July 26, 2006

Whatever It Takes

The following was originally presented as a sermon. We leave intact many elements and some of the freedoms of oral delivery. —Editors.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:13, 19).*
1521 page32 capHE BIBLE IS A SPECIAL BOOK. IT abounds with blessings, holding out great rewards for those who put their trust in the Lord. Joy after a while and joy right now are the keepsake of every believer. Between the covers of this blessed Book is literally an arsenal of assurances. If they weren’t God-given, they’d belong to the category of absurdity.
Precious promises, packed with full provisions, resound and echo all along the highway to heaven. How correct our fathers and mothers were when they rang out those lines I remember from somewhere:
            “Precious promise God hath given
             To the weary passer-by,
             All the way from earth to heaven,
             I will guide thee with mine eye.”

Through the Storm

People of simple faith have embraced the promises, stood on them, and made their march through wind and rain, knowing for certain that one day, at a time of God’s own choosing, they’d view the dawning of an unclouded day. Praise be unto God for (what I call) these “promised passages,” passages that exude confidence, that buttress belief, and make firm our faith.
How would we fare without them—especially in those seasons of sorrow and woe? All of us know periods of pain and perplexity. Dark, dismal days of distress and despair, when our sun goes down at noon and our moon cannot be found in the night sky. When our wagon breaks down and our load is too heavy to bear alone. At those moments, craving the assurance of the Almighty, we need to rest our wavering spirits on His unwavering promises.

Dwelling on the Promises

Sometimes we need simply to rehearse God’s good promises to ourselves. How about the one that says: “God will provide.” Or, “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee!”
1521 page32aAnd there are tons of others—some I’ll paraphrase: “Our God is a very present help in time of trouble.” “No good thing will He withhold from His own.” “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.”
The list goes on and on, stretching from here to eternity. So precious. So powerful. So pregnant with the power to inspire that we can, in fact, “stand upon the promises of God.”
But if there is one promise in the blessed Book large enough, tall enough, wide enough, deep enough, and strong enough to encompass all others, it’s the one found at the head of this article: “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
Whatever it takes. That’s its sure declaration. Whatever it takes to accomplish whatever is needed, He will supply.
That’s awesome!
Now, mind you, this promise was not pronounced from some strong ship sailing in placid waters. It did not originate in calm tide, with peace flowing like a river. It did not come from the lips of a man who was riding high on a friendly wave of prosperity and success. It was not uttered by a warrior, fresh from some mighty victory. No! Quite the contrary. Its point of origin was anything but serene.
And the one who said it was not some princely type, moving among the common people with regal bearing. Nor was he some successful soul who, having done well in the marketplace of human achievement, could be cited by his peers for his great accomplishments.
Rather, the person who uttered these words was a man not far from journey’s end. Tired, worn, sick in body. A diminutive tentmaker out of Tarsus. A Pharisee turned Christian. A butcher who’d become a brother, he spoke from quarters of confinement.
It is a prison pronouncement. He is a prisoner of the empire. Under house arrest. No physical security. No servants. The minimum in creature comforts. No political clout. No favor with the Jews. Not even appreciated by all Christians. And yet he speaks the language of contentment, confidence, and courage, exuding an inner calm that stills every storm raging round about him.
Listen to this language of confidence, contentment, and courage (Some I paraphrase): “I have learned that whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content.” “I know how to be abased and how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned how to be full or humble, both to abound and to suffer need.” “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” What a self-portrait of inner peace, of serenity of soul! No complaining. No bitterness. Not seeking to settle the score or to get even with anybody. Paul was simply resting on the couch of conviction. Standing on the promises and declaring aloud for everybody to hear, “Don’t you waste your time worrying about me! My Strengthener and Sustainer is the everlasting Christ.”
The world around him was wild, fanatical, topsy-turvy—one big circus. A world of power and arrogance. “Caesar is God,” so they said. “Rome is supreme in the whole earth,” so they said. “The Roman legion is invincible,” so they said. Everything militated against Paul and the little band of Christian believers. But his voice breaks through the political and cultural madness, all the hoopla of the Roman circus, all the hysteria of the coliseum, and says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.”
No hint of indecision, not the slightest shadow of doubt, no wavering a single iota.

