I Can Do What He Asks Me To Do
Read Philippians 4:13-14 (ESV)
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.
Does this verse really mean that we can do anything?
I often see this verse used like an inspirational mantra that we use to confidently pursue our own dreams and our own glory. I want to be an all-star athlete and “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” I want to ace this test and “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” I want to land this job and “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” It’s like the Christian version of “if you can dream it, you can achieve it.”
But is that what Paul meant when he wrote this? Bible teachers always remind us that “context is king.” It is not a good idea to read a single verse in isolation without considering the verses that come before it and the verses that follow it. This doesn’t pertain to just the Bible. This is good old-fashioned, common-sense, basic literacy skills.
When we consider the context of today’s verse in Philippians 4:10-12, Paul had been conveying his gratitude that the Philippians were once again able to provide support for his ministry. But he emphasized that even if they hadn’t been able to send an offering, he would have been ok. He said he knew the secret to being content was depending on Christ. Only then does he write, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But he thanks them for sharing with him in his hardships anyway.
It wasn’t that Christ empowered Paul to do anything Paul wanted to do. Christ empowered Paul to do what God had called him to do regardless of his circumstances. Paul knew that if God wanted him to do something, God would give him the strength and the resources to carry out that task.
The author of Hebrews expressed a similar confidence when he prayed for his readers in Hebrews 13:20-21: “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Paul and the author of Hebrews were both confident that God would strengthen, equip, and provide His followers with all that was necessary to carry out their calling in Christ Jesus. God raised Jesus from the dead, so He is powerful enough to give us what we need to do what He has asked us to do.
Friends, this verse does not mean what we so often think it does. God does not empower us to do whatever we desire. God has never promised that we will achieve everything that we dream. But that doesn’t mean that Philippians 4:13 is not inspirational and encouraging! The promise is He will give us the strength to endure hardships and He will give us the resources we need to complete whatever task He has set before us. Not for the glory of our achievement, but for the glory of His Name. What’s more inspiring than that?
Jesus, thank You for giving me the strength to endure the hardships I face. Thank You for equipping me to do Your will. I know that You will empower me to do whatever You ask me to do—for Your glory and not my own. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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