You be anything you want to be. You can do anything you want to do. FALSE!
When I was coaching 9th grade basketball I had a kid on my team—Bobby*— that proved a person CANNOT be anything they want to be. Some people just don’t have the physical ability to be or do anything they might want. Others have great physical skills but do not have the mental capacity to be or do anything. Others just weren’t born or raised in the right place to be or do anything.
We use this phrase all the time, especially with our children but we know it’s not true. We in the west might have a lot of opportunities that others do not have and our children do have a wider range of possibilities for their futures (not all of which “good”), but they cannot do anything or be anything they want.
There are few verses that are more misused than Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. If there was ever a verse torn apart from ripped out of context too often, this is it. This verse has been memorized and written on bathroom mirrors as much as any verse in the Bible. You can find this verse on the sneakers of professional basketball players and that black stuff that football players wear on their face. It has been the motto of many diet plans, mountain-climbers and nervous test-takers.
If we were on the outside looking in…
[I had a teacher who used to always say, “What would extraterrestrials think if they were studying our society from their far away galactic space stations. “]
Our situation here is not all that different—people are watching us, watching the news, watching, listening and reading about us from the outside. What they see and conclude may not be the kinds of things for which we would hope.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone tell me something like, “Hmmm…you’re very different than what I thought you would be like.” People are watching and they have made some conclusions about us based on how we talk and behave.
So, if we were on the outside looking in we might conclude that the Bible teaches that whatever I want to do, God will give me the strength to do it. Again, like Bobby*, my 9th grade basketball player, we know that this is simply not true. If that’s not what it means, though, then what does this verse mean?
There are a lot directions we could go at this point, but let’s limit our view to just the few verses preceding verse 13. In verses 4-12 we are encouraged to:
- Rejoice in the Lord always
- Let our gentleness be evident in all we do
- Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation be thankful and pray
- Think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praise-worthy
- Put what we have heard or seen into practice
- Be content in all circumstances
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength…but…
- It’s not always easy to rejoice…but I can do “this thing” with Christ’s strength
- Gentleness is not always my natural tendency…but I can do “this thing” with Christ’s strength
- I worry sometimes that being anxious is too often where I live…but I can avoid “this thing” with Christ’s strength
- It is so easy to think about things that are not true, not noble, not pure…but I can do “this thing” with Christ’s strength
- It is not easy to put these things into practice…but I can do “this thing” with Christ’s strength
- Contentment is not always my natural frame of mind nor the attitude of my heart…but I can do “this thing” with Christ’s strength
I can do all these things and you can do all these things (and more) through Christ who will give the strength to do them.
It’s not – Whatever I set my mind to do Christ will make it happen if I work hard enough, or if I have enough faith or if I say enough prayers.
Rather — Whatever circumstances I face, God will give me the strength and courage to:
- Be gentle (I don’t thinks it would be too unfair to include all the fruits of the Spirit along with gentleness)
- Not worry
- Have peace of heart
- Think about what is good and right
- To put all that the Lord has taught us into practice
- And be content in all circumstances
So, Christ may not help the professional basketball player win a game or set new records but He will help that player to rejoice and be content whatever the outcome. He may not give extra strength to lose that last 10 pounds but he will give strength not to worry and have peace of heart whether the pounds are lost or not. For the person who is “in Christ” we can be and do all of these things win or lose, successful diet or not, good or bad, rich or poor, healthy or sick. Whatever the circumstance and outcome we have access to the strength that will help us to have peace in the midst of whatever situation we are facing.
To finish up we’ll take this to a place that we don’t always like to go. If through Christ I have strength to do all of these things that we’ve been talking about, then I have to consider that perhaps “all these things” might also include some of the things I might want to avoid–
Problems…suffering…discomfort…sickness… trials….and more.
What if this strength from Christ in the midst of “less than ideal” circumstances is not just theoretical but is actually part of God’s plan for me? Love is proved true when we love those who don’t love us. What if contentment and peace are proved true when we are in situations that don’t make us feel content and peaceful?
- His strength is made real when I don’t feel strong…
- His strength is powerful in us when we feel weak…
We glorify God not by our most heroic human efforts, rather when our only way out is by his strength. In his strength we can do “all these things” that he wants us to do. And the peace of God is beyond all understanding will guard our hearts and minds all along the way.
~Do Everything In Love