Philippiansby David Sanford
When taken out of context, what Paul says in today's verse can and has been misused countless times. Business leaders and motivational speakers love to quote it. It's been called one of the Bible's most inspirational verses. And it is. However, as with any verse, we need to keep our eyes firmly fixed on what's always true: God and His Word. The immediate meaning is finding contentment in the Lord in every circumstance. With that in mind, let's unpack this verse's meaning.
In His infinite sovereignty, God has unlimited power. We would do well to remember this with every sunrise, sunset, and starlit night. Our sun is but one of hundreds of billions of stars in one of hundreds of billions of galaxies placed across nearly 100 billion light years of space. God is the one who created them all and set each one in its place. He knows each star's name. That God, the Lord, the Creator of the heavens and earth, possesses infinite power. He can do everything.
The Lord wants us to do much. Yet without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). To do anything of eternal worth, therefore, God needs to dwell in us and we need to pray for His will to be done (vv. 7-17).
In context, today's verse means that Paul-and we-can overcome any and all of life's difficulties, accomplish God's will, and experience contentment, all because of Jesus' power at work in and through us.
We should never dare claim to wield, control, or possess the power of God ourselves. Philip, John, and Peter met a man who does just that in the city of Samaria. His given name is Simon, but he loves to be called ″the Great Power of God″ (Acts 8:10). When he asks to buy some of the Holy Spirit's power, Peter rebukes him in the harshest of terms (vv. 18-24).
Paul, too, meets another man like this in the city of Paphos. His given name is Bar-Jesus, though some call him ″Elymas the sorcerer″ (13:8). He actively opposes the missionary work of Barnabas and Paul, who rebukes Bar-Jesus in the harshest of terms and leaves him temporarily blind (vv. 9-12).
In contrast, we have the example of Ananias. Initially, he feels powerless to do what God commands (9:13-14). At times, we may feel this way too-that is, until we remember who indwells and empowers us: No less than God, the Lord, the Creator of the heavens and earth, who longs to work in and through us.
Describe a time when you felt especially empowered by God. What happened?
What makes you most nervous about the future? Write a prayer asking God to empower you.