“Doing All Things Through Christ”Categories: Sermons
There are some texts of Scripture that it seems nearly everyone knows. They’ve made the leap to become part of popular culture. One such text is the punch line to Philippians 4:11-13. Our society idolizes success, and Philippians 4:13 appears to promise success in everything because Jesus will help. I can remember my high school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes putting Philippians 4:13 on T-shirts. My wife’s childbirth-class instructor suggested that women might want to repeat Philippians 4:13 when they were in labor, and so on.
All of that was very inspiring, no doubt, but is it really what the passage is about? Is Paul telling us that Jesus is the gateway to achieving our earthly goals, or is his point different? Here, as always, we need to tune out the cultural noise and ask what the Scriptures truly are saying. Let’s turn our attention, then, to some passages that will help us understand what it means to do all things through Christ.
When we are determining whether Philippians 4:13 applies to what we are doing, we first must EVALUATE OUR GOAL. Paul offers us a useful template for so doing in Colossians 3:1-2. Notice that the distinction here isn’t between setting our minds on righteous things instead of things that are sinful. It’s between setting our minds on things above instead of things that are on the earth. This is important because it tells us that there are goals that aren’t sinful that are still earthly. It’s OK for Christians to have goals like that, but they shouldn’t be where our minds are set.
This is the problem with applying Philippians 4:13 to scoring touchdowns or delivering children. Contextually, the passage isn’t about being able to do whatever we want to because Jesus gives us superpowers. It’s about doing what He wants us to do through the strength that He provides.
In context in Philippians 4, Paul is not being given the strength to succeed. He’s being given the strength to endure. Jesus is helping him to be content despite not even having enough money to eat so that he can go on spreading the gospel. That’s not something that most Americans would recognize as a success, but it was something that brought Paul closer to Christ.
So too for us. Again, it’s fine for Christians to pursue earthly achievements, but those things should not be the pursuit of our lives. Athletic success is fine, but not important. Career success is fine, but not important.
Instead, we ought to be concerned with the triumphs of the spirit. How am I doing in my battle against secret sin? Am I becoming more compassionate and merciful in my dealings with others? Am I, like Paul, patiently enduring suffering for the Lord’s sake? Those are the things that we should be looking to accomplish through the strength that Christ gives us. They never will shine on our resumes, but they are the kinds of things that get recorded in the book of life.
Second, we ought to PRAY FOR BOLDNESS. Consider the example of the apostles in Acts 4:29-31. Contextually, this is impressive. In the previous chapter, Peter and John had been arrested for healing a lame man—for doing good! They have been released from custody only after the leaders of their nation have warned them that if they continue to proclaim Jesus, they will suffer for it. What do they do? They come together with their friends and pray for boldness to continue preaching.
Here, I think we come to the difference between FCA-style leaning on Jesus and Bible-style leaning on Jesus. Usually, the pop-culture version of Philippians 4:13 is about ability. God, help me run faster. God, help me make better business decisions.
By contrast, the Bible version of Philippians 4:13 tends to be about commitment to Christ. We know what we should do. We have the physical and mental abilities to do it. However, there is some part of us that is afraid, so we need Christ’s help to do it.
This is obvious when it comes to serving the Lord—with evangelism, for instance. We know how fear can cripple us then, can keep us from doing what we know is right. However, the same is often true of our struggles against sin. If there is some sin that is constantly present in our lives, be it porn, alcoholism, or gossip, we physically could quit. However, we’re afraid to. We are comfortable in our sin, and we allow our minds to dwell on how unpleasant life would be without it.
In both of these cases, prayers for boldness are the answer. We don’t need stronger quadriceps or stronger brains. We need stronger hearts. We need the Lord’s help to do what we know we need to do.
Once we recognize that need, we should ask for help constantly. Prayer is not supposed to be a one-and-done thing. It is supposed to be a constant thing, especially in the times when we are tempted to be less than we should be. If we turn to Jesus, He will make us strong.
Finally, we must BE STRONG AND ACT. Look at the exhortation recorded in Ezra 10:2-4. Again, this is significant in context. Ezra has only just arrived in Jerusalem. Immediately, though, he has been confronted with a spiritual disaster of epic proportions. The Jews again have begun intermarrying with foreign women, even though that was one of those things that got them carried off into captivity in the first place! Worse still, the leaders of the people, those who were supposed to be leading them in righteousness, instead have been foremost in sin.
Somebody has to do something, and that somebody is Ezra. Nobody else has the same understanding of the Law that Ezra does. Nobody else is in the same elevated position. If he does not act, it may be that the Jews will be carried off into another captivity, never to return to the land.
The same holds true for us. There will be times in our lives when we are called on to take a stand. The stand could be in private, a defiant declaration that we are not going to practice that secret sin ever again. It could be in the context of our families, when somebody isn’t living right. It could be in our workplaces or even our churches.
However, wherever it takes place, the stand will be lonely. That’s what it means to take a stand. Rather than looking around sideways to see what everybody else is going to do, we do what we know we must and leave it to others to follow.
What Jesus wants us to know, though, is that when we are taking that stand, no matter how lonely it may feel, we never will be alone. He will be with us, and when we act with His strength, we will be certain to fully accomplish His will. Maybe the earthly results won’t be what we wanted, but in the spiritual realm, God will be glorified, and that’s what matters.