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THE OVERCOMING POWER OF CHRIST!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, February 16, 2014

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


I have been watching the “Tonight” show on television off and on for sixty-one years. Before Jay Leno there was Johnny Carson. Before Johnny Carson there was Jack Paar, and before him was Steve Allen. But the one I watched the most was Jack Paar, and in my opinion he was the best. Jack Paar’s version of the “Tonight” show was freewheeling and unscripted, something unheard of today. Paar never even discussed beforehand what he and his guests would talk about. It was all ad-lib. Paar had a frequent guest, an elderly comedian, Cliff Arquette, who called himself “Charlie Weaver.” Some nights the two of them would just sit there talking without many other guests. But it was so good that I watched it almost every night for a few years in the early 1960’s. One night Mr. Paar had the former Vice President Richard Nixon as his guest. It was very interesting to say the least! Nixon was an avid reader. At one point Paar asked Nixon what five books had most influenced his life. Nixon rattled off four titles. Then he said, “This one completely changed my life,” and he said it was “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Nixon said whenever he felt discouraged he would pick up that book and read some of it. He said it inspired him to do things that he thought were impossible.

At that particular time in my life, I couldn’t have felt more hopeless. I had just flunked out of college. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have a car. My mother gave me a place to sleep, but I got no help at all from my father, who had married a woman that didn’t want me in their lives. So, there I was, in a completely hopeless condition. I had just gotten saved, but I had no confidence in myself. None at all! I felt compelled to become a Baptist minister and missionary to the Chinese. I felt driven to do that. But I had to graduate from college and from a three-year seminary program before I could even think of becoming a Southern Baptist missionary. I knew I could never do it! I don’t know if I can convey to you the degree of despair and helplessness that I felt. A few years later I read Franz Kafka’s (1883-1924) existential novel, The Castle. It came close to describing my feelings as I struggled to graduate from college and seminary, and become a missionary – a horrible nightmare of laboring to enter a profession which seemed unattainable, unachievable, forever out of reach.

I had been saved a few weeks earlier. But shortly afterwards I failed in college. Not long after that I was watching Jack Paar when Richard Nixon told how “The Power of Positive Thinking” had helped him. I bought the book and read it straight through one night. I didn’t realize it was written by a liberal. I forgot most of what he wrote, but one chapter gave me hope. In that chapter Norman Vincent Peale said to memorize Philippians 4:13 and repeat it several times each day. He meant it as a sort of self-brainwashing technique. But I took it as the Word of God. I can only say that the words of that verse strengthened me and inspired me to do what I thought was humanly impossible. I was not only able to do all my college work at night with an A minus grade point average, but also to work forty hours a week on a secular job in the day time, and spend every weekend doing hours of ministry at the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles. I became a human dynamo, getting by with six hours or less of sleep each night! So there you have the story of how Philippians 4:13 became my life verse. To this very day I almost always put that verse under my name in most letters and notes that I write,

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

This church would not exist if God had not used that verse of Scripture. Through it Christ changed my life! I know by experience that Christ can help you overcome every obstacle, and do whatever God wants you to do in your life! There’s a chorus that says,

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
   And got any mountain that you can't tunnel through?
Christ specializes in things thought impossible
   And He will do what no other power can do! 
(author unknown).

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

In this sermon I am going to apply that text in two ways. First, I will apply it to those of you who are already saved. Then I will apply it to those of you who are still lost.

I. First, I want you that are already saved to grasp the truth in this text.

It can change your life - as it did mine!

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

The Greek word translated “I can do” means “to be strong” or “to have power.” Dr. J. Vernon McGee said this means you can do all things “in the context of the will of Christ for your life. Whatever Christ has for you to do, He will supply the power...I can do all things which God has for me to do from the time He saved me to the time He will take me out of this world. ‘Through Christ which strengtheneth me.’ Christ is the One who will strengthen you and enable you to do all that is in His will for you...When you and I are in Christ, and are moving in Christ...we are irresistible. There is no stopping us” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume 4, pp. 327-328).

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

The Apostle Paul’s life proves that to be true. Paul lived a truly amazing life - an astonishing life! I cannot read what he wrote in II Corinthians 11:23-31 without thinking that our text was fully authenticated by his life. Paul said,

“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not” (II Corinthians 11:23-31).

No amount of pain, suffering or disappointment could stop him!

But please don’t think that Paul was a superman! No, indeed! He often felt as weak and helpless as you sometimes do! But Christ came to him and said,

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

And Paul then said,

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Corinthians 12:10).

The Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs (1600?-1646) said that the Christian is “enabled to bear whatever God lays on him, by the strength that he finds from Jesus Christ” (Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewell of Christian Contentment, p. 63). The great preacher Charles Simeon (1759-1836) went through heavy trials. When he first became a pastor the people in the church were against him for preaching on their need for a real conversion. “The parishoners locked their pews and the churchwardens locked the doors. For five years Simeon [said] ‘I preached to bare walls’...[then] he had another five years of strenuous opposition [before his church succeeded]” (David L. Larsen, D.D. The Company of the Preachers, Kregel Publications, 1998, p. 403).

