“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
When I started following Jesus, I noticed this verse seemed to be everywhere in the Christian sports world. A little over a year after Jesus saved me I went to a Christian university to play basketball, and again noticed a recurring theme of this verse within the realm of Christian athletics. It would be written in the locker room and some teammates had “Phil 4:13” written on their shoes. You may also notice this verse on Steph Curry’s shoes.
“I can do all things through Christ” can be a great motivational statement. However, as I grew in my understanding of the Bible and how to study it I realized a danger in how broadly this verse is often applied. If we don’t read the verses around Philippians 4:13 it is very easy to make the verse all about us and our circumstances. “I can do all things through Christ” so I will win this basketball game. “I can do all things through Christ” so I will get my dream job. “I can do all things through Christ” so my family member who is battling cancer will get better and our family will be happy again soon. These are not bad things to pray to God for in and of themselves, but when we apply this verse incorrectly it sets us up for deep despair with God if these things do not happen.
Once we understand the context of the verse we can understand the deepness and richness of this promise. Paul is writing these words from prison in Rome towards the end of his ministry and end of his life. Throughout his travels to preach the Gospel he has endured lashings, beatings, being stoned, multiple imprisonments, being shipwrecked and was often without food (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). And now, here in his letter from prison, he is saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Phil. 4:4). This is not the typical #Blessed post you see in today’s North American Christianity.
In the verses leading right up to 4:13, Paul writes: “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.” (Phil. 4:11-12). Here is a man who has poured his life out so that others may know the Good News of Jesus and amidst countless sufferings, he is saying “I can be content in and face any circumstance because I can do all things through Jesus who gives me the strength.”
Notice Paul mentions not only the adverse circumstances but also the abundant ones too. Regardless if we are in a time of great prosperity or in a time of great adversity Jesus is enough to satisfy our souls.
Jesus, in His goodness and grace, will give us the strength to face and walk through any circumstance we may face in this broken world. He will give us the strength and ability to find contentment amidst pain, grief, and suffering. Yes, we still pray over games, careers, families and we cry out for healings and miracles—but even while waiting and hoping we find strength and contentment through Jesus. He can provide deeper joy and satisfaction than can ever be provided by the prosperity of the world.
Lord, we thank You for making us complete in You and You alone. Thank you for the strength You give us no matter how challenging a situation may be, You go before us and never leave our side. Thank You for Your Word.