Cliff Burwell is a local church evangelist from North Carolina.
“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.” (Philippians 4:12-13)
I was thinking about these verses of Scripture and how God put them together. When Paul said, “I can do all things,” we always hear as if Paul is saying, “I can do anything. I can win the victory. I can get the job done.” That’s how folks usually preach that verse. When Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” that verse should not be pulled out of context. He was saying that in light of verse 12, which says, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound:...” Paul said, “I know how to be up and I know how to be down. I’ve learned that I can do all things through Christ.” What does that mean? I means I can be up and be happy, but I can also be down and be happy. That’s what it is talking about here. I know how to deal with both. That is not what I’m going to talk about today, but that is what he’s saying here. Paul said, “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...” He said, “I can be full in Christ to be happy. I can also be hungry in Christ to be happy.” We get the idea that the only thing Paul was saying here was, “Everything is wonderful because I can have everything great.” That’s not what he is saying. He is saying, “I can handle both. I can be abased and I can abound. I can be full and I can be hungry.” He said he learned, “...both to abound and to suffer need.” He said, “I know how to be happy no matter where I am, no matter what is going on in my life. I can do all things. I can go through these things, not in my own strength, but through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Today, I want to talk about one side of that, the side that has to do with victory. Every Christian needs to know how to be happy in Christ when they are losing, but I think too often we lose when we could win. I want to speak to you on the subject, “Just Say I Can.” “I can do all things...” One of the greatest statements in the Bible that Paul ever made was this statement where he said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” I think, even more than that, that two of the greatest words Paul ever spoke were those two words, “I can.” Whether it be Paul saying, “I can” when it comes to hunger, or “I can” when it comes to being full, or “I can” when it comes to being sick as he was, or “I can” when it comes to being healthy and feeling good. I was listening to our brother’s prayer a little while ago. He prayed, “Lord, thank you for the health that You’ve given us.” While he was praying that prayer, I was saying to myself, “I don’t feel that good this morning.” He is a lot older than I am and he feels great this morning. Whether it be in sickness or in health, Paul said, “I can. I can. I can.” We could be a lot better off and accomplish a lot more and have more victories if we would just learn to realize that in Christ we can, if we’ll just say that we can. Paul was not talking about a Norman Vincent Peale philosophy that says, “I can do all things through the power of positive thinking.” He was talking about a Bible philosophy that says, “I can do all things through the power of Jesus Christ in my life.” Somebody asked a preacher one time, “What do you think of the Apostle Peale?” Talking about Norman Vincent Peale. Some people think he is a great man. I don’t think he is Biblical at all, but somebody said, “What do you think about Peale? Is he a modern day equivalent to the Apostle Paul?” That preacher studied for a minute and said, “I’ll tell you how I feel about it. I find the Apostle Paul appealing, but the Apostle Peale appalling.” I like that! Paul was talking, not about a power of positive thinking, but he was talking about saying, “I can” because I’m a Christian and Christ is in my heart, and God can give me the victory, if I’ll just believe He can. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Dr. Curtis Hutson said something years ago that I’ve never forgotten. It has always impacted my life. He said, “If you think you can’t, you probably are right, but if you think you can and believe you can, then the possibilities are unlimited.” I want to say to you today, ladies and gentlemen, whether it is victory over sin in your life, or something you need to accomplish for God, or some tangible thing that you need from the Lord, you can do all things through Christ, if you will just believe you can and believe that God will work in your life and then say it with your mouth, “I can do the things that God wants me to do through the power He has promised in my life.” I don’t know how we’ll ever have a radio station, but I can. I don’t know how we’d ever start a college, but I said, “I can.” I don’t know how we’d ever have a church like this. We came to town with nothing, no money, no place for a church, no building, not any real place to get started, no people to start with, nothing. We