Intro: Have you heard the story about the mother who lifted a car to save her child?
- in Colorado in 1995, a police officer arrived at a single-car accident where a Chevy Chevette ended up on top of a baby girl and sank into the mud. The officer lifted the car and the mother pulled the girl out.
- In 2009, a man in Kansas lifted a Mercury sedan off of a six-year-old girl who had been trapped underneath when it backed out on top of her.
- In 1960, a Florida mom lifted a Chevy Impala so that a neighbor could pull out her son, who had become trapped when he was working on the car and his jack collapsed.
- There’s even the case where the MD 500D helicopter from Magnum, P.I. crashed in 1988, pinning the pilot under shallow water; and his burly friend (nicknamed Tiny) ran over and lifted the one-ton helicopter enough for the pilot to be pulled out.
- These and many others anecdotal stories like them suggest that human beings can exhibit extraordinary physical strength in times of crisis or danger. Is this possible? How? – the most common explanation is the adrenaline rush.
- One study at Penn State University… concluded that an average person rarely exhibits their full physical strength. When considering the lifting strength of individuals, the study came up with three numbers:
1) Highest number is your absolute strength – this can never be exceeded or realistically reached. This all the weight your tendons, muscle fibers and bones will take.
2) The lowest is your maximal strength – this is the maximum you can lift consciously in a controlled environment (such as the gym). The study concluded that the maximal strength of most ordinary people is just about 2/3 (66%) of their absolute strength. a person who can lift 200 pounds, 300 pounds is absolute limit). Those who train can close this gap to as much as 80%.
3) The most intriguing number is in between the maximal strength and the absolute strength that appears when the body goes into competitive mode. When faced with peril (child under a car) or a competitive environment the lifting power increases. Some athletes reach as high as 92% of their body’s absolute strength during the most intense competitions. Where did that strength come from? Paul exhibited unusual strength in the midst of crisis. Where did that strength come from?
- “I Can Do All Things” – How strong are you spiritually? You might not actually know until the crisis or need for spiritual strength arrives. The circumstances might reveal that you are stronger than you thought. Paul found himself in those type of circumstances – times when he was stronger than he thought possible.
- Our study this month focuses on one of the more well-known passages in the Bible. Phil. 4:13– “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me” Where have you seen this verse before? On athletic jerseys, on locker room walls, Phil 4:13 even written on the faces of athletes in competition. This displays a fundamental misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the apostle’s words here. Paul is not telling us that Jesus provides strength to hit a homerun or score a touchdown. Taken out of context, many sincere people have interpreted Paul to teach that Jesus will make it possible for you to accomplish anything you desire. (views God as a Jeanie is a bottle; faith as about human success)
- The verb phrase “I can do” comes from a term that means to be powerful, have resources, or prevail. It is used to describe the demon-possessed man in Acts 19, who overpowered the seven sons of Sceva and sent them fleeing for their lives. It is also used to describe effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man (James 5:16). Paul was saying that he had the ability to accomplish “all things”. But is Paul teaching that Jesus provides the strength to do anything, or everything?
- The context of his words is important. What are the “all things” of vs. 13?What was Paul talking about doing in this context?
- Phil 4:11-12 – Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
- What Paul was “doing” in this context that required strength was being content in all circumstances of life. We have studied about contentment and how challenging it is for the disciple. His satisfaction “everywhere and in all things” was not natural. It was learned in context of circumstances, and the strength to do it was not his own, but the strength he received from Jesus.
- So it would appear that the “all things” of v. 13 is modified contextually to refer to the things God expected of Paul, and varied circumstances Paul was to endure. Jesus provided the strength Paul needed to endure all these things and prevail. He could do everything God expected of him through Christ. Today’s English Version (TEV) translates Phil 4:13 as… I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.
- “through Christ who strengthens me” – Paul realized that it was Jesus who “did the heavy lifting”. Every true Christian comes to recognize his own extensive weakness and subsequent impotence. The ability to do the things of God comes from God. Jesus stressed that truth to His disciples in the upper room on the night before His death: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).Everything that they would accomplish for Christ would be done through Christ. But notice that Jesus’ words are not just a promise, but also a command – Abide in Me… Unless you abide in Me… He who abides in Me…
- Abiding in Jesus: The ability to do God’s work is dependent on abiding in Jesus and Jesus abiding in us, as He is the source of our strength. This abiding is not a mystical experience or feeling, but rather the activity of obedient faith (trust) in Jesus through all the events of life. It is choosing to remain with Christ and His words, no matter what. That is what Paul was doing. He was choosing to be satisfied with what God provided – He was staying with Christ. When he made that choice, Jesus provided the strength he needed. This tells us, not only WHEN Christ provides strength to the disciple, but HOW He provides it.
