Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I can do all things through him [Christ Jesus] who gives me strength (Phil 4:13)

This is quite a commonly used verse from the Bible. Because it is like a good confidence boosting slogan, many of us use it and we encourage others to do likewise. What happened afterward, some of us completely avoided this verse. Why? Because it did not appear to be true. We couldn’t do all things. For example, if you wanted to fly but you found that no matter how much strength you used you just could not fly. Does "all things" include human flying? Whose quote is this?

The Book of Philippians was written by Paul. So it is Paul’s quote. Paul wrote a large portion of the New Testament (According to Conservative Christians Beliefs, 13 Books – Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus & Philemon) and it is only when you realized what Paul had gone through in his life for the sake of the Gospel, through the reading and studying of Paul’s life in the scriptures, that you can understand how he could say what he said, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”

Firstly, I think we will often have problem in interpreting the word “all” as in all things, all men, all people, etc. We find these “all ……” in various verses in the Bible. Sometimes it meant “every” as in everything and everyone, sometimes it appeared not. Sometimes in our own conversations, we also use the word “all” without really meaning it as “every”. What we probably were trying to refer to is “a set of things we have in mind”. To you, all things included human flying per se, but to Paul, his all things probably did not include human flying per se.

Secondly, let say you wanted to go on a mission trip to the Mediterranean in a month’s time to spread the Gospel and you needed money for the trip. You went round asking people to contribute money for your trip. It was “tough” for you to “beg” people to give. To you, you had tried your best when at the end of one month, you could not raise enough for the trip. You could not go. But for Paul, if he were in your shoes, probably decided that if begging was not enough (I just use begging, as an example, but really Christians should not need to beg), he would do hard labor to raise the rest of the money, and if that was still not enough (and if it was possible), he would be prepared to wash dishes on the ship that was to sail to the Mediterranean. You see, to Paul, he could get to the Mediterranean to spread the Gospel – Phil 4:13 is true. But to you, Phil 4:13 is not true. We all need to bear the cross over time in order to have Phil 4:13 coming true for us with increasing frequency. If you still did NOT catch it, read the preceding verses to Phil 4:13 carefully,

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. (Phil 4:11b-12).

Paul subscribed fully to that which was said in Luke 14:27 & Luke 14:33:

And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.(Luke 14:27)

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.(Luke 14:33)

Paul was prepared to go all out for God. The condition of his heart was right with God. Only with that would Phil 4:13 comes through for Paul all the time. To catch a glimpse of Paul’s attitude, let us look at some of the Paul’s “speeches”:

Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his suffering, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Phil 3:8-11)

And in Phil 1:19-21 after speaking of his imprisonment:, he said:

For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I shall not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

For Paul, to live was gain, because while he suffered in this life he was imitating Christ and was becoming more Christ-like. Also to live was gain because while he lived he could spread the Gospel and be an example for all. He said, “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” (Phil. 1:24) To die was also gain, because if he were to die he would share in the Resurrection of Christ. Whether he lived and suffered, leading to the Resurrection for himself and others, or died and shared in the Resurrection himself alone, he would be united to Christ and be an example for all.

Paul also accepted the arrangements of God: And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’…For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults,hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:7-10)

So what am I saying?
1. If we want to apply the Phil 4:13 to ourselves, we need to know we have to be prepared to carry the cross and do our part. Our heart condition has to be right with God.

2. The next time when we look at a declaration or promise in the Bible, before we decide that it is NOT true, we better dig deeper.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - My heart condition has to be like that of Paul if I were to claim the promise that he claimed - I can do all things through him who gives me strength (Phil 4:13)

[PS: {added 11/01/2010} I am NOT necessarily saying that God will not bring one past his difficulties without his (own) effort. In fact, God did and does bring people past their difficulties supernaturally like through miracles, and signs and wonders, but our heart conditions, I believe, need to be right, for consistent victories. I believe it would be extremely rare to find one who can get 100% achievement over time, with God. If not for anything, it will be, so that we do NOT become conceited, and act independently of God.]

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