Bent Out Of Shape – Philippians 4.13

Philippians 4.13 is such a good verse. I think that’s why it’s a real frustration when people rip it out of context and stick it next to – literally – anything they need to do:

Running a marathon? I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.

Trying to get a new job? I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me

Trying not to lose your mind with your unruly kids? I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.

Is this really what Paul had in mind when he penned the passage we now refer to as Philippians 4? Let’s see…

Having spoken about things that are good for the mind (vv.8-9), Paul then speaks first of something that is good for the soul – giving:

“I have great joy in the Lord because now at last you have again expressed your concern for me. 

(Now I know you were concerned before but had no opportunity to do anything.)”

(Philippians 4.10)

He writes that he was pleased, that he had great joy in the Lord that the Philippians had again expressed [their] concern for [him], and how pleased he was that they had opportunity to show this concern through giving and support.

But, he writes, he is not rejoicing because he had a great need, no, because Paul knew and had learned how to be content in any and all circumstances (v.11).

He had learned, through experience, how to be content in times of need and times of abundance, whether he was satisfied or hungry, and whether he had plenty or nothing. He writes that the secret to this is the fact that he can do all things through the one who strengthens me (v.13). 

Sadly for some, this is not a triumphant declaration that being a believer means that you can do anything and everything you so choose, as your favourite Christian sports star misusing this verse might have you believe. It’s actually about Paul’s ability to be content in all circumstances; being rich, being poor, having enough, not having enough, being celebrated, or being stoned. All these things he can do through the power of Jesus who strengthens him. 

Have you found this strength? Have you found and learned the truth in the statement of Philippians 4.13 that no matter what is going on around you, with you, or for you, you can do all things through the one who strengthens you?  

So often misused and abused, this is actually a wonderful verse. It’s a crowning statement at the end of a paragraph fraught with the difficulties that we will all face in life. 

There are two things, then, that we can take from this today; first, it is good to give (v.10, 14), and second, no matter what we are going through, there is already willing and waiting the strength for you to be content in that (vv.12-13).

Published by James Travis

Pastor of Saar Fellowship in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Married to Robyn and Dad to our two boys.

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