Tim Tebow can win the Heisman Trophy and two college football national championships because he can do all things through Christ. His eye black stickers say so:
Yes, I’m picking on Tim Tebow here because he’s an easy target. Outside of needing to wear larger shirts, he seems like a pretty good dude who does a lot of good things. But my point is the connection between Philippians 4:13’s “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and football.
Or rock climbing.
Google images tells it all:
Click to buy your t-shirt or wall poster now!
If you can do all things through Christ, can you fly if you jump off the top of a building?
Can Tim Tebow score a touchdown on every play? What if the player trying to score the touchdown and the one trying to tackle him both believe they can do all things through Christ who strengthens him? 🤯 This is as deeper question than the immovable object meeting the unstoppable force. Somebody call a seminary professor!
I think most of us know that Philippians 4:13 can’t mean that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, but that doesn’t seem to stop us from selling t-shirts and posters and giving sermons that say I can.
Let’s take a closer look at the text.
Rule number 1 in reading the Bible is to know that the chapter and verse numbers are not a part of the original text. They were added in the 16th century! The tragedy of these teeny little numbers on your Bible’s page is they allow t-shirt designers and lazy preachers to pluck out any phrase they want, essentially make it say anything they want, and most of the time the masses are none the wiser, because “it’s in the Bible.”
But it’s not just the exaggeration and embellishment of the phrase, which feels relatively innocent and innocuous. It’s that we miss the actual meaning of the text, which packs a convicting punch that absolutely needs to be heard in the affluent American church and society today. Let’s take away the little verse numbers and read what Paul was actually saying to the church at Philippi:
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.Philippians 4:10-13 esv
Paul has learned to be content in whatever situation he is in.
He knows how to be content when he is brought low, hungry, and in need. Have you ever been brought low, hungry, and in need? Are you brought low, hungry, and in need right now? Did you know you can be content?
He knows how to be content when he is in abundance and in plenty. Have you ever been in abundance? Are you in abundance right now? Are you content or is your abundance simply an addiction for more abundance? Do you know how to be content in your abundance?
It’s like there’s a secret out there to be content, and Paul knows it. The dude has experienced poverty and was content. He has experienced abundance and was content. What is the secret?
The secret is you can be content whether you’re poor or rich through Christ who strengthens you.
The gospel is so full and so abundant, it will fill you up so that when everything else is empty, you are still full. It is so full and abundant that when you have everything the world tells you is full and abundant, those things don’t own you. Those things don’t become the gods that you worship, that your life revolves around, that you can’t live without, because you already have some so much better in Christ, who strengthens you.
The gospel is so full and abundant you can have very little material possessions and still be the richest person in the world because you have Jesus.
That is the strength Jesus gives you. The strength to have joy when you’re poor and peace when you’re rich. Not the strength to score touchdowns or to fly if you jump off a building.
This matters because the American church and society worships abundance. If we choose to use Philippians 4:13 as a verse to pump us up when we are bench pressing, we avoid using it as a verse that tells us that stuff won’t satisfy.
The updated 2011 NIV gets it right when they take away the ability to take this phrase out of context by changing “I can do all things” to “I can do all this…”
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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 4:10-13 NIV
“Making your favorite Bible verses biblical” is a series that looks at some of our favorite Bible verses that we’ve taken out of context. If you’re not offended yet, there’s a good chance you will be. Be sure to subscribe to see what’s to come.
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