“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 NIV
Welcome back! Once again it is time to dive into the Word of God with our Verse of the Month. Last time, we examined Romans 14:5. If you missed it, you can find it by clicking here. Today, we are going to dig a little deeper into Philippians 4:13 from the New International Version of the Bible.
Philippians 4:13 is one of the most well-known and quoted verses in all of scripture. From keychains, mugs, and t-shirts to the anthemic calls from preachers in stadiums across the country, the verse is so prominent and crucial to Christian culture that you would be hard-pressed to find a believer who isn’t familiar with it. The problem is that most of these people are not also as familiar with the context of the verse; as a result, it is often wrongly applied to situations and misquoted.
People will often invoke Philippians 4:13 to gather strength for a coming challenge. That upcoming job interview, preparing for a final exam before graduation, waiting in the locker room before a championship game–I can do this! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. While there is certainly nothing wrong with finding strength in the Word, the idea that the Apostle Paul meant for this verse to be an anthem for great achievement doesn’t truly hit the mark.
For a better understanding, the verse needs to be put into context. Verse 11 reads: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” Paul is approaching his current situation from a place of contentment, not want (remember, he is in prison while penning this). The word content is critical to the passage. In this context, it means: “sufficient for one’s self, strong enough or possessing enough to need no aid or support” (Blue Letter Bible). It is remarkable that Paul wrote such a verse while sitting in prison. If there were ever a time to hope that God might change a situation, that was certainly it. Yet Paul writes that he is content. That is the true power of Philippians 4:13: to be able to find peace no matter the circumstances. That is a far cry from the attitude in which so many invoke the verse.
Why This is Still Good News
Even though Philippians 4:13 doesn’t promise that Christ will give us whatever we want if we will simply believe in Him, it is still good news. Make that great news. What this verse promises is that no matter where we are or what challenges we face, we can find more than just the strength to carry on: We will find contentment at the moment when we need it the most.