When I first began my walk as a believer, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) became a big deal for me. Sports had been a priority to me for as long as I could remember, and FCA gave me purpose in sports: I was now going to glorify God with what talents he had given me. A verse that a lot of athletes used for motivation during that time is found in Philippians:
I can do all things through him who gives me strength.
— Philippians 4:13 ESV
This verse was basically used to motivate the athlete to believe they could dominate in their sport with an “I can do great things and we can win this game!” sort of mentality.
The funny thing about this verse is that, when viewed in context, Paul isn’t writing about being successful in all areas or having a life of blessing. Here’s what he says before verse 13:
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
— Philippians 4:10–13 ESV (emphasis added)
What Paul is saying here is mind-blowing to many people, whether Christian or not. What he is saying is that his circumstances do not affect his outlook on life, that he has found the secret of being content, no matter what his life looks like. Wow. Can you imagine a life like this? Doesn’t a life of contentment point to the reality that God is sufficient for us? If God can fully satisfy his children here on earth, in a broken world, full of broken people and circumstances, doesn’t that proclaim to the world that he is incredible, and that he is bigger than the troubles of this world? It does.
Paul found the secret. The secret of being satisfied wasn’t about changing his situation or fixing everything around him. It wasn’t about making others do what he needed, or to be there for him and provide for him. The secret to his mental stability and contentment is found in verses 4–9:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
— Philippians 4:4–9 NIV
Rejoice, pray, and think about the right things. Don’t worry about anything, but take it all to God. This is how we do it. And when we do, “the peace of God… will guard [our] hearts and [our] minds”. Isn’t that what we really want? Don’t we want peace and to live in freedom, and not with our minds trapped with anxious thoughts that, in turn, affect our entire lives?
That is the secret. That is the antidote. Now we have to choose whether to remain in discontentment or to believe that the freedom God has for us is better than letting our minds stay where they are. Oddly enough, we sometimes feel like it’s better to remain in our worry, fear, anxiousness, insecurity or doubt. But I think that, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we would admit that we’d rather be free from our mental bondage, that we would rather find freedom and contentment in all circumstances. So let’s fight for that. Let’s not only find freedom in our thought life, but let’s glorify God in all circumstances. And as Pastor Casey said in his sermon, let’s stop and frisk every thought that comes into our minds and decide if it’s one that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. If it’s not, don’t let it remain. Rather, rejoice in the Lord, pray, and think the right thoughts.
Thank God that, once we cross from death to life by receiving the salvation he offers through his Son Jesus, we can fight our battles with the strength he provides. Thank God that now, as a Child of God, we have purpose, even amidst the storms. Thank God that he offers this salvation, freedom and purpose to anyone who chooses to surrender to his love and receive him!