Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Non-series Sermons by Year 2020 Sermons . Enduring Saints - Enduring in the strength of Christ (Part 7)

. Enduring Saints - Enduring in the strength of Christ (Part 7)

ENDURING IN THE STRENGTH CHRIST PROVIDES

Philippians 4:13 (ESV) 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Two words on the lips of all people of late is ‘Corona Virus’. I do not have to give you the detail as the News Platforms have done it well. The question on our lips is, how do we cope with it? Corona is upsetting lives, it is upsetting economies, it has stolen the joy out of society, and it has caused panic and fear. How do we deal with fear and replace it with contentment? In short, how do we deal with all that is thrown at us?

Our text for today is well known to all, and I guess one of the few verses that most Christians can quote from memory. This verse appears in promise boxes, on coffee mugs and on bumper stickers and posters. It is often displayed in some kind of art form and is one of the verses that mostly makes its way onto walls in offices and homes. It is the kinda verse that I cannot live without, and in a sense it is true. I remember when Shannon my youngest daughter had her final service when she finished school, the school had a preacher  addressing the kids on this verse, and his challenge was to all of them, pretending they all are Christians, to tackle whatever they want to in life, and that it will go well with them, and that they will achieve, and that they will receive the desires of their hearts as they CAD DO ANYTHING they set their mind on based on this verse.

This verse is one of the most grossly distorted verses as far as its original intentions are concerned. It is one of those typical verses that is used to imply that Christians have a lot of power and can do supernatural kind of stuff. With Christ, we can achieve the insurmountable. In a sense this verse as it is often quoted makes us kind of invincible. I have often heard this verse preached and quoted alongside verses like Psalm 18:29 (ESV) 29 For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.” I remember watching a church service on TBN years ago, and this church in America had the pastor read this verse and then they were chanting: “We’ve got the power, we’ve got the power…” It is based on this verse that I have seen Christians embark on irresponsible business ventures, and activities because they believe that they can do anything through Christ.

My family and I drove past Rhema Bible Church in Randburg a few years ago, and they had posted on a big bill board outside their church the following statement in exactly the format I am typing it now. ‘I CAN with a little help from God.’ Phil 4:13.

Now, whatever their intention was I cannot judge, this was on a billboard outside their property, and the public are left to interpret for themselves. I just imagined Superman in a Christ suit, as the emphasis was clearly on I CAN.

I have heard sermon after sermon on this for more than 50 years and not once have I ever heard this verse preached in the context of the surrounding verses or Paul’s intentions in this statement. The ‘superman’ rendering of this verse is all too typically Western and it does not sit well in a struggling rural community. It assumes that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to, perhaps with a little help from above and a little luck. Generally, Christians love to attach this verse to their dreams, goals, agendas and problems and getting God to assist them with it. An emphasis is not only placed on “I CAN” placed on the words “all things”: I can do all things.All things” easily becomes synonymous with whatever I want or have my heart set on. Literally, these two words become interchangeable with anything and everything. Seen this way, the verse is used to proclaim an assurance of future success in a job, athletics, career, ventures, adventures, relationship, or any other desire of one’s life.  Philippians 4:13 is reduced to a meaning that says any dream or desire is possible with God’s strength. I need to inform you right now, that I will be doing the Iron Man competition this year, and I will win, because I can do all things through the strength Christ provides. Mike van Heese and Val Scott will be joining me, sadly they will have to come second or third, as only one of us can win. Right? Wrong!! But based on the way some use this text, we should be able.

One example is seen in this graphic below in my notes and on the screen at church, where a sports team's chearleaders claim victory on the basis of Romans 8:31. It brings us to a kinda 'God is on my side, no matter how many Christians are on the other side.' While this verse does not bring about victory, the question needs to be asked. What happens to their theology when they lose?

 

 

Now, I am not saying that there are no pastors preaching this in context. Sure, there are thousands. But here is the test once again. Somebody is bound to quote this verse to you and if you were to ask them what the preceding verses before verse 13 and what the verses after verse 13 are all about, they possible will not know. We, might even be guilty of it ourselves. Let’s be honest, all of us easily become slaves to the Promise Box mentality.

