My Dear Gracious friend:
Preparing another sermon I found myself struck again by Paul astonishing declaration, “I have learned in whatever state…to be content…I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13). He was thanking his friends in Philippi describing their gift as a “fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God”(v18). And I know exactly what he means, because I have friends just like that; you!
Still one has to acknowledge how his words are often misunderstood, and those of our Lord. Passages such as, “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” where Jesus is asserting that even the wealth, God can save (Mt. 19:25). There are others, such as, “with God all things are possible,” or “all things are possible to him who believes.” These passages have been seen as great promises, promises that imply we can ask for whatever we want. I have heard this a lot, but then I hear Paul, “I have learned to be content…” Paul would tell the Philippians, and therefore us, to trust God and graciously accept what Our Lord provides, which is often more than we deserve. Even Paul will admit that (see 1 Cor. 15:9-10). Of course, as believers, we can never asks for what is contrary to the purpose of our Lord, for we can ask nothing “in the name,” which is not covered by that “NAME.”
Still I have found our Lord always there to enable, provide, and strengthen us for whatever we may find ourselves facing; be it want, suffering, or anything else. And we will always be victorious, because our Lord is with us. It is with Him, in Him, and by Him that enables us to do anything. And Jesus will add, as He often does, “Greater things than these shall you do, because I go to my Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son…”(Jn. 14:12-13). Yes, there it is again, by His name!!!
Yes, greater things, but, despite what some with their smooth expositions and soft words say, life in Christ is never without bumps, pit falls, even hard times. As Augustine stated, “God thought it best that evil exist, that mankind be free.” That means that in the world we are free to chose, but unfortunately so are those with evil intent. We will be faced with hard choices, conflict, even a case of the flu now and then. And Jesus even told us that in this “world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn.16:33). Does that seem strange, if not contradictory? But what Our Lord is saying is that the world will always confront us or try to do us harm, but we are to persistently respond with courage, faith, and love. Just imagine if we never face challenges how would we know what we are capable of? As Jeremiah will write, “If in a safe land you fall down, how will you fair in the jungle of Jordan” (Jere.12:5)?
We are, you see, being prepared, tested so to speak by fire, “that the genuineness of your faith…may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1Pe. 1:9). You see something is being planned for us. So if we are never tempted, how will we know our strength? If there are never any doubts, how will we ever plummet the depth of our faith? If we never know trials and real pain, we will never know the joy of victory. If our love is never extended, we will never know true love. We can hide, as many once did in desert caves, or on barren mountains, but then you will accomplish nothing. We can say we are Christians, but if we avoid all confrontations and hide from all else, we will never know His joy, and the wonder and beauty that is found in a true faith in Jesus. He “Came that we might have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn. 1010). This too, like so many passages of scripture, is seen as materialistic, instead of the astonishing and unbelievable gift it is. This is not some paltry idea of health and wealth, but is why He laid down His life for His sheep. This is about far more than even our salvation, more than abiding in Him now, or our human conception of abundance. This is our adoption, becoming God’s own, Heirs of all that abides far beyond the heavens. This is existing with and in the Great I AM, the Master of the Universe. As Paul will say, “…The heart of man has not conceived, what God has prepared for those that love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).
Oh, that we might see more fully what He desires for us,
Thomas R. Wyatt