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Under very difficult circumstances it is often hard to see the proverbial “silver lining behind the dark cloud.” In the midst of misery and mayhem it’s not an easy task to stay focused on the positive, when all around you everything is negative. I’m sure that all of us would like to have the ability to approach any and every difficult situation with an “I can conquer; I can do it” attitude, but the reality of it all is that difficulty oftentimes discourages us… And discouragement is that very thing that keeps us from believing that we can do what God has given us the power to do, which is overcome any obstacle or situation in life with the determination, “I can, and I will!”
The apostle Paul was certainly one who knew how to overcome the obstacles of life, not because he always had all the resources necessary, but because he had learned that with all of life’s ups and downs in Christ there is contentment and strength.
In this letter to the Philippians Paul expresses his gratitude over the gifts that the congregation had sent to him by the hand of Epaphroditus (2:25). Here in chapter four Paul encourages the church to rejoice and informs them that he’s content not only with what they have done for him, but his contentment is with any situation that rises up in his life.
Paul says that he had learned… Life, and the experiences of life; the ups and downs of life; the twists and turns of life had taught Paul how to be happy, satisfied and at ease with whatever he was going through. Because of his contentment Paul says, in verse 12, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
Notice here that because of what Paul had learned, he is able to deal with anything. It doesn’t matter what happens. It doesn’t matter how it comes about. It doesn’t matter if the situation is favorable or unfavorable; whatever the case is, Paul tells the church that he is able to deal with it!
Now in verse13, the apostle shows us how he is able to deal with anything. Paul didn’t just preach this, but he practiced this; he literally lived his life as if he could do anything through Christ, who he knew would give him the strength.
He wrote to the Corinthians in II Corinthians 4:8-10, “We are troubled on every side yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”
Paul’s attitude in the face of these difficulties was that he wanted the life of Jesus to be seen in and through him; therefore he knew that in all things Jesus would give him the strength to do so.
Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
He wrote again to the church at Corinth in II Corinthians 11:23-28, “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep. In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren. In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without that which comets upon me daily, the care of the churches.”
How was it that Paul was able to keep going and not allow discouragement to take over? How did he deal with all that he had to deal with, and yet maintain a steadfast faith in God?
The difficulties of life had taught Paul that when he is weak, God is able to make him strong… Paul received confirmation of this fact from God when he was wrestling with his thorn in his flesh; he asked God three times to remove the thorn, but God’s reply was, per II Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
This is what gave Paul the assurance that he could do anything through Christ. No matter how difficult the task, he knew he could do it. No matter how wearisome the journey, he knew he could do it. No matter what people thought, he knew he could do it. No matter what people said or did, he knew he could do it.
He told Timothy in II Timothy 1:12, “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”
Paul knew that because his life was in God’s hands, no matter what he went through, it was going to be alright. He wrote to the Christians in Rome in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s going to work out. It doesn’t matter who it is, it’s going to work out. It doesn’t matter how it is, it’s going to work out. Whenever you’ve got God on your side, it can’t help but work out, because if God is for you, no one can really be against you!
You can! I can! We can! The question is, will we?
So often as children of God we know what we can do, but many times fail to do it. So the basis of this message is to take us from “I can” to “I will!” It’s time to stop making excuses for what you haven’t done, and simply get up and do it! You already know that Christ will give you the strength to do whatever needs to be done for Him. So the only thing that’s holding you back is you. Oh but it’s time, past time, for us to get up and say not only that I can, but I will!
There are three things that I would like to share with you, that I believe we all need to know in order to move from “I can” to “I will”…
(1). God is able: Ephesians 3:20… Even when you’re not able, God is able.
(2). Only what you do for Christ will last: Matthew 19:29…Whatever you do for the Lord, the benefit of it will last into eternity. Whatever you have to lose, whatever you have to give up, whatever you have to suffer, He will make up for it with the joys of heaven. Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you…” (John 14:2,3)
(3). With God all things are possible: Matthew 19:26… Things that have seemed impossible, God has made possible:
- Red Sea
- Gideon’s Army
- David before Goliath
- Three Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace
Friends, clearly we have the victory in Jesus, and He will, if we trust in Him, give us the power to say, “I can, and I will!”
Minister David Tillman is the minister of the Cottage Grove Church of Christ on Highway 22 outside of Rockford. He has been in ministry since 1994 and is a graduate of the Memphis School of Preaching, class of 1998. His wife’s name is Michael Lynn, and together they have 13 children, with seven still at home. Minister Tillman’s motto is, “I love the Lord, and I won’t take it back.”