13For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. Philippians 4:13-14
So many Christians have memorized Philippians 4:13. Especially in the West we seem to love this verse. It gives us hope. It calls us to persevere through difficulty with Jesus. And that is exactly what Paul has to say. Much of our obedience to Jesus as Christian leaders requires us to enter periods of plenty or periods of hardship with a sense that it is “me and Jesus.”
But this verse is not meant to be a triumphal declaration for individualistic Christianity. I’m afraid we may use the verse to condition a hyper-individualistic expression of the motto, “Its just me and Jesus.” Paul is actually setting his struggle in the context of community. He knows Jesus is sufficient. Paul also knows Jesus calls His people into a life of service to each other to share in the troubles of others. The NIV translates verse 14 this way, “Yet, it was good of you to share in my troubles.”
Our experience of pain is truly our own. Pain is subjective. However, while our experience of troubles may at times seem to be just about “me and Jesus,” we are still meant to be a person in community. Paul knows the Philippian congregation cares about him. In fact, he accounts in verses 15-16 that they were the first to support him financially when he set out to Macedonia. Support through difficulty can be received when you are a person in community. Paul describes it as the matters of “giving and receiving.” The exchange the Spirit of God brings to the community of Jesus is not just of money, but is also of encouragement, a listening ear, exhortation, prayer, prophetic words, comfort, songs, Scripture, and sacrificial service.
Are you taking the time to make connections in your church?
Are you entering into the graceful exchange of giving and receiving?