“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
This is probably the most popular verse in the book of Philippians. It gains popularity in our media as being the most tattooed verse on sports figures and the most quoted in movies such as Soul Surfer.
The problem with this verse is that Christians and unbelievers alike have watered it down into base moralism. The reason this verse is so popular is because it seems to carry a secular theme heralded in our American Idol generation. Unfortunately, the Christian community, which should know better, has given this verse over to the world to exegete and we’ve taken a cue from moralism to suggest that it simply means, “Follow your heart and you can achieve anything.”
The truth is that this is not even close to what this verse means and Christians should be repulsed when society diminishes the power of this statement to suggest that our humanistic pursuits are worthy of spiritual accolades.
The reason I hated Soul Surfer was because it does something far more destructive than any of the worst R rated movies could do. It has infiltrated our Christian homes and innocent minded viewers to spouse a half truth that is destructive to the moral fibers of Christianity. Yes, the story is remarkable about a girl who triumphed over tragedy, and God does deserve the glory. But this is not an accomplishment for the Kingdom. The story is powerful because it hits close to our human emotions, not the quickening of the Spirit. That is why it is so troubling because the story is meant to blur the lines between the spiritual and the emotional. The gospel is so much more than mere moralism.
The moralistic approach to this verse only fuels the debate of an unloving God who would cause natural catastrophes such as the earthquakes in Japan, the tsunami in Thailand, and the hurricane in New Orleans. Why would God not intervene in these calamities but somehow feels obligated to help a one armed girl win a surfing competition? What God is doing behind the scenes is far more important than our feelings toward them.
What Paul is saying here is that all he needs to feel satisfied is Jesus. He doesn’t need to win a nationally televised singing competition to feel complete. He’s learned to be content as much in the worst of times as he is in the best of times. His unshakable attitude is not built on his achievements or his fame, but on his faith in a great and almighty God.
So no, you can’t use this verse to suggest that your team can win the superbowl if they try hard enough, even if your team is the Lyons. You can use this verse, however, to triumph even when you can’t see the blessings in your difficult circumstances because your faith is confident that you have already won.