‘For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.’
This verse is one of the most frequently quoted verses by Christians under pressure. However, has familiarly with these words led to them being over-used. As a consequence have we become unrealistic with our goals and expectations? More importantly, can God really strengthen His followers throughout their daily tasks, or as they seek to fulfil their ambitions?
Let’s begin to answer these questions by looking at the context in which this verse was written. Paul penned these words to the Church in Philippi, which was in Northern Greece, while he was in prison for preaching the Gospel. Fundamentalist Jews objected to his insistence that Christ was the risen Messiah and therefore roused enough unrest to have him imprisoned. Whether he was under house arrest or in a rat-infested jail is unclear, the fact that he had lost his liberty was clear. It is fair to say that Paul could only have had the courage to write these words if he had seen God’s power at work first-hand in his life.
For this reason, I believe that one can apply the words of this verse to whatever they face in life on the understanding that their goal is, in common with Paul, to prove the Gospel of Jesus Christ in both word and action.
My personal journey with God has saw Him carry me from the high-chair of a mentally retarded toddler, to the graduation platform of two major universities. A 25-year career as a journalist has come to fruition following a prophesy by my Godly primary school teacher that: ‘You will be a great journalist one day, Joseph.’ ‘Great’ may have been overstating my abilities somewhat, but her encouragement meant a lot to me at the time!
My life achievements or should I say blessings have been accomplished only as a result of a God-given strength planted within me by a Saviour, who delights in using the weak in His world to shame the strong.
Without God’s life-changing power, I would almost certainly have died after sustaining brain damage following my premature birth. Even if my body had survived, two of the country’s most respected pediatricians told my parents that I would be ‘retarded’ and ‘slow to learn’ with intelligence that was ‘below normal.’
Add to this the fact that my mangled brain is unable to give me enough hand control to write more legibly than a three-year-old nor can it judge road speed quickly enough to permit me to drive. How then could I sustain any credible position in life, never mind years in one of the toughest professions going? The answer is simply that I cannot. It is God who has opened the door; God who provided the teaching, the technology and the skill that I required to fulfil my teacher’s prophesy that I would be a ‘great journalist’ at least to a point! I have tried my best to fulfil this, and all I do for God, on the one deep assurance, that it is Christ who strengthens me!
Joe Boyd (Journalist and Author of ‘Trading Places’)