came to church with a Bible, my wife and I, but we said, “I can.” You’d be surprised. More victories are won because somebody believes God and says, “I can.” More victories are lost because somebody doesn’t think they can. If Paul can do all things through Christ, then so can I, because I have the same Christ that Paul has. I could preach to you today about sin. I could say, “Get right with God today.” I preach those kind of sermons all the time. Today I want to forget all that for a little while, and tell you about your heritage in Christ and how Christ can give you victory in any area. There are people today that need victory over sin. There is victory in Jesus Christ. There are people today that need victory in their marriage. There is victory in Jesus Christ. There are people today who have lost loved ones that need to be saved. There is victory in Jesus Christ, if you are willing to trust Him and say, “I can.” Last night God just led me and I made a phone call. I called Pete’s house and he wasn’t there, but his mother was there, who is Spanish. She understands very little English. Most words she doesn’t understand, but I’ve been burdened for her. So I just said, “Look, she doesn’t understand English.” By the way, I’m not even good at English, let alone Spanish. She doesn’t understand English very well, but she needs to be saved. Somebody needs to try to tell her. I called the house and Pete wasn’t there. I said, “Hey, could I come by and see you for a few minutes?” Pete’s mother is old enough that I could go there without you starting rumors, so I went to see her. She sat on the couch; I sat on a chair. I talked to her a little bit and then I asked her, “Listen, do you go to church?” She said, “No, I don’t go to church. It’s not that I don’t want to go, but I’m so busy.” I began to tell her about the Lord. She said to me, “I do not understand that word. I don’t understand what you mean.” I’d give her another word for it. When you are as limited as I am, you only have one word for every thought you want to give. The best I knew how, I tried to explain. I don’t know why it is, but when I get with someone who has a accent, before it is over I am talking like them. She said, “I no understand that word.” Finally she said, “I know I’m a sinner.” Then I talked to her about Hell and tried to get her to understand. She said, “I no understand.” I said, “Fire! Fall in fire.” She finally understood. “Yes, Hell, fire.” I talked to her about that and how Jesus died on the cross for her. I said, “Would you be willing to pray and ask Jesus to save you?” She said, “Oh, yes, yes.” She prayed and accepted Christ as Saviour. She couldn’t understand a lot of the things that I would say to her. The physical part of me wanted to say, “Look, there is no sense of going over there. She won’t understand you anyway,” but bless God, I can do anything through Christ, in His power. Paul was saying here, if you’ll just say, “I can” it can make the difference between failure and victory. I want to give you three reasons why you can today. If you need victory over sin, I’m going to give you three reasons why you can get victory over sin. By the way, I’m not preaching a prosperity gospel, but my Bible does say that God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory. We’ve gotten a little afraid of the charismatics’ prosperity gospel and we preach against that. Then we are afraid to say anything about prosperity, but our Bible still says that God takes care of us. I want to give you three reasons why you can today. If it is a financial area or you are having heartaches and troubles, God can help you there. If it is sin in your life, God can help you there. If it is your children going astray, God can help you there. Whatever it is, God can give you victory if you just say, “I can.” I want to give you three reasons why you can get victory. #1. You can get victory today because God wants you to be victorious. It’s His will that you get victory and be victorious. Just pick out that area you need victory in. Everybody here needs victory in some area of life. You just pick it out and that is what we are talking about today. Turn to Isaiah 48:17. “Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.” He said, “I am the One. I am the Lord your God. That means you are saved, because I am the Lord your God.” That’s talking to saved people. He said, “I am the One that teaches you to profit.” That means to gain, to get victory. He said, “I am the One that teaches you to profit and you may not know how to get that victory, but I’m also the One that leads you in the way that you ought to go in order that you might get that victory.” There is one great truth about the will of God that everybody ought to know, that God’s will is for His children to live in victory. Sometimes I look around and I don’t understand why God doesn’t just come and destroy this world with all the rot that is there, but I