There are only 2 ways to live – with or without abiding in Jesus.
Jesus is the believer’s strength, but we can so easily slip into living our Christian lives under our own power. We try to serve, be content, or love others in our own strength. We may as well try to fly a 747 across the ocean on fumes.
We must keep in mind these two truths:
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (JN 15.5).
I can do all things through him who strengthens me (PHP 4.13).
First, Jesus tells us that apart from him we can do nothing. He doesn’t say Apart from me you can do some things, or a few things, but Apart from me you can do NOTHING. He doesn’t say, Apart from me you can do some things but you’ll do them poorly. He says Apart from me you can do NO THING - nothing, nada, zip. Not one single thing.*
But in Philippians, God promises that we can do ALL THINGS through him – Christ – who strengthens us. Paul is specifically talking about contentment in the verses that precede verse 13. He says that through Christ and the strength he gives, we can be content in poverty and need. And through that same strength from Christ we can be content in abundance.
When Paul says I can do all things through him who strengthens me, he doesn’t mean that I can play in the NBA or sing like Sting if I just believe; it means I can do all things that God calls me to do through the strength Christ supplies; I can do all things necessary to glorify God by the power of Jesus. If Christ calls me to suffer, he will strengthen me to suffer in such a way that God is glorified. If he calls me to poverty or abundance, Jesus will strengthen me to endure in such a way as to honor his Father.
Next time you have to do some hard thing, insert it into PHP 4.13. Say, “I can do THIS THING through him who strengthens me. I can love this difficult person through him who strengthens me. I can rejoice in this affliction through him who strengthens me. I can put this sin to death through him who strengthens me.
In our own strength, all God’s commands are impossible. But in Jesus’ strength we can do the impossible. With or without him, that is the question.
*these thoughts are from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
photo by roberthuffstutter