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The Rev. Alan Stibbs: “Coping with the demands of life” (Philippians 4:4-20)

October 30, 2018

From The Australian Church Record, here is a meditation on Philippians 4:4-20 by the Rev. Alan Stibbs and titled Coping with the demands of life.  This is an excellent reflection on the secret to dealing with life’s trials – which, as Rev. Stibbs points out, is not meant to be a secret:

Also, as Paul makes plain elsewhere (see Colossians 1:25-29), this secret is not closely guarded. It is in Christ an open secret; anybody can learn it: all are meant to learn it. Yet the plain fact is that many professing Christians do not learn it. They are so near and yet so far. They are mixed up with things Christian. They may be engaged not only in church attendance, but also in church work. They may seem, so to speak, to know all about Christianity.

But they do not know it—the secret. They are like Martha, to whom our Lord said, “One thing is needful”; and (by implication) “you have not got it” (see Luke 10:38-42). Lest we, too, fail to possess the one essential let us heed the call to sit at the Lord’s feet and hear his word.

What the secret is: Christ within

Paul indicates the character of the secret by what he says about it. He can, he says, face anything that comes (Phil 4:11-13). He can cope successfully with all the fluctuations of being up and being down, of having much and having little. He has no deficiency to complain of. He has learned, no matter what his state, to be content. The word means not that he is satisfied with his circumstances; but that in them, no matter how disappointing they are, he himself is ‘self-sufficient’ or ‘self-contained’. The answer to his needs and problems lies not outside himself in uncertain and changing circumstance, but inside himself in the indwelling and unfailing Christ. This mystery or secret Paul explicitly defines in Colossians 1:27 as “Christ in you”.

In 2 Corinthians 9:8, he writes that God can so make his grace to overflow within us that always and in everything we can have complete self-sufficiency—that is in independence of our circumstances—and thus be able continually to abound in doing every kind of good work. Similarly, in Hebrews 13:5, we read, “Be content with what you have, for he said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’”.

The man, who thus has Christ’s unfailing presence, always has in himself more than enough to meet anything that comes. So says Paul, in Philippians 4:13, “I am able for everything by reason of him who strengthens me inside”. This, then, is the secret, the simple sufficiency for daily living—Christ within.

Rev. Stibbs goes on to explain how to put this into practice, and it is truly good counsel for anyone – so please read the whole thing.

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