Handling All Things

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13, ESV)

A popular verse to stamp or hand write on a golf ball is Philippians 4:13. While I have seen some golfers mark their ball with this reference, the most well-known athlete to highlight it is Tim Tebow during football games, with the white paint glimmering from the top of his eye black.

Many athletes lean on, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” in the midst of competition to stay focused in the face of adversity or anxious feelings. Unfortunately, this verse is often taken out of context, leading an athlete to believe that victory will happen by claiming this verse alone.

The modern English translation can be misleading if you read this verse by itself. The first five words, “I can do all things,” highlights the “I” as having control and power over all things. “Through him who strengthens me” is the mysterious strength of Christ that gives the “I” the power to perform or be victorious in all things.

While these modern English translators do their best to conceptualize the Greek text, our English vocabulary is often inadequate. This is why it’s important to read Scripture in context, otherwise it is easy to miss the broader idea being communicated by the New Testament writers.

A more literal translation of Paul’s words might be, “In all things I can prevail by the one who empowers me.” This translation changes the whole perspective of the verse. Instead of “I” can do all things, it shifts us to see it is actually “in all things” I can overcome and prevail because Jesus empowers me.

If we look backwards one verse, Paul shares what he means by all things: in prosperity, in humble means, of being filled and going hungry, in abundance, and suffering need. In order to understand verse 13, we need the content of verse 12. The context of both verses together allows us to understand Paul explaining to the believers in Philippi how he had prevailed in both the good and the bad times of his circumstances.

Tim Tebow understood Paul’s example from the first time he painted it on his face. “The verse is actually about contentedness in all circumstances,” clarified Tebow. “It’s not about being able to throw a better pass or make a better play on the football field. It’s about being content with the victory secured through Christ whether you can even lift a football, much less throw one 50 or 60 yards like me.”

This is true for us today, too. Whether we are trying to make the dreaded three-foot putt, endure the impact of a pandemic, or remain strong in the middle of personal struggles, it is Jesus who empowers us to find contentment and prevail over all things. Since our value or identity is not tied to any outcome, we can persevere through anything that confronts us.

Tracy Hanson
October 15, 2020
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