“I have learned… I know how… I know how… I have learned… I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:11, 12, 13
Philippians 4:13 is a well-known and often quoted verse. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It is a valuable and powerful reminder that we are not the same, once we have Jesus as Lord. And I like Philippians 4:11, too. “I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.” Good stuff. Of course, I use it more of a reminder of how I should be, than as a declaration of how I am. I don’t think I’m as far along as Paul was, in my spiritual walk.
And verse 12 I’ve always seen as proof of how spiritually mature Paul was, and a reminder that all he endured in his preaching was valuable and had a point. “I know how to be abased… how to abound… how to be full… how to be hungry… how to suffer need…”
But I read this recently and connected all those verses for the first time. And while there’s value in each verse individually, there’s glory in the connection.
Paul has learned a great many things, as these verses attest, not the least of which is the ability to be content no matter what. How many of us can say that? I can’t even say “I’ve learned to be content no matter what I’m wearing.” ! But I’m getting there.
Paul had been in situations I will never have to endure. In fact, if you combine verse 13 with 2 Corinthians 11:23, Paul could accurately say that he had learned to be content in labor and in prison… while receiving forty stripes minus one… while being beaten with rods, being stoned, shipwrecked, a night and a day in the deep… and in various stages of discomfort and peril.
But the response God desires in me is not one of awe or amazement or admiration for Paul. The beauty of these passages is in the wholeness of them. I see declarations of strength and confidence, but not Paul’s strength. The secret of his strength, as he says, is Christ in him. And so it is with us.