- Inner strength: Consider Paul’s prayer in behalf of the Ephesian Christians in Eph. 3:14-19 – For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
- How do we get spiritual strength? This text says He grants it. The word translated grant here means is didomi (did’-o-mee); to give… bestow, bring forth,.. deliver up. It implies that this strength belongs to God, but He bestows it (gives it up) to me. God grants spiritual strength (of the inner man) through His Spirit (The Holy Spirit). This again, is not mystical or mysterious. The Spirit of God influences and strengthens my spirit through the words of God. If I want to be strong, I must know and submit to Jesus’ words.
- 2 Timothy 2:1 – You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Paul commanded Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in Christ. How could Timothy obey this command? Consider the rest of Paul’s admonition here..v. 2– And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. The concept mentioned here is at the heart of the work of God – The process of teaching.
- Earlier in 1 Timothy 4 Paul warns Timothy of a great coming apostasy. 1 Tim 4:1-3 – Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. The apostle calls on Timothy to be strong and head off this apostasy in the only manner possible – teach the truth.
- 1 Tim 4:6-7– If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. 7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.
- 1 Tim 4:11-16 – 11 These things command and teach. 12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
- In Acts 2 Luke tells us the early church continued steadfastly in (devoted to) the apostles’ doctrine. They abided in Jesus and He provided the strength they needed to endure all things that would come their way… the arrest of the apostles in Acts 3 & 4, the death of Steven in Acts 7, the persecution of Saul in Acts 8. We look at Jerusalem and see a strong church because they were a teaching church. The constant emphasis on teaching and learning was a key element of the church’s strength in difficult times.
- Feeding on the Words of God – If you want to get strong, you have to eat and eat the right things. Paul tells the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:27-28 “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. He had taught them so they might be able to feed (shepherd) the church. What would be the proper result of this feeding on God’s word? Vs. 32-33 So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. How many Christians desire to access the strength needed to overcome sin but consistently refuse to spend time in God’s word.
- There is no better illustration of the strengthening power of God’s word than Jesus’ confrontation with Satan in the wilderness of Judea (Matt. 4:1-11). Each temptation of Satan was answered by Jesus with the very words of the Father contained in scripture. The strengthening that God provides comes through our willingness to hide God’s word in our hearts, incline our ears to His commandments, and apply our minds to His knowledge.
- Note that spiritual power or strength is not the mark of a special class of Christian. Every Christian who submits to God’s Word and Spirit receives strength. But, like physical growth and strength, spiritual growth and strength do not come overnight. As we discipline our minds and spirits to study God’s Word, understand it, and live by it, we are nourished and strengthened. Every bit of spiritual food and every bit of spiritual exercise add to our strength and endurance.
- Although Jesus promises the strength we need, many Christians fail to grow stronger. They ignore the enormous spiritual resources available in Christ. They live as spiritual paupers because they have never grown or matured in their relationship with Christ. They continue to struggle with the same sins, continue to be discouraged, and never experience any joy. They neglect prayer and refuse to fellowship with other Christians. Their Christianity consists of a weekly assembly (at best) and some ritualistic activities that promote a sense of false spirituality. They are weak. They need strengthening.
- The importance of this is not just intellectual, but practical. More and more the study of God’s word is being replaced by the pursuit of human philosophy. Dale Carnegie courses, self-esteem workshops, family life seminars that promote modern psychology, even the conditioning of the outward body are being inserted into church agendas.
- Let me mention two other necessary elements of spiritual strengthening.
- Prayer – Psalm138:3“In the day when I cried out, You answered me, And made me bold with strength in my soul.” God expects me to pray for strength to face temptation, and overcome evil in my life. Pray for wisdom to make good moral decisions.
- Matt 6:13 “And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
- In Paul’s description of the armor and equipment available to the Christian do not overlook the last one ..Eph 6:18 – “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end..”
- Suffering – God also strengthens us through exercise or experience. Suffering of itself does not necessarily create spiritual strength, but God allows us to feel pain in order to create a dependent trust and reliance upon Him. Therefore, suffering for righteousness makes us stronger if we remain satisfied in what God provides. If we trust in His grace and wait.
- Isa 40:30-31“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, 31But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”
- 2 Cor 12:7-9“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Conclusion: How strong are you spiritually? We might not know until we are tested by the circumstances of life. But we can be assured that if we remain with Jesus we will be strong enough to endure all circumstances and do all things that He expects of us. How? Through the strength that Jesus provides.