Achievement or Something Else?
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I would imagine for a lot of people this scripture is one of the most commonly used or known verses in the Bible. A lot of us immediately think of all the instances we have seen it used in a speech or writing to describe the overcoming of adversity. We think of how often people immediately proclaim it when they claim victory in an area of their life.
For me personally, when I read this verse I think of how motivating this phrase has been for me. I think of the poster I had in high school- of a basketball player jumping just a little higher than his opponent to get a rebound. Because of that it’s fairly simple to follow my obviously stated chain of logic:
1) I have a problem or obstacle.
2) I can’t overcome it by myself.
3) I realize I believe in a mighty God.
4) I understand only through God I can receive the strength to overcome my obstacle.
I guess I was just feeling that the use of this verse in that way can sometimes become somewhat narrow and defined. It’s almost as if we believe the very utterance of the phrase will push us beyond our abilities and we can instantly overcome whatever struggle lies before us. In addition to hearing it, I have also seen this verse as a tattoo several times as though having this constant reminder inscribed on our body creates an energetic mindset to overcome a hurdle in our path. One article I read described how Phil. 4:13 has become a superstition or spiritual rabbit’s foot surmising that if we look at our circumstances in light of this verse we will always succeed. I think that view is rather extreme, because it’s accurate to ultimately believe we are capable of achieving much in our lives when we acknowledge the supernatural power we can receive from Christ.
In the end though, I’ve only wanted to understand if Phil 4:13 was largely just a motivator and way to rise above our struggles or something more. I read the previous verses to gain a contextual reference I began to see the message (at least for me) in a different light.
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
The answer and explanation seemed to jump right off the page in front of my eyes. In one distinct word it changes my whole view of the scripture. That word which is repeated several times is “content.” It automatically shifts our view from achievements and triumphs to being content with the circumstances of our life. As Paul points out he knows what it is to be in need but also to have plenty. I think the variance between living high on the hog, as they say, or being in the lowest season of our life is something that we can all identify with. Paul is saying that he learned to be content with either scenario. When you follow those thoughts with “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” it feels like that is saying that through Christ you are able to be content in either situation, AS LONG AS YOU HAVE HIM.
When I compare this new thought to my poster in high school I think of it very differently. Maybe I shouldn’t think that because I knew Christ I should have succeeded as an athlete. Instead I should have thought “I did my absolute best and while I won some and lost some I am capable of handling either outcome in a Christ-like manner.”
I guess my only clarification to this view would be that it doesn’t mean we have to lack motivation and just be content with anything this world deals us. Instead we can live our lives knowing that we have already won any battle and overcome any obstacle…because Christ already paid the ultimate price for us to be successful. Always remember that in the highs or lows, successes or failures, we have Christ and that will always be far more than enough.