All the books of the Bible were inspired and authored by the Holy Spirit using human authors. Christianity believes that the scriptures in their original manuscripts are without errors and faults with respect to matters of salvation. The Bible is not merely a collection of quotes or one-liners but literally the Word of God. When scripture speaks, God himself is speaking, which is why we must approach the Bible with extreme care and intentionality. How it is read, memorized, and quoted is of the utmost importance.
However, many Christians misquote, misuse, or misunderstand some verses in the Bible. To help correct some of these misinterpretations, we’re offering this six-week Sunday message series called Bible Oddities. Last week, we looked at a misunderstanding about scripture’s stance on self-sufficiency. This week, we take a look at Philippians 4:13, where Paul declares, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
If Bible verses were movie characters, this one would be Rocky, triumphantly reaching the top of the steps with arms and fists pumping. This verse has been plastered on almost everything from T-shirts, mugs, and posters, to football players’ faces. But is it really telling us that the Lord will give us some superhuman strength to accomplish any feat?
The answer is no. What Paul is saying is that, no matter what his circumstance is, God has given him the strength and ability to endure and be satisfied, even when he must do without, even when he must go hungry. Paul illustrates in his own life that, when you trust and rely on God, you will find satisfaction and prosperity with whatever outcome life hands you.
There are some Christians who believe that faith in God automatically brings financial and other blessings. But what Paul means in the passage is nearly the opposite of this idea. Of course, God always blesses us. But with Christ as our strength, we are able to handle every circumstance, including suffering, failures, and difficulties. Moreover, Paul elsewhere encourages us to work hard, because there is no food for a lazy person.
Much of the prosperity gospel preached today is meant to give hope to those who come to Christ, when in reality, it can cause unnecessary doubt. If the Apostle Paul was not strong in his faith, he would have felt shame for the hard times he experienced. Being able to do all things in Christ is the ability to work hard to get what you want and endure any difficulty while trusting completely in God.
Jesus told his disciples in the gospel today not to be afraid. Instead, they should sell their possessions and give alms, while believing that God is the provider of all true prosperity. As Jesus said to Peter, we need to be about the works of God, so that we are not caught unprepared.
--Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
Father Roger Gustafson