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CHRIST STRENGTHENING HIS PEOPLE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Evening, June 11, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”
(Philippians 4:13).


This is my “life verse.” I did not select it. It would be more true to say that it selected me. Let me tell you how that happened.

My father was an appliance salesman who dropped out of high school. My mother also dropped out. This was very common in the 1920’s and early 30’s, for the Great Depression forced young people to work at an early age in that day.

I was sickly as a child and missed a great deal of school. I learned to read and write and spent a great deal of time reading, but I never mastered mathematics, and to this day I do not know the times tables by heart. I learned little in mathematics beyond addition and subtraction, and a little division. I failed in algebra at high school. I failed at chemistry. I failed at Latin, which was a required subject then. I made a “D” in Spanish. The only subjects in which I excelled were speech and dramatics. I was a miserable failure in most every other subject. I dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade, and worked for a year at odd jobs.

But I had experienced a divine call to the ministry. I knew that I was called to preach, knew it in my bones. But they told me I had to go to college to be a Southern Baptist preacher. This left me in a terrible dilemma, a bewildering predicament. I had to do something that was beyond my own human ability. I was in such a quandary that the very thought of college gave me sleepless nights and sweaty palms.

Finally, I went back to high school and somehow struggled through the last year and graduated. It seemed like a miracle to me then, and it still does to this day. But then I was faced with college! The very word “college” filled me with horrible thoughts of defeat, for I knew, in the depths of my soul, that I was not college material. I was a miserable failure at academic work, and I knew it. Still, college stood before me as a Kafkaesque obstacle, an insurmountable wall, over which I had no power to climb, no strength to overcome, no ability to succeed.

As I started college, I was very afraid that I would fail.  And as Job said,

“The thing which I greatly feared [came] upon me, and that which I was afraid of [came] unto me” (Job 3:25).

I failed in my first year of college, just as I had feared.

I went to work, first in the mapmaking department of the Los Angeles Police Department, and then as a parking lot attendant for the State Building at 107 South Broadway. But the call of God to preach left me with no peace. As Jeremiah put it,

“Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay [I could not hold it any longer]”
     (Jeremiah 20:9).

I simply had to preach, no matter what obstacle lay in the way.

At that time I got a job inside the State Building delivering inter-office mail for the Division of Corporations, working from eight in the morning until five in the afternoon. It was shortly after taking this forty-hour-a-week job that I reluctantly and fearfully signed up for two evening classes at Los Angeles City College: Psychology 1 and English 21. It was also at this time that God gave me Philippians 4:13. I was reading a little book by a liberal author. One of the chapters was based on this verse. It wasn’t the liberal author’s words that changed me. No, it was this text itself.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

The truth in that verse entered my mind like a bolt of lightning. I was supercharged with energy by it. I threw myself into those two evening classes, studied with all my might and concentration, and made a B in the psychology course and an A in the English course. I was on my way. Never taking a single class before 5:00 PM, working forty hours a week on my secular job, I managed, by the sheer grace of God, to graduate from Los Angeles City College and Cal State L.A. in six years of night school. In my upper division work, in the last two years, I made a B+ average, and was even on the Dean’s List one quarter, no small feat for a boy who didn’t know the times tables and had flunked out of both high school and college.

College for me was a long and dreary experience. I had no friends outside my church. I took no holidays, went to no parties, had no dates, no relaxation, no “fun.” It was nothing but grueling work from 6:30 in the morning until midnight – five days a week, with an equally hard schedule of work studying twelve hours on Saturday and working in the church for several hours every Sunday. I felt like one of Dickens’ urchins clawing and slaving its way out of a darkened underworld. But I made it and graduated on the Dean’s List. Senator George Murphy spoke at my graduation at Cal State and personally shook my hand as he handed me that hard-won diploma. That night, after I graduated, my heart burst with joy. I knew the Bible was true. It was validated in my college triumph at graduation.  I went on to earn a masters degree and three earned doctorates.  I was also awarded an honorary degree in literature - no small feat for a boy who didn't know the times tables and had flunked out of both high school and college!

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

But I would give a word of caution to those who take up the promise of this verse carelessly. I warn you not to quote it lightly, or take its promise as your own, unless God Himself illuminates it and transforms you through it, for

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”

is no mere motivational phrase. Oh no! It reveals one of the deepest and most profound truths in the Bible. There is a great lesson in the text.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

The Apostle Paul had experienced this in his own life. It did not mean he could do everything. Obviously there were some things he could not do. But it meant he could do all things God required of him. Albert Barnes said,

His own experience in the various changes of life had warranted him in arriving at this conclusion; and he now expresses the firm confidence that nothing would be required of him which he would not be able to perform. In Paul, this declaration was not a vain self-reliance, nor was it the mere result of his former experience. He knew well where the strength was to be obtained by which to do all things, and on that arm that was able to uphold him he confidently relied (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, Baker Book House, 1983 reprint, note on Philippians 4:13).

This does not mean that Paul was superhuman. He had a “thorn in the flesh” (II Corinthians 12:7). Whatever may be meant by that, God told him,

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9).

Spurgeon said,

There is no doubt whatever that Jesus Christ makes his people strong by strengthening their faith. It is remarkable that very many poor and timid doubting Christians during the time of [Bloody] Mary’s persecution were afraid when they were arrested that they should never be able to bear the fire; but a singular circumstance is, that these generally behaved the most bravely…When John Ardley was brought before Bishop Bonner, Bonner taunted him, saying, “You will not be able to bear the fire”…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.” That same wicked [Bishop] held the hand of poor John Tomkins over a candle, finger by finger, saying to him, “I’ll give thee a taste of the fire before thou shalt come there;” and as the finger cracked and spurted forth, Tomkins smiled, and even laughed in his tormentor’s face, being ready to suffer as much in every member as his fingers endured…Look at old Ignatius. He is brought into the Roman circus, and after facing the taunts of the [Roman] emperor and the jeers of the multitude, the lions are let loose upon him, and he thrusts his arm into a lion’s mouth, poor aged man as he is, and when the bones are cracking, he said, “Now I begin to be a Christian”… And [John] Rogers, the first put to death in England for Christ, died singing too – as if the noble army of martyrs marched to battle with music in advance…What a thrilling argument to prove our text! Verily, Christians can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth them (C. H. Spurgeon, “All-Sufficiency Magnified,” The New Park Street Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1981 reprint, volume VI, p. 481).

To obtain this strength you must come to Christ by faith. He paid the penalty for your sin on the Cross. He shed His precious Blood to redeem your soul from damnation. He rose victorious from the grave. He lives on high, at the right hand of God. Come to Christ by faith. Rest your heart and soul on Him. He will not only save you – He will keep you saved. And, as the years roll by, you will see, over and over again, that His strength is sufficient for you, both now and forever. And in the end, when you stand on the golden streets of Heaven, you will fully understand the meaning of those words, 

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). 

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan:
II Corinthians 11:24-30; 12:7-10.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Great is Thy Faithfulness” (by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1866-1960).


THE OUTLINE OF

CHRIST STRENGTHENING HIS PEOPLE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”
(Philippians 4:13).

(Job 3:25; Jeremiah 20:9; II Corinthians 12:7, 9)