“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Except attend church regularly.”
The majority of Christians have an unexamined faith. Most Christians believe what some person said about Christianity. Cliché and out of context biblical phrases make up most of any Christian’s doctrine.
This is a constant frustration to a pastor. Pastors attempt to teach people what the Bible says. Our job is to build people up in the faith and to preach the Word in season and out.
When people hear these sermons and then turn around and use a biblical phrase in the most unbiblical way, the pastor’s soul is sucked right out of him.
“We are more than conquerors!” Gets exclaimed, not as a pick-me-up for enduring persecution as the original phrase was intended, but as a cheerful defense of materialistic winning in life.
“All things work together for good” gets trotted out when someone loses a job and then gets hired at a place that pays more, or when their kid doesn’t make the soccer team but starts on the swim team. The original context has to do with all things working to grow the believer into Christ, which is what God thinks is good. It has nothing to do with temporal success and certainly not material gain.
The ultimate one is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This is used as a self-help mantra, a believe in yourself and you can do anything cheer. Jesus died on the cross so your wildest dreams would come true. Just add Jesus and material success follows! Yippee!
The original context is Philippians 4 where Paul, who is writing from prison, talks about his contentment whether external circumstances are good or bad. Why? Because with Christ, external things matter very little. I can endure any external thing, whether good or bad, because Christ strengthens me.
Teaching people how to use the Bible in context is not easy, but it’s one of our many tasks. Words mean things and the words of the Bible are not written in isolation. People need to learn the context of a phrase in a verse, a verse in a chapter, a chapter in a book, and a book in the Bible. Biblical phrases are not stand alone, apply as you wish statements. They mean definite things!
Spending energy and time over years and years teaching people how to use God’s Word, and to then consistently hear those people use verse after verse so far out of context, makes a pastor want to quit. What’s the point? Why continue?
I don’t know. What I do know is that with Christ strengthening me, I can do all things! I can even endure and persevere in the face of people who have no idea how to use the Bible! I can continue to teach, trusting that my labor is not in vain in the Lord! Whether my ministry is making any externally measurable difference or not, I can do all things through Christ!
I can even put up with people who butcher God’s word and continue to patiently teach and guide! Seriously, with Christ you can do that!
“For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.