Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. "Come here," he said, "and I'll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!"
David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give all of you into our hands."
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Rickie Fowler is one of the rising new stars on the professional golf circuit. He also happens to be a Christian – this might surprise you, but there are more rich and famous Christians than we might think.
One of the rules of golf is that each player is required to mark his golf balls in such a way that they can’t be confused with another player’s, for obvious reasons: you aren’t allowed to play the wrong ball. Most golfers use their initials, or a series of dots. I read an interview with Fowler some time ago, and he marks all his golf balls with 3 digits: 413.
The interview asked him if his birthday is on April the 13th, but Fowler said simply, “Philippians 4:13. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
Of course, the Bible is full of examples which teach us the same thing. Probably the most well-known is the story of David taking on and defeating Goliath. David knew where his strength came from.
We live in a world where we are encouraged to do the best that we can and to use the talents and gifts we have to the best of our ability. Now this, in itself, is not a bad thing. An important part of education, especially while children are in their early years, is to help them to grow in the areas of self-esteem. People need to know that they have significance, and that they matter.
The problem comes when we try to exclude God from the equation. He is the one who created us in the first place. God holds the blueprint for every person, and He knows us better than we know ourselves. But ever since the human race decided we don’t need God, and that we can cope on our own, thank you very much, we have created more problems than solutions.
One of the side-effects of sin for Christians is that even though we are forgiven, and we will be spending eternity in Heaven, our sinful nature remains. We still strive for significance and acceptance, but because we are sinners we struggle to get the balance right, and all too often we try to do things in our own strength.
Philippians 4:13 has such an important message for us. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
We need to be aware of our weaknesses on the one hand, while at the same time we must learn to recognise the source of sufficient strength to do the will of God. Remember that as Christians we are called to serve. Our congregation’s motto reminds us of our mission to serve God, each other and the world.
There are some people (including many Christians) who think they can do all they need to get by in life in their strength alone. And the opposite extreme are those who think that they can do nothing, even with the help of God’s grace.
Somewhere in between these two extremes is the truth: The truth that it is God who gives us the strength to do all that we need to do.
The first thing which Philippians 4:13 teaches us is that are many things for us to do. Life was not given to us to be wasted. Throughout this journey of life we interact with each other – we are by our very nature, social creatures. Life itself is a gift from God, and every day we have opportunities to be a blessing to each other in the way that we serve.
In 2 Corinthians 2 Paul calls us the fragrance of life. We have endless opportunities to spread the sweet fragrance of the peace of Christ in our daily lives. We looked a few weeks ago at the call for Christians to become involved in fighting the good fight of faith. We cannot lock ourselves up in Church buildings, just hoping the world will go away and leave us alone. As Christians we are no longer of the world, but until such time as Jesus returns or He calls us home, we remain very much in the world. And there is work to do.
Of course the key in Philippians 4:13 is to be found in the words ‘through Him.’
How do we do good to those who don’t deserve it? How do we serve the ungrateful? How do we help those who are poor because of the selfish greed of others? How do we forgive the unforgivable?
Through Him – who gives me strength.
It is the will of God for us to do good to all people, regardless of whether they share our faith or not. We can do all things through Christ. When Paul wrote these words he was expressing the confidence of his heart that through faith in Jesus Christ he would be able to do what was needed. He knew that the goal of everything he was called to do was to point people to Christ. The battle was not his – it was God’s, and he was privileged and grateful to be involved in the battle.
Look at the words of David when Goliath taunted him: “The battle is the Lord's, and He will give all of you into our hands.” He knew where his strength came from.
I mentioned earlier that one of the mistakes we make so easily is excluding God from our lives. There are some incredibly gifted people out there, and in here today, but when we take the credit for ourselves, we have missed the entire point.
Our strength, both natural and spiritual, has its source in the grace of God. Jesus says in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:5 “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.”
Our reading from Ephesians 3 today is such a wonderful prayer. Paul is praying that we would experience and know God’s riches, power and strength. Listen to these words again: “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
There is no doubt that we often overestimate the power of our own strength, while at the same time we underestimate the power of the strength of Christ. Isaiah 40:30-31 says “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
That creative power and strength is made available to every Christian as we seek to do His will and to carry on His ministry in the world, and it is a great tragedy when we don’t get involved in the life and work of the Church.
Someone once said that there is a viral attitude running around in the Christian body of believers today – the ‘I can’t’ virus. It is an attitude of doubt and disbelief; a lack of trust and faith in God. This attitude is of satan, and does not come from God.
One of satan’s biggest lies is that we are worthless, and cannot do anything. This is why we need to hear the encouragement of passages of Scripture like Philippians 4:13. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
Are you struggling with the ‘I can’t’ virus? Do you feel that you do not have the skills and talents you need to make a significant difference for Christ? The solution might be a lot easier than you think.
Firstly, recognise who your strength is. Go back to Ephesians 3 and read that prayer. Make it a personal prayer for yourself. All of our strength finds its source in Christ. The Bible is full of ordinary people who did extraordinary things for the Kingdom of God, because they recognised and tapped into the source of strength.
Any Christian will tell you that it is only Jesus who can sustain the power that we need to keep going, but sadly most of us are guilty of straying away from the power source at times, trying desperately to shine on our own. He is our strength.
Secondly, don’t be afraid. Far too often we lose faith in God because of our fear and anxiety. More than eighty times in the NIV Bible we find the words ‘do not be afraid.’ Hebrews 13:6 quotes from Psalm 118: “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
2 Timothy 1:7 says “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
There is nothing that we cannot do if God wants us to do it. Are you a Christian? Then you need to know this: You have the Spirit of God within you. It is His Spirit who will guide you, sustain you and strengthen you to do what He calls you to do. All God is asking of us is to be obedient to Him. When we are empowered by God, we can do anything for Him.
I began this morning by talking about a young Christian golfer. The interview I spoke about was a short one, and it doesn’t give us a full picture of the depth of his faith. I’m sure he has learned by now that when God says he can do everything, that doesn’t mean he will succeed at everything in life. He certainly hasn’t won every single golf tournament he has entered!
The point is that God gives us the strength to succeed at everything that He calls us to do for Him. This is all about surrendering to, and being aware of God’s will for our lives. The Bible scholar Vernon McGee in his commentary says “When Paul says all things, does he literally mean all things? Does it mean you can go outside and jump over your house? Of course not. Paul says, “I can do all things in Christ”—that is, in the context of the will of Christ for your life. Whatever Christ has for you to do, He will supply the power. Whatever gift He gives you, He will give the power to exercise that gift. A gift is a manifestation of the Spirit of God in the life of the believer. As long as you function in Christ, you will have power. There is joy, there is satisfaction and sheer delight in being in the will of God and doing what God wants you to do.”
In Ephesians 6:10, just before Paul talks about the armour of God says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!”