All Things in Christ

Paul sees himself as the recipient of all things necessary for personal blessedness, all things that make a person comfortable in Christ and content within himself: Strength to forgive; power to put the past behind; the will to adjust to a new reality. “I can do all things.”
Now, there’s always the temptation to treat Paul’s words as some kind of poetic utterance—a beautiful, inspiring line, but not one to be taken at face value. It’s such a sweeping, all-inclusive declaration that it covers all bases, blankets the total territory. So complete, so comprehensive, so total, if you please.
The key to the door of such blessed assurance works on two levels: the earthly and the heavenly, the terrestrial and the celestial.
1521 page32bThe first level has to do with self, the removing of the spotlight from ourselves to God. Self-centeredness is a sure and certain way to miss the blessing train, for it restricts our vision, reducing it to a frame of reference that’s too narrow, too provincial. Paul’s great deliverance was from self. And that’s really what conversion and the new birth are all about. His old self had yielded, so there was no longer “I,” but Christ who dwelt in him. “If any man would come after me, let him first deny himself,” Paul had heard his Master say. Membership in the “I can do all things” community requires humility. And humility is honesty before God and people. When the self shifts its gaze to Him who is worthy, the attitude of the soul is: “Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art the Potter; I am the clay.”
The second aspect of this key, a variation of the first, really, is absolute confidence in the Potter’s ability to handle the clay. “Self-surrender,” that’s the key. When we shift the focus from ourselves to Christ, He imparts so much of Himself to us that our power capability becomes truly enormous. We can then say: “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” “And I know it’s so,” says Paul, “because my God supplies all of our needs ‘according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.’”

No Shortage in Heaven’s Storehouse

If my will is consonant with His will, He will work it. There is no shortage at all of supplies. There is no deficit in the heavenly account. No red ink! No shortfall! No declining market forces! “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and all they that are therein.” Everything belongs to Him. He Himself has declared to His children, “All things are yours. See, all things work together for good if you love Me.”
So go on right ahead, go up to the window and draw on your ultimate account in the heavenly bank of precious promises. Get yourself out of the way. Concentrate on Christ. Be filled with His Spirit and start behaving as if you’re a child of the King. Declare it gladly: “I can do all things through Christ. I know I can because God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory. Whatever it takes, He will supply.”
I am not espousing here some “easy discipleship theology”—there’s too much of that going around. I don’t care for those who tell people that if you just trust God all of your troubles will cease. That’s not the case at all. Paul tells us that it’s “through much tribulation [that] we enter the kingdom of God.” But there is one slogan that, in spite of its overuse, is altogether true: “Let go and let God.” In other words, Let go of self and let God go to work.
Oh, I have my troubles and woes, but I can do all things! I have my doubts and fears, but I can do all things! I have my deep disappointments and days of distress, but I can do all things! I’ve been confronted by foes and forsaken by friends, but I can do all things! I’ve known loneliness and have experienced aloneness, but I can do all things!
In other words I’m equipped to cope. I’m suited for the struggle. I’m fixed for the journey. I’m invincible and indomitable. I’m versatile and flexible in the Spirit. I can go up, and I can go down. I can make it, not only on full but also on empty. Because whatever it takes, He supplies it! Oh, it’s a wicked world; there’s trouble on every side. Satanic forces are alive and active. If it were possible they would deceive even the very elect.
The times are tough, and the road is rough. The journey is tedious, and we need something to steady us in this storm. All of us have to contend with so much that work against us: sickness, suffering, tribulation, torment, disappointment, betrayal—the list goes on. If the devil is not on your case, you better check yourself out. If he isn’t troubling you, then you are really in trouble. Jesus promised that “in the world, ye shall have tribulations.” And He advised us, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and say all manner of evil, and persecute you falsely for my sake.”
I tell you, blows will come, as they must come; but remember that whatever it takes to keep you afloat, He will supply it. Whether it be peace, serenity, tranquillity, or joy—or strength for the struggle, stamina for the race, or a song in the night! My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory!
There are no shortages when it comes to the kingdom, no failure; nothing is lacking. God’s got more than enough of whatever you need. More than all of us will ever be able to use. More water than we can drink; more food than we can eat; more sunshine than we can enjoy; more blessings than we can receive; more clothing than we can wear; more grace than we can absorb; more goodness than we can feel; more mercy than we can need; more joy than we can handle.
Have you found that out? Become a charter member of the “whatever it takes society.” And say with Paul: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Because whatever it takes, He will supply.
*The author uses a series of versions and paraphrases. We have allowed this freedom, in most cases omitting the biblical reference.
Lester Parkinson serves as vice president for development and planning at the University of the Southern Caribbean (formerly Caribbean Union College), in St. Joseph, Trinidad, West Indies.