The Spirit of Can Do
February 18th, 1979 @ 7:30 PM
THE SPIRIT OF "CAN DO"
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-18-79 7:30 p.m.
We invite the great throngs of you who are listening on radio, sharing this service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, to turn with the pastor to the fourth, the last chapter of Philippians. The title of the sermon chosen by our Median and Business and Professional divisions is the text in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." And we are going to read together Philippians, chapter 4, verses 9 through 13. Philippians 4, verses 9 through 13. Now all of us out loud together:
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
That is our text and our subject: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" [Philippians 4:13]. The Spirit of "Can Do."
We must be careful not to separate the two tremendous divisions of that text. "I can do"; to say that alone is of all things presumptuous. It is vainglorious boasting. "I can do all things." That is what the men who have blotted the history of the world with blood and suffering and tears in conquest have done. "I can do all things," they say. Nebuchadnezzar said that as he walked through the beautiful city of Babylon. And I’ve often thought it must have been the most colorful city that was ever known because they made it out of colored tile. The walls of the buildings, the streets, the whole world was full of beautiful Oriental color, baked tile. And as he looked at that vast city, he said, "This my hands have done; I have brought this to creation. This is the work of my strength" [Daniel 4:30]. And as he said it, God struck him; his reason departed from him, and for seven years he ate grass like an ox. The hair on his body grew like feathers on a bird, and his fingernails and toenails were like claws [Daniel 4:31-34]. "I can do all things," separated and alone it brings sure and certain defeat.
You have an instance of that in Xerxes. With the greatest army that the ancient world had ever seen assembled, there were more than one million in it; he threw himself against Greece to conquer Hellas. When the Hellespont was raging and he couldn’t cross it, he had his men with chains to flail it. Finally in Marathon on the land and in Salamis on the sea, he was utterly and disastrously defeated and returned back to Persia in disgrace and defeat. "I can do all things," separated it brings sure and certain defeat. That is what Napoleon said: "I can do all things"; and against the rock of Napoleon, the nations of Europe dash themselves to pieces. He blotted out the sun of Austria. He bid the star of Prussia to set. He annihilated the constellation of Spain. Yet, in the soft falling snow of the vast and illimitable Steppes of Russia, he met inevitable and catastrophic defeat and came back to France alone. "I can do all things," separated it ensures disaster. I have not time, nor need I, for in our generation we have seen the rise and the fall of that superman who was seeking to build a super race, Adolph Hitler. "I can do all things," separated the verse speaks of disintegration, destruction and disaster. But put it together, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me," and what a marvelous and beautiful and triumphant and victorious text we have. "I can do through Christ who strengthens me" [Philippians 4:13].
What do you mean, Paul? Are you also egotistical and full of vainglorious boasting? Are you presumptuous saying such a thing? No; for every Christian ought to be able to say it. This belongs to the people of Christ. This is our text. This is our pronouncement to the whole world. "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." Not that Paul was taught by Gamaliel some forensic ableness that destroyed and devastated his foes, not that he had some strange wizardry, not that he had been initiated into some Kabbalah, not that he was acquainted with some secrets of mysterious power, no. But in Christ, he and every Christian, can have a victorious and triumphant life. "I can do through Christ all things" [Philippians 4:13].
First, in Christ I can meet every trial, and every trouble, and every sorrow in life, and I can meet it triumphantly and victoriously. Don’t you ever persuade yourself, you youngsters who are just beginning to be aware of how life can be put together, and all of our young people, don’t you persuade yourself that just others will see sorrow and trial. You also shall know it; there is no one who is able to bow himself and hide himself and escape it. It is a floodtide that overwhelms all of us, all of us. Satan sees to that. When God said of Job, "He is the best man in the world" [Job 1:8, 2:3]. Satan said, "Oh? Oh? We’ll see." And Satan assailed him and afflicted him, took away everything that he possessed [Job 1:13-19]; set him in dust and in ashes [Job 2:8], in boils and sores from the top of his head to the sole of his foot [Job 2:7-8]. And in his sorrow and in his trial and in his ash heap Job said, "The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" [Job 1:21].
