Baccalaureate Challenge

Seniors Encouraged to Examine Meaning of Popular Life Verse


On May 5, the FCS Class of 2024 was invited to explore the true meaning behind the verse, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phillippians 4:13). Pastor Bob Vradenburgh, senior pastor at Friendship Baptist Church, addressed the to-be graduates during the baccalaureate service, noting the popular life verse is worthy, but also commonly misunderstood.

The Apostle Paul didn’t intend to empower believers with “Christian humanism” to achieve anything they want to do. “It does not mean ‘I can meet any challenge, surmount any obstacle, overcome any handicap, and conquer any enemy Satan hurls at me,’” said Pastor Vradenburgh. 

Looking at the context of Philippians 4:13, he outlined three ways Christ gave Paul strength, which believers today can emulate.

Sufficiency Through Dependency

“Through Christ” is a key phrase in the passage, and Paul certainly relied on Christ’s strength as the secret to his 1) endurance in the faith and trials and 2) consistency in his life. Jesus’s way is counter-cultural to our instincts and our society. He said:

  • “The way up is down.”
  • “The way to keep your life is to lose it.”
  • “The way to receive is to give.”
  • “Many that are first shall be last.”
  • “If you want to be great, make yourself servant to all.”

In dependency, Pastor Vradenburgh said we can remember, “I am strengthened as long as Jesus keeps empowering me.” When we are at the end of our resources, we’ll find Christ sufficient.

Contentment in the Extremes of Life

Paul knew life’s extremes — an educated Jew and Roman citizen, who was religiously zealous and persecuted followers of Jesus. After his dramatic conversion, he became a strong witness and missionary for Christ who knew poverty, imprisonment, and persecution.

“Paul could say, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’ because he was content with what Christ gave,” said Pastor Vradenburgh. We are pilgrims temporarily on this earth, so we can learn to be content, he challenged. In this passage in Philippians, we’re reminded we can’t let poverty and hunger or wealth and fullness distract us from the sufficiency of Christ or lead to self-sufficient discontentment.

Joy in the Spirituality of Others

We can delight in life’s gifts and pleasures, but Pastor Vradenburgh reminded students that their greatest pleasure should be investing in the spiritual maturity of others. For Paul, it was seeing others saved, brought into the fullness of God’s blessing, and spiritual maturity.

In Philippians 4:13, Paul is not saying, “You can do anything you set your mind to as a Christian.” Let Paul’s words and example challenge you to prove God’s all-sufficiency, learn the secret of contentment, and find your highest joy in bringing others to spiritual maturity!