In case the title wasn’t clear enough… I must say it again. “I can’t do all things through Christ.” And that feels really good.
Now I know some will read this and see a contradiction. After all, one of the most well-known Bible verses is “I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Many of you know that this is one of the most well-known examples of misinterpreting a verse by ripping it from its context.
The verse seems straightforward enough. But the context makes it clear that “all things” refer to being abased and abounding, full and hungry, and presumably everything in between. “Do” refers to enduring or persevering. So the strength that Christ provides is to handle and endure any situation.
Sadly, the common interpretation to that verse implies that I am in control. Christ gives me strength to do whatever I want. In other words… It presumes the obedience of God TO me, rather than the benevolence of God FOR me.
I really don’t need God’s obedience, I need His benevolence? Why? Because I am a limited being. I am limited in:
- Knowledge. I am limited in my knowledge of the past, of the present, and (almost completely) of the future.
- Time and Space. I am finite and thus hugely limited in perspective.
- Wisdom. Even if I had full knowledge of all all things in the past and present, I lack the brainpower and discernment to determine the optimum utilization of these facts for a better future.
Because of my limitations, I don’t need God’s obedience… I need His benevolence. I don’t need control of what is beyond my ability to understand, I need God’s strengthening to be able to endure what is beyond my ability to understand. If I did have the ability to control what I don’t understand, I am likely to choose self-serving, foolish things— frankly the things that humans (self-serving, foolish creatures) tend to choose are… well… self-serving and foolish. Here are some foolish things:
- Missionaries get burned out… trying to do too much— claiming they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them. But apparently they try to do all things except establish balance (healthy balance in terms of physical, psychoemotional, social, and spiritual) in their lives.
- Pastors do not maintain healthy ethical boundaries— claiming that as ministers they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them. But apparently they try to do all things except know what their weaknesses and temptations are. (We shouldn’t be all that surprised that pastors who do counseling are more likely to become inappropriately involved sexually with a counselee than their secular counterparts. Secular counselors make no assumptions that they can do without ethical boundaries.)
- Pastoral Care Providers help those who are far beyond their own training— yes, claiming they can do all things through Christ. But apparently they seek to do all things except refer those to those competent and trained to handle specific problems. They sacrifice helpseekers on the alter of their own hubris.
So YES! I CAN’T do all things through Christ who strengthens me… and I am so thankful.