Saturday, August 15, 2020

Christ Our Sufficiency

As we complete our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we need to recall a few key considerations.

First, Paul was writing his letter from prison, probably the Roman imprisonment described in Acts 28. 

A second key concern speaks to the central theme of his letter: joy. Paul’s letter to the Philippians resounds with this theme of joy and thanksgiving, despite his own circumstances. Forms of the word joy appear over fifteen times in this short epistle. 

A third issue we need to keep in mind deals with the circumstances of his readers. The Philippian church was facing its own persecutions from outside. Additionally, we can surmise that the church was experiencing conflict within.

Paul, while in the midst of adverse circumstances, writes to his children in the faith, who were going through their own sufferings and trials. In his concluding comments to the Philippians, he speaks of learning to be content in every situation.

The Greek word translated content carries with it the meaning “self-sufficient, adequate, needing no assistance.” Is Paul calling the Philippians to recognize their own abilities, completeness, and competence and deal with their difficulties through good old self-reliance? Absolutely not! In the next verse (4:13), Paul states, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It is Christ who increases our strength. It is Christ who empowers us, gives us the ability to deal with trials. He is sufficient. He is able to face the pains, evils, and hardships we encounter. He strengthens us, through His Spirit, to deal with life and all its difficulties.

True Christianity demands honesty and involves an honest self-perception. It is an honest fact that we are inadequate, that life is difficult, and that we have extreme needs. When we fail to acknowledge this, we minimize our needs and what Jesus has done and will do for us. Self-reliance robs Jesus of the glory due Him. If we “have it all together,” if our needs are just not that great, then what Jesus did and continues to do to meet our deepest needs is not so great a thing.

Paul calls those who consider themselves self-sufficient and without need to repent and find their sufficiency in Christ. Paul’s closing remarks to the Philippian church call us to live honestly before God and with one another. To have faith in Jesus does not mean we pretend that bad things are good. It does not mean that we fail to acknowledge our deep needs, pains, hurts, and frustrations. To have faith is to see ourselves as we are—frail, hurting, crippled people whom Jesus has called out of the world to be His own. It is Jesus who meets all needs. He alone is sufficient.

As we realize His sufficiency and rely upon Him, we experience the joy of the Christian life.