What if I took a whole apple, cut it into pieces, placed it in a sandwich bag and nibbled on the contents of that bag until it was empty? Once I finished, how many apples would I have eaten? One, of course. What if I only ate half of the contents of that bag and dumped the rest in the trash? The bag is empty; did I eat the whole apple?
When my daughter was three, she heard the voice on the radio say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Her response was, “That’s right Mommy! I can do whatever I want through Jesus!”. Being fairly new at reading and studying the Bible, I thought it was amazing how well she understood that scripture. After all, that’s what I was being taught in Sunday School and Bible study.
Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”, is a staple in my bag of “words of encouragement”. Unfortunately, it’s only a fragment of God’s message. At some point in my life, I added Philippians 4:8 to my bag.”Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things”. A little later, I added Philippians 4:11. “…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” More fragments. Eventually, I had a handful of fragments:
- Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (v 4)
- And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (v7)
- Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (v6)
Just like only eating pieces of an apple only gives us a portion of its nutritional value, we can miss out on God’s revelation to us when we only partake of portions of His message. Each of these verses are encouraging, but the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church of Phillipi was intended to relay a different message than that of my daughter’s, and many of our own, perception. When we put Philippians 4:1-13 together, the “words of encouragement” become encouragement and direction. Paul was encouraging his brothers and sisters to continue to praise God, while they wait for their prayers to be answered. He then told them that they will have peace in spite of the struggles if they meditate on those things that are good and pure (ie. the Word of God). Through this excercise of meditation, prayer and praise Paul is able to be content in whatever is going on in his life. He was able to be just as content in hunger as he was in abundance. Paul could endure all circumstances because he relied on the Word of God (Christ) as his source of strength.
When God commissioned Ezekiel to deliver His message, He commanded him to “eat this scroll”.(Ezekiel 3) Ezekiel didn’t nibble on it. He opened his mouth and God fed it to him – the whole thing. I am encouraged, and I encourage all, to EAT THE WHOLE.