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Brother Bradley R. Wilcox, Second Counselor in the Young Men General Presidencyfor the Church News
The youth theme for 2023 is “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). It is a powerful doctrine. However, if leaders and parents are not careful, this scripture can easily be misinterpreted.
Recently I asked two teachers in religious education at Brigham Young University for their advice about teaching the theme.
What the Apostle Paul Was Teaching
Ryan Sharp, assistant teaching professor in ancient scripture, said: “This statement has inspired and motivated countless athletes, musicians and others in their efforts to succeed. In fact, you may have seen this scriptural reference on basketball shoes, baseball gloves, guitars and study notes for a final exam. Perhaps they think faith in Christ is a guarantee they will never lose or fail. However, that may not be exactly what the apostle Paul was teaching in his epistle.
“When Paul penned this phrase to the saints in Philippi, he was not thriving in his own personal life. We become aware of his ups and downs as we read the verses before 13: ‘For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need’ (Philippians 4:11-12). Paul is, at least in part, explaining that although he has experienced times of success, he has also known moments of failure. Times of thriving and times of struggle. He is saying that he knows what it is like when life is going well and everything seems to be falling into place, but he also knows the pains of disappointment, loneliness and desperate need. And yet through it all he wrote, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13, emphasis added).
“Even when things are hard — indeed especially when things are hard — Christ’s power can infuse us with strength, comfort and healing. President Russell M. Nelson testified: ‘God so loved the world that He sent His Only Begotten Son to help us. And His Son, Jesus Christ, gave His life for us. All so that we could have access to godly power — power sufficient to deal with the burdens, obstacles and temptations of our day’ (‘Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ Into Our Lives,’ April 2017 general conference).”