Doing All Things
10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
When you are the needy recipient of help and concern from good people, it causes joy. Even if tangible help isn’t within their means, the fact they want to help and will help you when they can – is a cause of joy. Paul rejoiced in the Lord, knowing of the love and concern of the Philippian Christians. Even when they were unable to help, Paul knew their heart longed to send help, and that they would when they had opportunity.
And, this was not a case where Paul merely wanted his needs met. Because, he had learned – in whatever situation – to be content just serving the Lord and relying on the Lord for his daily need (perhaps not knowing for certain how those needs would be met, but believing God would care for him).
In Paul’s life and service to the Lord, he had learned this rare contentment, often not knowing how need would be met. He had learned by the experience of faith, how to live in the low places. Yet, he was able to maintain good humility in the high places. That character is described here as “the secret of facing plenty and hunger.”
Someone might ask, “what course can I take to learn this secret?” Or, “what book can I read … what video or seminar can I see or visit?”
Paul learned this contentment through his life and service to the Lord. And he describes it like this: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
This didn’t mean Paul was a Superhero with powers, or that he could fly or become visible or invisible at will. Active faith in Christ does not afford us the ability to do any impossible thing we can conceive! Dismiss that popular concept.
It means, the believer can do all that Christ expects him to do, with the full measure of strength required for the tasks.
Phil. 4:9 is not some magical incantation that enables the positive mental attitude believer to achieve the impossible, work miracles and do sensational but useless things.
It is a simple description of how Paul learned contentment; how he was able to live down low in the dungeon and yet remain humble in higher places.
It applies to believers today, but must not be taken as a blank check or a ticket admitting us to the impossible.
The main idea of this brief paragraph is immediately clear. It is about Christians thinking and living in good relationship with each other. Why is this important? Because there is “encouragement in Christ,” there is “comfort from love,” we are able to participate together in those things that the Spirit has revealed, and the affection and sympathy the Spirit enables us to have completes the joy of the righteous. Do you see that verse one is loaded with motivates. This opening signals to the reader just how important it is for Christians to think and live with each other in peace.
Living under the authority and example of Christ, we are able to be “of the same mind.” No. This doesn’t mean we are mental clones. Rather, the center governing principle of our inner thoughts are the same. There is unity of thought among us because of our mutual submission to Christ. We think alike because we serve the same Master. It is that simple.
Similarly, “the same love.” This is not about us imitating each other, to achieve this sameness. This is about imitating Christ and following Him, resulting in the inner and outer presence of this love. It is self-will and care that reaches out actively to serve others in the best possible way.
When Christians are “on the same page” following Christ, there is this sameness and harmony of thought and attitude, “being of full accord and of one mind.”
The negative of this teaching is: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Any words or actions which are driven by selfish ambition or conceit should be resisted, rejected and internally rebuked by followers of Christ. It is not who we are.
Rather, “in humility,” we are inclined to “count others more significant than” ourselves. If it can be said that we look out for Number One, that One is Jesus the Christ, not us, not self.
To be even more specific: “Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interests of others.”
Are you on the “look out” for yourself or for others? Is your interests of heart self-centered? To whatever extent that is true of you, you are not aligned with the Savior.
“We are plagued by the ‘manifest cult of self-indulgence.’ The words of Christ about losing one’s life and identification with the poor and humble and words like ‘take up your cross daily’ seem quaint to a generation that has gotten used to seeing ads for solid gold putters. The church seems irrelevant to modern man, something to be neither fought nor defended. We do not expect, for the most part, to find the gospel centered in a burning conviction which will make men and women change occupations or go to the end of the earth seeking to teach it.”
From Christianity Magazine, 1997
Concern For Others
An often overlooked, yet significant passage, Philippians 2:4 says, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” This concept is contrary to the popular notion espoused by humanists and others who selfishly care only for themselves. Many people today will only “look out for number one,” as the expression goes. They have little concern for anyone but themselves.
This statement in Philippians 2:4 certainly contradicts the self-centered attitude that is so prevalent today, The NASB translates it, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interest of others.” Certainly, this passage is not saying that we are to be busybodies. However, it is saying that we are not to be just interested in our own affairs, but we are to be interested in the good and welfare of other people. Christians are to care about other people and not just care about themselves.
A similar concept is found in Galatians 6. This text tells us that, in addition to bearing our own burdens, we are to bear the burdens of others. Verse two says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
In the first part of Philippians 2, Paul is trying to emphasize the importance of unity. He states various things which will promote unity. Among them is the attitude of concern expressed in the passage which we are examining. If we have concern for others, as well as ourselves, it will be much easier to be of one accord and of one mind in the church, as Paul implores in verse 2.
A proper application of this passage can help us a great deal. Often when we get our minds off our own problems and look at the difficulties and hardships of others, our own problems seem much smaller.
—J. Mike Johnson
Previous Article on This Text
 Lewis, B. (1997). And Then Some. In Christianity Magazine: September–October 1997, Volume 14, Number 9/10 (8). Jacksonville, FL: Christianity Magazine.
By Warren E. Berkley
Expository Files 23.5; May, 2016