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Philippians 4:13 – It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does

April 9, 2018 1 Comment

I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13

This has become one of the most misquoted Bible verses. It often finds its way into a sermon that is more of a motivational speech. Also, it is often used by those who are starting their own business or other endeavor.

Don’t Cherry Pick

When Paul wrote this letter it did not come with sub headings nor did it have chapter and verse numbers. Those things help us with study but at times they become a hindrance. Verse numbers can lead to isolating the verse there by losing context and this can lead to a misunderstanding of its meaning.

The following can be helpful when studying a specific verse:

  • Read several verses before and after. Even better is to read the whole chapter
  • What was the original context?
  • Who wrote it?
  • Who was it written for / to?
  • What was going on when it was written?
  • Review the notes from a good study Bible and or Commentary. Most modern Bible Translations have study versions available. And many commentaries can be found online.

The Bible is not designed to be a Self-Help Manual

Sadly much of the western Christian experience has made the Bible a self-help manual and reduced Jesus to nothing more than Mr-fix-it. But the life of a disciple of Christ is not about us but about Him. Just like Jesus who came to obey and glorify the Father so we too are called to obey and glorify Christ in all we do. Paul talks about dying daily (Galatians 2:20, 1 Corinthians 15:34) and Jesus talked about taking up our cross (Luke 9:23). We become a willing slave because he is our everything. No Jesus is not a slave master but we find true life only when we submit our self 100% to Him. We have to go all in. Remember his disciples left everything to follow Jesus. 

What Paul meant

If we read the full context of Philippians 4:10-13, we see that Paul was thanking the Philippian church for sending him needed support; however, Paul says he would have been content without it. He has learned to be content in hunger and when he is full, content when poor or with riches. No matter what station of life he finds himself in he can be content because he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. Paul had died to himself. His life was lived fully at the beck and call of Christ. He was living for something greater

 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly because once again you renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me but lacked the opportunity to show it. I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:10-13

Life in this world will never be perfect. We will all have times of struggle. It is actually freeing when you quit chasing a life without issues and learn to trust Jesus to give us strength to make it through whatever comes our way. At the end of the day our heavenly Father will do right by us.  However, it is OK to pray for that strength of Christ or to even pray for the difficulty to be removed. Just remember at the end of the day life is about him. 

Sure, Jesus will give you the strength to do whatever he has called you too. Just be sure not to confuse what you want to do, with what Christ has called you to accomplish. They might not be the same thing.

Without Christ I am nothing, but because of the work of Christ on the cross and the power of his resurrection I have everything.

photo credit: Yair Aronshtam Cherry garden via photopin (license)

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About the Author:

I am enthusiastic about helping others discover their purpose and grow into a deeper relationship with Jesus. It is great to see their eyes light up at their “Ah Ha!” moment when they discover they were created for something more. My hope is that this blog will help encourage and inspire you along your way. Join the conversation and take the time to share with me your own story. I have been married to my beautiful wife Janice for over 30 years. We currently live in McDonough Georgia with our daughter. Our two boys have left the nest and we have two wonderful grand kids. Of course we cannot forget about our dog Bear.