I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Or, as Teen Missions FTMs would correct you, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
This verse is super-inspirational and makes all us church people feel nice and fuzzy inside. However, it’s taken way out of context way too often.
Let’s do a little bit of author background. Well, God is the Author (All Scripture is God-breathed… [2 Tim. 2:16]), but men wrote it down. Paul is the dude who wrote most of the books of the New Testament*, including the letter to the Philippians. Paul was the Saul guy who murdered Followers of the Way until Jesus changed him. Paul is considered to be the first missionary.
After he was saved, life did not ease up for Paul. Here are some of Paul’s struggles in his own words, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:24-28)
Long story short: Paul’s life was ROUGH. He didn’t say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” while thinking of being successful in his business or achieving his greatest dreams. Paul never was successful in terms of work or his own ideas.
So what was Paul talking about?
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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)
Paul was talking about being content! If anyone had a right to be discontent, it’d be Paul. Go back and read the paragraph about Paul’s troubles if you forget why. Plus, he lived in 1st century A.D. There were no computers, washing machines, comfy shoes, or grocery stores. We have it good here in the 21st century.
There are days I want to complain about an English paper I have to write, or a sister who won’t stop being annoying. I want to be discontent here because I miss my friends and the simplicity of life in Guatemala. But I must choose to be content, even when it’s hard. You know the secret to it? The secret to being content no matter what? Jesus. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Jesus Christ, the risen Son of God, will help me.
*Quick Bible nerd fact: Paul didn’t write most of the New Testament, just most of the books. His books are all letters, not really long books. Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts. Combined, they are longer than all of Paul’s letters, so Luke is the one who wrote the most of the New Testament. John comes in second with John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation.