I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. The familiar verse shows up a lot in our lives. Football helmets of our favorite players, pillows on our Grandmother’s couch, picturesque inspiration quotes on our own Pinterest boards, etc. And yet, it seems many times we miss the meaning of this verse altogether. Ever feel like it has been held over your head? You just need more faith and you can do anything right? Because with Christ ALL things are possible….
Dustin Benge recently tweeted the following:
And I have to agree with Dustin’s assesment. (if you follow me on twitter @CoffeeGratitude you’ll notice I retweeted it – no shame) Christ has to be our focus and not ourselves when we read scripture. The ugly disease of self-centeredness is a hard one to evade with society’s crushing ideals of the self-god. Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow Him, to put others first, and to live a life of joyous service to the gospel – not to parade our own ideals and goals above all other things. The context of Phillipians 4 is one of gratitude and contentment during tremendous suffering as Paul is setting forth an example of his life to the church at Philippi.
Ok, ok so we know that verse really shouldn’t be what we look at on Monday to deal with our first world problems of a coffee shortage in the lounge. And maybe even when we have been squished by a bad exam, relationship drama, challenge at work or other responsibility, this isn’t exactly our go-to verse. However, I did have to stop and think about the obvious question, where do we look for encouragement for our non-faith related trials? Are they non-faith related trials?
The problems we face are rarely like those of Paul, but they are still problems and challenges. We do need God’s grace and strength to navigate our day to day issues. We don’t actually have the capacity to overcome things without Him.
Other examples that come to mind concerning finding hope and strength in the Bible for our challenges are the Psalmist David and God’s presentations of Himself in the Old Testament. Over and over David acknowledges his sin and insufficiency next to the greatness of His God. He cries out in humility and asks for the protection of his Strong Tower. He doesn’t cower about going to war as a “well God isn’t allowing me to do literally anything through Him so I’m going to sit and do nothing” – he rushes to be a champion because he recognizes it honored God for him to be diligent in his efforts and he had comfort in his Protector. Throughout the OT we see examples of the names of God as one who gives us peace, healing, banner over us, and many other names designed to give us comfort and strength.
The point is well made through scripture that all the credit goes to Him, all our success goes to Him, we work for His glory, and just because we want to do something doesn’t mean He is going to hand us a good outcome. He promises to work out things for our good. Let’s be honest, sometimes we need to fall flat on our backs and that’s good for us. It is good for us to remember our own insufficiencies. Difficulties even help deliver much needed epiphanies. We easily forget our priority is to be seeking God’s kingdom and plan while aligning ourselves with His desires. Alignment with His character is necessary before the “all these things will be added to you” part comes true. When we desire what He desires, we are fulfilled.
Where is God in those tough situations? Right there with us, sustaining us, and helping us to fail and fall because we wouldn’t be humbled any other way. He doesn’t abandon us. He also doesn’t stoop for us to believe He is our magic genie in a bottle for our trivial wants.
Is there no application of Philippians for us then? Not at all, we can rest in the grace of our sovereign God that He will allow us to endure whatever He sends our way; and if we have goals in life or dreams, we are not promised success directly, but rather a knowledge of our eternal security in Him. Philippians stands as tremendous comfort during trial – just not an excuse to inflate ourselves and promote our own agendas.
So pull your life in line with God’s word and Christ’s character. Pursue excellence in your work and dreams. Trust that you will fail, and probably often. Realize life does not have you as its epicenter. And hope in your heavenly future. <3