SUNDAY PREVIEW: The “Superhero Verse”
I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME! You want that new job? Jesus will help you get it. You want to make more money? Put your faith in Christ. You want to be a Hall of Fame athlete? Get Jesus on your side. You want long life and a prosperous existence? Just believe in Jesus. With Jesus on my side I am He-Man. I am the Incredible Hulk. I am superhuman. Nothing is too great for me. I can be or do anything in life. There’s just one problem. You can’t be or do anything. Sorry, but it’s true. I don’t care how much faith you have, there are some things you just won’t be able to accomplish. Ideally, we would like to believe that we can do and be anything, but we don’t live in the ideal. We live in the real, and reality can be cruel sometimes. I will never be an accomplished opera singer. I know that. I have come to grips with it. I will never even be an accomplished karaoke singer. I understand that dreams are dreams and reality is reality. Yes, some dreams can come true through hard work and dedication, but many are too idealistic to be realistic. So, the initial problem with interpreting Philippians 4:13 as a “superhero verse” is that it doesn’t match reality. The other problem, and perhaps the more pressing problem, is that it’s a complete abuse of scripture. Do we really believe that Paul is suggesting that Jesus gives us superhuman power and superhuman prosperity? Or is that what we would like to believe because it feeds our materialistic mindset?
Contrary to popular opinion, the Bible does not teach, anywhere, that God will give you the strength to do whatever you want to do. In fact, here’s an important point to keep in mind when studying the Bible—anytime a foundational view of one’s theology begins with, “God will give you…”, stop and double-check because, more than likely, it’s bad theology. God is not some heavenly genie or divine sugar daddy. He’s not some cosmic power plant who fuels your dreams. Instead, He is our sustainer in an unstable world.
It all sounds nice and good. Get that promotion. Find your soul mate. Make lots of money. You can accomplish anything with Jesus on your side. As much as we might like for it to be true, it’s just not. The truth is this: life is messy. Life is hard. Life is chock full of hurts, disappointments, and regrets; most of them of our own doing. Our great need is not a God who motivates us to pursue our materialistic dreams. What we need is a God that dwells with us in the peaks and the valleys. We need a God that can pull us out of the mud and the muck–a God who is there when life is less than ideal. To portray God as some divine genie is to greatly diminish His greatness. The god of my health and wealth is a god who never satisfies. We don’t want that kind of God. The God of the Bible is much better because He gives us what we truly need—strength to survive when life chews us up and spits us out.
I hope you will join us this Sunday morning at Oldham Lane.