All Things

Okay, so I was all set to sit myself down and write a fiery blog post on how all of your “other” Christians keep messing up Philippians 4:13:

 

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (NKJV)

 

People post this verse all over social media all the time. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see it and it sure sounds like one of those verses that people quote out of context to justify the Prosperity Gospel or the Name It and Claim It Gospel or whatever happens to be the current Heresy Du Jour. 

 

So, let’s take a look at the context of that verse:

 

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:10-13 (NLT)

 

Paul is saying through all the good things and bad things that have happened in his life (And, as we learn from all of the other things he wrote, there was no shortage of bad things.) he has learned to be content through the strength that Christ gives him.

 

He is specifically and most emphatically not saying that Jesus gives him the power to flap his arms and fly to the moon to impress the local heathens with his great power. 

 

So we should most certainly not be using this verse to justify the purchase of, say for example, the latest, greatest British racing hovercraft to impress your friends and amaze your enemies. 

 

There you have it. Solid exegesis and hermeneutics that clearly shows how the verse is misused.

 

But, after I thought all of that through and got all of it off my chest, something odd happened. As I warmed up my big Pharisee guns to tell all of you how wrong you were for taking this verse out of context and blast from the sky all of your errant theology, I noticed something I did not expect.

 

People are not using the verse out of context.

 

I do not find a single instance of George posting on Facebook how he greatly desires a brand-spanking new Boaty McBoatface BX2000 Super Racing Hovercraft and  his friend Bob quoting Philippians 4:13 to encourage him that Jesus would indeed deliver that shiny new supertoy if he would just continue to have faith and pray.

 

No, what I found is that people mostly post that verse to encourage others to persevere through difficult times because our strength and our hope is in Jesus. We can be content with our situation even when we are not comfortable through the power of Christ –which was exactly Paul’s point.

 

I also noticed that there are a lot of situations posted on social media where that verse is not mentioned and people post all kinds of advice that may or may not help and forget to mention the peace and contentment that come through Jesus. 

 

And then, as so often happens, as I looked at my own life I found that I had spent a lot of time and effort being discontented when Jesus had my back all along.

 

As it turns out, I got along just fine without a 2000 horsepower hovercraft.

 

So, while I sat down to unload on all of you about how wrong you were about over-using Philippians 4:13, when I stop and really think about it and listen to the Holy Spirit, the fact is that I myself have under-used that verse.

 

Apparently, poetic justice is a God thing, too. 

 

Today’s Praise

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

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