Philippians 4:13 “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.
Phil 4:11-12 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.
“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” ~Psalms 147:3
I recently came across this verse of scripture when a friend of mine posted it. I was immediately swept up in a whirlwind of emotions realizing not only the hurt but also the hope this person was exhibiting.
Unfortunately, as we find ourselves in the midst of the holiday season, it can be an extremely difficult time for countless people. Naturally, our own human spirits can tend to dwell not on the blessings we have in front of us, but on those things we have lost in recent years, months or even days. This can come in numerous variations as we are reminded of certain people, relationships, comforts or simply a time when we were at peace. This turmoil our mind puts us through can be excruciating at times and the silence from a loss felt can be deafening to many.
As I have spent the recent weeks praying for the needs and comfort of others as well as myself during this time, I found such peace in this verse. There seems to be a finality or certainty in what the writer is talking about. He’s not just saying that God will help things a little or that some conditions might improve. He’s writing about God completely healing a broken heart and entirely binding and closing up our wounds.
If we are left to heal on our own it can be an insurmountable task. Our mind will allow us to dwell in the past and keep our focus on the loss and nothing else. It is only with the divine power of Jesus Christ that we can be healed completely. We have to be able to put that faith in Him. As we exude this faith and feel His presence we can become certain of His healing and experience true peace.
I’m not saying at all this is easy, in fact for some just that first step of faith can be a mighty leap in itself. Unfortunately, it’s not just a switch we can flip and allow Him to heal us. We must realize though that in this promise He gives all of us that He will see us through the pain and into healing. He leaves nothing undone and He is telling us here exactly what we can have in Him.
Lastly, you don’t have to fight this battle alone. I would encourage us all during this holiday season to reach out to others and join together in receiving the blessings God has for each of us. We never know the hidden pain another could be going through and sometimes the simple comfort of a friendly smile or gesture can be the first step in allowing His healing to happen.
**I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and wonderful season in Christ’s love and blessings. It has been a privilege to share my thoughts through Inscription over the last year and I appreciate all of your support and comments to guide me.
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” ~ Matthew 8:5-8
What an amazing recount of extreme faith in the power and authority of Christ! In the subsequent verse, the Bible says that 10 When Jesus heard this He was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”
As a side note, it is difficult at best for me to imagine doing something that would amaze my Lord and Savior. As such a broken and sinful vessel the thought of me pleasing Him in such a way seems to be beyond possible, yet this scripture shows us otherwise. We can live our lives to please Him and certainly possess the capability to do so.
In breaking down this scripture I first looked at the centurion or soldier. What made him so unique or special that he could amaze the Lord? First, we see him coming to Christ in compassion, namely for a servant. Also, in coming to Jesus he believed that Jesus had all the power and authority necessary to carry out his request if Jesus saw fit. Next, we see that he is coming from a most humble position when he says, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.” Finally, the centurion’s words show such a strong faith. He truly believes that Jesus needn’t even come to the servant, but that if Jesus commands healing it would be done.
There are multiple ideas that I take from Christ’s reaction to this showing of faith and request. First, I believe that great blessings and answer to prayer are available to us when we exhibit strength in our faith. To have this strong faith we should first believe in His power and authority to hear and grant our prayers. Then we should go compassionately and humbly before Him. Sometimes, in order to have such a strong faith, we will often be required to seek Him when we do not have the capability to access answers and solutions on our own. Also, I believe that “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7) especially when it comes to what and how we are asking Him.
Billy Graham is recognized for using the quote “God will not reward fruitfulness, He will reward faithfulness. The centurion showed extreme faith at great lengths and I believe each of us has the same potential.
I know these are feelings that we all experience at different points in our lives. In all actuality, they can be feelings we come in and out of on a daily basis. Our earthly bodies and minds are flawed, imperfect as well as virtually dying from the moment we are brought into this world. We are also born with an enormous target on our backs. The truth is that Satan is focused on nothing more than creating suffering and pain for us all. There are times when we feel this attack much stronger…
Literally speaking I have never worn armor. I have never gone through the process of placing each individual piece on my body, each with its own intent to protect me from a certain manner of attack. I can, however, imagine putting on armor and being suited up for battle. I believe I would feel strong and safe at the same time. I would feel impervious to whatever attack was brought upon me. I would be prepared for whatever I was about to face.
The truth is that the armor of God is absolute protection in our battle against evil. We should feel this exact way when we put it on- strong and safe. Only with each specific addition to our suit of armor are we prepared to battle Satan. I won’t go into each piece that scripture describes but encourage all of us to study what each one means. The full armor of God is made up of: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with readiness (gospel of peace), the helmet of salvation, shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit (Word of God).
