Prevailing: An Honest Look at Philippians 4.13

Sometimes I want to scream! One thing that makes me want to scream is people, Christian people, who under the guise of faith, take scripture out of it’s God-given context and apply it to their own pretentious favor.  ARGH!!

I wonder, is there any passage where this more frequently occurs than it does with Philippians 4.13:

“I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”

All too often, it seems, this is claimed as the “life verse” by athletes, coaches, and others facing various forms of adversity.  Those involved in athletics so commonly claim this verse that I sometimes, tongue-in-cheek, refer to this mindset as FCA Christianity. (OK.  I know that this is not fair to FCA.  While this mindset may commonly be heard around FCA Huddles and events, there are also many faithful, deep, godly folks involved with FCA.  In truth, I don’t know that this mindset is more prevalent with FCA-ers than it would be in my denomination, PCA, or even the church that I pastor.)

Philippians 4.13 is often invoked whenever the odds of success seem stacked against someone. The person reminds himself/herself: “I can do this… Like Rocky Balboa, I can defy the odds… I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength… I can win!!”

What is wrong with this perspective is not the desire to prevail, whatever the endeavor. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem is that to use this verse, and suppose the Bible here champions winning, takes this verse out of it’s context and redirects the aim of the gospel, the purpose of the Christian faith, to serve our agenda and goals.  It assumes that our personal success is the goal of the Kingdom.  It turns the gospel upside-down.

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