“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)
The little train engine famously exhorted itself as it made his way up the incline, “I think I can. I think I can.” That children’s book fosters a can-do attitude in our children, one that spills over into adulthood.
Our Lord fosters the same sort of attitude in us through Paul’s letter to the Philippians. After laying out a gamut of situations in which we might find ourselves, the apostle lets us in on the secret of sufficiency. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).
We might note that that secret of sufficiency relates to every occasion. “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil. 4:12). That means we need Jesus and the strength He supplies not only where we are weak but also where we think we are strong. There’s never a time when we can say to Jesus that we will call Him when we need Him.
Our need for Jesus in life’s situations is akin to our need for Jesus in salvation. We repent not only of our sin; we also repent of our righteousness. Our need for Christ is absolute and abiding, both in our standing before God and our striving for God. That awareness becomes more pronounced as we mature into spiritual adulthood.
We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. In Him we find our sufficiency to handle whatever situation or whatever state we find ourselves in a way that honors God and reflects the reality of Christ in us.
Our union with Christ, however, in no way promotes passivity on our part. Rather, it promotes dependency. Paul describes this dynamic in his ministry statement to the Colossians: “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:29). Paul finds strength for the struggle not in himself but in Christ.
On the one hand, the focus is on Christ. Anything we accomplish will be of Him (Is. 26:12). Unless He builds the house, we labor in vain who build it (Ps. 127:1). Yet in all these passages cited, we are the actors. We are the ones who can do all things, the ones who toil, who strive, who build. We run the race and fight the fight, but in dependence on the resurrection reality and power of our Lord Jesus.
We are to put our hand to the plow, lift our eyes to the providentially-terraced terrain set before us, and go labor on, spend and be spent. But only with the wherewithal God provides, assured that strength is sufficient for whatever we have to deal with. That applies to mortification of sin or management of situations. In Christ, I am lacking in no way to handle whatever to the glory of God for the outcome He desires.
Like the little engine that could, we need a can-do attitude, no matter how steep the incline. We need to remind ourselves that we can do it. We need the community of faith to remind one another that we can do it. But we can do it only as we see Christ as the conduit of His grace for our sufficiency. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
A conduit attitude weds an outlook of optimism and determination (hope and faith) with the realization that it is only in Christ that we can do all things. Negatively put, apart from Him we can do nothing.
Our Lord’s can-do-it call is not merely to positive thinking. It is to positional thinking, our union with Him. He wants us to know that God’s providence does not issue unfunded mandates. For what He calls us, He gives us the sufficiency of His grace through Christ our Lord.
“Father, forgive me for resigning myself to despair and defeat, denying the power of Christ within me.”