am going to tell you that it is God’s will and always has been God’s will, and it will be God’s will until the coming of Jesus Christ, that believers get victory in whatever area they need victory. God has gone out of His way and done more than He should have ever been expected to do in order to make it so that man can get victory. If it were not for Jesus Christ, Paul would not have been able to say, “I can do all things...” but because God sent His Son to die on Calvary’s cross, man can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth Him. Even when it comes to lost people, God wants them to win the victory of salvation. He said, “It is not My will that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” No doubt there is somebody, maybe several somebodys here and if I were to ask you and you would be honest with God about the question, “Do you know 100% sure that you are guaranteed a home in Heaven?” There are many who would have to say, “I’m not for certain I’m going to Heaven when I die, but I hope so.” I want you to know that you can be for certain. You can know for sure. Victory can be yours. You can escape the penalties of Hell and be guaranteed a home in Heaven. It’s mainly because there is a God who wants you, an unsaved man or woman, to be saved and He sent Jesus to die so that you can be saved. Somebody says, “I don’t think God can save me.” What you should say is, “I can be saved, if I’ll just believe God and receive His Son as my Saviour.” God wants lost people to be saved. It is not God’s will that any perish, but that all should come to repentance. God doesn’t want anybody to go to Hell. God wants everybody to be saved. That’s why God gave His Son on the cross of Calvary. That’s why Jesus shed His blood on Calvary. That’s why the Holy Spirit convicts your heart like He is doing right now to get you to realize you need to be saved. That’s why He wrote this Book and gave it to us. That’s why He sent those of us who are saved out to tell the world the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that God is longsuffering to usward not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Not only is it God’s will for lost people to get victory and be saved, it’s also God’s will for Christians to get the victory. Here is another verse the charismatics try to really wring everything they can out of, but the Bible says, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” (III John 2) Hold your hand up if you know you are saved. Let me ask you a question. So far as your soul is concerned, can it prosper any more than it prospers right now? Are you going to Heaven when you die? Is there a place you can go better than Heaven? No. So you are already going to the best place. Your soul is taken care of. The day you asked the Lord to come into your heart, Jesus saved your soul and God said, “I want you, physically, to prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers,” and your soul could not prosper anymore than it does because it is saved and on its way to Heaven. Does that mean God wants you to be well? Not everybody. Some of the greatest men who ever preached the Bible were sick. That doesn’t mean God wants everybody to be well. What it means is, as Paul said a little while ago, when I’m up I know how to rejoice in Christ. When I am down, I know how to live triumphantly, as well. When I’m well, I know how to be there. When I’m sick, I know how to be there. I have never seen anyone take the news of cancer as well as Mrs. Yant did when she got the news this week. She just absolutely was a pillar of stability and faith in God. She didn’t cry or fall apart. She said, “I want to have the surgery, but first I want to get on a plane, fly home, and see my baby before I go in the operating room.” She knows her life may be over when she has this surgery. She understands that, but she also knows the Lord. Just like we can go to Disney World and ride a roller-coaster as a Christian and be happy in Jesus, so also we can go to the operating table and be happy in Jesus. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “I can do all things through Christ...” I can be happy without the disease I have. I’ve got a problem with lymph vessels and I could be happy if that would leave. If I could get cut and not get blood poisoning, if the swelling in my hands and in my arms, and especially my legs, if the swelling would go down, I could rejoice in the Lord, but I’ve also got to know how to rejoice in the Lord when that is not cured and I still have to bear that burden. Paul said, “I’ll tell you why I can do all things through Christ. I’ll tell you why I can run around in a sick body and still say, ‘I can, I can, I can.” He said, “I’ll tell you why. Because I know God wants me to be victorious and God is on my side and God is able.” Hey, folks, let me tell you something. God is on your side today. God is concerned about that trouble in your life today. God