“Doing All Things Through Christ”: What It Does and Doesn’t Mean

Can I really "do all things through Christ?" Besides being a strong Christian, I'm young, full of energy, and enthusiastic about life. As a result, I have big plans and want to do great things for God. When I talk like this, my family and friends tell me I've got stars in my eyes. When I quote Philippians 4:13 – "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" – they just laugh and brush me off. I know I'm right, but haven't yet figured out a way to convince them. Can you help me?

You deserve high marks for passion and zeal. Never in a million years would we say anything to put a damper on that kind of ambition and self-confidence. On the contrary, we want to encourage you to forge ahead with your plans. But do it prayerfully and humbly. Remember the words of Ecclesiastes – “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) – and the apostle Paul – “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). The Lord honors those who commit their works to Him and who strive for excellence in everything they do (Proverbs 16:3; 22:29).

That said, it’s important that we add a word of clarification. When God promises to bless you for your faithfulness and dedication, He isn’t necessarily guaranteeing you success in everything you choose to undertake. Philippians 4:13 does not say that you can do anything you want to do. For example, it would be a mistake to assume that you can make a million dollars, write a best-selling novel, get elected President of the United States, win the Heisman Trophy, or become a Grammy Award-winning musician simply because you believe in Christ and are willing to follow your dreams with all your heart. If you examine this verse in context, you’ll see that it was actually written to address an entirely different issue. Let’s take a closer look.

Beginning in verse 10, Paul writes:

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13)

Then, a few sentences later, in verses 17 and 18, he adds:

Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed, I have all and abound …

What is the apostle doing in this passage? He’s commending the Philippians on their past generosity and encouraging them to continue giving freely in the future. But that’s not all. Within the context of this discussion of giving and receiving, he also does something remarkable: he redefines for Christians the meaning of words like need and abundance.

In effect, Paul says that the believer’s experience of either want or satisfaction is ultimately an internal rather than an external reality. It has less to do with one’s material circumstances than with a certain mental and spiritual attitude. The secret, he explains in verse 11, is contentment (Greek autarkes/ autarkeia). In the original language, this word indicates something like “self-sufficiency” or “independence.” It’s the ability to “make do” in all kinds of situations. When we have Christ, says Paul, we have everything. That being true, it doesn’t really matter if we’re rich or poor, successful or defeated, starving or full, naked or clothed, homeless or sheltered.

This is the revolutionary perspective that stands behind the apostle’s assertion in verse 13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He is not saying that Christians will never go hungry or suffer want. Nor is he claiming that God will protect the believer from every danger. Paul had personally experienced all these hardships many times, serving the Lord “in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness, often in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (II Corinthians 11:27). What he is asserting is that, if you belong to Christ, God will enable you to bear the burden whatever your situation in life may be. Perhaps you can see that this is something very different from a guarantee of limitless wealth and success.

If you have further questions or concerns, call us. Focus on the Family has a staff of pastoral counselors who would love to speak with you over the phone.


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