This week we are jumping into the first verse on our list of commonly misinterpreted verses
This series is not simply about right or wrong. It’s not about taking what we learn and using it to shame or prove someone else is wrong. In fact the entire goal of this series is to work on some TOOLS for us to use in developing our own open handed theology.
HUMBLE — GROWING — THEOLOGY
A theology that values others and their opinions and ideas. A theology that encourages us to engage in healthy conversation rather than push us towards isolation. We need to be DIY theologians. Our theology, what we believe, and why we believe it can’t just be left to the experts. We need to choose to engage in the process of faith for ourselves
Last week we talked about the responsibility we have the engage in this process. We talked about how we need to be the biggest advocates for our spiritual growth. While not forgetting that we are supposed to be in community.
Help and be helped
The whole goal for this series is for each of us to own what we believe. Not in a “I’m right and you’re wrong sort of way.” But in a way that encourages to have healthy conversation. That helps us share what we believe. While valuing others and their possibly different opinions. Our beliefs should not isolate us from people, rather they should encourage us to engage in relationship, conversation and community.
Today we are looking at one of the most quoted feel good scriptures in the Bible. Maybe one of the most misquoted in the bible.
“I can do all things, through Christ, who gives me strength”
If you could do anything what would you do? What do you think people would do? That’s our first dialogue question today. Have some fun with it.
What do you think people would do if they were given licence to do anything with no potential negative repercussions?
It’s pretty easy to see Phil. 4:13 as a superpower verse:
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength
I can do all things… PARKOUR!
I can do all things… LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, EVIL CANIVAL
I can do all things… Down — OMAHA — OMAHA — Set HUT
Man it is really snowy and hard to see, but I really can’t afford to be late. I can do all things…
I just really like fast food and soda. That’s why it is ALL that I eat. I can do all things…
No, I have never walked on a tightrope, but, I can do all things…
Yes officer, that is an illegal drug, but you see… I can do all things…
I didn’t really have time to prepare… I can do all things…
Why should I lift with my knees, my back seems to work just fine. I can do all things.
I can do all things… just put it on my credit card.
Hey God, this has been pretty difficult, not any fun, I am getting crushed here… I THOUGHT YOU SAID I can do all things…
But I wonder if this is what Paul really meant…
It’s easy to see the beginning of this verse and be stuck there
I can do sounds individualistic, self centered, even selfish. The verse can quickly become all about me and my wants. I see lots of church planters or pastors not try or plan because they have so much “faith” that they can just rely on God to get by… Maybe they just have more faith than me. Or maybe, Faith says I will do everything I can do and rely on God to fill in my gaps. Maybe, Stupidity says because of faith I don’t have to do anything.
What is the difference between faith and foolishness/carelessness?
We have poked a little fun at the extreme of this verse, but how do we build theology? What was paul really saying in this moment?
Was Paul about to try some new sick donkey trick
I CAN DO ALL THINGS
Was Paul about to confront some local authority
I CAN DO ALL THINGS
Was Paul about to pray some faith filled HEALING PRAYER
I CAN DO ALL THINGS
Was Paul about to be whipped and flogged for his commitment to Jesus
I CAN DO ALL THINGS
Todays 101 of DIY theology is context. Knowing and understanding context will inform you that you are on the right track or heading the wrong way. Without context you are setup to misinterprit.
I like this verse, But When I hear it in context it blows my mind. Let’s think through Philippians for just a few minutes. A DIY theology moments is to actually take the time to try to grasp the big picture.
It is normal to memorize one verse, to read one chapter, to focus on one story, but what about the context of that verse, story or chapter? Without context you are setup to misinterprit.
Maybe you feel like, “what do I do? I am not an expert. I am not some scholar. I don’t speak Greek.”
No worries, even just the simple exercise of putting the context into your own words helps us grasp the big picture. I like to write it out, talk through it and timeline or storyboard it. This often helps the biblical text come to life.
So, let’s talk though Philippians. This is Paul’s happiest letter. This is not a moment of Paul saying let me tell you what to do, rather paul is saying let me show you what to do. Paul comes to the people of Philippi and puts it on the line by not just saying, but by showing it. The church in Philippi was beyond the lecture hall. They were beyond the simple instructions. It was apprenticeship time. Enough with the theory and the theoretical, it’s time to get your hand dirty.
