By James Metsger
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
When Paul says he had learned the secret to contentment, this verse is it! Plain and simple, the secret to contentment is “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
This seems to be every athlete’s favorite verse, but it’s not said in the context of humiliating your most feared foe, winning the Super Bowl, or hoisting the championship trophy above your head. This popular T-shirt and bumper sticker verse is written in the context of learning to experience contentment in hardship. We can’t pluck the verse out of its context and expect it to work in any situation. As a matter of fact, we shouldn’t do that to any verse in the Bible. But this verse, in particular, is a favorite for people to apply to anything they want to do.
You want to start a new business? You can do anything through Christ who strengthens you!
You want to run a marathon? You can do anything through Christ who strengthens you!
You want to write a bestseller? You can do anything through Christ who strengthens you!
If this is how we’re supposed to interpret the verse, then we could finish it according to any dream or desire we have. I don’t want to be pessimistic, but “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” doesn’t mean we have no limitations. I can’t dunk a basketball. I’m short, and I can’t jump. And no amount of believing that verse or writing it on my shoe is going to help me rock the rim.
Philippians 4:13 isn’t a genie promise that means you can do anything you set your mind to because God is going to give you the strength. If anything, that idea will more likely lead to disillusionment because your “anything” may not happen. When you fall short, who will you blame? Maybe you’ll blame the God who made this great promise and then didn’t fulfill it in your situation. That’s a quick path to discontentment. However, in its proper context, this verse means that contentment can still be experienced in the face of hardship and suffering. It can be yours through the strength that God provides. You can’t muster it or manufacture it, but you can receive it because God graciously gives it. Go ahead, ask him for it.
Paul ends his letter on a note of gratefulness. He is thankful for the Philippians’ concern regarding his hardship and for their kindness in sharing his trouble. He recognized that at the beginning of his ministry, when no other church would partner with him, this church did. They sent him his friend Epaphroditus bearing gifts, money and encouragement. For all of this, he was thankful. He recognized what is so important in cultivating an attitude of gratefulness: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (4:19). Contentment flows out of a heart of gratitude for all the riches we have in Christ Jesus.
That seems like a good place for us to end our journey together. We end with the reminder that as we follow Jesus, our humble servant and exalted King, he will supply what we need.
“To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:20)
Thank God for supplying the strength you need for today.