Let Christ Be Your Backbone

Let Christ Be Your Backbone

I grew up in an environment where I was taught that I can do anything I set my mind to do.  It was a positive empowering environment.  This attitude was reinforced in college and graduate school and reaffirmed by my successes in business.  I entered ministry with the same can-do attitude believing that I, Kwabena Akufo, can do anything by myself.  Gradually over several years of lay and ordained ministry I have learned that I can do nothing apart from Christ.  I learned the hard way that I need Christ to be my spiritual backbone.

A backbone is defined as a key supporting part of a structure.  Without it the structure will fall apart.  A building has a load bearing pillar or wall that holds the building together.  If you remove that wall or pillar the entire building will fall down.

The backbone of the human body, also known as the spinal column, supports the upper body weight and proper standing posture.  It gives flexibility in moving the body and acts like a tube through which the spinal cord runs.  The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves (electrical wires) that carries information between the brain and the rest of the body.  It is like how we use a “snake” in a PA System wiring in a building.  Your backbone, therefore, is critical to proper functioning of your body, life or death of your body, and enables you to withstand great pressure or exert much pressure.  It is what allows athletes to perform with much strength and agility.

Consider the following text:

Philippians 4:10-13  10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.  11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

The key verse in our passage is commonly recited in the King James Version as, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This verse speaks of Christ as the believer’s backbone. Just as the spinal column is the physical backbone of the human body, so also Jesus Christ is the spiritual backbone of a human being. So, without Christ as your spiritual backbone you cannot do anything as I experienced in ministry.  With Christ as your spiritual backbone you can do all things.

May Christ be your spiritual backbone for doing all things!

1       Paul’s statement was to encourage endurance instead of offensive action

In Philippians 1:12-14 we learn that Paul wrote the epistle to the Philippians while he was under house arrest in Rome.  The church in Philippi in the district of Macedonia, which is the northern part of modern Greece, was anxious to find out how Paul was faring.  We understand from Philippians 4:18 that they sent one of their members, Epaphroditus, with gifts to take to Paul.  When Paul received the gifts he wrote a thank-you letter which is now known as the Epistle to the Philippians.  In this letter he uses his own situation to encourage them in their walk with Christ.

The anchor statement of our passage, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” must therefore be taken in the context of Paul’s trial and suffering.  Not only is he in prison but verse 10-12 of our passage shows he is not in the best of circumstances; in fact, he is in a needful circumstance.  Some have used this statement to preach that believers can command anything to happen in the name of Jesus to their benefit.  This is useful for bolstering your faith in Christ but the text is not alluding to that per se.  I have to say, however, that some have dismissed completely the ability of the believer to exercise strong faith in God positively responding to our prayers.  I believe God answers prayers but we must use the right context to support our faith.

If Paul could command anything in the name of Jesus to his benefit he would have freed himself from jail.  But Paul was sitting squarely in jail and making this statement.  Why was Paul still sitting in jail yet claiming that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him?  It must be that this statement is not a “name-it and claim-it” principle.  It is, rather, a liberating statement that assures you that with Christ as your backbone you can be victorious even within your trying situation.

May Christ be your spiritual backbone for doing all things!

2       You can endure and do all things through with as your backbone

An earthquake is unpredictable, shakes building foundations, destabilizes buildings, and can demolish buildings.  It can put fear into occupants of a building and can be a threat to life. This risk is higher for tall buildings such as skyscrapers.  The tallest skyscraper in the world in a serious earthquake zone is the Wilshire Grand  in Los Angeles, in California.[1]  It was built to be able to withstand high magnitude earthquakes.  The fundamental feature of the building that enables this is a solid steel reinforced concrete column, called the core, that rises from the center of the foundation up through to the top.

This core is the backbone of the skyscraper and a well-designed backbone can prevent disaster in an earthquake.

A spiritual earthquake is a sudden and unpredictable attack or problem that shakes your foundational belief in God and trust of friends and family.  It destabilizes your relationships and can be a threat to your life.

Apostle Paul went to Jerusalem to visit the saints and fellowship at the temple.  Out of nowhere he was terrorized and eventually arrested and ended up in jail.  Then subsequently, as prisoner being sent for trial in Rome, he experienced a shipwreck and a venomous snakebite.  This was a spiritual earthquake that threatened his life.  While in jail he recognized that it was with Christ as his backbone that he was able to withstand that spiritual earthquake.  And so, he proclaims that Christ is his backbone when he says in our text, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

When an earthquake strikes, there are aftershocks that are just like continuing earthquakes that can also be as damaging as the original earthquakes.

You may be in the midst of a spiritual earthquake and aftershocks, because of sudden outbreak of problem after problem in your life.  You are impoverished by your financial situation.  You are oppressed by your job situation.  You are crippled by your visa status.  You are depressed by your marital situation.  In spite of spiritual earthquakes and aftershocks in your life know that with Christ as your backbone you can do all things.

May Christ be your spiritual backbone for doing all things!

3       David’s Psalm 23 shows he can thrive in any situation with God as his backbone

This reminds me of David when he was in his severe earthquake and aftershocks caused by Saul’s relentless murderous pursuit. With God as his backbone David withstood Saul’s earthquake. In Psalm 23 he proclaims the benefits of God as his backbone when he says:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (KJV Psalm 23:1-6)

I have learnt from David’s experience that by myself when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will die.  With Christ as my backbone when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil.

By myself when my enemies come at me in one direction I will be destroyed.  With Christ as my backbone when my enemies come at me in one direction they will flee in seven directions.

By myself when my enemies build gallows for me I will be beheaded.  With Christ as my backbone when my enemies build gallows for me they will die in their own gallows.

By myself when I am thrown into the fiery furnace I will be consumed.  With Christ as my backbone when I am thrown into the fiery furnace I will walk out unscathed

By myself when I am thrown into the lion’s den I will become the lion’s meal.  With Christ as my backbone when I am thrown into the lion’s den I will fellowship with the lions.

May Christ be your spiritual backbone for doing all things!

4       Conclusion

When Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” it was not to empower offensive action but to encourage endurance.  Paul made this statement while under house arrest.  In that condition Paul declared boldly that Christ is his backbone that enables him to overcome trials.  Even in adverse situations with Christ as your backbone you can also be successful.

May Christ be your spiritual backbone for doing all things!

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