By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross
Almost every Christian in rodeo and bull riding knows the verse: Philippians 4:13– “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” While the wording varies from Bible version to Bible version, it’s one of the most common verses quoted by athletes.
That’s because when it’s taken out of context, it can be encouraging to someone trying to succeed. We mistakenly take this verse to mean that God will give us the strength to accomplish all our goals.
Even though it’s a common way of looking at the verse, that’s not what it is actually saying. When we go back and read some of the verses before this one and consider who wrote it and why, under what conditions, we get some better insight into what it really means…and it means a whole lot more than we think.
What do we know about the author? It was Paul who we know was once a rich, hated man who persecuted Christians before he was saved by an encounter with the resurrected Jesus. We know that in following Christ, he helped the early church grow and through that, suffered a great deal of persecution including imprisonment and threat of execution. We know from reading all of Philippians, that Paul wrote the letter to the church at Philippi while imprisoned.
Now look at the other verses and see how much more Paul is telling us and see why we can learn from the other verses that Paul isn’t telling us God will help us achieve our goals.
Now think about your own life and struggles you’ve faced. A time when there was no money to pay fees and you had to sit one out. A time when an injury took you out of the sport for six weeks to recover and ended a dream of reaching the finals. A time when an injury lead to surgery that lead to never competing again.
Paul is showing us, from his own life, that God will get us through whatever we are going through, good or bad. When the hard times come, and they always do, this verse can suddenly mean so much more than what we think when it comes to facing a struggle, not just the pursuit of success. AND, by reading other books of the Bible, we learn that our lives aren’t about pursuing our success and that the strength God gives, comes to us when we are in His will, following His plan for our lives. When we stop trying to make scripture fit our own dreams and plans and start seeking God’s direction for our lives, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” begins to mean something so much more.