I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me. (Phil. 4:13)
Christians are formidable, optimistic people, not because of any particular ability of their own, but because of whose they are—because of where they are.
The passage in Philippians 4:13 has long been a favorite of many. It speaks of confidence, optimism, faithfulness and strength. Even though Paul was in a Roman prison when he penned these words, he was confident that the Lord had not forsaken him, confident that the brethren were mindful of him and praying for him, and confident of a favorable outcome to his situation. He was optimistic about the chances for success, the ultimate triumph of his cause, which was the cause of Christ. He qualified such confidence and optimism with the words, “in him,” which shows that he understood the power was available as a result of his faithful membership in the church, the body of Christ, (Eph. 1:22-23). He was firmly and unequivocally located “in Christ.” It is estimated that Paul used that phrase, or it’s equivalent, some 164 times in his writings. He understood the essentiality of maintaining a faithful, dedicated, active ministry within the body of Christ, for therein lies the hope or confidence he celebrated. The strength Paul utilized was not mainly his own, nor even that of his brethren, but primarily that of Jesus Christ himself. He drew upon the immense power of our Lord in everyday life, and his prayer for other Christians was that they too might be “strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man.” (Eph. 3:16). Tapping that tremendous source of energy, available only in the Lord’s church, Paul knew he could do anything.
Christians can! They can because of Christ. They can because of their location within the church of Christ, and the tremendous power available to them. Their entire mindset is away from fear, pessimism and uncertainty, but is rather oriented to hope and optimism. Thanks to Christ, they can envision the possibilities in their own lives, and in the lives of others. They know how the story ends, and this gives them a remarkable sense of assurance and peace. As Fanny J Crosby capably expressed it, “Blessed assurance! Jesus is mine. Oh what a foretaste of glory Divine.”
Christians can know and understand God’s will for their lives. They can believe and obey his word, and continue to walk faithfully in it. They can grow spiritually day-to-day, and rest assured that they are maturing and becoming more and more like their Master. They can have all necessary information needed to successfully live the Christian life. They can excel at their work, stand tall among their peers, earn the respect and admiration of even their enemies, and gratefully bask in the approbation of God. Christians can be hard workers, moving into positions of service and assistance to those less fortunate. They can dress and act with modesty and confidence. They can be content in any life situation, and make a positive difference in this world. Christians can handle any challenge life brings their way.
Congregations can! They are made up of Christians, God’s true children. They can because of Christ, who is their all-wise and all-powerful Head. Congregations can grow spiritually, numerically, and in every other good way. They can provide encouragement, teaching and spiritual growth to every member. They can provide benevolence, much needed assistance to the poor and needy, both in and out of the church, (cf. Gal. 6:10; 2 Cor. 9:6-15). They can reach out to the lost around them with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. They can transform their communities with amazing examples of Christ-likeness. They can provide a beacon of hope in the world, showing the path to God and to heaven itself, (Mt. 5:13-16).
No congregation should be stifled, marking time, merely “keeping house.” No congregation should be dwelling on the past to the point where they forfeit their fantastic future. None should be “resting on its laurels,” over-emphasizing great works or accomplishments of the past. And none should be thinking of itself “more highly than it ought to think,” envisioning itself as enlightened, open-minded, when in reality it has left the Lord. Congregations and individual Christians can do amazing things, far more than we often think, thanks to the power of our Lord. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20), remember, “I CAN!”
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.