“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”–Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
Have you ever come up against a task that seemed impossible to complete? Have you ever told God, “I can’t do this; I’m not strong enough or smart enough?” God has a message for you: sometimes you’re right. There are things you can’t do on your own. But don’t be discouraged! God has another message for you: you can do all things through Christ.
This passage from the end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is the ultimate statement of encouragement. However, isolating this passage from the rest of this letter can be misleading. Removing a passage from its context is always risky. In this case, understanding what Paul means by “all things” hinges on the context of his statement. First, we can easily remove robbing banks, dealing illegal drugs, and all other such unsavory things from Paul’s “all things.” By narrowing the list even further, we’ll discover exactly what “all things” means. To do this, we’ll ask the question, “What direction are things going in?”
Direction #1: Up
The Bible refers to the things we do as “works.” We could approach works by selecting things to do, doing them, and presenting them to God for His approval upon completion. We’ll call this the “Up Approach,” as it works by lifting good works “up” to God. While this sounds like a reasonable approach, God neither requires it nor is He much interested in it.
First, the Up Approach implies that God’s love must be earned. But it doesn’t have to be. He offers His love freely regardless of our works. In addition, human pride leads this approach, and the misconception that our ideas are better than His and that we can do things without His involvement. God is not interested in this because it leads us to say, “God, look how good I am!” This is usually the precursor to, “God, look how much better I am than [insert name here]!” God never wants to hear this from us. Our human capacities also limit the Up Approach. God has much bigger ideas than we do, on an eternal scale often beyond our view! The Up Approach will get little favorable notice from God, and thus His strength will not be forthcoming.
Direction #2: Down
In the “Down Approach,” we seek the works God has in mind and allow Him to use us as conduits through which He accomplishes them. If we want to be sure our works are God-approved, then let them start with Him! God’s strength always accompanies God’s works. If we accept one, we automatically get the other. Paul was careful to articulate this understanding when he wrote, “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, NIV). When Paul says he can do all things, he’s talking about those things that will win him the eternal prize “for which God called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14, NIV).
The Up Approach is much like pushing a rope uphill! The effort is always a struggle against gravity, with little success evident. The Down Approach is much like Niagara Falls! Both the water and gravity are operating powerfully in the same direction!
The key to using the Down Approach is an intimate, personal relationship with God. In such a relationship, you will more easily recognize works that are God-initiated. As we experience the Niagara Falls effect of doing those things God desires for us, we will recognize the presence of His strength. Paul certainly recognized these things in his life, which is why he boldly proclaimed, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” That’s the truth.
You can do all things through Christ, who always provides His almighty power and strength to you in accordance with His good purpose, for which He calls you heavenward.
That’s the YouTruth. You can do all things through Christ.