As we study His word and learn about this very powerful yet protective weapon against Satan let us all feel strong and safe. Finally, in verse 18 we are reminded that even when we have on this full armor that we must still pray. We must pray in the spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. Only by doing this will we stay alert and truly be prepared to fight in the strength that is given by the Holy Spirit.
At my church we have this multipurpose activities building. We have used this building to its fullest. It’s held our sanctuary and gym, multiple classrooms, almost every on-site meal… My life-group used to meet upstairs in this one room where every time it rained, it would leak from the ceiling. We’d put trash cans and buckets, but the ceiling is now falling in. We held workdays and patched the roof, but nothing has held. We eventually moved rooms.
Recently we decided that the solution of 2 entire rooms just not being usable was not going to work, and we started a fundraising effort to fix it. We wanted to raise all $60,000 in 40 days. This would be above and beyond all of our normal giving. I was dubious.
Last week in about 1/2 the time we had raised $60,227. I leaned over to my wife. “How about that?” I said. “$60,000.” “And $227”, she pointed out”. “That’s important”. I don’t know if she was joking. But she was right.
Mark 12:41-44 gives us this story of a widow who has almost nothing and gives her two coins faithfully. Jesus knows this and knows her heart. He exalts her offering above the rest because of the faithfulness and trust she shows to God by giving it.
There were certainly some very large donations that helped us meet that goal. And knowing my church, they were being faithful stewards of what was entrusted to them. But someone gave $1 or $10 just as faithfully, if not more so.
This week I want to remind you that God has money, but He needs your faithfulness. And in the big picture, you need the $60,000, but He wants your two coins more.
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
By its very nature, this verse depicts so much of what Christ has intended for each and every one of our lives. Its notice and intent are both clear and direct from the beginning. God himself wants all of us to be sanctified; that is to be set apart and declared holy in His eyes. While this scripture is very direct it is also a calling for us to act.
One section of this verse seemed to really jump out at me more so than the rest. That part is the description of the wholeness of ourselves that we are to keep blameless. I understand that “whole spirit, soul and body..” would relate to the entire being of a person. I think what jumps out at me is the not so ironic fact that Christ knew what His creation (mankind) was to be and how they would behave. Seldom is a time that we truly place our entire being in the completion of any undertaking. God Himself knew that we would need to be reminded to really put our proverbial backs into what He was saying.
He also knew that for this to happen, I mean in order for us to put our entire being into being kept blameless, we would have to certainly allow Christ to be involved in each and every aspect of our lives.
We cannot separate our “spiritual or religious” lives from the rest of what we are. We also cannot obey God in only parts of our lives. Finally, we certainly must not allow ourselves to be the lukewarm Christian and only live for him a few hours or a day a week. If our entire being is to be kept blameless at His coming we have to act in such a way until that time comes. Simply stated: if we have everything to gain we should only be required to risk everything to get there.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
Hebrews 11:1, 3 ESV
I have always wanted a telescope, but I’ve never had one. I’ve always wanted to be able to observe the things I have learned in science, and not just see pictures. But nonetheless, I believe I the things I’ve been taught and haven’t seen. I believe they’re out there because someone has seen them and has evidence they exist.
I also love history. A lot of things I know about history I was taught. I wasn’t there, but I know they happened because they were written down in a relatively objective way so that later on we could read and learn about them.
Its odd to me that when we read these things that other people have observed and know, we readily accept them, but when it comes to something as personal as our faith and the things we have observed God doing in our lives, we look for a more difficult explanation.
There have been countless times in my life where the very tangible and real thing that happened was an unmistakable act of my Father. The evidence is not something I hold, it is my own faith itself. I will receive no more assurances than that. So why is it that I have considered my faith to be less reliable than any of my other senses?
This week I remind you that you should learn to rely on all of your senses. Read and be knowledgeable, listen and learn. However, when it comes to your faith about the things and works that God has performed in your own life, trust in Him and the rely on the faith that He built in you. It is the evidence of the things you are hoping for and things that are unseen.
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” ~ I Peter 2:1-3
It matters not how long and to what depth you have been a believer in Christ for these ideals to apply. From the individual who has spent their whole life living for God to someone who has just begun their spiritual walk we are the same in that we must be fed to grow in our salvation. What we need as this scripture relates is pure spiritual milk that is of the Lord in order to grow. Like a newborn we will not see growth without this milk.
