Misused Bible Passages: Philippians 4:13

Philippians 4:13  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

People quote this verse when they are about to take a difficult exam, run a marathon, or some other occasion. I see it on social media all the time! Some people call it their “life verse.” It is even etched on basketball star Stephen Curry’s shoes! But is that all what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote these words?

When you read three verses before the passage in question, you will find that apostle Paul was not just talking about academic excellence or winning at sports:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Paul was in a state of suffering—humiliation, hunger, and neediness. But amidst his despair, we find that he has learned to be content no matter what situation he was in. Perhaps, our day-to-day victories would be included in the “all things” that the apostle mentioned. But isn’t that a little petty compared to the life-threatening situation that he was facing?

Paul persevered with an all-enduring contentment because he was drawing his strength from Christ! It is in this context, that he confidently proclaims: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs also provides the remedy for contentment, in his book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment:

Indeed, our afflictions may be heavy, and we cry out, Oh, we cannot bear them, we cannot bear such an affliction. Though you cannot tell how to bear it with your own strength, yet how can you tell what you will do with the strength of Jesus Christ? You say you cannot bear it? So you think that Christ could not bear it? But if Christ could bear it why may you not come to bear it? You will say, Can I have the strength of Christ? Yes, it is made over to you by faith: the Scripture says that the Lord is our strength, God himself is our strength, and Christ is our strength. There are many Scriptures to that effect, that Christ’s strength is yours, made over to you, so that you may be able to bear whatever lies upon you, and therefore we find such a strange expression in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, praying for the saints: ‘That they might be strengthened with all might according unto his glorious power’, unto what? ‘Unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness’-strengthened with all might, according to the power of God, the glorious power of God, unto all patience, and longsuffering with joyfulness. You must not therefore be content with a little strength, so that you are able to bear what a man might bear by the strength of reason and nature, but you should be strengthened with all might, according to the glorious power of God, unto all patience, and to all longsuffering.

Oh, you who are now under very heavy and sad afflictions more than usual, look at this Scripture, and consider how it is made good in you; and why may you not have this Scripture made good in you, if you are godly? You should not be quiet in your own spirits, unless in some measure you get this Scripture made good in you, so that you may with some comfort say, ‘Through God’s mercy, I find that strength coming into me that is spoken of in this Scripture.’ You should labor when you are under any great affliction (you who are godly) to walk so that others may see such a Scripture made good in you. This is the glorious power of God that strengthens his servants to all longsuffering, and that with joyfulness. Alas, it may be that you do not exercise as much patience as a wise man or a wise woman who has only natural reason. But where is the power of God, the glorious power of God? Where is the strengthening with all might, unto all longsuffering and patience, and that with joyfulness? It is true, the spirit of a man may be able to sustain his infirmities, may be able to sustain and keep up his spirits, the natural spirit of a man can do that, but much more when the spirit is endued with grace and holiness, and when it is filled with the strength of Jesus Christ. This is the way a godly man gets contentment, the mystery of it, by getting strength from Jesus Christ.

When we are well fed or hungry, in plenty or in want, in joy or in sorrow, where do we draw our strength from? May we truly echo what the apostle has said, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” 


Should I Marry Someone Whom I Disagree With Doctrinally?

“Yes” and “No” would be the simple answer for that. But it isn’t really that simple. A lot of couples consider compatibility in terms of culture, education, and interests, when they get married. I propose that Christian couples should also consider doctrinal compatibility.

In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas, an often quoted Latin phrase meaning, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity,” may not necessarily be helpful here, since we may call into question which things are necessary, or unnecessary. But I would argue that these things are doctrinal essentials when it comes to finding a spouse:

1. Gospel
There are certainly some aspects to the Christian faith that cannot be left to compromise, such as the pure Gospel of Jesus. There are, however, a few instances where there is room for love, respect, and understanding, like the age of the earth, or how the Lord will come again. A good place to start is to ask whether or not someone truly believes in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Most people would like to stop here, but I would go further. That is, do they believe that a person is saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone? Do they believe in the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed?

