Some like to quote Philippians 4:13 as if it had said simply ” I can do all things. ” But it says that only through Christ strengthening us can we do all things. And it is not all things generally but all things that God wants us to do that is in view here. It is those things that we could not do without Him, if we were not in Christ. It is good works that please God.
And we pray:
God, You would have us be confident in Your strength but not in our own strength. Without spiritual life from You, I could do nothing truly spiritually good and acceptable in Your sight. But with You, I know I can do everything that you want me to do. Amen.
To understand the Philippians 4:13 meaning, we first need to back up and look at what’s happening in the verses surrounding it. Context is king. It helps us understand what the Bible is communicating to us.
When you pull a single sentence out of a letter or a 30-second sound bite out of a speech you can make it appear to be saying something that it doesn’t. We see this all the time on social media. That’s why reading in context is SO important. It gives us the full picture of God’s Word.
In Philippians 4:10-12 Paul is wrapping up his letter to the church in Philippi. He’s wrapping up his thoughts. In many ways he ends his letter with a similar message that he began with. If you were to go back and read Philippians 1 you would see these same concepts.
Paul is telling the Philippian church that he has learned how to be content regardless of his circumstances. Whether he’s hungry or well-fed. Free or in prison. Has much or has nothing. He’s content not based on his circumstances, but rather on a person: Jesus.
That’s what’s he’s trying to get across in his letter. That you can be at peace, have joy, be content regardless of your circumstances. If you have Jesus and nothing then you have more than enough. The power of Christ Jesus in you is enough.
Paul knows what he’s talking about. He wrote these words from Rome while sitting in prison. He’s in a bad spot and he can’t rely on his own strength.
And it’s from this dark and dingy cell where he is likely hungry and has nothing, that he writes these words: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
These are not the words that Paul uses to hype himself for the big game. No, these words remind him that though his circumstances might be bleak, God is still with him. It’s from these humble means that he can have the peace of God.
The context of the passage tells us this, but because many just read this single verse many have missed the real purpose of Paul’s words. Paul isn’t giving motivation to conquer, but rather encouragement in almost certain defeat. It’s in our own weakness when God’s power is strongest.
He’s saying that God will get him through whatever God brings him to. Not that we can accomplish whatever we want.
Philippians 4:13 Meaning For Us Today
Now that we know the context let’s switch gears and look at how we can apply this to our lives today.
Here’s the Philippians 4:13 meaning for us today.
Philippians 4:13 Meaning: It’s For Losers
Paul didn’t pen these words from a place of victory. He wrote them from prison. From a worldly perspective, he had nothing. He was a loser, his basic needs weren’t even being met.
Philippians 4:13 is not a war cry to go and conquer. It’s not motivation to achieve success professionally, academically, or athletically. It’s not written to challenge the strong to become even greater. Rather it’s written to encourage the weak and those that find themselves in difficult circumstances.
The most common interpretations of this verse miss this important distinction. The Philippians 4:13 meaning is for those who are struggling. It’s a reminder, an encouragement, that though life may be tough God is with you.
This is a verse that we should go to when we know what hits the fan. You can get through whatever life throws your way because God is with you.
Philippians 4:13 Meaning: It’s A Challenge To Be Content
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a very content person. And this verse challenges me in that. Paul was content in a dark and damp prison cell with little food to eat. Why? Because he had what matters most, Jesus.
Philippians 4:13 is a challenge for us to put things in proper perspective. We think we might need all these other things to be happy and content. But Paul challenges us to view happiness through a different lens. All we really need is Jesus.
This should be one of the primary applications for us today. Be content in Jesus alone. So, is Jesus enough for you?
Philippians 4:13 is often used as a verse to give ourselves positive thoughts so we can accomplish what we want. But that sells these famous words short.
Paul’s words are referring to the ability to endure the trials and hardships when we keep our eyes on Jesus. This is a powerful passage that we should allow to encourage us when life gets us down. Not because we are enough, but because we have God living in us and he is more than enough.
So, the next time you hear this passage read or hear someone quote it out of context, think back to the true Philippians 4:13 meaning.
Remind yourself that whatever you are facing, whatever you might encounter the next day, that God is with you. Recite to yourself, I can do all things through Christ. He will bring me through.