Now, this is a great and powerful verse, if understood in context. It might even become your favourite verse but for the right reasons. It is definitely one of mine.

Before we get to the verse in context, I want to share a word on fear.

The world has been cast into all levels of fear due to the pandemic of the corona virus.

We need to be afraid, but we must not give way to fear.

It is not un-biblical, and it is not a lack of faith to be afraid. Fear is one of God’s good gifts to us. Ask the lady standing on a chair with a little mouse on the ground.

I wrote the booklet in my hand in 2006 as material for a minister’s conference I lectured at. It is 24 pages which at Logos would be 4 sermons. I fell back on some thoughts shared by Paul Tripp on the matter to keep it short.

Did you know that there are spiritually appropriate kinds of fear?

1. There is the fear of God.

It is being in awe of God, His presence, His glory, His sovereignty, His holiness, His hatred for sin. All these cause us to fall before Him with Holy reverence and fear. This should be in the heart of every human being, but in particular us as believers. We know that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. It is that fear that allows us to run to His glorious grace.

2. The fear of that which causes rapid response.

This is the fear that causes us to act impulsively to an observed threat whether our fear is natural or not. It is the spontaneous ability to act when we should in the face of danger. Join me in the bush and watch men and women alike when a Red Roman crosses the floor.

3. Then there is the fear of appropriate concern.

It is the kind of fear that grips us when we are faced with danger. Whether it is a tsunami for some or corona for others we share an appropriate fear or concern where we act with wisdom, consider, analyse, reason and decide and make appropriate decisions to combat that which we are fearful of, to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

All three above are God honouring because God has given us the ability to be afraid. He gave us those inbuilt fears to draw us to Him, to draw us to one another and to make wise decisions.

There is another kind of fear. And we must not give way to fear.

4. This fear is trouble meditating and God forgetting.

This is when we allow our minds and lives to be controlled by what we are facing. It is all we think about, it is all we read about, it is all we talk about. The more we think about it, the more we talk about it, the more we read about it, the larger it gets and the more impossible it seems to conquer our fear and we simply become more and more frightened.

The problem that we are facing now, is that it controls our meditation, and because we have allowed that, that kind of fear becomes God forgetting. We forget that there is a Lord of Glory, and wisdom and goodness and power and grace who sits on the throne of His universe. No difficulty of any kind, no pandemic, no place or thing, has the power to negate His good and glorious promises to His children. When you look horizontally, everything seems out of control, but when you look vertically everything is under control. We don’t understand why God would allow these kinds of things to enter our lives, but we know who He is, we know what He can do, and we know what He has promised. We know that He is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow, and we must not let that which we fear dominate us so that we become God forgetful.

Biblical faith will never require you to deny reality. Think of the story of Abraham. Abraham stood on the promise of God that He would have a son, and that he would become the father of nations and through him the nations would be blessed. Abraham faltered, tried to help God along with the servant girl, but the Word of God says Abraham became convinced and became strong in faith and realised that God was able to do what He promised to do. The simple point here is this. Horizontally, it looked impossible. Why did Abraham become convinced? Because the more he meditated on the power and presence and glory of God who made the promise, the more he was able to put his faith in the presence and power of God.

You do not have to deny reality to be a good, faithful follower of God. Biblical faith is honest about what we face. The Bible is full of examples of people turning to God in their time of need. You need to learn to become content with the presence and power of God to sustain you and give you wisdom. You rather must be honest about the difficulties we face in this fallen world.

My challenge to you today is that we be honest about the Corona virus. Yes we are allowed to be fearful of it, and therefore we respect the calls and challenges made upon our lives, but we need to look at it through the lens of who God is, who we are as His children and what He has promised us.

David wrote a Psalm during his greatest trouble.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh,

my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.

3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;

though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.

4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;

he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.

 

David wanted his estimation of what he was facing tempered by his estimation of who God is. You will never understand the ugliness of what we are facing in this fallen world unless you look at them through the stunning beauty of your creator, your Saviour. He is beautiful in love, beautiful in wisdom, beautiful in power, beautiful in grace, beautiful in faithfulness. He is beautiful.

