“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
In verse 12, Paul gives various eventualities that he might face. No adversity can daunt him: “I can be rich or poor. I can be free or in prison. No matter what may come my way, I am content.” Neither defeat nor despair defeats him due to his financial difficulty. Although he is in jail, he is not discouraged. Although he is destitute, he is not down. Paul did not accomplish this through some super strength found in himself. He is utterly triumphant in the Lord. This was no idle boast.
This does not make Paul a super-man. Paul was no independent person who did not need God. He did not make his mark on life by operation bootstraps. He rejected Stoic inner fortitude that took life with indifference. His disavowal of dependence on material things brings him to this popular verse.
I can do all things
Is this a pretentious claim? The medicine man in the former century made outlandish claims for his medicines. Does Paul make an unfounded claim here that he can “do all things”? Many Christians are skeptical of such statements like this in practice if not in theory. Most of us believe that we can do “some” things through Christ.
Obviously, this verse is not license to do anything in the sphere of our will. That would place the mantle of sovereignty upon our shoulders. We are not omniscient, so why should we become omnipotent? The will of God limits the phrase “all things.” “All things” refers to the will of God for the believer. This is not absolute power for the pleasure of Paul’s desires or selfish plans. Whatever the Lord wishes him to do, God grants him the power to do.
The word “do” means to “have strength.” This is the efficacy or the power to prevail. God gives Paul the power to produce.
Inner composure is inseparable from the sustaining power of God.
Paul was “content” (v.11) while in prison due to the sustaining infused-strength from God. God delivered Paul from dependence on things. Can you depend on the Lord to meet your needs? Paul does not say, “I can do all things.” That would be an empty boast. His strength was outside the inner resources of himself. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves” (2 Cor. 3:5). Do you trust the Lord for “ALL” things?
The basis for contentment is the Lord himself. We then depend upon our own strength. We roll up our sleeves and say, “I will conquer this thing.” We then rely on brain and brawn.