Have you heard the verse Philippians 4:13? I think it is likely you have, it says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Sarah and I had an interesting discussion about that verse one day. We came to the conclusion it is an overused, misunderstood verse. I think we sometimes gravitate to verses like that because of wishful thinking. If I could quote that verse just as it stands alone, out of the context of Philippians 4 - WOW - would I have a charmed life!
Just think about it. Every time I prayed to do something hard, I would be able to do it. Every time I wanted something impossible, just figure out how to do it “through Christ” - I’m guessing prayer - and VOILA! It’s done. I’m pretty sure if Paul meant for that concept to be the coins we use in our God Vending Machine, he wouldn’t have bothered to put the rest of the verses around it. The thing is, Philippians 4 is filled with advice from Paul about how to find the ultimate life - and sometimes we misinterpret that to mean we can achieve whatever we want because we are Christians.
But if you read the rest of the chapter, you realize Paul is teaching how to reach spiritual achievements, not necessarily material or physical achievements. As I see it, if material blessings are the highest level of encouragement and love God brings into our lives, then here in America we have reached the pinnacle! We are on the receiving end of everything God has to give! And we are all at peace and satisfied, right? Because that is the end result of walking with God. Hmmmm. I certainly don’t see that. I see a frenzied grab to have more, to have the latest and greatest and to grant our kids' every desire. None of this is leading to peace and rest and satisfaction. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” does not mean I claim that verse every time I want a promotion at work - or to acquire more things.
In the first section of the chapter, Paul gives admonitions for how to live. I think we miss them. And by missing them, we miss out on God. First he tells the people to rejoice in God always! Not just on Christmas or Easter or Sunday. ALWAYS! I used capital letters because always is an important word for what follows in the chapter. Paul also cautions the Philippians to be known for their gentleness. I guess I don’t know too many people, either Christians or not, who I think of as gentle. We don’t value that in our society. We appreciate the go-getters and achievers, those who fight for what is theirs. But Paul says to “be known for your gentleness”. I want to be known for my gentleness. I have to work on that. A lot.
Then he talks about not worrying. In a nutshell, he says, "tell God what is troubling you and let it go." Worrying does not change anything except maybe my health and state of mind. God will take care of me. He might not do it how I want Him to, but if I really talk TO Him and not just AT Him, He will take care of my worries. Paul also says to fill our minds with only good things, lovely things, pure things, etc. So when your mind wants to go down that road of bad things, ugly things, impure things, you need to catch yourself and re-direct. Next Paul sets the tone for Philippians 4:13. He discusses how grateful he is for the financial support the Philippian people have given him, but more for their sake than for his. Their generosity will be blessed by God and Paul knows that. Their generosity demonstrated a spiritual understanding of God and to Whom all their wealth really belonged to. Paul assured them that lesson was invaluable - not because he was on the receiving end because, ultimately, they were.
As for himself, he explains he learned to be content ALWAYS, no matter whether he was experiencing a time of prosperity or a time of poverty. Whether he was in prison or he was traveling on one of his many missionary journeys - he rejoiced in the Lord, contemplated good things, and lived at peace. Paul figured out the secret to life and it had nothing to do with the physical surroundings. People didn’t get that fully then, and we surely miss it today.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” means no matter what our situation, with God, we can endure. The closer I get to God, the more I realize how misguided I was for most of my Christian life. It has taken a long time to discover and begin to experience what Paul is talking about in this verse. It is not because of Philippians 4:13 that I started The Torch. It is because of Philippians 4:13 I have survived the things I have survived and I am confident I will be fine in the future.