“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
When one is serious about the Scriptures one will be certain to gain the Author’s purpose, meaning and intent in his words. This is the answer to the “Yeah, but that’s your interpretation” arguement. To grab a passage of Scripture and wrest it to one’s personal needs at that moment is to betray one’s self as a novice or one who is not serious about the Scriptures or God. We must always remember that we are handling the Word of God and He has given warnings…plural through out Scripture. These warnings are against adding to or taking away from the Word. This, I personally believe, includes taking verses and or passages out of context or twisting them to fit a personal liking or to make a point.
Philippians 4:13 is one of those verses that have been taken out of context and misused and abused. When or if you walk into a Christ-ian bookstore you will find this verse plastered on t-shirts, sweat shirts, mugs, plaques, pens, hats, braclets, rings, necklaces, bumper stickers, etc. It is my concern and contention that when persons read this or wear this verse on themselves their “interpretation” is God will strengthen them to carry out their purposes and plans.
When I was a young man I wanted to be a pro athlete. Could I take 4:13 and say, “I can become a pro-athlete because I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me?” Would that be a proper use of this text? It is not. What then is the meaning of 4:13?
To gain the proper understanding of any passage or verse you must look at the verses before it and after it. By doing this you will be able to understand the context in which the verse is set. To know the context of Philippians 4:13 you would begin with verse (10) ten of chapter (4) four. Paul is speaking of the care he has been given by this Philippian church. In v. 11 he states “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” There you have it, the teaching of 4:13 is contentment in whatsoever state you find yourself. In v. 12 Paul continues, “I know both how to be abased and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer (endure) need. Then Paul wraps up his thoughts in 4:13. In 4:14 Paul compliments them and acknowledges their love and care for him.
Philippians 4:13, then is not a verse that you should grab and run out and do as you please expecting God to strengthen you along your way and remove all obstacles. 4:13 has nothing to do with a person getting their way. This passage is about contentment in whatever state, condition, or circumstance you find yourself in. Paul when in prison sang songs praising God. This is contentment. Job said after losing so much, “The LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away,” “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” and “We have received good from the LORD, shall we not receive evil also?” These are comments made by a man that had learned contentment.
Why is contentment important for the Christ-ian? To be content in your current state tells God, “Not my will but Thine be done,” “Where He leads I will follow,” “Have Thine own way, Lord,” and “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” The spirit of contentment tells God that you trust Him and you are happy with that which he provides and with-holds. To be content is to say to God, ” Thou doeth all things well.”
Philippians 4:13 is a verse that can comfort and confirm. Some believers, especially those in the legalist camp tend to think that when something unpleasant happens or if bad news is received that it is due to sin. 4:13 shows us clearly that even a saint such as Paul was at times hungry and suffering need and at other times he was full and abounding.
Contentment is related to the word rest. To be content is simply to rest in the knowledge that *God knows, that *God is Good, and *God is Sovereign. If you, dear and beloved reader, grasp those (3) three truths, by the faith He has given you, contentment can be yours and your contentment will glorify God.
An important rule of thumb is to be grateful and to acknowledge God with much thanks when you are full and abounding. When you are hungry and suffering need, thank Him for the times of fullness and abounding and seek His sufficient grace to endure this time of suffering and or affliction and thank Him for the knowledge that this time “shall come to pass.”
Paul exhorts us to be thankful in all things meaning whatsoever state you find yourself in to be content and be thankful. How often do you thank God? There is always a reason to be thankful…always. Methinks that an unthankful spirit will hinder prayers more than sin. According to Paul in Romans 1, Unthankfulness is the gateway to other grievous sins. It certainly is the door way to back sliding.
There is a hymn that sings, “Count your blessings one by one.” When we would “lead” singing (I was so bad) we would change the words to, ” Count your blessings ton by ton.”