Athletes declare it. Children memorize it. The inspirational message is emblazoned on half the items in the Christian bookstore. “I can do all things through Christ.”
Often adopted as an anthem for living our dreams with God, Paul’s original message in his letter to the church in Philippi rang a little differently. Paul wasn’t competing in the Olympics or dreaming of career success. Paul was surviving. His gospel message resulted in beatings and imprisonment, shipwrecks and exposure to the elements. He hungered and thirsted as he worked at spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. But, despite all that, it was well with his soul.
He said in Philippians 4:10-13:
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Bad times come to us all, and we’re in a pretty dark season right now, to be honest. Yet, Paul says that with strength from Christ, we can be content through it all. “Content” sounds a lot like having peace.
Jesus had a lot to say about peace. He said that in this world we would have trouble, but he has overcome the world and brings us peace. He invites the weary and burdened to come to Him for rest. He promises peace unlike the world gives, so we don’t have to have troubled hearts or fear. So how do we experience this peace in all circumstances, particularly the tough stuff?
- Stick close to Christ.
The presence of the Lord is powerful, but we will miss it if we are not connected to Him. Yes, God is always with us, but we often allow His presence to go unnoticed when we’re distracted by all of life’s craziness. Peace comes when we make an effort to spend time with God through prayer, Bible study, worship, and even simple times of quiet where we pay attention to Him.
- Seek God’s perspective.
Paul looked at his situation and saw that everything he did- even in suffering- gave glory to God and spread the gospel. The story of Joseph- including family abuse, slavery, false accusations, and imprisonment- concludes with his declaration that what was intended for harm was used by God to save people from famine. Our limited vision often isolates struggle and pain, but with the Lord’s help, we can step back and view God’s big picture and see how He fulfills the promise of Romans 8:28, working out all things for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Waiting on the Lord’s timing so we can look back and see His hand is often difficult. But when we call to him in the midst of trouble and ask for His perspective, He often gifts us with a glimpse of His glory. What do your circumstances look like from a heavenly point of view?
- Rely on God for strength.
We are human. We have limits. But we have a mighty God. Ask Him to fill the gaps where you fall short. Allow space for Him to work and keep an eye out for what He is doing. Remember that, though we like instant fixes, God has deliberate perfect timing. No matter what is happening, the burden is not all on your shoulders. God is the heavy lifter, working on your behalf. He provides strength and guidance all along the way.
During this COVID-19 threat, we’re limited to our homes and our work schedules have been disrupted. People are getting sick and hospitals are overloaded. The economy is worrisome and the world seems to be changing by the hour. Yet, God is still sovereign and He remains good. Like Paul, we can be content even in these extreme circumstances. Christ gives us strength no matter what is happening around us. We will do more than survive; we will have peace and life abundant in Him.