Picture this scene. A man is being honored at work for making the most sales. He has set his mind at making a good living and he has succeeded. He cleared $20,000 this month and he wants to give the glory to God. So the zealous young man takes out his favorite verse and says, “I just want to give glory to God, for I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. The message of this man’s testimony is “You too can make 20,000 a month because Christ can give you the strength to do whatever you set your mind to.” Here, you have it, the not-so-great American gospel.
Again, picture the beauty queen all decked out in high heels and a bikini. The final choice for the winner is announced and the nice Texan girl wins. As she is interviewed she tries to give glory to God and says, “I just want to give glory to God, for I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. What is wrong with this picture other than the high heels and the bikini?
First, let’s look at what the verse actually means. Philippians 4:13 is better translated as follows:
In every type of thing, I am strong through Him who strengthens me” or amplified only slightly “In every type of circumstance, I am strong and stable through him who strengthens me.”
This verse is not speaking of how Christ strengthens me to have successful circumstances, but that Christ gives me His peace in adverse circumstances. Christ said, “My peace I give to you not as the world gives I give to you.”
What the American gospel says is that Christ, for His glory, will make you have nice circumstances and succeed. Set your mind to success. Never quit. Persevere and Christ will bless you. What a load of heresy and worldliness!!!
Is it no wonder that we have churches filled with successful people, giving testimonies of success, to lead others into this uniquely American form of Christianity?
But this is not the Gospel!!!! Christ did not call us to empower us to fight the good fight of perseverance in the American dream so that we could live a pain free life to the glory of God. This is just sanctified self will. Christ called us to learn to be strong and at peace in difficult circumstances so that we can forsake the world and follow Him into all the world for His name sake. “For we are called not only to believe in Him but to suffer for His name sake”. That is what this verse is about. Did we forget that Paul is writing this verse from a prison cell with shackles on his feet?
In this one most mis-quoted of all American verses, I think we have in a nutshell a definition of the disease that ails us. God help us.