Satan assailed Jesus. And after those awesome temptations, think of one, "I will give You the whole world, the glory of all the nations, if You will just bow down before me" [Luke 4:5-7]. After the Lord had overcome Satan, the Book says, "He left Him just for a season" [Luke 4:13]. Don’t ever think you will escape any time in your life down to old age and to death: you may have won a battle, but you’re not reprieved from this war until the last breath that you breathe. We all face it, bitterly, an awesome struggle. The apostle Paul faced it. He said,
I have a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me. And I besought the Lord that it might be removed; three times did I cry to Him. And the Lord said, My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
[2 Corinthians 12:7-10]
"I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" [Philippians 4:13]. And there has not been any trial that afflicts us but such as is common to man; and God with the trial shows us a way of glorious escape [1 Corinthians 10:13].
This is the great text of Oliver Cromwell. When he died, he said, "Will some godly man read to me that passage that says, ‘I can do all things through Christ’?" And a godly man was brought, opened the Bible and read that passage to Oliver Cromwell, that you just read in the fourth chapter of the Philippian letter [Philippians 4:13]. You see when Oliver Cromwell’s son Robert was slain, was killed in battle, he comforted himself with that verse. When one of his generals lost a boy in the war, he wrote him a letter and quoted to his general that verse. In the great sorrow and trial of Oliver Cromwell’s daughter, he wrote to her and quoted that verse. And when time came for that last struggle, he said, "Will some godly man come and read to me that passage that says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’?" He sees us through in every hour of crisis and struggle and trial.
Number two, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me"; He helps me overcome the strivings in my own soul, and we all have them. There’s no one of us who is not the scene of a civil war, every one of you. There is war in your heart, war in your soul, conflict in your life. There is conflict at the heart of the universe. There is conflict and war in heaven [Revelation 12:7-9]. It is universal. And all of us feel those strivings in our soul. There are ten thousand things wrong with us. If I’m not weak in this area, I am in another. If I’m not struggling in this area, then I am in this one. I’m not striving in my inner spirit in this area of my life, then I am in another. And all of us have them. They are weaknesses of the flesh; they are blemishes in the redeemed of God; they are little bits of carbon in the diamond. And we all have those weaknesses in our lives.
Now, there are two things we can do about it. One: we can give ourselves over to them, these weaknesses that we have in our lives, these blemishes in our character, all of us have them. And we can do one of two things: we can give ourselves over to them, and we become more and more and more like that. When I allow myself to be overwhelmed by a weakness in my life, a blemish in my spirit, when I give in to that, I become more easily a prey to it; and finally I become the thing itself. That’s a disastrous thing. For a man to be overcome by the inner weakness in his life, it hurts him, it hurts his house, it hurts his home, it hurts his family, it hurts his friends, it hurts his own life. It is a disastrous thing. We all have them. But there is another alternative, and that is: "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" [Philippians 4:13]. I can fight against it. I can war against it. I can ask God to stand by my side and help me to overcome it, and I can do it triumphantly! "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me"; and I can overcome those inner weaknesses in my life. I can do it through Christ.
Do you remember that story? There was a man, a farmer, who had a violent temper. Ah! He cursed when things didn’t please him, and he beat his animals when they didn’t do what he thought they ought to do. He was just a vile, violent, vicious man, with a volative temper. Man, I know all about that, just rise on the inside of you. I wouldn’t give a nickel for a guy that didn’t have some kind of a volative spirit in him. There was a fellow that went up to a preacher when he was furious, and said, "You know you ought not to be that way, mad like that." And the preacher said, "Listen here you shrimp, you milquetoast, listen here, I control more temper in five minutes than you do in a lifetime." There’s just some of us made that way, volative. Well, this fellow was like that; he had a volative spirit and a high temper. Well, he got converted; he found the Lord, he was saved. And he was wonderfully born again. He was out milking the cow. And while he was a-milkin’ old Bossie, the cow kicked over the bucket and got milk all over him. And the neighbors, when they saw it, they said, "Oh, look at this, look at this, look at this! Hear him cuss, and watch him beat that old cow to death." You know what he did? He pulled out his handkerchief, unfolded it, began to wipe off the milk from his brow and his face and his hands and all over him. And as he wiped the milk away, he began to sing,
‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word
Just to rest upon the promise,
Just to know thus saith the Lord.
["Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus," Louisa M. R. Stead]
Isn’t that great? And that’s the truth. Man, God gives us strength to be sweet, and to be fine, and to be gracious, and to be precious. God does it for you; a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. He helps us overcome those weaknesses in our souls. "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" [Philippians 4:13].
Number three: I can do the assignments that God has given me. All of us have them. Sometimes they may seem small and menial, and sometimes they may seem staggering and great in proportion; but whatever they are, when the time comes for us to do God’s work, He will give us strength for the task [2 Corinthians 12:9]. He never fails. And that task is given to us all the days of our lives; we never retire from it. You know I’ve been thinking about this in these last several years more than I ever dreamed I’d consider anything in my life. I’ve been considering this work of the Lord that God has assigned to us. And you know, thinking about that, I started thinking about the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, when the Lord says that the kingdom of heaven is like a man who goes to a far country, and he calls in all of his servants and he gives them the estate, and he divides it among. And this man he gives ten parts to, and this man he gives five parts to, and so with all of his servants he divided up his kingdom estate. And then he came back to see how they fared. And do you remember what the lord said? [Luke 19:12-15]. You look at what he said: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. You may now retire," did he say that? No. What he said was, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; you now will be ruler over ten cities" [Luke 19:16-17]. And the other one, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; you may retire," no; "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; you are to be ruler over five cities" [Luke 19:18-19]. According to the capacity and the gifts of the man, he worked and he served the Lord Jesus as long as life shall last. And I have concluded, that is God’s assignment for all of us. There are things God gives us to do when we’re young, things God gives us to do at the threshold of manhood or womanhood, things God gives us to do in the strength and the height of our meridian power, and there are things that God has given us to do in the sunset days of our lives. We’re to serve Him as long as God gives us breath. And I can do it in Christ [Philippians 4:13].
A youth can do it. Little David said to Goliath, "You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to you in the name of the Lord God of hosts, whom thou hast defied" [1 Samuel 17:45]. And he slew the giant Goliath [1 Samuel 17:48-51]. David did that, a young unshaven, ruddy-faced boy. Zerubbabel did it in his age [Ezra 3:2-13]. You know, when I read the Bible and think of those who returned back from the Babylonian captivity, you know how many people there were? Forty-two thousand. Forty-two thousand. Forty-two thousand people returned, and they had the colossal, illimitable, immeasurable, indescribable task of rebuilding a whole nation, and the city of Jerusalem, and the temple. Forty-two thousand [Ezra 2:64; Nehemiah 7:66]. Why brother, we have forty-two thousand people living in the one section of Dallas where the parsonage is. Imagine a little group like that such as live around me trying to rebuild a whole nation. You know what Zechariah said to him? "The Lord raised up Zechariah, and said, You go tell Zerubbabel, and speak to him, and tell him this," do you remember what Zechariah the prophet was commissioned to deliver unto Zerubbabel, the leader of that returning remnant? You know it when I quote it for you: "Thus saith the Lord, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord" [Zechariah 4:6].
"I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" [Philippians 4:13]. Not by the power of my hand, not by the might of my life, but by the strength and the power and the Spirit of the Lord [Zechariah 4:6]. Whatever our assignment is, if it’s God’s will, He helps us and walks with us and strengthens us in our duty.