is concerned about that need you have. He wants you to understand that it’s His will that you get victory in that area. You are going to have to do what He wants you to do. You are going to have to move the right direction He wants you to move. He may, before He gives you victory, point out some things in your life that need to change, but He does want to give you victory. God wants to see the Christian win the victory in his life. God cannot give you the victory until you are able to say, “I can.” That woman that had an issue of blood 12 years said, “If I could but touch the hem of His garment, I can be made whole.” When she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, the Bible says there was a crowd around Him. They were all touching Him and trying to talk to Him. All of a sudden Jesus said, “Who touched Me?” What a ridiculous question to ask. Everybody is touching You. But Jesus felt virtue go out of Him. Do you know why? There was a little lady that tugged on the hem of His garment that said, “I can.” God can give us victory, but He cannot give us victory until we can say, “I can.” I’ll tell you what you ought to do. You ought to stop your griping. You ought to stop your complaining. You ought to stop your talk of failure and despair and, ‘I just don’t know what I’m going to do,” and start saying, “I can” with the Apostle Paul. “I can do all things...” By the way, the doctor didn’t tell you yesterday, “It’s cancer.” If you were in that situation, it would be a whole lot more understandable when you say, “I can’t.” If we just realized there are a lot of people a whole lot worse off than we are. Do you realize today how good God has been to you? You ought to be able to say, “Jesus, You’ve been so good to me. I just know I can, through your power and strength.” There ought to be a whole lot of talking about “I can” when it comes to the things of God. I can go to church when the doors are open. I can give my tithes and offerings. I can pray. I can read my Bible. I can become a soulwinner for Jesus Christ. I can do what I ought to do. There ought to be a whole lot of “I cans” when it comes to the work of the Lord. David said, “I can whip Goliath,” because he knew God wanted him to whip Goliath, and God would give him the victory. Daniel said, “I can sleep through the night with lions and get up in the morning,” because he knew God wanted him to get the victory in the lion’s den. The Hebrew children said, “We can walk through the fire and come out on the other side of it still alive,” because they knew God wanted them to go into that furnace and bear the burden of being what God wanted them to be and suffering what God wanted them to suffer. They knew that the Lord could bring them through on the other side. “I can,” said Paul. “I can,” said David. “I can,” said Daniel. “I can,” said the Hebrew children, and so can you if you’ll say, “I can.” You can! You can! You can! You couldn’t do it on your own, but you can do it with Christ’s help. You can get the victory. I know that we can because Jesus wants us to. It’s His will that we have victory. #2. I know that we can because God gives us the victory in His power, not in our power. The only place “I can’t” has to rest its coat is on your ability. In other words, you can say, “I can’t do it because I can’t do it.” I mean me, this me can’t do it. God tells us that the victories He gives us are not in our own power, but in His power, then we don’t have that excuse anymore. We can do it no matter how frail we are. You say, “My teenager is about gone.” Yes, but you can still salvage that teenager. You say, “My marriage is about gone.” Yes, but you can still salvage that marriage. You say, “I can’t. I’ve tried.” I know you’ve tried, but God can do it, if you’ll let Him do it. More marriages have been repaired. More young people have been salvaged. More drunkards have been made sober. More harlots have been made pure. More infidels have been made believers because the power of God came down when somebody prayed and said, “I’m going to believe God for this thing.” We’d better get back, as independent, fundamental Baptists, to believing in miracles. We’d better get back to believing there is a God who does answer prayer. We’d better not have to have a sign from God or see something spooky before we believe it. We are supposed to know we can do it before it ever looks like we can do it. Why? Because it doesn’t matter what it looks like. Jesus is still on the throne. God gives us victory in His power, not in our own. Look at Joshua 6:1-5. “Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in. And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.” He said, “The king of Jericho and all the mighty men, the soldiers, I’m going to give them all into your hand. Joshua, it will not be your power that wins this victory over Jericho. It will be My power that wins this victory over Jericho.” You’d better understand this. It’s