Recently I wrote a blog about Jeremiah 29:11; talking about how it’s a popular verse and how it can often be misused when taken out of its context. Philippians 4:13 is another one of those verses that is very popular, but again can often be misused.
I would probably venture to say that Philippians 4:13 is more popular than Jeremiah 29:11…or at least it gets used in more public places and thus gets more “advertisement”. Jeremiah 29:11 is often used to help someone feel better when they are down (when it’s used out of its context), but Philippians 4:13 has become more of a change or badge that is worn.
It is worn on bracelets, shirts, posters, and even the eye black of athletes. It is a go to verse that is often added to a social media profile bio or “about me” section of someone’s online page. It is treated as one of those verses that can get you pumped up to do something difficult, to give your all and do your best at whatever you’re about to do, etc.
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13
Yes! I can do all things! There’s nothing I can’t do when he gives me strength to do it. I can play, perform, act, and do the best I can in whatever I’m about to attempt to do because he gives me the strength I need to do it.
Is that how we should be reading and applying the meaning of that verse?
Well, God does give us the strength we need to do what we need to do. That is true. So yea, we can look at this verse and say that it’s telling us that we can do anything because God gives us the strength to.
But, let’s take a look at the context around that verse, to see the message that this statement is found in. That will help us get a much better understanding of the meaning of this verse that we often quoted.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. – (Philippians 4:11-14)
The context definitely changes the way we see verse 13. We realize that verse 13 is one of many statement in this message, and it’s not necessarily one where the author Paul is trying to pump up his readers so they think they can do anything because God gives them strength.
Rather, he’s describing what he has learned as he has dealt with some pretty difficult life circumstances, as well as thanking those he was writing this letter to for caring about him and wanting to help him. Look at some of the other statements in this passage:
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound
I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need
Then, after those statements about all that he has experienced and learned, he says “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Paul is acknowledging that no matter the circumstance of life, God can get him through it because he gives him the strength needed to get through it.
He can be content in whatever situation, because God strengthens him. He can make it through being brought low as well as abounding, because God strengthens him. He can deal with facing times of hunger and need as well as times of plenty and abundance, because God strengthens him.
The focus is not on Paul and what he can do at all. AT ALL! The focus is completely on God. The focus is on the fact that without God, Paul himself would not have the strength to properly handle these life circumstances, so he is giving God the honor and glory that God is due because it’s all about God.
Life is all over the place. At times it’s good, and at other times it’s not so good. There are times we have want we need and want, and times when it seems like what we want is taken from us and what we need is nowhere to be found. Life will bring us experiences that are both good and bad, easy and hard, fun and difficult, amazing and awful.
Question is, whose strength are we relying on in the midst of all of them? Our strength and abilities, or God’s strength?
It’s easy to quote Philippians 4:13 as just a verse we use to encourage ourselves and pump ourselves up. It’s not so easy to quote it based on its full meaning when we are in the midst of facing the difficult times of life. Those are the times we find out whose strength we are really relying on, and if we really want to live for God no matter what our circumstances are.
Paul relied on God’s strength to help him live Godly no matter what he was facing and dealing with, and he gave all the honor and glory to God.
May we seek to follow Paul’s example in our own life. May we, when we quote Philippians 4:13, remember what is really being said and who the focus is really on. May we be able to say what Paul says in this passage, no matter what our life’s circumstances are.