I recently had the opportunity to talk with Eric Bargerhuff, author of The Most Misused Verses in the Bible: Surprising Ways God’s Word Is Misunderstood (Bethany House). The interview was published in Christianity Today. Eric is a keen thinker (and a fellow PhD graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). He’s written a helpful, readable book that I commend to you.
Here’s a swath of the CT interview:
You critique prayers that uncritically expect God to grant us, well, anything. Like John 14:13: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
God is not a genie in a bottle. Yes, he has a good, pleasing, and perfect will. But this doesn’t mean we should pray for whatever we want. We are sinful people and don’t even know what’s best for us, as the Book of Romans says. Sometimes we pray with wrong motives. Praying random prayers that are self-centered is not God-honoring. We should seek his will when we pray.
What would you say to athletes who latch onto Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all this through him who gives me strength”)?
In that passage, Paul is teaching on contentment and arguing that no matter what our situation is, we should learn to be content. The ability to be content, whatever the situation, is contingent on what Jesus gives us. This verse doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus will give the player victory, but rather that he can be content either way because of God’s strength in him. It’s not about God giving you the strength to dunk the basketball as much as it is him working in you to be content no matter what happens in the game.