“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (MSG)
The Apostle Paul offers us three faith builders that enabled him to thrive each day no matter what the circumstances, even while imprisoned in Rome for preaching the Good News of Jesus. These faith builders will help you and me overcome the fear or regret that would rob us of experiencing the gift of one day – this day that we are living. Rather than just survive the hardships he faced, his faith thrived and the gospel advanced! He knew that although good and evil may run on parallel tracks, fear and faith can’t occupy the same space. What are these faith builders?
First: God’s promises are more reliable than our feelings. Paul knew that hard is not the opposite of good and that no matter how hard the times were or the circumstances he was dealt, God was still good. He trusted in God’s promises to meet all his needs and fixed his minds attention not on the hard times but on the promises of God to get him through and accomplish His purpose through it all. When you’re going through hard times, it’s so easy to only see the circumstances, the problems. Shift your focus to God’s promises. They are more reliable than our feelings.
Second: God’s power is greater than my circumstances. Probably the best-known verse in Paul’s prison letter of Philippians is a passage you’re familiar with but may too often forget to apply when you’re going through a painful season. This promise is a reminder that nothing can come into our lives that God’s power is not greater than! It’s a promise that whatever you’re facing right now or in the days to come, God will give you the power to deal with it. If you’re not familiar with this promise, you may want to pause and meditate on it for a while and memorize it now.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
When my problems seem greater than God’s power, I like to read Isaiah 40. It’s a powerful description of how big God really is. Little wonder that the first verse begins by offering comfort to God’s people. If God brought you to it, God will bring you through it. His strength will enable you. God’s power is greater than our circumstances.
Third: God’s purpose is higher than my understanding. Contrary to what Paul’s friends may have thought that his ministry was over and the gospel would be censored because of his imprisonment, he wrote in Philippians 1:12, “I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered.” Go figure!
This faith builder, of the three, is one of the most challenging. We can’t possibly understand how God will accomplish His purpose at times. The truth is, His purpose is higher and much greater, than my understanding. So, Paul offers this promise in Philippians 1:6 that helps me to keep my focus on this faith builder. He writes, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” I can’t tell you how much hope that brings me to keep believing God even when nothing makes sense. And, as if that were not enough, he adds this in Philippians 4:7, “Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.” Praise God!
Even when living in a broken world with really hard circumstances, we can still have peace! We don’t obey because it makes sense. We obey because we trust God’s love. He’s not done. Look at how much greater and far reaching a ministry Paul had because of his imprisonment. We have this letter today because he opened the gift of one day, trusting God’s promises as more reliable than his feelings; trusting God’s power as greater than his circumstances; trusting God’s purpose as higher than his understanding.
You and I may never know this side of heaven all that God has accomplished in our lives. Just keep opening the gift of each day and embrace the truth that love is on the way! “Relax, everything’s going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together. …” Jude 1:2 (MSG)