Like most teenagers I made frequent trips to the orthodontist over the course of a couple of years. My teeth were definitely a piece of work, so I saw my orthodontist regularly. He was a Christian, so it was not uncommon to hear the local Christian radio station playing in the background, or see Bible verses and posters plastered on the walls. And while I would wait in the chair for him to do his work, unable to do much of anything because my mouth was screwed open, I would stare at the posters. At the time I was not a Christian, so even though I was the child of Christians, the verses meant very little to me. But one in particular stands out clearly in my mind.
We all know it. “I can do all things through him who
strengthens me.” It’s the go-to verse for everyone wanting to do something big.
Flip through a high school yearbook and you will probably find this verse listed
as the Christian student’s favorite quote. While watching the Olympic Track and
Field trials I even heard some athletes allude to this truth as their recipe for
But is that what Paul is talking about? Is he simply giving
us the promise that anytime we face a challenge we can just look to Christ and he
will help us get through it? I think not. Jesus is not simply a deified good
luck charm. And to imply otherwise is missing Paul’s point completely.
To understand what Paul is getting at we have to look at the
entire context of Philippians 4. He has just finished encouraging the Philippians
to not be anxious and turn to God in moments of fear and anxiety (vs. 5-7). He
reminds them of what it looks like to live as a Christian (vs. 8-9). In verses
10-13 he uses all of this as background to let them in on a secret—even in the
midst of suffering and trial we can be content in Christ alone.
Paul is saying that we can face any circumstance, trial, or
pain knowing that our strength comes from Christ. How comforting is that?!?
Some circumstances take every ounce of strength out of you. Here we have the promise that Christ will
supply every need we have, including the strength to endure to the end.
This is why we can present our requests to God. This is why
we can focus on true, honorable, excellent, and praiseworthy things. This is
why we can praise Christ even when the storm is raging around us. Our strength
comes from the God of all who has promised to preserve and complete the work he
started in us (Philippians 1:6).
So whatever your lot is today, you can know this, my sister.
You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. You can face another
round of painful medication. You can spend all your energy on a rebellious
toddler and sleepless baby. You can face an uncertain pregnancy or infertility.
You can love your husband even when he is unlovable. You can serve your church
even though you are exhausted and depleted. But not because you possess some
supernatural ability to do it all and still look pretty, too. The Lord knows
you can’t. And that is why he has promised to supply every need, every
necessary grace, and every ounce of strength to do the things he has called you
to today. He is faithful. He will surely do it.