This passage also makes a point to list those negative behaviors that we should all strive to rid ourselves of in order to grow in this manner. It would be difficult and problematic at best if we were to try to grow in the Lord while maintaining traits such as malice, deceit, hypocrisy or envy. As it would seem, when this happens we are not only hindering our walk with Christ we are also portraying a very poor image of what Christ is to the world around us. Basically stated milk that is impure does not allow the newborn or the believer to grow.
As in so much this situation presents a choice. Do we choose the behaviors we know to be wrong and sinful in nature or do we choose what we know to be good and of the Lord? The answer reminds me of a familiar story and that is the Cherokee legend of the two wolves. It basically states that there are two wolves fighting within us. One is evil and exudes anger, jealousy, envy etc. The other is good and embodies joy, peace, love and hope. When asked which wolf wins the fight the answer is: the one you feed.
To grow, we must seek what is good spiritually and be obedient. We do this by seeking pure spiritual milk and seeking the Lord. Finally we grow by avoiding these negative behaviors and feeding those that are pure and good. As time goes by in this obedience to good we will see that wolf win.
At the beginning of the year, instead of a new year’s resolution, I prayed for God to give me one word to guide me throughout this year. After days of prayer, my word was clearly…REST.
Ok, sure God. I have a husband, triplets, a foreign exchange student, and a full-time job—I’ll work in some rest when I have time.
March came along and I found out that I needed major ankle/foot surgery. I would be forced to “rest” for three weeks until I could go back to work. During the rest time in April, I was able to make serious progress with the prayer journal, which enabled it to be published in June.
I didn’t choose rest, so God chose it for me.
Summer consisted of a cruise, church camp, family vacation to Universal Studios, my parents moving to town, all topped off by a few weekend trips.
No rest there.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about rest once school starts, because it just doesn’t happen! Sports practices, school work, packing lunches, piano practice….The whirlwind of life just continues to gain momentum.
And the very thing that happens after this much going, happened last weekend. I crashed. I crashed hard.
Friday I could barely keep my eyes open to function.
Saturday we practiced golf with the kids and I could barely swing a club.
I cried over stupid stuff.
When I woke up Sunday morning, I knew my body couldn’t do another day. My husband had been fighting a sinus infection for weeks, and I think he hit bottom too.
“I don’t think I can go to church…” I started. Before I could finish my sentence, he responded, “We need to stay home.” We both fell back to sleep.
I fixed our family a big breakfast, ate, and went back to sleep again. I thanked God when our church leadership meeting was cancelled, because I was still in bed. We would get up to eat, then fall back asleep. I did manage to squeeze in a few loads of laundry, and talk to the kids.
You know, it’s okay for you you to do too…sometimes you just don’t have to get up. Sometimes it’s okay to not leave the house. Sometimes you need to stay in your pajamas for the whole day. Some days the kids will survive on sandwiches and cereal for a whole day. Or peanut butter crackers. Or fruit bars.
The real problem is we just don’t rest enough. Even God rested after creating our universe!
Exodus 20:8-10 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, not any foreigner residing in your towns.”
Exodus 23:12, “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.”
Many dismiss the idea of resting on the Sabbath as an “Old Testament command.” God continues to convict me of it, however. How much better off would we all be if we just took the time to rest and focus on Him?
The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 is such a well know story that everyone knows what a “good Samaritan” is, or at least has their idea of what one is. The story has so much nuance in it that you can spend days studying it.
I think one thing that gets overlooked quite a bit is why Jesus tells it. A man asks Him, testing Him, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers his question with a question. “What does the law say?” The man quotes the law, and then asks Jesus to interpret the law.
We don’t know the man’s intentions, but if you know me, that doesn’t keep me from guessing. And given Jesus’ other interactions and the slightly confrontational nature of the exchange, I think there’s some good clues there. I believe the man had preconceived notions of who he wanted to be and what he wanted the scriptures to mean. He wanted to know that he could love some people and ignore or hate others. But the story Jesus told him gave him no out. Jesus picked someone the Jewish community viewed as a parasite to help the helpless man and said “go and do likewise.”
When we read the Word of God, what do we read? Are we made in the image of God or is do we construct Him into ours?
This week I urge you to read deeply into scriptures and parts of Jesus that make you uncomfortable. I encourage you to listen carefully when God speaks to you through those scriptures and it’s not quite what you thought he would say. I implore you to hear His voice when He says something that interrupts your view of who you thought He was. Most of all, enjoy the new revelations He gives you and the closeness you feel by knowing Him better and the mission He has for you.