I Can Do All Things Through Christ . . .

Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13 is the favorite verse of many athletes, and usually it’s used incorrectly. In other words, it is used as a mantra to push the athlete to endure hard training so that he or she can win.

However, the meaning of “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” is not “with God’s help, I can win any contest or pass any exam.” It’s meaning, in context, is very simple: in whatever circumstance I may find myself (i.e., win or lose), by God’s grace I can be content. Why? Because Christ is the source of my strength. Anything I succeed at is because He strengthened me. Any hardship I may endure is the result of the strength He has provided. Notice who gets the credit (again!) for winning the big event or enduring incredible hardship: Jesus not Paul!

This understanding seems obvious by Paul’s use of contrasts to lead up to the “I can do all things . . .” statement: need and plenty, well fed and hungry, in plenty and in want. He doesn’t present one condition as better than it’s opposite because either circumstance requires strength, which is provided by Jesus.

The assistant general manager of a particular MLB team told me this story: He was scouting a pitcher that his team was interested in acquiring, but had great reservations about the pitcher’s commitment to winning because of his well publicized faith in Jesus. When I asked for clarification, the scout told me that it appears that this pitcher is so dedicated to his faith that when he loses it doesn’t bother him.

In fact, the scout told me that he made a formal complaint to the head of “Baseball Chapel” (most MLB teams have a Christian chaplain that, to some degree, serves as a pastor to the Christian players on the team) about this particular pitcher’s “misunderstanding of the Christian faith.” “Being a Christian doesn’t have to mean that you don’t care if you win or lose,” he added with emphasis. The irony of this statement is that this scout wasn’t a Christian, but he had great conviction about what the Christian life should or shouldn’t be.

A couple of years later, I had the opportunity to revisit this story with the pitcher in question. His response was interesting: “I don’t know who that guy is, but my record should speak for itself in terms of whether I have a drive to win. That should be more important than whether I kick over trash cans, break water coolers or am a mess in the locker room after a loss or bad outing.”

The pitcher was right: His record does speak for itself. He admits that he isn’t a theologian, but he was biblically accurate when he added, “I don’t enjoy losing because I play to win, but life is bigger than the loss of a baseball game.” And in this respect, he had learned to “do everything through Him who gives [him] strength.”

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