Chrysostom was exiled by the Empress Eudoxia. John Hus was burned at the stake for preaching the Gospel. Luther was excommunicated by the Catholic Church. Baxter was locked in the Tower of London. Bunyan was sent to prison for twelve years. The Wesley brothers were driven from the Anglican Church. Whitefield found the doors of every church in London locked to keep him out. Jonathan Edwards was fired from the very church in which the First Great Awakening started under his ministry! Spurgeon was censured by the Baptist Union of England. Gladys Aylward was rejected by the London Missionary Society. J. Gresham Machen had his ordination revoked by the Presbyterian Church for believing the Bible. Richard Wurmbrand was beaten by the Nazis for being a Jew, and then put in prison for 14 years by the Communists for preaching the Gospel of Christ. Robert Jermain Thomas was beheaded by the Koreans for preaching the Gospel. Wang Mingdao, Allen Yuan, Samuel Lamb, Moses Xie, Li Tianen, and many other pastors in China, spent many years in prison for preaching the Gospel. John and Betty Stam were executed in China before they ever got to preach. Jim Elliott was killed by the Auca Indians before he ever preached to them. His wife, Elizabeth Elliott, went back and led most of those Indians to Christ. When I read the story of Adoniram and Ann Judson, I thought, “It would take supernatural power to live through all that pain and suffering!” Indeed! And that supernatural power comes from Jesus Christ! Every one of those great Christians would tell you,

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

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
   And got any mountain that you can't tunnel through?
Christ specializes in things thought impossible
   And He will do what no other power can do! 

You can do whatever God calls you to do! You can be whatever God wants you to be! You can triumph over every adversity and every problem of life – through Jesus Christ, our Lord!

Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory, that overcomes the world.
   (“Faith is the Victory” by John H. Yates, 1837-1900).

You may think you can’t do it – whatever it is – but you can do it!

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

Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory, that overcomes the world.

But I must keep my promise and apply this text to those who are not yet saved.

II. Second, I want you who are not saved to also grasp the truth of this text.

Yes, the text does apply to you also.

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

Have you been struggling to find Jesus and be saved? I know some of you have. Does it seem hopeless? Does it seem endless – like you will never see light at the end of the long, dark tunnel of despair? Do you sometimes feel like Kafka’s character, who couldn’t get inside the castle, no matter how hard he tried? Do you sometimes feel that your search to find Christ is like a horrible nightmare? Does salvation seem unattainable, unachievable, forever out of reach? If it does, I have good news for you! Help is on the way!

Don’t get me wrong, help is not on the way for those who are fooling around, and playing games with God. Jesus said,

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24).

Jesus said that to a man who asked a question about salvation. Jesus said to “strive” to enter into salvation. He said those who only “seek” to enter in will not be able to do so. The Greek word translated “strive” means to "struggle," to "fight." But the Greek word translated “seek” means to inquire casually, carelessly; to try to learn how to be saved out of curiosity – while remaining unconcerned. The person who only seeks to enter in by learning some things about salvation “shall not be able” to enter in to Jesus. Only the person who is dead serious about salvation, who struggles and fights to find Jesus, will be enabled to enter in to salvation in Christ. Only those who are very serious about knowing Christ will be given the grace to find Him. The pre-incarnate Christ said,

“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

“When ye shall search for me with all your heart.” This implies a great struggle to find the Saviour. There’s nothing casual and light hearted about the person who “strives” to enter in to Jesus. He is seeking the Saviour with all his heart.  When you do that, He will give you the grace to find Him!

One young woman said she is afraid if she doesn’t get saved she won’t be accepted in the church. She had tears in her eyes because she likes being in church. But there was no thought of sin in what she said – and no thought of Jesus dying on the Cross to save her from sin. This is only a casual interest, trying to learn how to be accepted in the church! It is certainly not striving to find Jesus and be cleansed from sin by His Blood! It is just a slight interest in being accepted by the people in the church – and nothing more (However, on the Sunday night after I preached this sermon she hopefully trusted Jesus).

Now you may think that it is impossible for you to be saved. But when God sends conviction to your sinful heart, and then He draws you to Jesus, you will be able to apply our text to your own salvation, and say,

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

Then you will experience salvation through His precious Blood, which He shed on the Cross to cleanse you from all sin.

If you would like to speak with us about trusting Jesus, and being saved from your sins by Him, please leave your seat and walk to the back of the auditorium now. Mr. John Samuel Cagan will lead you to another room where we can talk and pray. Jesus shed His Blood on the Cross to cleanse you from all sin. Go to the back of the auditorium now if you would like to speak to us about being saved by Him. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will be given the grace to trust Jesus now.  Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Prayer Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Faith is the Victory” (by John H. Yates, 1837-1900)/
“Got Any Rivers You Think are Uncrossable?" (author unknown).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE OVERCOMING POWER OF CHRIST!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

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

I.   First, I want you that are already saved to grasp the truth in this text,
II Corinthians 11:23-31; 12:9, 10.

II.  Second, I want you who are not saved to also grasp the truth of this text, Luke 13:24; Jeremiah 29:13.