In this letter Paul doesn’t say how to be happy, he doesn’t demand that they be happy, Paul simply is happy and content. And the thing that is beyond the textbook is that pual has a joy, happiness, contetment beyond just what he was experiencing or going through. And I can feel his prompting to look at it, see it and study it.
Let’s have some perspective. Perspective of his experience while he still had a smile on his face. Paul has been on the road in ministry for about 20 years, and now he is sitting in jail, and he pens this note to his friends in Philippi:
I am so stinking thankful for you guys. I love you. I am filled with joy when I just think about you. When I think about you, I get so excited about not just about the past, but about your future. No matter if I am here in prison or if I am out fighting the good fight, I really like you guys. This love leads me, pushes me, prompts me to bring you and your experience before GOD.
I know you are concerned that I am in prison, but don’t worry. This time in prison has not stopped God from doing good thing in and through me. It has actually turned out to be a great thing.
I also know you are concerned about the people that are out there teaching with bad motives: to get rich, to be seen, to be honored. It’s OK, because no matter who they are and why they are doing what they are doing Christ is being shared. Can you believe it? Good people sharing about Jesus is cool, but how crazy is it that now even bad people are sharing about hime?
I have heard your concern, but I AM confident it will be OK for me. If it die I get to be with Jesus, if I live I will keep living for Him. It is going to be OK. No matter what happens with me you stand firm. Don’t be scared of those that attack. Don’t be afraid of circumstance. Stand firm in the Gospel. Stand firm in the Spirit.
Remember this friends, this relationship with Jesus thing is not just about heaven. This relationship with Jesus thing is about relationship with Him. And in that relationship, count it pure joy when you suffer for Him. You are not alone. I am right there with you in experience. We can do it!
If you are looking to encourage me, comfort me, edify me. Let’s be on the same page. Same love, same spirit, same mind. That sameness rocks me!!! You see, that moment of sameness leads us away from doing things selfishly and leads us to doing things for each other. Seeing that encrouges me beyond measure, when I see relationship, when we have relationship, that has the same love, spirit, mind of Jesus.
Jesus didn’t rub it in the faces of anyone that He was God. He just served, helped, and cared. He gave of himself even to the point of giving his life. What an example for us. Jesus is raised in the highest now. Jesus is the savior, messiah, worthy of praise, and the road to that was humility. We can and should learn so much from that pure attitude. I want to be like Him.
So, as you walk out this relationship with Jesus stay focused. Take it serious. God has a plan for you.You should aim to walk it out. That path does not include grumbling and arguing. It does include holding onto the work of God. So as you go, do, serve, pour yourself out remember it is worth it.
I hope Timothy can come see you soon. He is the man! And I hope even I will be able to come see you soon. We will see…
No matter my coming or not, rejoice in the Lord. I can write it to you over and over and over and over and over again. Hear this old man in prison say it again, REJOICE! When you do it it will keep you safe.
I know that some are still stomping up and down on the value of circumcision. They say that this is how you are saved. The sign of belonging to God is lived out by God’s spirit being in us. I put no confidence in some physical sign. I put it all in Christ Jesus.
I have all kinds of reason to put my confidence in stuff. I have done it, experienced it, lived it, was born to it, I was that guy who worked so hard to earn it, look it, and be it. That is all nothing to me now. It is all blown away by the worth of knowing Jesus. My relationship with God is not because of what I have done or what I have endured. It is because of Jesus.
I WANT TO KNOW CHRIST
I WANT TO KNOW THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION
I WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN HIS SUFFERING
I WANT TO BE SELFLESS
I WANT TO SEE MY LIFE AS HIS
IT IS NOT MINE ANYMORE
And then somehow, mysteriously, I get to live forever with him. That’s crazy to me. I am all in! Before you think I am some amazing guy that has it all figured out. I am not there yet. But I get up again today, tomorrow, and again and again so I can get that prize.
All of us, we need to grow up a little. Take a humble and sacrificial view of life. If you are confused, if you are not there, God will make it clear, keep going. Live it, keep going, keep growing. While you do it, don’t get self focused, keep your eyes on each other. We need each other. I am telling you this now while tears fall down my face. Many people are against God. Many people are against Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. Many people are against us. It will not go well for them. They are ruled by simple desire. But for us, wait on Jesus. I believe as we are being rocked in this world we will be transformed from lowlife to glorious people.
