Summary: This sermon looks at two of the common misinterpretations of this verse and two ideas that can help us understand it accurately.
- One of the most misinterpreted Scriptures is Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
- It’s usually used as a Superman verse. Any obstacle I face I can bat aside in the power of Jesus’ name! Any struggle I can end with a powerful word of prayer! Any need I can have met by Jesus!
- That sounds great and will preach well, but unfortunately has nothing to do with the actual verse.
- In the two preceding verses, Paul speaks of learning to be content whatever the circumstances and of enduring situations where he was hungry. Not exactly someone living out the “Superman” lifestyle. What verse 13 actually means is something more along the lines of “I can make it through any hardship or struggle because Jesus is helping me along the way.”
- All of that, though, doesn’t change the frequency with which Philippians 4:13 is misused.
- Here we are looking at another verse that is commonly misused: Jeremiah 29:11.
- We’re going to look at a couple ways that this verse is misinterpreted and then we’ll look at a better understanding of it.
1. “GOD LOVES YOU AND HAS A WONDERFUL PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE.”
- This verse is the prooftext that has been used for decades as part of salvation presentations from Billy Graham’s organization, Campus Crusade, and many other evangelical organizations. Part of the “gospel presentation” has been that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
- I argue that statement is, at best, misleading. When you are sharing the presentation with someone who has little or no concept of Biblical truth, their idea of a “wonderful plan” is not going to be remotely close to the facts.
2. “ON EVERY ISSUE, THERE IS A SINGLE RIGHT CHOICE.”
- A different issue also arises with this verse.
- Some people believe that this verse puts forward the idea that God has an intricately detailed plan for everyone’s life. Flowing from that is the belief that in every choice it’s essential to find God’s single perfect will for that decision. This results in people agonizing over choices, trying to discern which path is God’s plan.
- I would argue that overreads what this verse is saying. It’s certainly true that God has a plan for His people, but that’s a far cry from saying that God has a strong opinion about every single choice in your life. In many situations, either choice is ok with God. It’s worth praying about which college to attend, but when you don’t have a strong leading from God in either direction, perhaps that means that God is ok with Him.
- Even on decisions like who to marry, many argue that there is only one correct choice and that therefore you have to find your soulmate. Looking at this verse, they believe that God has an exact plan. The Bible, though, doesn’t speak of soulmates or of their only being “one right person” for each person in the world. Those ideas are born from watching romantic comedies and Disney movies.
- In truth, there are some decisions where every choice but one takes you outside of God’s will. Those choices are not particularly numerous, though.
A BETTER UNDERSTANDING:
1. IS GOD'S GOAL FOR YOU TO BE HAPPY OR HOLY?
- Having spent all this time talking about what the verse doesn’t mean, we’re ready now to talk about what it does mean.
- Verse 11 does mean that God had good desires, intentions, and plans for Israel. In a similar way, God has good desires, intentions, and plans for His church. It’s important, though, that we understand what His plans are likely to look like.
- Looking at verse 10 provides some insight. There God informs them that they will be in Babylon for seventy years! Why? Because Israel had been disobedient and this was part of the punishment. That doesn’t sound like the kind of a “plan” that most people would be eager to sign onto!
- Why would God do that to them? Because His ultimate aim for Israel was that they be holy. He wanted them to do what was right, to hate sin, to live for the things that God loves.
- Today the goal that most people have for themselves is happiness. When they think about God having a plan for their life, they naturally presume that the end result of God’s plan is there happiness.
- God’s goal for our lives, though, is not a shallow happiness, but a deep holiness.
- To express that another way, God’s goal for our lives is for us to become Christlike.
- The goal of our spiritual life is for us to take on the character of Christ. That obviously brings joy (a vastly superior option to happiness) but also involves sacrifice and self-denial.