The Misused Bible Verse (with author A. L. Grayson)
Okay, guys. You’ve all seen it. The one verse that sits, adorned, on coffee mugs, T-shirts, and stickers. Hint: people use it for their senior quotes often. (I did.)
It's a verse that is misused so often its meaning has become somewhat diluted and at times downright backward.
Which verse is it?
Philippians 4:13. (But if you guessed Jeremiah 29:11, you get brownie points too.)
The famous words, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” They’re everywhere.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Let me start by saying, loud and clear, it is a GOOD thing. Because, really, how awesome is it that a Bible verse, an actual sentence full of eternal truth inspired by the Holy Spirit, is staring out at us from cups and shirts and bumper stickers all over the place? I find that pretty incredible.
This particular verse gets slapped around a lot. I mean that in more ways than one.
The Misapplied Bible Verse
This verse, whether we like to admit it or not, has become somewhat of a slogan for the Christians-are-actually-superheroes movement.
The world loves to think of people as powerful. We love the business CEO, the Olympian, the YouTube bazillionaire, the supermom who can raise ten kids and work full time and homeschool everyone and keep a perfect house and sell makeup on the side for six figures a year (that person doesn’t exist, by the way).
So, it’s no wonder that the world has absorbed Philippians 4:13 with open arms. It’s the Bible verse that seems to support their ideology that people can do anything. Put a little Jesus in our coffee in the morning, and we’re invincible. That’s the idea.
However, as usual, the world misses the point. It misses the beautiful truth of this verse.
Today, we hear from YA author and screenwriter, A. L. Grayson, on the real meaning of this verse and how it can impact the life of a believer.
Let’s do a little reclaiming of this often-misused verse. Here’s A. L. Grayson:
You Are Strong Enough (In Christ)
Everyone goes through hardships. And in the moment, you might not think your life can ever get better, that you are going to be stuck in this hole forever, and that you are not strong enough to survive.
But you are.
Our loving and supportive God will help us get through any trauma, hardship, trial, or tragedy we might face in this life. And while we, as human beings, might not be strong enough to lift ourselves out of the rabbit hole we are in, just know that God will get us out.
In my own personal life, there was a time when I lost someone, and I never thought that I could escape the darkness around me. It was only when I turned to God and took his hand, allowing Him to guide my life, that I saw a drastic change. Things started to get better. I couldn’t believe it.
Once I started to be more involved with my church, found a youth Bible study, and prayed daily, happiness and joy began to replace the sorrow and darkness that once shadowed me.
During that time in my life, I relied on one scripture verse: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13. I would tell myself this over and over whenever I felt trapped.
You might be in a difficult place right now, especially with COVID-19 and quarantine, or you might have already overcome a hardship, but if you remember this verse whenever you feel too weak to fight another battle, I promise that it will give you strength.
- A. L. Grayson
It always brings me joy to see a fellow Christ-follower humbling admitting her need for her Savior. This is, after all, how we are supposed to live. We need Christ daily, and when we acknowledge that, we are bringing Him the glory He deserves.
I Can Do All Things: What Does It Really Mean?
Grayson made a great point about Philippians 4:13 that we cannot afford to miss. Her point is two-fold.
First, she pointed out that Jesus did indeed give her inexplicable strength, which is something we should celebrate and believe. We can’t overlook the simple truth that Jesus Christ gives us strength. No Christian can make it through a day without the strength of Christ keeping us steadfast and faithful.
We’ve become so accustomed to this verse being used the wrong way that perhaps many Christians fear trusting in this verse at all. We see people using this verse to declare themselves powerful enough to earn a million dollars quickly. We see people using this verse to ensure they win a race or a basketball game. We see people using this verse before the ACT to help them get a better score.
These misuses are all part of the Christians-are-superheroes mindset. If we slap Christ on top of our basketball game, we’ll win. If we sprinkle some Jesus on top of our test anxiety, we’ll score higher. If we really want to make it in the corporate world, we’ll just bring Jesus along because He allows us to do anything, right?
This mindset turns Jesus into a self-help guru or a high-tech gadget designed to increase our efficiency.
Lord, help us.
Jesus Christ deserves our reverence, our awe, our worship, and our complete submission. Jesus is not a self-help mastermind. He is not a tool to help us get ahead in life.
He is Creator. He is Lord. He is our only hope. He is our source of life.
The strength He gives us is not to “win” at life. He alone is our life, and His strength helps us when we recognize that fact.
And this goes back to Grayson’s second point: He strengthens us to “do all things” when we feel like we can’t do it ourselves. This is the key, the part many people miss.
Humility, my friends, is where our strength shines. Jesus Christ gives us His strength when we reach the end of ourselves.
Grayson points out that there are times in life when we feel like we might not make it. This is often when we, perhaps for the first time, find ourselves fully relying on our Savior for strength. We are not strong enough. He is.
Thus, it is in suffering that Jesus makes us strong.
His Strength Shines in our Suffering
Is that what the coffee mugs, T-shirts, and senior quotes are all about? Probably not. I know when I chose that verse for my senior quote, I didn’t understand the full implications of what it meant. I hadn’t been tested on it yet.
The truth of Philippians 4:13 is so beautiful because it accurately points out that even in the midst of our deepest suffering, Jesus is there to strengthen us. Because of His strength, we can endure. Because of His strength, we can do “all things,” which in the context of this verse means enduring hardship.
Grayson captures the wonder of this verse so well by explaining her own experience with the strength of Christ given to her in the midst of deepest anguish.
So, the next time you see this verse tattooed on a journal or a bracelet or, hey, even an arm, think about whether or not you truly believe Christ can strengthen you to endure any and every hardship. Think about whether or not you trust the words He’s given you in this verse.
Most of the time, we don’t really know if we trust these words until we’re thrown into a hardship we can’t imagine in our wildest nightmares. Only then can we really see what Christ’s strength looks and feels like. Only then, when we are at the end of our own strength, can we truly say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
And that is the glory of this verse.
So, buy the coffee mug, the journal, the bumper sticker, and rejoice over the love and affection of our Savior, who, in our darkest hour, is there to hold us afloat.
He’s there always, but we often don’t call on His help, fully, until we’re drowning. It’s then that we cling to this verse and are shown the depths of its amazing truth.
Jesus, who suffered more than we can ever understand, will strengthen us in time of need. He gave Paul the ability to rejoice no matter what his circumstances, and He gives us that same strength. Praise Him!
If you were encouraged by this post, please consider sharing it via email to someone who might enjoy it or posting it on your preferred social media channel. You might also enjoy this post about the mercy of waiting. Till next time.