2. Church
The church isn’t merely a place where you come to worship on Sundays. On this side of eternity, the church is the visible body of believers whom the Lord has called out together as witnesses. There are many reasons why people flock to different churches. Aside from distance or location, ask yourself why the person you’re interested in may not be in the same faith community as you are. How do they view the church, her ministries and mission, and her officers or leaders? Are there certain values or practices they believe in, that you don’t? Perhaps, you could also consider whether or not they believe in the continuity or discontinuity of some spiritual gifts? More importantly, is the Gospel faithfully preached, sacraments properly administered, and church discipline exercised?

3. Sacraments
This point is actually related to #2 but I chose to make it separate in order to highlight its importance further. Do they see the Lord’s Supper as a means of grace, or merely a remembrance of what Christ has done? What about baptism? I affirm the practice of paedobaptism, thus I consider it to be sin for parents to withhold covenant baptism from their children. That being said, I could not have married a Baptist brother. I was only baptized as an infant, and made a public confirmation when I was about 14 years old. If I were to join a Baptist church, they would have me undergo a believer’s baptism. Now I can’t submit to that, since I believe that my baptism is valid. So unless one of you gives way, it would pose some challenges, especially when children are involved. Will you have your children baptized, dedicated, or none at all? These things need to be addressed. I certainly pray that my children take hold of the promises and blessings of the covenant as the sign is placed on them, and look back knowing that the Lord is good and faithful for preserving them for his purpose to the praise of his glory!

4. Gender 
Scripture mandates that women should submit to male leadership. A complementarian and egalitarian joining together may not be the wisest idea. This view affects church life, and home life. Egalitarianism trumps male leadership in both. People who know me personally know that this doctrine is not something that I trifle with. Do they affirm that the offices of the elder—both teaching and ruling—and deacon, are reserved for mature Christian men only?

I know that this list may seem unconventional to some people, but I firmly believe theology matters. What a person believes about God, the Scriptures, and the world, is their working theology, and it matters greatly. The first one matters because it is of eternal significance as it relates to our salvation, and the object of our faith. The second one matters because true worship is something we must aspire to do. The third one matters because it affects our piety, and parenting. The fourth one matters because the authority of Scripture is at stake.

So far, these are my doctrinal non-negotiables when it comes to considering a spouse. I know that I could expound on what I wrote here for clarification purposes. Perhaps another time.

By the way, I’m happily married to a Reformed and missional minister of the Gospel, and mom to two beautiful children—one of whom is yet to be baptized!

My Opportunity: The Children For Christ



My opportunity! Dear Lord, I do not ask
That Thou shouldst give me some high work of Thine,
Some noble calling, or some wondrous task,—
Give me a little hand to hold in mine.

I do not ask that I should ever stand
Among the wise, the worthy, or the great;
I only ask that, softly, hand in hand,
A child and I may enter at Thy gate.

Give me a little child to point the way
Over the strange, sweet path that leads to Thee;
Give me a little voice to teach to pray;
Give me two shining eyes Thy face to see.

The only crown I ask, dear Lord, to wear,
Is this — that I may teach a little child
How beautiful, oh, how divinely fair
Is Thy dear face, so loving, sweet and mild!

I do not need to ask for more than this.
My opportunity! ‘Tis standing at my door;
What sorrow if this blessing I should miss!
A little child! Why should I ask for more?

Who knows what future stretches out along
Those strange, far years? Dear Father, if I knew!
Who knows what sorrow, or who knows what song,
Who knows what work those little hands may do?

Who knows what word of mine may shape a thought
To turn his heart to that far heaven above?
Who knows what lesson that I may have taught,
Will turn his heart to the dear God of love?

Thou knowest, oh, Thou knowest! Unto Thee
All things are plain. Help me, Lord Christ I pray,
That I may ever helpful be,
To lead a little child along the way.

My opportunity? I need not seek it far,
It standeth at the door, and waiteth me;
Dear Lord, two trusting hands uplifted are —
A little child, my opportunity!

—Marian B. Craig