not your power that gets anything accomplished in your life or for God. You do what you are supposed to do, but it is God’s power and God is the One that gives the victory. You’d better realize that. I should not be pastor of a church like this, and I could not be, if it weren’t for God because I can’t do it. I don’t know how to do it. I don’t preach good enough to do it. I don’t organize good enough to do it. Just obey orders. “And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days.” God said, “Here is what I want you to do. Take all your people. March around the walls of that city one time,” and you are off the rest of the day. How would you like a job like that? Take about an hour. You are off the rest of the day and get paid for eight hours. He said, “I want you to do that the first day, do that the second day, do that the third day, do it for six days, one time around the walls. Look at verse four. “And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.” Now that doesn’t sound like much work to do, does it? He said, “The seventh day you are to run around that thing seven times and then the priests are to make seven blasts on the trumpets.” It doesn’t sound like they are doing a whole lot to win the war, does it? But they had to do something. Do you know what they had to do? They had to obey God. You say, “What’s my part in this?” Your part is just to obey God. Do what He says. Look at verse five. “And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.” I’m not going to go any further than that. You know what is accomplished here. Here is what you are going to do. You’ve got a part in it, but I’m going to give the victory, God says. My second point is this. God gives the victory in His power, not yours, as long as you are obedient to Him. You’ve got to say, “I can,” but I’m telling you now after you say, “I can” you’ve got to make a move of obedience even though you are not going to win the victory; God is going to give it to you. They marched around one day. God said, “Look, I want you to fight the battle. I want you to say, ‘I can’. There is Jericho. There are the enemies of God. There are the walls of the city. I want you to go around that city once. Trust Me. Believe Me. Say, ‘We can.’ I’m not going to let you win it in your power, but say, ‘I can.’ By the way, you know those people; you read that story. They complained for awhile and said, “Let us go fight. Let us go fight and win this war. We can whip them.” God knew they could not whip them in their own power. Somebody said, “Yeah, if you would have turned them loose, they could have fought the battle and that would be in their own power.” I’ve got more respect for a man who will fight the battle in his own power, than a man who won’t fight the battle at all. I’ll tell you what. You fight in your own power for a while and you’ll get whipped around so much you’ll finally realize you need God, and call on Him. A guy that never gets to the battle never will realize his need for the Lord. God said, “You march around those walls,” and they did. “March around again,” and they did. “March around again.” God gave them stupid stuff to do. He said, “Now I want you to blow the horn seven times.” Can you see Sammy? He is our leader, the priest. We are marching around. The guys are all thinking, “Good night, in the morning. I don’t understand this. Why don’t we just grab our weapons and go get them?” Joshua said, “No, God wants us to win the victory. God said that we are to say, ‘We can’ win the victory, but God is not going to let us do it in our own power. He wants us to know we have to win in His power. He will give the victory.” “All right,” so we walk around six days like that. All that time Sammy, from the time we get back to the tents everybody is trying to get a little sleep for the next day because we’ve got to march around again the next day, but everybody can hear him getting ready for the seventh day. Sammy is practicing. Six days they march around the walls. Finally the seventh day came and Joshua said, “Get up, everybody. It’s time to march around the walls seven times. Today is the day God is going to give us the victory. Hey, Mr. Priest, where is your ram’s horns.” Sammy gets them out and shines them up. Here we go and march around the city seven times and blow the horn. Then all the people are supposed to shout. All of a sudden the walls began to crumble. I’ve heard some shrill screams. I’ve heard some rotten singing. But I ain’t never heard nothing that will knock the walls of a city down. What was God saying? He was saying, “Listen, you can because I want you to win, but you also can because if you say you can, I’ll give you the power and the strength to get the victory won.” Brother, you mark this down. This church has not been built on the labor of God’s people as much as it’s been built on the power of God through the labor of God’s people. That’s all it is. We’d better get back to