I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
The former part of the sentence would be a piece of impudent daring without the latter. There have been men who, puffed up with vanity, have said, "I can do all things." Their destruction has been sure — Nebuchadnezzar, Xerxes, Napoleon. And what shall we say to our apostle, weak in presence and contemptible in speech, the leader of a hated and persecuted sect. Has Gamaliel taught him an eloquence that can baffle all opposers? Have his sufferings given him so stern a courage that he is not to be turned away? Is it on himself he relies? No; he turns his face towards his Saviour and with devout reverence but dauntless courage. "Through Christ," etc.
I. THE MEASURE of the text. It is exceeding broad. Paul meant that he was able —
1. To endure all trials.
2. To perform all duties.
3. To conquer all corruptions. He once said, "O wretched man that I am," etc. But he did not stay there, "Thanks be unto God that giveth us the victory." Have you a violent temper? Through Christ you can curb it. Are you timid? Christ can give you a lion's boldness. Are you slothful? Christ can make you energetic. Are you incapable for strong effort? Christ can increase your capacity. Are you inconstant? Christ can settle you. There is not a Hittite or Jebusite in the whole land that cannot be east out.
4. To serve God in any state! (ver. 12). Some Christians are called to undergo extreme changes from wealth to poverty, and from poverty to wealth, and, alas, there is often a corresponding spiritual change; the one desponds, the other is elated or becomes avaricious. This need not be. When you gave yourself to Christ you gave yourself wholly to serve Him in everything and anywhere.
5. You can do all things through Christ in respect to all worlds. In this world you can enlighten and uplift it. You may pass through the dark gate of death with Christ without fear into the world of spirits, and there you are more than conqueror.
II. THE MANNER OF IT. None of us can explain this; but we may see how the acts of the Spirit for Christ tend to strengthen the soul for all things.
1. By strengthening our faith. It is remarkable how timid and doubting Christians have in time of trial behaved most bravely. God gives faith equal to the emergency. Weak faith can sprout and grow till it becomes great under the pressure of a great trial. Nothing braces a man's nerves like the cold winter's blast. Together with faith often comes a singular firmness of mind. When John Ardley was brought before Bonner the latter said, "The fire will convert you; faggots are sharp preachers." Said Ardley, "I am not afraid to try it; and I tell thee, Bishop, if I had as many lives as I have hairs on my head, I would give them all up sooner than I would give up Christ." And then Christians are often enabled to anticipate the joys of heaven when their pangs are greatest. Look at old Ignatius with his arm in the lion's mouth, exclaiming, "Now I begin to be a Christian."
2. By quickening the mental faculties. It is astonishing how poor illiterate persons have been able to refute their clever opponents. Cranmer and Ridley were no match for Jane Bouchier the Baptist martyr. "I am as true a servant of God as any of you; and if you put your poor sister to death, take care lest God should let loose the wolf of Rome on you, and you have to suffer for God, too."
3. By enabling the believer to overcome himself. He can lose all things, because he is already prepared to do it; he can suffer all things, because he does not value his body as the worldling does; he can brave all things, because he has learned to fear God, and therefore has no reason to fear man; he can perform wonders, because his body and spirit are disciplined.
4. Note the present tense. Not Christ has strengthened, did strengthen at conversion, "As thy days so shall thy strength be."
III. THE MESSAGE OF IT.
1. One of encouragement to those who are doing something for Christ, but feel painfully their own inability. Cease not from God's work, because you are unable to perform it of yourself. Cease from yourself, from man. Before Zerubbabel the mountain shall become a plain. If we believed great things we should do great things. Do net go through the world saying, "I was born little." You were not meant to be little. Act as David did in spite of his brothers' sneers.
2. Take heed that you do it in Christ's strength. You can do nothing without that. Go not forth till thou hast first prayed. The battle that begins with holy reliance on God means victory.
3. Paul speaks in the name of all Christians. How is it that some of you then are doing nothing? What a work there is to do! And what may not one resolute Christian accomplish.
(G. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.