Misused Bible Verses: Philippians 4:13


“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

You have seen on athlete’s eye black, in speeches, and you yourself (like I) have probably used this verses. I have even seen it painted on the side of a Christians school basketball court. It is a verse that is very popular and probably seen in a lot of homes, and used when faced with adversity. I want to be clear that this is a great verse and a powerful verse when applied in the proper context.

Let us imagine there are two christian quarterbacks playing against one another in a game. Both of them are clinging to this verse during the game. They are telling their teammates remember we can do all thing through Christ who gives us strength. They play hard and leave it all on the field, but when the game is over there will be a victor and there will be a loser. The winner will go home thinking, man that was awesome! God really gave me the strength to win the game and proved himself. While the loser is thinking,  where was God tonight? Why did he let me down? These are the dangers of taking scripture of the context it was written (and inspired by God) to fit into our lives. It leaves people empty and doubting which is never a good combination. Is this how Paul meant this verse to be applied?

I am moving this weekend and all though I am excited about the move the actual moving stuff is less than enjoyable. Let’s say I am carrying a box in the house that should take people should I seriously think, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!? Because I will probably drop the box breaking items, does that then make me or my God weak? Or maybe God did not give me the strength, but I mean it does say all things. Though this illustration is not perfect it is an example of how the verse is often used, and it cannot be how the Apostle Paul meant it when he wrote it.  When we take Scripture out of context and use the Bible to fit our lives we will walk away in defeat.

So that makes us ask the question, what does Paul mean here in verse 13? How can we apply this to our lives today? What strength is he talking about? What does “all things” even mean? Let’s take a look because I believe this is something we all need to understand better.

This verse comes from the book of Philippians and was written by Paul to the Church at Philippi. Paul was under house arrest in Rome when it was written and his future was uncertain. This was the first church he started in Greece and the church was faithful in praying for and supporting Paul in his mission trips. This was a letter of update, encouragement, and exhortation. He speaks on unity, sacrificing, and joy in Christ. Joy and rejoice are used no less than sixteen times in the who letter. It is a great book and one of my favorites.

Joy in Christ, this is something that the church here had struggled with. They loved the Lord but put a lot on their on shoulders in living the Christian life. Do we not do the same today? Christianity is a team sport my friends, do it alone and you will fail. We try to do to much and leave our cup dry. Because of their actions they worried, they got aggravated, and even upset with one another. We worry about how we  will pay the next bill (I am very guilty of this one), what we are to do with our lives, and a plethora of other things. These worries throw up walls in our faith and show a lack of trust. Living by faith is hard, but it is what is commanded of us. When we trust in that though our lives I believe our lives make more sense and we find joy. We also can rest in the fact of another great verse in Philippians 4 looking at verse 19:

God will meet all of your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus”

This was a word for the church at Philippi, stop worrying! Something we need to listen to and to apply today. Look at Peter for example and the time he walked on water (Matthew 14: 22-31) there is a great take away from that. If we spend more time fearing what is around us (wind/waves) instead of keeping our eyes on Christ, we are bound to find ourselves sinking fast.

So what is this verse about to the church at Philippi? Contentment. Let’s look at the verses before verse 13:

10″ I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were 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.”

Paul uses an example of receiving gifts from the church to teach the church, no matter what your situation is in life, be content. No matter if you are rich, poor, hungry, or hurt be content. Here is where verse 13 comes into play, our ability to be content through struggles/hard times rest in this: I can do everything through him who gives me strength. “I have learned to be content in any and every situation because God is the One who is giving me the spiritual strength to be content.”

We can rest in the truth that we can trust Christ to provide for us in all things. He is provider and we can rest in him! We will be less grouch, more optimistic, and focused on telling people about Jesus. Our lives will be better not matter our situation. It is not about scoring touchdowns, or getting an A test. This verse is about having strength to be content with no matter what life throws at you. This about having faith in God who proves, a sovereign God who is in control of everything that happens to us, a God who knows our needs and has promised to fulfill them through Christ!

Paul had struggles my friends, remember the “thorn” in his life. Something that God allowed to teach paul as we read in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This shows us what Paul is trying to tell the Philippians. God provides the strength and power to be content when life is not what we want or expect it to be; he gives us the grace to stand through and to overcome. Also, there is something about being weak that gave God’s power an opportunity to be on display, and in the end this brought God glory. This should be the chief aim of our lives, bring God glory!

So yes, this is a very powerful verse when applied correctly. That we be content and find our strength in Christ to endure all things, because he does give us strength. When we apply that and rely on him for contentment God is glorifies, and his strength is  and on display.


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