Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” What an encouraging verse, but what exactly does it mean? Should we be putting it on our athletic wristbands before sporting events as affirmation that through Christ you can indeed score that game winning field goal? Although the heart behind that is commendable, because Christ does promise to be with us in all things (Matthew 28:20), that takes the meaning of the verse out of context. An essential part of reading and applying scripture is to understand verses in light of its proper context. One of the best ways to do this, is to read the chapter in its entirety.
In Philippians chapter 4 specifically, Paul’s main point is joy and peace in the Lord, regardless of circumstances. Going back two verses, Paul says in verses 11 & 12, “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.” Paul is informing the Philippian church of this sublime, yet challenging word; contentment. The apostle had experienced a plethora of life circumstances in his missionary journeys, many good but also many hardships, and yet learned to be content through all of it. With this context in mind, our highlight verse can be properly interpreted. What Paul is saying in verse 13, is that in every circumstance of life, both the good and bad, Paul could accomplish all that God wanted through the strength He provided. The apostle is equipped for every situation, because of the power provided through the indwelling Christ. Contextually, this makes verse 13 significantly more impactful than the way it is usually inaccurately applied.
Notice in verse 11, that Paul said he had to learn to be content. Contentment is essential to the life of a believer, but is something we must learn, not automatically receive; so give yourself grace if you are not a master at being content. Paul knew all about distress. Five times Paul was given forty lashes minus one, three times he was beaten with rods, shipwrecked three times, imprisoned, and spent many nights hungry and cold. If anyone can relate to your hardships, it is the apostle Paul. Yet despite this, he endured because of the strength given to Paul by the Savior that was crucified for him. He knew of the future crown awaiting him, he had finished the race (2 Timothy 4:6-8). In every life situation you face, remember the Savior who goes with you, the Savior who died for you, and the Savior that gives you the strength to endure all things. Thanks be to the Lord Jesus Christ for never leaving us or forsaking us, and being our sufficient grace in troubled times. Lord, help us learn to be content.
Taryn Hansen is a pastor at High Sierra Fellowship