There’s a lot of health and wealth gospel and prosperity talk going on these days.
The health and wealth mantra is that if you’re a person of true faith, you won’t experience financial hardship. Financial hardship is said to be the fruit of a lack of faith or the work of the Devil in your life.
Not true. False teaching.
I wish I could count the number of times that people have mentioned Phil. 4:13 as a key to their financial success.
I think there is a vitally important lesson in Phil. 4:13, but not how it is typically interpreted.
As a reminder, here’s the verse: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
We typically translate that to mean with Jesus/God in my life, I can reach and accomplish all my goals.
That’s such human-centered language that it drips of heresy. Somehow we’ve developed the attitude that God’s function in our lives is to give us what we want. We set the goals, call on God, and then God gives us whatever we need to meet our goals (regardless of how shallow our goals are).
Several months ago, a State high school champion said that they won the championship after constantly meditating on Phil. 4:13. The problem? If you can do everything through Christ who gives you strength, then I can too. Why can’t I be a State high school champion? (The reasons are too many to list).
See the logical falicy there?
The text isn’t saying to set a goal and then call Jesus to help you reach your goal. Otherwise, we’d probably all be competing for conflicting self interest.
What is Phil. 4:13 really saying?
Contextually, I think the point is that God gives me the strength necessary to rejoice in the midst of whatever situation he deems necessary for me. He strengthens me so I can accomplish His goals for me. The statement is more about submission than it is about control and reaching goals.
In vs. 12, Paul said that he knows what it is to be in need and what it is to be in plenty. In vs. 13 he shares how he is content whether well fed or hungry.
Christ equips him with the strength necessary to endure every situation.
Paul, we must remember, is writing from prision. He didn’t overcome that situation, but he grew in faith, trust, and contentment in the situation.
How does this impact our finances?
1. Through Financial Hardship, God Can Humble Us
Perhaps, sometimes God wants us in a place of financial hardship because we’ll be especially attentive to him. Popular preaching will say that if you really make Jesus the Lord of your life, you won’t have any financial hardship. The truth is that we’re more humble and pliable like clay in our hardship. Hardship need not always be seen as a bad thing. Through hardship, God humbles us.
2. Through Financial Hardship, We Have the Opportunity to Identify with the Sufferings of Christ
I don’t mean to say we’re not always to blame for our financial hardship, but when we are brought low, we can identify with Christ in a way we can’t in our success. In Phil. 2, we are reminded that Christ was in the very nature God, but humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. As such, in lowness (even financial), we have a place of identification with Christ.
3. Through Financial Hardship, We Can Directly See God’s Hand at Work
Americans are independent. We don’t like to depend on anyone. But when we’re forced to depend on God (through the kindness of others), God has the opportunity to show himself faithful once again. In Phil. 4:10, Paul thanks the church at Philippi for their financial gift. He’s thankful not just because (or even primarily) of the gift, but because the gift is a visible sign of their love and concern for Paul. In hardship, we sometimes experience the grace and provision of God in ways we can’t in our prosperity.
Lord, sometimes we want to avoid pain and suffering. We want security and stability. Give us open eyes, ears, and hearts in our prosperity. Father, bless us also with a willingness to recognize your hand in financial hardship. In our hardship, give us the strength necessary to be content and even joyful in the midst of our hardship.