One of the most quoted verses in all of Scripture is Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” The verse is often used to assume that anything we purpose to do, anything that we set out for we can accomplish through Christ. But is that really what the verse is talking about? The answer to that question is ‘no’ that is not what this verse is talking about.
When we look at Scripture we must always look to the context of the passage and this verse is no different. So what is the context of Philippians 4:13?
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 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. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:10-13 English Standard Version
The immediate context shows that Paul is referring to being able to do all things through Christ no matter what the circumstances are that he has been put into. It is a verse that gives hope in suffering and trials. It is not a verse to say that we can accomplish anything we set our minds on.
So whenever someone uses this verse we need to ask ourselves, “How are they using this verse?” Is the verse being used properly based on its context or is it being, as it often is, taken out of context?
One of the things that many churches seem to have lost in today’s culture is the discipline of Scripture Memory. Growing up, Scripture memory was a huge emphasis at our church through programs like AWANA. I remember being on the Bible Quiz team for our church competing against other churches. I remember those verses and definitions that I learned decades ago and I am thankful for it.
But is there any indication from Scripture that memorizing God’s Word is important? The answer is an overwhelming yes!
We see verses like Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee.” (KJV) While this verse is not a command, it is a clear principle. Hiding God’s Word in our hearts gives us the tools we need to resist temptation.
Jesus was the perfect model of this in the New Testament when He went under temptation by Satan in the wilderness. This passage is found in Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus goes into the wilderness and is tempted three times by Satan.
We hear stories every day of bad things happening to the people of God. There was the Texas church shooting last year, churches are filled with cancer patients, car accident victims, and many other tragedies. Why do these things happen? Where is God?
The answer is that God is in the midst of all of these situations and these trials are purposefully allowed to enter our lives. That does not mean it is easy to swallow but the New Testament gives us instruction on how to handle these trials.
James explains that we should have joy in trials.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4 (ESV)
Trials in our lives produce a testing of our faith. Ultimately, we should allow these trials to make us stronger. It’s like the old saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” While the phrase is cliche there is much truth in it.
Trials in our lives allow us to put our faith and trust in Christ knowing that He is the only one that can sustain us. It is in these times we look to Him for compassion, mercy, and strength. We do not rejoice for the trial, but we rejoice in the trial knowing that its ultimate purpose is to bring us closer to God and to serve for His glory.