You are my family. You are my brothers and my sisters. I love you guys so much. Thinking about you brings me great joy. Please stand firm in Jesus. Help each other. Help those who are around you. And as you do it rejoice. You may have caught this already, but I can’t stop saying it REJOICE!
When life gets heavy, says the guy in prison, don't be anxious. Just pray and bring it to God, and then you will see and experience what I am seeing and experincing. Jesus give me a peace that I can not explain or understand. It does not add up, but it is here, real and impacting me. It blows my mind. When life should destroy me Jesus Christ protects me internally.
Remember this: what you focus on effects you. Did you hear me? In the good, bad, amazing, ugly, what are you focusing on? Focus on noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy. I am choosing to focus on these things no matter what. Give it a shot. It is worth it. I am not perfect, but this is something you should go for with me and as me. It is worth it.
Thanks for caring about me, I know that it is hard to express care when you don’t have a nice clean outlet for it, but thanks. I am not saying this because I need you to do something. I am saying this and reminded that I have found a secret. A secret to being content in all situations. I have known plenty and I have known want. I have know fed and I have known hungry. And still been happy! How? I just keep reminding myself that I CAN DO IT ALL THROUGH GOD WHO GIVES ME STRENGTH!!!
Thanks for caring. Thanks for giving. It was not just some empty gift to me. It was a beautiful offering to God, and I believe God will meet your needs just as you helped to meet mine. Thank you. I am now well cared for because of your generosity. Don’t forget the secret. No matter the circumstance focus on Jesus.
Say hi to everyone for me. May God’s grace flood your perspective of life.
If we take a real hard look at Paul’s circumstances as he writes this famous verse I am not sure some of the common twists really fits.
Twisting of this text:
- Often selfish, for my personal gain
- Often competitive, me vs. the world, God and I always win
- Causes people to be risky, dumb, ignorant, because God will take care of their stupidity
- Sets people up to only be ok with winning, being successful, not struggling
- Encourages people to be materialistic
At the time of the writing of this letter the Apostle Paul had finally reached his desired destination of Rome, but only after being taken prisoner, shipwrecked, and placed on house arrest chained to a Roman soldier. Further he was facing potential execution, and was mentally preparing himself for the not too distant reality that He would be leaving this world. Paul is not saying here that through the strengthening of Jesus Christ we can overcome all obstacles or succeed in all things. What Paul is saying is that through the strengthening of Christ we can press forward and endure through all hardships…even death. This verse does not infer that by having faith in Christ we will achieve or prosper in all we aspire to, but rather in Christ we find the sufficient comfort and support to carry on through all adversity.
The preceding verse, Philippians 4:12 provides proper context to verse 13.
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
No, that verse means quite a bit more than just “you get what you want.” At its most foundational, Philippians 4:13 is a descriptive pathway to a life of ups and downs, successes and defeats — the source of survival to all that is not due to effort, but due to the grace of Him who strengthens.
What is contentment? Is contentment a good thing? Why?
Paul, in the midst of the rough, is ok, even content, because of the strength given by Christ.
James has a similar perspective as well:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Philippians 4 shows that the apostle Paul, writing as a prisoner to Christians in the ancient city of Philippi, was speaking of “the secret of being content in any and every situation” — not necessarily about God giving him favorable circumstances. The purpose of this verse is not to tell you you can be rich. The purpose of this verse is to tell you you are rich in Christ. So even if you don’t have a penny to your name, you can be content. Because, What if you can’t ‘do’ it? What if things don’t work out — no matter how much you believe? Your failure might call into question the goodness of God, or the sufficiency of Christ. It robs countless hurting and weak people of the truth here.
There is power in weakness.
One of Steven Curtis Chapman’s greatest ballads goes:
I can do all things
Through Christ, who gives me strength.
But sometimes I wonder what He
Can do through me.
No great success to show,
No glory on my own;
Yet in my weakness He is there
To let me know…
His strength is perfect
When our strength is gone;
He’ll carry us
When we can’t
Raised in His power,
The weak become strong.
His strength is perfect,
His strength is perfect.