If you have ever been moderately involved in Christian circles, I am pretty sure you have already heard Philippians 4:13:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
In my walk, I have heard this verse quoted for encouragement or inspiration in countless situations, and it really is inspiring. It’s great to think that all things can be done through Christ, even wonderful to recognize that He is the sole source of our ability.
However, what I find a little bit funny is how I have not heard the verse used: I have never heard it used as Paul originally penned it. As our pastor pointed out recently, the original context was about being content whether his means were meager or abundant. Look back a couple of verses to see what I mean:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
While I am not saying that the only thing one can accomplish through Christ is contentment, I do think it worthy of note that contentment ought to be clearly present in the Christian life. Whether the abundance or the need in our lives is financial, situational, or something else, we who bear the Lord’s name ought to find our satisfaction in Him alone.
By our contentment, we honor Him, showing our trust for Him in all circumstances because ultimately He is what we need. As Psalm 16:11 states, it is in His presence that we find the fullness of joy, therefore we can be content.
Another passage that has been similarly stretched until it is nearly unrecognizable from its original meaning is a portion of Matthew 19:26:
… with God all things are possible.”
Also true. All things are possible with God. However I think the context of this little snippet is of utmost importance:
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23-26)
These days, it is not popular to talk about sin. In America in particular, rather than dealing in honest confessions of sin, many of us have soothed our consciences by talking about lifestyles or choices, by blame-shifting or renaming (ie -calling gossip a “prayer request” complete with juicy and unnecessary details).
Rarely do we hear tearful confessions of sinful thoughts or contrition for smug self-righteousness. Even more rarely do we recognize it in ourselves.
Ironically enough, by this sort of blindness we nicely illustrate the words of Yeshua: “With man this is impossible,” because we seem to find it impossible even to notice our crimes.
My country is among the wealthiest, and so in many ways this verse applies very specifically (and uncomfortably) to us. So great is our wealth and privilege that we often fail to see our need for God in the little things, like daily meals or the grace we need to respond to others with kindness and humility. Too often, we trust in our salaries or the supermarket; too often we revel in our entertainments when we ought to be humbly finding delight the presence of the Most High.
I am no different. But for the very reason that I do see my tendency to sin and how prone I am to selfishness,, I am thankful that it with God it is possible for me to be saved. Because of His great love, offered while I was still in my sin, my strong desire is to humble myself enough to recognize and forsake sin so that I may honor the One who forsook His honor for me.
Despite our riches – and really because of them – we all need the Christ desperately. We can never enter the Kingdom of God apart from Him, for He is the Way. Certainly, we can never buy our way in. There are no first-class arrangements for the narrow path that leads to life; neither movies to pass the time nor comfortable seats. There is hardship, difficulty, sacrifice, and persecution.
But you know what? It will be worth it. And with Him, it is possible for us to let go of our riches and trust ourselves to the grace and care of the King of kings instead.
Blogger Brandon Adams also shares some insight into three other Scriptures – including my number one “Christian-ese” pet peeve. Follow this link to his article.