PMA or Doing All Things Through Christ

One of the great motivational verses of the Scriptures is, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” To some Christians, it is their “life verse.” Others recite it as a cure-all for adversity, or as a propellant to achieve new goals.

This phrase is often used in the context of striving for higher achievement or satisfying our discontent – and the hope of attaining it with God’s help. Even the well meaning Christian, when reminding a brother or sister they can do all things through Christ, often use this verse as an encouragement they can rise above their present state or circumstances. In a sense, they affirm the right to use discontent as a catalyst to set new goals and improve their lives.

But what did Paul mean, when he said he could do all things through Christ, who gives him strength? To find out, we need to read the context of the verse and beginning just two verses up we find he is talking about being content in every situation – whether poor and hungry or rich and well fed. And it is because of this contentment he is able to do everything, or suffer through, every situation he finds himself.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. [Php 4:11-13 ESV]

Twice Paul tells us he has LEARNED contentment – it did not come naturally. It is easy to be content in wealth and ease, so this text would imply Paul had to go through testing, times of want and hunger, to learn contentment. How do you handle testing? In my own life, I fail most times of testing – I become discontent and want to raise myself above the circumstances. But it is this testing Paul is talking about – not the high goals of accomplishment or of a better life – when he says he can do all things and that Christ gives him strength.

Does this mean we are not to have dreams, or to excel in this life? This depends on our reasons for our goals. First, We know from Christ’s prayer (John 17), we live in the world but are not of the world. This means our goals should not be to establish our lives down here but to be working toward our life in God’s kingdom. Furthermore, James warns us to be a friend with the world is to be an enemy of God (Jam 4:4). Second, the Scriptures tell us whatever we do, to do as unto the Lord (Col 3:17). This means the purpose of our life is to please God and accomplish what He has determined he wants us to do (Eph 2:10).

If our goal is to increase in wealth, we are staking our claim down here and we are enemies of God. This does not mean it is wrong to establish businesses, nor is it wrong to gain wealth. Proverbs tells us man makes his plans but God directs his steps [Pro 16:9]. Before we were born God appointed our steps. He had a plan for our lives (Isa 49:1 ; Jer 1:5) and He numbered our days (Psa 139:16). Most of us have plans for our lives. The question is, do we seek to conform our plans to God’s will is it the other way around?

The writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us in chapter twelve, God sends discipline to the sons He loves. Our discipline, or testing, is to teach us and train us to live the life God wants us to live. Are we content in our discipline; do we try to learn God’s will or do we resist it?
Before Paul was saved, Christ spoke and told him he was kicking against the goads (Act 26:14). A goad is a tool which keeps an animal in check, to get them to do what the owner wants – to accomplish the owner’s goals. Kicking against the goads is futile. Paul’s life, to that point, was futile and most our lives are spent in similar futility. God was steering Paul, but like all men, he was resistant to God’s plan and His ways (Rom 3:11-12).

Although Paul thought he was living his life for God, nothing could have been further from the truth – he was persecuting and killing God’s people. How often do we rush headlong into life thinking, seeking, or even determined, we are doing God’s will, only to discover we have made a mess of ourselves and our witness?
After Paul received Christ, he left everything behind – every accomplishment and every goal he counted as loss (Php 3:7). Paul’s strength was in Christ – knowing in poverty or wealth, Christ was going to help him walk according to God’s plan.

We are saved by grace (Eph 2:8-9) and justified by faith (Rom 5:1) – we can add nothing to it; there is nothing we can do (Tit 3:5). This is who we are in Christ – this is what it means to be a Christian. We rest in what Christ has done for us – not in what we do for Him. Contentment comes from knowing who we are in Christ and leaving our goals behind. Therefore, we set goals for walking in God’s kingdom and fit our life around that, knowing whatever state we find ourselves in, whether rich and well fed, whether poor and hungry, whether in favor or in adversity, we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

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