Phil 4:3 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (English Standard Version)
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people (sometimes even preachers) say things like,
“I just know I can win that marathon without any preparation. After all, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”
“You can have that (car, house, whatever) because you can do all things through Christ!”
or even a parent telling a child
“Honey, even though you’ve got Type 1 diabetes, if you just trust God you can be a Navy Seal when you grow up – you can do all things through Him.”
Makes me want to shout “get a clue” every time I hear something like that! Not only are those kind of statements have NOTHING to do with what Paul was writing about, but it makes non-Christians even more convinced that His followers are nothing more than a bunch of fairytale believing nut jobs.
Got your attention yet? I sure hope so. Ok, before we take a look at this verse in depth, let’s review the mottos of the good Bible scholar and disciple of Christ:
“Context, Context, Context”
“Whenever you see a ‘therefore’, find out what it’s there for”
And thanks to Greg Koukl,
“Never read a Bible verse” (meaning always read at least the full paragraph)
So, what is the context of Phil 4:13? Glad you asked! Here’s some background:
Paul had planted a church in the Roman colony of Phillipi, had been imprisoned and freed by a “violent earthquake” which led to the salvation of the jailor and his family. (Acts 16)
The Philippian church had been very faithful in supporting Paul’s missionary endeavors, and had sent him help more than once. The letter, intended to be read aloud to the church, was written from imprisonment in Rome in part to thank them for their material as well as spiritual support. That is the overall context of the letter.
The specific context of the verse can be found in Philippians 4:10-13. After thanking them for their concern and (indirectly) their recent gift, he tells them that he has been in a variety of situations: want, abundance, and everything in-between. The key to proper interpretation of verse 13 is what precedes it.
I’m sure you’re way ahead of me already, but I’ll spell it out anyway: Paul is stating that he has learned to be content with Christ and His provision in all situations – he can ‘do’ poverty, or he can ‘do’ abundance, since he has learned to be content in whatever situation he is in (verse 11).
It isn’t about getting more stuff, doing something just because we want to, or even about ‘fulfilling your dreams”. It isn’t about anything less than being willing and able to serve our Savior in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.