“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:13 is one of the most often-quoted verses by Christians.
It’s pasted on fridges. It’s displayed in beautiful frames at home. It’s set as handphone wallpapers.
It’s a verse that encourages us that with Christ, we can accomplish any task. No task is too tough or beyond our ability when Christ is helping us.
But is that what Paul is really saying to the Philippians?
No doubt Paul is saying that Christ does strengthen us for tasks. But looking at the context, it sheds light on what else he might be saying to us.
It’s been eye-opening (and stressful) to study Greek in Bible college for this past year. One of the toughest thing translating verses from Greek to English. And translating Phil 4:13 from the Greek was interesting because it didn’t really match up with what I always thought.
The Greek for Phil 4:13 literally says: “I am strong for all things in the One strengthening me.”
That phrase “strong for all things” struck me. It means Paul is able to survive, to be content, to be strong enough for all circumstances in his life. Let that sink in for a moment. To understand this more fully, we have to track back to the previous verse:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Paul went through almost every kind of condition in life: Being well fed, being hungry, having plenty or having needs. But what’s more, Paul has learned the secret of being content through every circumstance that life threw at him. Reading 2 Cor 11 gives us a taste of Paul’s suffering that any normal person might have lost his faith and mind.
But not Paul. He knew the secret of being content in all circumstances. Imagine being content in good times and bad times of your life. Wouldn’t you want to know that secret?
It’s in the next verse. Paul leans in close and whispers to you:
“I am strong for all things in the One strengthening me.”
I am strong to handle all that life throws at me. I can survive a hurricane. I can survive a shipwreck. I can survive whippings. I can survive living on the streets. But I can also survive living a comfortable life and not yearning for more. It takes strength not to be greedy during the good times too.
Where does this strength come from?
From “the One strengthening me”: Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ gives us the strength to go through all circumstances of life content because we are content in Him alone. It’s not so much about doing all things but being strong in all things.
I don’t know what circumstances you find yourself in today. You might be struggling with cancer. You might be struggling to make ends meet. Or you might be enjoying a nice lunch at a posh restaurant. Whatever situation you find yourself, Christ can give you strength for all things. Christ is enough for you to be content because he promised to never leave you nor forsake you (Matt 28:20; Heb 13:5-6).