Scripture Memorization 8 of 52: Philippians 4:13

 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13, NKJV

As I begin this post I want to give a special greeting to those reading from the Georgia-Cumblerand Academy Church. I was informed today that I need to be more prompt with these as my friend and GCA Pastor Greg Hudson is linking to them in his weekly church newsletter. So greetings GCA family, miss y’all there in Georgia, cannot believe it was over ten years ago I served in the wonderful Calhoun community.

Now to the text. I would dare say if you are reading this and you grew-up around a church this text is familiar to you. In fact there are probably a great number of you that already have it memorized. If that is you I am so glad you have it memorized, but I want you to un-memorize what has likely been the misapplication of this text you have been taught.

I hate to break it to anyone, this text is not about taking a test and doing well on it. It is not a text to be prayed before a big game so you can play extra well. This text has nothing to do with the ability to get to the top of the mountain or complete a marathon when you think you can’t take one step more. In fact this text is more about the failure of all those life instances and how you respond to them, than it is about you being successful in those events because you’ve claimed the promise, “ “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I’d like to say I hope that doesn’t burst any bubbles, but actually I think it should. Philippians 4:13 applied the way it is in popular songs or on bumper stickers makes the text about self and self-success when really the text is about being so immersed in Christ that contentment reigns no matter the dynamic, circumstances, joys, or disappointments of ones life.

Don’t believe me? Then check out the context…

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:10-13

Now if our Christianity is all about our own personal immediate success maybe this change in understanding will be disappointing and you’ll still encourage the kids you coach to remember “you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.” But I actually find this understanding so much more comforting.

The understanding of this text as it is most often applied in the age of consumer Christianity is a faith killer, “I claimed the promise but I still failed. Maybe the promise it isn’t true. Or maybe I don’t have enough faith.”

The misapplication of this text can also be cruel and unhelpful in painful situations! I have a friend that has been battling a medical issue for many years. If someone said to this friend, “Oh I know you’ll get better, remember ‘you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.'” I think my friend, and rightly so, would want to punch that person in the face.

Or as I heard from a father who lost his daughter many years ago when she was just 17 years old, “having someone say, ‘you’ll get through this, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you’ is not only not helpful it is not right because you never get “through” the loss of a child.”

In both the case of my friend and the case of this broken-hearted father, the right application of this text is actually the most comforting, I know God can strengthen me to be content even in my suffering because He has a better day beyond the life being lived behind enemy lines. It may not get better here, but I will still have faith in Jesus.

One application is a faith killer, the other is a faith encourager.

So let us all begin the crusade to get rid of the consumer application of Philippians 4:13 and really learn to live content lives in the suffering we will have in this world, knowing Jesus’ Kingdom will come!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13, NKJV

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