So, as we all make difficult decisions in what we are facing. Be afraid, but don’t give way to fear.

To draw near to God in the trouble we are facing is a beautiful thing, to make rapid responses to imminent threat is a God given ability, to express appropriate concern with well thought action is a gift of God, but, don’t meditate on fear and become God forgetting. God is on the throne, and no pandemic can change the fact that God is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Be afraid, but don’t give way to fear.

Now to the verse in context.

Philippians 4:10-14 (ESV) 10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.”

Now, if you look at verse 10, then Paul is thanking the Philippian church for reviving their concern for him. Now, some believe that Paul is referring to the money that they sent him. In fact, according to verse 10, Paul acknowledges that they have always been concerned for him, but did not have an opportunity to show their concern. So, he is thanking them for sharing in his needs, and if you jump over verse 11-13, and go to verse 14 Paul ends where he started namely for their sharing in his trouble.

Now from verse 11, Paul sets a record straight. Basically, he is saying. Hey guys, thanks for taking care of my needs, but I want you to know this, I have never been desperate. Why? Because ‘I have learned (some translations says ‘learned the secret’) to be content in every circumstance.’ Now the circumstances he refers to is when he lacks or abounds, or had plenty or is hungry, or has abundance or need. So, what is the secret? The secret is contentment in all circumstances on the back of the fact that Christ gives him strength to handle whatever life throws at him, and this will include the corona virus. So, in short, ‘thanks for your support, much appreciated, but you need to know I would have survived without it, because whether you are there for me or not, Christ is there for me, but hey, I am not ungrateful. It was really kind of you to share in my trouble. Keep, it coming, but whether you do, or whether you don’t, I am okay, because I live, and breath, and move, and survive in the strength that God provides.’

Remember that at the time in which Paul is writing this letter he had finally reached Rome. On the journey, there he was taken prisoner, shipwrecked, and placed on house arrest chained to a Roman soldier. Further he was facing potential execution, and was mentally preparing himself for the not too distant reality that He would be leaving this world. Paul is not saying here that through the strengthening of Jesus Christ we can overcome all obstacles or succeed in all things. What Paul is saying is that through the strengthening of Christ we can press forward and endure through all hardships, even death. This verse does not infer that by having faith in Christ we will achieve or prosper in all we aspire to, but rather in Christ we find the sufficient comfort and support to carry on through all adversity.

In short, what Paul is saying to all of us is that we can enjoy the good times in the presence of Christ who gives us strength, and we can endure the bad times in the presence of Christ who gives us strength. We can bear any trial, perform any duty, subdue any evil, and meet all the temptations incident to any condition of prosperity or adversity. His own experience in the various changes of life had warranted him in arriving at this conclusion; and he now expresses the firm confidence that nothing would be required of him which he would not be able to perform. With Paul, this declaration was not a vain self-reliance, nor was it the mere result of his former experience. He knew well where the strength was to be obtained by which to do all things, and on that arm of Christ that upheld him, he confidently relied. It was in the strength of Christ that Paul could bear cold, fatigue, and hunger. It was by the strength of Christ that he met temptations and persecutions; and it was by the strength of Christ that he engaged in the performance of his arduous duties.

Look at some of his trials, and then we think we have it hard.

So, when Paul says that I can do all things through Christ. He does not have the Word of Faith, name it and claim it, speak to your destiny kind of attitude in mind. The verse is not a mantra, it is not a magic wand. It is simply Paul saying, that his life is not governed by circumstances and material belongings whether good or bad. His life is governed by the strength that Christ provides no matter what life throws at you. You do not throw Phil 4:13 at your circumstances as if it will determine your circumstances, rather you quote it in your circumstances and thank Christ for His sustaining power.


In all circumstances, Christ, our unchanging Friend, can uphold us. Let the eye and the affections of the heart be fixed on him; let the simple, fervent, believing prayer be directed always to him when trials come, when temptations assail, when duty presses hard upon us, and when a crowd of unholy and forbidden thoughts rush into the soul: and we shall be safe. And when it goes well, thank Him, for by His strength alone can you say ‘it is well.’

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church:- 22 March 2020