You can’t do all things through Christ.
You read that right.
You cannot do all things through Christ.
Did you resolve to establish new habits, lose weight, or get a new job in the New Year?
Is your motivation I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)?
Good news! You can still work toward those goals.
Bad news! This verse is not a personal empowerment slogan.
But, you say, it’s in the Bible!
Yes… but Paul, in writing from prison to the believers in Philippi, in no way intends to boost spiritual self-confidence and apply it to any ambition.
In fact, it is quite the opposite within the context of Paul’s prison letter.
I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13 NRSV
By all things, Paul means contentment in any circumstance. His secret sauce is depending on Christ to provide the strength to persevere.
All things does not include your resolutions, dreams, or goals. Being in Christ does not ensure a new job or smaller pant size. The verse is meaningless for pursuing self-interests.
On the other hand, biblical contentment does not mean caving to one’s lot in life in defeat saying: “It is what it is!” No! If we’re willing, God will expand His kingdom through us and will empower us to accomplish the task. We can participate in bringing God’s love to the world no matter our circumstances.
Contentment is a crucial attitude.
Let’s dig deeper to discover two more fun facts:
1) The Philippians recognized the word contentment as the goal of Stoicism, a popular philosophy. Followers sought serenity by living self-sufficiently above need and abundance, depending only on themselves. Ideally, circumstances don’t cause any anxiety or stress.
So Paul’s surprising counter-cultural twist jolts the Philippians. His secret to contentment is Christ-sufficiency. Radical dependence on Christ is the basis and source of Paul’s life: “for me, to live is Christ (Philippians 1:21).”
2) For smooth reading, our English translations use the phrase “through Him”, I can do all things through Him, and footnote that the original text says ‘in Him’ or ‘in Christ’ which Paul uses frequently.
The problem is that “through Him” implies that when empowered by Christ, we’re capable of anything. This isn’t at all what Paul means.
Rather, Paul shares that when we’re closely connected to Christ, when Christ is in us, our circumstances don’t determine our attitude.
The joy, strength, and guidance we receive from our union with Christ are sufficient to do His will and to face the challenges that arise from our commitment to serve Him.
There’s still time to review your New Year’s resolutions:
• Consider those related to personal achievements or ambitions
• Reframe them to align with spiritual growth
• Prioritize resolutions that focus on your connection with Christ rather than self-centric goals
Consider these New Year’s resolutions and helpful resources:
• Strengthen my relationship with God – Read about my journey to a relationship with God
• Intertwine my life with God’s – Discover what it means to be intertwined from the prophet Simeon
• Trust God more deeply – Learn how to increase your trust in God
• Serve in ways that reflect Jesus’ values – Answering His call yields remarkable joy
Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995).
Nathan Busenitz, The Master’s Seminary Blog, https://blog.tms.edu/i-can-do-all-things
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