“I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.” The Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:13
I mean the t-shirt almost writes itself, doesn’t it?
This Bible verse is everywhere, from athletes to pastors everybody loves to quote this verse. Chances are you’ve heard, read, and seen it written more than a few times. Yet despite its popularity, few people actually know the Philippians 4:13 meaning and how it applies to their life.
“I can do all things through Christ” is commonly interpreted to mean that you can fulfill any desire you set your mind to. This famous verse is often distilled to simply a personal motivation to get through something tough.
But when Paul wrote this verse that’s not what he had in mind. This interpretation sells Philippians 4:13 short. It misses the depth of what it is actually communicating.
So I want to look at the Philippians 4:13 meaning and see how it actually applies to our life. We will start by looking at what it doesn’t mean.
What Philippians 4:13 DOESN’T Mean
Before we look at the actual Philippians 4:13 meaning, let’s look at what it doesn’t mean. These are some of the most common ways this verse is misused.
I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me. Athletes use these words as motivation to win a game. Students use it as they prep for a test. Job seekers use it as proof they will get the job. And the sick hold onto it as a promise they will be healed.
Now, I’m not trying to say that God can’t do those things. He can. But this verse isn’t a promise that he will do exactly what we want.
Philippians 4:13 is often used as a promise or a motivation that if we do our part then God will give us what we are after. The problem is that’s not true. God never promises all our earthly problems will be fixed or taken away.
It doesn’t matter how much you pray, believe, or quote the Bible. Bad things will still happen. You’ll lose the game. You’ll flunk the test. Your spouse will leave you. Your kids will hate you. The job will fall through. You won’t have enough money. You’ll go hungry. Life will happen.
This verse isn’t a promise that things will go your way. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. It’s hope in the midst of your struggles and trials. Let’s take a look at the context and see what that teaches us about the Philippians 4:13 meaning.
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The Context Of Philippines 4:13
To understand the Philippians 4:13 meaning, we first need to back up and look at what’s happening in the verses surrounding it. Context is king. It helps us understand what the Bible is communicating to us.
When you pull a single sentence out of a letter or a 30-second sound bite out of a speech you can make it appear to be saying something that it doesn’t. We see this all the time on social media. That’s why reading in context is SO important. It gives us the full picture of God’s Word.
In Philippians 4:10-12 Paul is wrapping up his letter to the church in Philippi. He’s wrapping up his thoughts. In many ways he ends his letter with a similar message that he began with. If you were to go back and read Philippians 1 you would see these same concepts.
Paul is telling the Philippian church that he has learned how to be content regardless of his circumstances. Whether he’s hungry or well-fed. Free or in prison. Has much or has nothing. He’s content not based on his circumstances, but rather on a person: Jesus.
That’s what’s he’s trying to get across in his letter. That you can be at peace, have joy, be content regardless of your circumstances. If you have Jesus and nothing then you have more than enough. The power of Christ Jesus in you is enough.
Paul knows what he’s talking about. He wrote these words from Rome while sitting in prison. He’s in a bad spot and he can’t rely on his own strength.
And it’s from this dark and dingy cell where he is likely hungry and has nothing, that he writes these words: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
These are not the words that Paul uses to hype himself for the big game. No, these words remind him that though his circumstances might be bleak, God is still with him. It’s from these humble means that he can have the peace of God.
The context of the passage tells us this, but because many just read this single verse many have missed the real purpose of Paul’s words. Paul isn’t giving motivation to conquer, but rather encouragement in almost certain defeat. It’s in our own weakness when God’s power is strongest.
He’s saying that God will get him through whatever God brings him to. Not that we can accomplish whatever we want.
Philippians 4:13 Meaning For Us Today
Now that we know the context let’s switch gears and look at how we can apply this to our lives today.
Here’s the Philippians 4:13 meaning for us today.
Philippians 4:13 Meaning: It’s For Losers
Paul didn’t pen these words from a place of victory. He wrote them from prison. From a worldly perspective, he had nothing. He was a loser, his basic needs weren’t even being met.
Philippians 4:13 is not a war cry to go and conquer. It’s not motivation to achieve success professionally, academically, or athletically. It’s not written to challenge the strong to become even greater. Rather it’s written to encourage the weak and those that find themselves in difficult circumstances.
The most common interpretations of this verse miss this important distinction. The Philippians 4:13 meaning is for those who are struggling. It’s a reminder, an encouragement, that though life may be tough God is with you.
This is a verse that we should go to when we know what hits the fan. You can get through whatever life throws your way because God is with you.
Philippians 4:13 Meaning: It’s A Challenge To Be Content
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a very content person. And this verse challenges me in that. Paul was content in a dark and damp prison cell with little food to eat. Why? Because he had what matters most, Jesus.
Philippians 4:13 is a challenge for us to put things in proper perspective. We think we might need all these other things to be happy and content. But Paul challenges us to view happiness through a different lens. All we really need is Jesus.
This should be one of the primary applications for us today. Be content in Jesus alone. So, is Jesus enough for you?
I preached on this topic recently, you can watch it here:
Philippians 4:13 Meaning: It’s A Reminder To Keep Our Eyes On What’s Most Important
We are easily distracted. Philippians 4:13 is a reminder to keep our eyes on Jesus.
It would be understandable if Paul were to complain about his current conditions. After all he’s in jail for preaching the Word of God. No one would blame him if he complained a little bit.
Instead of looking at his current conditions, Paul kept his eyes on Jesus. That’s what got him through. Paul understood that through Christ he could do all things. Even be content in a prison cell.
This passage should challenge us to keep our eyes in the right place. When we get distracted and start focusing on all the problems around us we lose sight of Jesus and forget that he’s in control. But when we keep our eyes on him we can get through whatever it is that’s in front of us.
The Philippians 4:13 meaning that we cannot forget is that we are in complete need of Jesus. It’s through him and him alone that we get our strength. When we lose sight of that and try to power through on our own we will fail every time.
Closing Thoughts On The True Meaning Of Philippians 4:13
Philippians 4:13 is often used as a verse to give ourselves positive thoughts so we can accomplish what we want. But that sells these famous words short.
Paul’s words are referring to the ability to endure the trials and hardships when we keep our eyes on Jesus. This is a powerful passage that we should allow to encourage us when life gets us down. Not because we are enough, but because we have God living in us and he is more than enough.
So, the next time you hear this passage read or hear someone quote it out of context, think back to the true Philippians 4:13 meaning.
Remind yourself that whatever you are facing, whatever you might encounter the next day, that God is with you. Recite to yourself, I can do all things through Christ. He will bring me through.
What to read more posts like this one? Check out these blog posts: Understanding Specific Passages In The Bible
Thanks for reading this blog post! I hope that you enjoyed it and that it brought greater insight to the true Philippians 4:13 meaning. If you found this post helpful would you share it with a friend or on social media? That way more people can benefit from it as you have.
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