Seven “I Can’s” Through Christ
In John 15:5 Jesus emphatically declares “I am the vine, ye are the branches … without me ye can do nothing.” In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul looks at the other side of that coin and tells the child of God what he can do, through Christ, stating with equal intensity “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (v. 13). In the earlier part of the chapter, Paul lists seven challenging life experiences that are possible through Christ. They can be qualified as challenging, because they could not be experienced without Christ, as is evident with even a casual observation.
First, through Christ the believer can rejoice in the Lord always (v. 4). Joy and rejoice occur sixteen times in the book of Philippians (434 times in the Bible). Strong’s Concordance defines rejoice as “to be ‘cheer’ful, i.e. calmly happy or well-off.” The world, and the worldly Christian, can experience a degree of happiness, but it is more often than not generated by circumstances that are pleasant or pleasurable. Through Christ one may experience joy, even in the face of difficulty. Paul and Silas sang in jail, at midnight (Acts 16:25), not because they were ecstatic about their circumstances, but as a result of a deep spring of contentment bubbling up from a full soul. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God announces “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Through Christ, the child of God can rejoice because they have a deep abiding joy, rather than a superficial one.
Second, through Christ the believer can be known for his moderation (v. 5). Moderation is defined by the Complete Biblical Library as yielding or gentle. In the New Testament, this greek word is found four other times. Once it is translated patient (1 Timothy 3:3), and three times is translated gentle (Titus 3:2, James 3:17, and 1 Peter 2:18). H.A. Ironside quotes Matthew Arnold’s definition of moderation as “sweet reasonableness,” then adds “Sweet reasonableness is a lovely trait in a Christian. It is the very opposite of that unyielding, harshly dogmatic, self-determined spirit which so often dominates in place of the meekness and gentleness of Christ. ‘I beseech you, my brethren,’ wrote Cromwell to the warring theologians of his day, ‘remember that it is possible you may be wrong.’ We are apt to forget this when we are engaged in discussions about doctrines, methods of service, or church principles. Sweet reasonableness does not indicate a lack in intensity of conviction or a lack of assurance about the correctness of doctrines, principles, or practices that one believes he has learned from the Word of God. But it does imply a kindly consideration for the judgment of others who may be equally sincere and equally devoted—and possibly even more enlightened. Nothing is ever lost by recognizing this and by remembering that we all know only ‘in part’ (1 Corinthians 13:12).”
Third, through Christ the believer can live a life free of anxiety (v. 6). Some have mistakenly interpreted this to mean the believer should not care about anything. We should care for other believers (1 Corinthians 12:25). To be careful for nothing simply means we should not be anxious about anything. Vine’s Expository Dictionary describes it as “to have a distracting care.” This is well illustrated in an experience Jesus had, as recorded in Luke 10:40-42, “But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Fourth, through Christ the believer is to live a life dependent on God (v. 7). Instead of worrying, the child of God is to let his heavenly Father know what he has need of. In the model prayer Jesus instructed His disciples to ask God to “give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). The natural human response would be independence – “I can take care of this myself!” But through Christ the believer realizes his utter dependence on the Lord.
Fifth, through Christ the believer can experience the peace of God (v. 7). This peace, which passes all understanding, is tranquility or harmony. No external circumstances can rob this peace from a believer. Romans 5:1 indicates this peace is the believer’s through Christ, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Romans 8:6 we learn that “… to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” The Word of God promises this peace to those “… whose mind is stayed on” … God (Isaiah 26:3).
Sixth, through Christ the believer can experience a life of service (v. 10). Typically, individuals seek their own (Philippians 2:21). In 1 Corinthians 10:24 that is reversed, “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.” The Complete Biblical Library clarifies the intent of this verse, “The Christian is to seek the good of others and promote their interests.” Even the disciples struggled with this. In Mark 10:43-45 Jesus told them, “… but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Finally, through Christ the believer can experience a life of contentment (v. 11). In describing some of what he has gone through, Paul mentions beatings, perils, weariness, painfulness, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness and the pressures of ministry (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). In Philippians 4:12 he states, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” It appears Paul fasted at times because he wanted to seek the Lord. It also appears Paul fasted at times because food was not available. Yet Paul had learned contentment. In a world that is driven by discontentment, how great to be able to be content wherever we are, and with whatever we have.