giving God the credit for what goes on. We haven’t done a thing. We had a big offering last week, and had $3700 in the Christmas offering. Our missions has just gone sky high. We were able to send all of our missionaries an extra $100 for Christmas. All of these things have been happening. Let’s watch that we don’t pat ourselves on the back. Let’s remember that it’s God’s power that wins the victory. When I first got saved, my preacher said this. I never forgot it. I heard him preach it in a message one time. He said, “Quit tooting your own horn. If you want to toot a horn, toot the Jesus’ horn.” I’ve just been trying to toot the Jesus horn all these years and give Him the credit for what He is doing. God said, “I’ll tell you why you ought to say, ‘I can.’ I’ll tell you why you ought to believe Me and believe that you can. Number one, because I want you to win. I don’t care who you are. I want you to win the victory and find Christ and get saved.” Jesus does want every sinner to get saved. “If you are a Christian, I want you to get the victory. I want you to get back on topside. I want you to have victory over your sin. I want you to serve Me. I want your marriage back together. I want all that for you,” God says. “That’s what I want for your life. That’s My will.” That’s why you can. I’ll tell you another reason you can. Because if you’ll say, “I can” knowing God wants you to get the victory and do what He says to do, and be willing to march around those walls if that is what He says to do, in His power He’ll give you the victory. He’ll do it. Where do you need victory today? He’ll give it to you in that area. God wants you to be victorious. He wants you to let Him use His power to give you the victory. #3. He cannot give victory unless you say, “I can.” You’ve got to say, “I can.” I’ll give you a story. In Judges 2, we find where Joshua called all the people together. He began to challenge them to believe God and trust God and to win the victory. After he had preached to them and challenged them, the Bible says, “He let them go, every man, to his own inheritance.” Now what does that mean? That means that Joshua brought the people in. He said, “Folks, you can. You can. You can, if you’ll trust the Lord.” If you’ll know God wants you to win, if you know God will give you the power to win, you can get the victory and you can be what God wants you to be, and you can get your needs met and your problems straightened out. You can, if you will trust God and move like you are supposed to, but I cannot make you do that,” Joshua is saying. “Now I’ve given you the message. I told you what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to believe God, say “I can,” and move toward the direction God wants you to move.” Then he said, “Now I’m going to let you go every man to your own inheritance.” What did he mean? He meant some of them would take those words and say, “I can do it. I know I can. I know God wants me to win. I believe God will give me the power to win. I’m going to do what God wants me to do, so that I can get victory.” Those inherited victory. Some went away from there and never thought another time about what Joshua had said. They would not believe God. They would not make the move they needed to make. They would not do what God was telling them to do and their inheritance was failure. I want to tell you something. If you fail, it’s because you want to fail. It’s because you will not obey God and believe God for victory, but I want to give you some good news. If you want victory today, God will give you victory. He may say, “Turn around. Straighten this up in your life. Get this taken care of. Go this direction,” because God is not going to bless you when you are in rebellion toward Him. He’ll tell you what’s wrong in your life. He’ll tell you what to do. He’ll say, “Believe Me and say, ‘I can’ and straighten that thing up and go the way I say to go, and you won’t have to worry about it. You won’t need to worry about how the victory is going to be won. I will give you the victory in My power,” God says. Where do you need victory? Do you need victory over sin? Do you need victory in your finances? Do you need victory over some habit in your life? Do you need victory over loneliness in your life? Do you need victory in your marriage today? Do you need victory with your kids today? Do you need victory in the lives of mom and dad, who are unsaved, young people? Do you need victory over yourself, or in some area of life? Just say, “I can.” Paul said, “I can.” That woman who touched the hem of His garment said, “I can.” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said, “We can.” Daniel said, “I can.” David said, “I can whip Goliath.” If you’ll say, “I can” and be prepared to march around the walls as God leads you, I’ll promise you that the walls will come tumbling down and victory will be won through the strength and power of Jesus Christ. Just say, “I can!”