What is this all about? The Bible reads, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and I’ve heard the sermon! AND you bet I’ve heard my friends quote it during prayer or rehearse it as a statement of faith. So, now what? Why can’t I do all things? Why? The question plagues not only the faithfully abiding Jesus follower, but even our agnostic and atheist friends (and probably all humankind, now that I think about it). Honestly, it pushes me further from Him than I wish to be.
I sit abidingly in Sunday service. I go to small group, trying to pull together thoughtful conversation that doesn’t let-on that I am questioning God’s sovereignty. I have even worked for a church and kept this thought tucked away just behind the surface. I am asking this question right now! If I hear one more person say, “Bethany, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you,” I may overflow with some unbecoming sentiments in the direction of their face. I am 5’7” and I will never be able to jump like Michael Jordan. Hands down. Never! I will never be able to grab that hot pan without pain. Never.
Take, for example, the context of this scripture. Paul was writing his friends in Philippi. He says in Philippians 4:12 that he knows how to live simply or in prosperity, having a full stomach or being hungry, having plenty or suffering. Following this example, he states in Verse 13, “I can do it all through Christ who strengthens me,” followed with Verse 14 in which he thanks his friends at Philippi for sending him help.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary expands as follows: “We have need of strength from Christ, to enable us to perform not only those duties which are purely Christian, but even those which are the fruit of moral virtue. We need His strength to teach us to be content in every condition. In addition, the Word in the original is a participle of the present tense, en to endynamounti me Christo, and denotes a present and continued act; as if he had said, ‘Through Christ, who is strengthening me, and does continually strengthen me; it is by His constant and renewed strength I am enabled to act in every thing; I wholly depend upon him for all my spiritual power.’”
So, why is this used carte blanche for ‘doing things’? I would like to propose this as a great injustice to God when we use this verse out of context. It creates so many unanswered WHY’s. Is God’s Word true? Is my faith lacking? Am I in some sort of sin? Why is this verse not coming true for me? Instead, let’s ask ourselves, why are we not coming to truth about this verse?
This is ruffling some of you. Don’t worry–I am arguing the same thing and grasping at straws.
But Bethany, what about Matthew 18:19, where Jesus says, “Ask anything in My name, and it will be done”? Jesus says it in RED letters, Bethany! Yes, he does. But perhaps, may I offer, yet again, a deeper spiritual truth than trying to ‘do things’? Jesus was setting up the plan for His Bride. These scriptures are instructions for church communities on dealings with people (in their group) who may be failing. Jesus is expressing His sweet heart to help bring us ‘failing-folk’ back into community. How sweet is that!
One more! Matthew 6:33 says, “All these things will be added unto you.” All these sweet things can be mine?! I won’t have to struggle or strive or trial. Hmmm … yep, you guessed it–again, another “WHY?” Why, God, don’t I have all these beautiful things? I wanted that house. I wanted THAT job. I wanted that man. I wanted that car. I wanted … fill in the blank. Well, let’s break it down one more time. Jesus is teaching ‘how not to worry.’ It’s an ole-time-self-help book. Really. Instead of using this verse for getting all the things I want to help me not to worry, Jesus is actually saying, “Just don’t worry about it?!’ In the rest of this chapter, Jesus teaches on “God and riches,” “treasures in Heaven,” “how to fast humbly,” “how to pray,” and “how to please God.” Wow. None of this chapter leads up to getting everything.
So, why do we drop these one-liners (usually half sentences) out of context, trying to encourage ourselves or someone else?
I am currently re-programing my knowledge of scripture and the heart of Jesus. I have yelled at God, “WHY?” If you’re like me, part of your problem might be poor teaching. Some toxic spiritual communities use scripture like magic potions. Our job is to unwind these mis-truths (Romans 12:2). Instead of asking, “Why aren’t the promises working for me?” The realities of His promises need to be re-taught.
Jesus is NOT a sweet marketing plan to proselytize to your friends on how goodness and greatness will come in 24-48 hours. Selling Jesus short will only bring more frustrated “why” questions and more hardened hearts. I exhort you to challenge your Spirit; search out the deeper Truth in the Word which will undoubtedly help build a solid life and a mature faith. The Truth of the Word won’t fall on empty promises. It’s just like the great deceiver to use pieces of Truth to make us question God’s sovereign nature. God does have plans for you! HOW the plans develop,and come to fruition,will probably be different than you expect, but nonetheless, this is indeed Truth. God won’t perform magic in your life. He will, however, never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13), which is far better than any other religion or friend or mate can offer!
Bethany Luchetta is married to her love, Vince. She mothers her growing toddler and two beautiful girls from Vince’s first marriage. Bethany runs her own Property Management and Real Estate Brokerages. The love of personal growth and theology pushed her to explore her deeper calling. Attending Dr Henry Cloud and John Townsend year-long Life Coaching Program in 2013, she was inspired to plan for her future career in Theology and Family Therapy at Bethel Seminary. Bethany is preparing for her revocation through Life Skills International, a 32-week personal growth course in San Diego.