I can do all things in Christ, the one who strengthens me.
I usually start a sermon by doing a redirect on last week’s sermon. With so much of Paul there are these interlocking ideas. It’s as though I was in a room last week and there was an extension cord with a very strangely-shaped plug, and in this week’s room I found the wall receptacle that that one plug fits into…so I’ve got to go back and bring the extension cord and plug it in here and only here. Paul is like that.
There is an extension cord back there that plugs in right here, in this verse. It says
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Now the Greek for that word “nothing” means, literally, “not one.” Be anxious for not one thing. It doesn’t leave us much room for error, for anxiety. But we’ve all got our ‘exception clause,’ now don’t we. There’s something that we’ve got to worry about because God isn’t paying attention. It’s as though God were going to wake up one day and say “I forgot about the Brainerds’ Nacogdoches house.” So I have to worry about it for myself. It’s in the exception clause. I’m not worrying, but you see what I mean, right?
And that one plugs in right here in this verse. Because we frequently read this one, “I can do all things,” and put an “except” on it. And understand that Paul isn’t talking about Tom Brainerd or Rogers Meredith running the four minute mile here. Miracles do happen, but I don’t think that one is going to. But he is talking about the things that he sets before us in this letter, the things related to godliness, the things related to bearing the family resemblance of the family of God.
I can do all things…except grow in knowledge and discernment. I can do all things…except stand firm. I can do all things…except have humility. I can do all things…except go through the white water. I’m not strong enough. Just imagine…Euodia and Syntyche…Paul pleads for them to be reconciled, to be of one mind…the mind of Christ. And they say…except that…I am not strong enough.
No…we are not strong enough for any of those things. But Jesus Christ is. And when He sets this table, one of things He is saying is “I died for that, too.” The fullness of the Gospel tells us that Jesus Christ is the capital K King of all creation. He died to buy you eternal salvation from your sins…and that eternity started when the Holy Spirit changed your heart, not someday when your body dies. The Gospel is now for us, the good work in us has begun. We can do all these things, not in our own strength, but because we belong to the one who is truly strong. We can do all things because we are in Christ…the one who strengthens us.