As you may know, I’m doing a blog series on “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13. This is Part 2 of this series. If you would like to fully live by this passage, and really feel confident you can do ALL THINGS, then I believe you should want to know if you meet the requirements to claim that scripture. In this blog I will talk about:
1. The definition of “all things” (what God gives us strength for)
2. What is required to have strength
3. How to have peace.
First, I want you to know everything I’m writing about can help you in every area of your life. Whether you are training for a marathon, or you are wanting to be a better parent. We all need strength to get through things – whether a difficult workout or a life crisis. So, where ever you are in your life, I believe this blog can help you.
Second, I should say, I’m no Bible scholar but I did take the Inductive Bible Study Course in Discipleship Training School at our church, which teaches people how to correctly divide scripture. This is actually probably why I wanted to dig deeper into this text around that famous scripture. I wanted to make SURE I really understood what it really meant, what context it was written in and what we are supposed to learn from the whole text, not just that one verse.
We learned in class to:
– Never just read a verse on its own without looking at the surrounding verses.
– Never read a verse and say “what it means to me is…”, meaning, I should be careful to try to make the scripture mean anything different than what God intended it to mean.
Luckily, if you read the verses around it, it’s normally pretty simple to understand what God wants us to get from it – and He still speaks to us individually through each verse, but ALWAYS in line with the rest of his Word.
With that said, here are the verses around Philippians 4:13 again, followed by my next lesson I learned.
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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.13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
In Part 1, I address the word content. Paul said he learned to be content whjether well fed or hungry. Well, in the fitness world, I have to say most dieters aren’t initially all that content. Many competitors who go on extreme diets to compete are far from content, BUT they can LEARN to be content. So I focused on how to be content in all circumstances. Today I want to talk about “all things” and make a check list of how to determine what things God can strengthen us for, and what he can’t (or won’t).
Don’t get me wrong. When Paul says he can do “all things” he means ALL things. He puts no limits on God. When I looked up “all things” in the Blue Letter Bible (great online resource center) it defined it as “each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything”. That pretty much sums it up. It means what it says – ALL things. However, I do believe there is a requirement on our end.
“God isn’t obligated to finish what you started” – Joyce Meyer.
I absolutely love what Joyce says here! Another words, just because you stepped out of the will of God and started something on your own (probably something you weren’t supposed to, or supposed to do yet), God’s not obligated to bless it or finish it. He may choose to do that, but we have to take responsibility for our mess ups, and not just use God as a rabbit foot of good luck to get our way. If you don’t agree, then think about if you were robbing a bank. Do you think God will give you the strength required to do a bank job and get away with it? While God loves us unconditionally, there are conditions (requirements) to receiving His benefits, as well as repercussions to our past mistakes.
The Right Road
Paul was careful to follow God’s lead. One of our friends says “where God guides, God provides”. You can have confidence God will provide strength in every and any situation IF… If you are in God’s will.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
This is the requirement. No matter the task, big or small, something that seems super meaningful, or something that seems silly, the requirement Jesus says here is we must remain him Him. The word “remain” is also interchangeable with abide or to live. Definitions include “to remain as one, to not be different, to not depart from, walk with, to wait for”. Webster defines abide as “comply with, obey, observe, follow, keep to, hold to, conform to, adhere to, stick to, stand by, act in accordance with, uphold, heed, accept, go along with, acknowledge, respect”. The only way you can make sure you are doing any of that is to get to know God and know His ways through His Word. You can’t or obey rules you don’t know. You can’t conform to, or respect, anyone you don’t know. So the 2nd requirement do being able to do all things is to make sure you are on the right path by reading the Bible.
Let’s look at it this way. Let’s look at your goals like a destination, as if you are on a trip somewhere. There are no right and wrong roads if you don’t have a destination. You can wander all around and there really is no right or wrong turns. However, when you are on the way to a specific destination, there are definitely right and wrong roads. There are definitely right and wrong turns.
I believe, if you want to claim this verse, the key to having confidence this verse applies to you, like it applied to Paul, is to check the road map (the Word) and make sure you are on the right path. If I want to go to California, no prayer or strength in the world can get me there if I refuse to get off I 95. I 95 doesn’t lead to California.
As we look at the things we are working toward, I believe it is important to check our heart and make sure they are also in line with God’s will for our lives. This means, we need to ask questions like:
“Why am I doing this?”
“Is it pleasing to God”?
“Is it building people up around me?”
“Do I have peace?”
“is there anything in scripture that contradicts my actions?”
“Would I change anything if Jesus was right there with me?” (The good ole WWJD check)
Even good things can be bad things if they are not the RIGHT things at the right time. God can use all of our gifts, passions and talents, but we just have to make sure He doesn’t have something else He wants us to be investing in at this time. Pray and ask God to direct you. He will either give you tons of confirmation you are on the right path, or He will allow conflict (see the verse below), guilt and closed doors to say “no” or “not now”. He may even say “YES!” but give you conviction or correction to back off a little, be careful or make sure whatever you are pursuing doesn’t become your idol and obsession – bringing you back into a healthy balance with Him.
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. ” Galatians 5:16-17
Peace Through The Process
One of the BIGGEST warning signs you are off track is a lack of peace. If you are depressed, angry, bitter, stressed and in emotional turmoil, it is normally the result of being out of God’s will. If you fight God, I can tell you right now, you will be miserable. As it explains above, the conflict between flesh and spirit is designed so you won’t do whatever you want.
I can tell you right now, when Steve wanted a divorce he was so incredibly unhappy. He wanted peace SO bad. He couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t eat. And the closer he got to being completely out of God’s will and leaving me, the worse that got. However, as soon as he started doing God’s will, even though he didn’t feel like it, peace poured over him and he finally got relief – after 7 years of depression, frustration and being unhappy. He was unhappy and not at peace because he was not on the right track.
You can endure all things when you have peace. You can easily claim that scripture, “I can do all things”, when you know without a shadow of doubt you are in God’s will. It’s the most exhilarating and freeing feeling. You can still have peace even though you made a mess of your life and there is still a lot of “cleaning up to do”. You can still have peace even though you continue to mess up daily. You can have peace even in the hardest times of your life. You can have peace because you are on the right path. Even if I’m still on I95, I can have peace because I turned around and I’m now heading in the right direction to the exit I need to take to start going west. Bottom line is, I can have peace the INSTANT I get back on track.
If you want to claim that scripture, you need to know that you truly can do all things when you are on the right path and at peace with God. Then, that scripture can be more than just a motivational meme but a truth you can have the utmost confidence in, no matter how big or small the task.