We live in a time when everything from television commercials to the magazines at the grocery-store checkout counter give advice on how we’re supposed to live if we want to be fulfilled. They tell you:
- We have to lose that extra five pounds.
- We have to buy that brand of clothing.
- We have to see that movie when it comes out.
- We have to meet that perfect someone and fall in love.
- We have to have that perfect house.
In John 6 you read about two incredible miracles: the feeding of the five thousand and walking on water. Immediately after these events—on the next day—Jesus told His disciples: "I am the bread of life… No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again (John 6:35)."
Because Jesus was working this miracle around Passover, directly after showing that He was the Messiah, He used an image should have been powerful in the minds of the disciples. Jesus was the provider of bread, just as God was the provider of the manna from heaven to the Israelites.
Look at what Paul, the most prolific writer in the New Testament, said about needs, wants, and the source of contentment:
"I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that once again you renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me but lacked the opportunity to show it. I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. Still, you did well by sharing with me in my hardship" (Philippians 4:10-14).
We don’t have to look far in our society today to see Paul’s famous statement to the church at Philippi: “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me” (v. 13). It’s sometimes printed on a football player’s eye black or displayed in the locker room. People have it tattooed on their arms or their feet.
Unfortunately, we may have lost sight of what Paul was talking about.
Paul began the thought by thanking the church members for their concern for him. He had clearly been through some hard experiences; he had a physical affliction, was constantly in prison for preaching the gospel, and was shipwrecked and beaten on multiple occasions. Perhaps the Philippians believers wrote to him or sent him encouraging gifts when they heard about the latest hardship he was facing.
But as Paul developed the thought, he said something interesting. He said he was able to live on almost nothing, and he knew how to be rich. He knew how to be content in a happy situation or a sad one. He could be at peace with an empty stomach as much as with a full one.
Paul revealed the reason: it was Christ who strengthened him. Verse 13 is less about overcoming whatever adverse situation we find ourselves facing and more about delighting in Christ, no matter where we find ourselves.
A Philippians 4:13 response to losing that football game, then, would be less about knowing you can win because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you and more about being content with either outcome because you know where your priorities are.
Excerpted from Knowing Jesus Bible Study by Robby Gallaty. © 2016 Lifeway Press. Used by permission.