
Now here we come to our misunderstood and misapplied verse because it is very often quoted to mean that we can do anything.
 
I can do any job. I can move any mountain. I can cause miracles to come to pass. I can win any game or context. I can overcome any disease. I can do. . .and you just fill in the blank. 
 
But to do that is to take this verse out of context and if you take this verse out of context, then you are going to live an extremely disappointing life and you’re going to be an embarrassment to God.
 
So if Paul doesn’t mean any circumstances, any challenge, any opportunity is mine to possess, what then does he mean? 
 
Well, what have we just been talking about? In the immediate verses preceding this one, Paul is talking about is the extremities of life.  There have been times when he has had nothing.  There have been times when he didn’t know what to do with all he had. 
 
He’s been full and he’s been hungry.  He has been well and he’s been sick, and in regard to these extremities of life, he says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Now again, the word “do” is a very interesting word.  It means to be strong in body, to be robust, to be in sound health; to have power that is demonstrated through extraordinary deeds; it carries the idea of being in full health and vigorous. 
 
I like the Phillips translation best of all which says, “I am ready for anything through Christ who pours his strength in me.”  And in so many words, without any arrogance, Paul says, “Bring it on! I'm ready for anything that the world throws at me. I am ready for anything that the devil throws at me.”
 
Why? It is because Christ is constantly infusing me with his power and strength and resources and in that regard, through Christ I am ready for anything.
 
Christ is the secret.  You say, “Well, I’m kind of disappointed.  I was hoping there would be some formula you were going to give us, some twelve step program you were going to give us.”
 
No! The secret is not a formula. We have to keep coming back to this again and again in the Christian life. It's not a formula; it is a person and that person is none other than Jesus Christ. 
 
Paul says, the Christ who dwells within me is continuously and constantly (and that is the idea of the word) pouring strength into me like a dynamo so I am ready for anything.
 
And that’s why he says to the Philippians, “I thank you for your gift, but the truth of the matter is that I would have been all right without it. I appreciate it, but you see I have learned to be self contained, requiring no outside assistance.”
And the secret of this is that Christ who lives in me, by His strength, makes me ready for anything.
 
Dr. George Duncan, a great British preacher who is now in heaven, used to tell the story of a man he knew personally who had an only son that was a pilot and was killed in World War II. 
 
Eventually, this wealthy old man died as well, with no heirs to his estate.  So his estate was to be auctioned off. A part of this wealthy man's estate was a fabulous art collection.
 
One of the auction houses in London undertook the task of auctioning off these paintings, many of them by masters. On the day of the auction, people had gathered there from all over the United Kingdom because they wanted a chance to buy into this great art collection. The auctioneer came up and placed the first work of art on an easel. It was a portrait of somebody that no one knew or recognized. 
 
The buyers thought it was valueless because nobody knew the artist who painted it.  It certainly wasn’t worth anything in their eyes.  In fact, the crowd was more than a little frustrated that time was being wasted on this painting.  After all, they had come for the masters. But the auctioneer explained, the old man’s will dictated that this particular work be sold first. What they didn’t know was that painting was a portrait of the old man’s son.   
 
One of the people in attendance that day was one of the old man's lifetime servants.  He had known that boy from the time he was born until the time he died.  And he thought to himself how nice it would be to have the portrait as a remembrance of the family. 
After all, nobody else was interested.  So he bid and bought the painting.  Everybody was relieved as they could now get on to the good stuff. 
 
But then the auctioneer stood up and announced that the auction was over. Everyone was stunned. But the auctioneer said, “Not only did the will require this portrait to be sold first, it further stipulates that whoever gets the son gets the whole lot.”
 
Do you understand what I’m saying? Whoever gets Jesus gets everything. And Paul understood that and that’s why he said, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”  The secret of living a contented life is Christ as he is constantly infusing us with his strength.
 
Let’s pray.
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