In this post we will look at another often misquoted Bible verse. My good friend, Pastor Steve Phillips in Tennessee, gave me the idea for this post.
Here in America, it is not rare to hear (or see) people quote Philippians 4:13. It is often a partial quote of the verse, and it usually goes something like this:
I can do all things through Christ.
This verse is especially popular where Christianity and sports are intertwined. The Christian athlete is confident that her team will do well and prevail because they have worked hard and have faith. Oh, and because the Bible says that, “We can do all things through Christ.”
Another way the verse is quoted is in bolstering up one’s self-control, perhaps while trying to lose those extra pounds. The lady in the photo used this pic on her MySpace page. The caption under the picture was, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Some of her friends commented that she looked like Super Woman!
Philippians 4:13 has seemingly become the perfect proof text for personal success in whatever endeavor a person is launching! But is this what Paul expected his readers to come away thinking? Did the believers in Philippi think:
“Wow. Let’s go start a business, because Paul says that we can accomplish anything through Christ?”
It is not at all likely that this would be the takeaway. Paul was under arrest in Rome. He was having a hard time finding other leaders that he could truly rely on (see Philippians 2:20-21). He was not sure that he was even going to survive (see Philippians 1:20). He had just gone through a season of serious poverty, but the Philippians had sent some monetary support to him in Rome (Philippians 4:10).
Paul’s meaning was clear. He had found Jesus to be more than enough for him. Whether he was going hungry or well-fed; clothed or naked; poor or rich; living or dying. Paul had learned that victory was NOT about circumstances or temporary outcomes.
The “I can do all things through Christ,” was NOT Paul’s triumphalistic boast that God had promised him earthly prosperity, health, success and human significance. On the contrary, Paul had learned the secret of contentment in both the highs and lows of life. And that secret was the deep and abiding relationship he had with his God.
Philippians 4:13 is not a “one size fits all” promise for the American dream. It’s the declaration of a man who had endured seemingly endless troubles for the sake of the gospel and the church. He had learned that even when everyone abandons him, that God always was with him.
This actually is a much greater promise than, “If we just trust in Christ, we can enjoy comfort and ease and have the life of the American dream now.”
The believer who knows Paul’s Christ, can with Paul look at any and every circumstance of life, and say,
“I am not moved by what I see, but rather by whom I know. What is seen is temporary. The One I trust is eternal. I have surrendered everything I am and all that I have to my Lord. I will not in the end be ashamed. My God is the one who raised Jesus from the dead. I too will be raised in the last day and will stand together with Him. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Now that’s real victory. It’s a victory that cannot be robbed or tarnished or eaten by moths…or worms…or Wall Street.