Christians like to quote Philippians 4:13 that tells us we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. It’s not a magic formula and doesn’t keep us from doing things we don’t want to do or even thinking things we’d be better off not thinking. But it is an important part of our lives as Christ’s followers. His strength is our strength and his power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Trusting Jesus doesn’t give us superpowers but as my friend Jan Johnson (author and speaker) likes to say, you can do anything for ten minutes. For example, I can be nice to this person for ten minutes. I can wait patiently in this line for ten minutes. I can love this person for ten minutes, even though they drive me crazy. I’ve been adding Philippians 4:13 to this: for ten minutes I can keep my mouth shut through Christ who gives me strength.
Dying to self is kind of like eating an elephant. How do you eat an elephant, you may ask? One bite at a time. How do I die to self? Perhaps ten minutes at a time, through Christ who gives me strength. For ten minutes I can put aside my desire for (fill-in-the-blank) through him who gives me strength. For ten minutes I can put this person’s needs before mine through him who gives me strength. I can die a little every day, ten minutes at a time – through Christ who gives me strength.
Going to college was exciting but also a little frightening. It was all so new; I was far from home and my trip to get there was only my second time on a plane. Even though I enjoyed meeting other students and liked my classes, I was completely out of my comfort zone. I quickly learned I would have to make a lot of adjustments if I were going to survive and thrive. I came up with a little motto to help me whenever I encountered a new and/or stressful situation: adjust, accept, appreciate.
Since then, I’ve been in many settings requiring all three of these. I’ve had to make major adjustments in every area of life; I’ve had to accept things I would rather not; and I’ve learned, or rather, I’m still learning to appreciate the beautiful things, especially God’s grace. His grace is a thick thread running through each day and every experience.
The three words in my motto can be summed up in one: attitude. Early 20th century psychologist William James sheds some light on how important our attitude is: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.” A good attitude can make a huge difference in everything we do, every second of every day. It’s not always easy, but how much in life is? We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13), even change our attitude. It could be the best thing we ever pray for.
One of the most well-known and popular verses quoted by Christians is Philippians 4:13, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (NLT). This verse is encouraging for us, especially in the midst of trials and problems. I keep a little card with this verse near my bathroom sink, to remind me who helps me through each day.
Another verse is just as important to remember and one that should probably get equal time: “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NLT) (emphasis mine).
We can do all things through Christ while we are in him, with his lifeblood flowing through us as we stay attached to the vine. And while Jesus never meant his warning to drive us into legalism, he does want us to be cognizant of and mindful about staying attached. It is possible to wither and dry up and then it won’t be possible to do anything. Staying close to Jesus does require some effort, specifically practicing his presence and the spiritual disciplines. Nothing can separate us from his love, which means as long as we stick to the vine, we won’t have to worry about being “apart from” him.
Apart from Christ we can do nothing, but in him and in his strength, we can do all things.