Last: "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" [Philippians 4:13]; I can face the future triumphantly, triumphantly. What does tomorrow hold? It is in God’s hands. Just as the days and the years and the life and the eternity and the forever, they are in His omnipotent hands. He holds the world in His hands. He holds the tiny little baby in His hands. He holds all of us who are men and women in His hands. He holds every tomorrow in His hands. He holds us, brother and sister, in His hands. He holds me in His hands. And I can face the future triumphantly in Him. What does the morrow bring? It’s known but to God. But however it turns, He is victorious. Even as I face inevitable death, God is there to strengthen me and to help me. However the flow of life, I know somewhere, someday, the inexorable, inevitable hour will come: I shall die, unless the Lord raptures us in His coming [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. How shall I face that tomorrow? Triumphantly, gloriously, victoriously, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me."
It was Paul who cried, "O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" [Philippians 4:13]. That is the Christian faith and the Christian commitment: unafraid, just trusting God for every glorious, triumphant tomorrow.
I love to read about those old saints, who in the days of the Roman Empire laid the foundation for the conversion of the civilized world. One of them was the pastor of the church in Antioch. His name was Ignatius. He was pastor there after 70 AD. He, in his preaching, and he must have been a mighty preacher because he swayed the whole great third city of the Roman Empire toward God, and because of the effectiveness of Ignatius as a preacher, thousands and thousands won to the blessed Jesus, because of his pulling the people into the Christian faith and away from those gods that were sponsored by the imperial Caesar. Trajan, the emperor of the Roman Empire, decreed that Ignatius should be exposed to the lions in the Roman Coliseum. And he is supposed to be the first Christian martyr who died in that Roman Coliseum. Well, as he made his journey from Antioch to Rome, he wrote letters along the way, some of the most beautiful letters of the Christian faith you could ever know. It seems as if they almost belong in the Bible. And when the day came, and the thousands and the thousands and the thousands, tier upon tier, in that great Roman Coliseum looked down in the arena, there stood God’s preacher, Ignatius, pastor of the Christian church in Rome. There he stood. And the cages were opened, and the hungry ravenous carnivorous lions were let loose. And you know what? Above the crunching of the bones, and the tearing of the sinews, he held his hand toward the leading lion and said, "Now I begin to be a Christian." That’s great. That’s great. That’s when we magnify the Lord in our trial, in the fire, in the fagots, in the burning, and in the death.
Reading about John Noyes, burned at the stake in England, he picked up a burning fagot and kissed it and said, "I praise God He has counted me worthy to suffer for His name." That’s great. And that’s what it is to be a Christian: to face whatever providence shall arise on the morrow in the assurance that Jesus is with me. He strengthens me and helps me. He stands by my side. It’s His promise: "I will never leave thee" [Hebrews 13:5]. Amen. Oh, what a God blessed preciousness it is to have a friend like that, walking by your side, helping in the home, helping with the children, helping in the work, the best business partner you could ever employ, the best somebody to share things with that you don’t know answers to. Take it to the Lord Jesus: He is omniscient, He knows everything. And He is omnipotent; His great strong arm holds the world and rules it. And to have Him as your friend, and Savior, and Redeemer, O God! [1 Peter 1:18-19]. How precious it is to be a Christian, to walk with the Lord, to live in His love and grace, to have Him at the hour of our death, to take us to heaven. Dear God, thank Thee. We praise Thee for Thy blessed Son and our Savior, the wonderful Lord Jesus.
And that is our appeal to you tonight. To open your heart to Him, "I accept Him for all that He promised to be, for all that He says He is; I receive Him, the blessed Jesus. I give Him my heart, give Him all the troubles of my life; I bring all of my perplexities and strivings to Him. He is able. He will strengthen me. And I’ll trust Him for my sins, that they be washed in the blood of His Lamb [1 John 1:7, Revelation 1:5]. And I’ll trust Him to take me to heaven when I die. And I’ll trust Him to bless me in my house and home. I give myself to the wonderful Jesus, and here I am, pastor." Out of this balcony round, you, on this lower floor, a family you. A couple, or just one somebody you; make the decision in your heart; do it now. And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up taking that first step. Down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, "Here I am, preacher, I have decided for God; and here I come." May the Lord bless you, may angels attend you in the way as you answer with your life. "Tonight, I’m giving my heart to God, and here I am," while we stand and while we sing.