The Hidden Truth of Philippians 4:13: “I Can Do All Things through Christ Who Strengthens Me”
- Clarence L. Haynes Jr. Contributing Writer
- 2021 9 Jul
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
For as long as I can remember, I have either heard this verse quoted or have even quoted it myself. When faced with any type of situation that may feel overwhelming to me, I would be reminded of this verse and tell myself I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
There is no doubt that the truth of this verse is evident, and Jesus himself said apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5), which means the inverse of this is true – that with Jesus you can do everything. This is the main truth of this verse in Philippians. However, I would like to highlight another truth from this verse that we can easily miss. To help make the point, let’s look at the verses before we get to verse 13. For these passages I am going to turn to the NIV.
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:10-13).
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This Passage Is about Contentment
Paul leads into this verse by making a statement that he has learned how to be content in every circumstance in life. It does not matter if he has a lot or a little, he has learned how to find satisfaction regardless of his place in life. To be content simply means to be completely satisfied with where you are or what you have. This does not mean you don’t try to get better or do more, it means that as you look to grow, you find satisfaction in the place you are currently in.
I remember having a conversation with a pastor I know who was eager and highly motivated to grow his church, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, he was so focused on growing the church and getting to the next level that he was not able to enjoy the level he was on. In his mind, his leaders were not good enough. His worship singers and musicians were not good enough. They were good for the moment because that is all he had, but the moment someone else came along who he thought was better, he began to pursue and run after that person. The thought was that maybe this person will be the one to help me get to the next level. This pursuit caused him to find no pleasure in his current situation, no contentment, and no gratitude for the people God had placed under his care. Quite simply, this is a tragedy. In these verses, Paul was stating that he was able to find contentment regardless of where he was in life, and we should do the same.
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The Secret to Contentment
The reason Paul could do this is the focus of Philippians 4:13. Look again at verse 12-13:
“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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (emphasis added).
Hopefully, you see that the secret to Paul’s ability to be content is Christ’s ability to help him. Paul is content because of Christ’s strength working in him. Often, when we think of this verse, we think of Jesus helping us to do things. This verse also applies to Jesus helping us to be, meaning helping our state of mind. Paul could have easily said “I can be content in every situation because of Christ who gives me the strength to be content.” When you understand this truth, you will recognize how beautiful and wonderful a gift being content is.
The Gift of Contentment
“I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13).
One of the greatest pleasures in life is finding satisfaction in what you do. It is also wise not to view your life in comparison to others – this is an exercise in frustration and will lead you to being unsatisfied. The goal in life is to find happiness in the things God has blessed you with, in the work God has given you to do, in the family and people God has surrounded you with; these are the places where you must find true contentment. Without that then life becomes meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Let me point you to how Solomon put it.
“This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20).
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What Do We Have to Guard Against?
The writings of Solomon and Paul point to something that exists in the human heart, which is the propensity to never be satisfied. How many people do you know (maybe you are one of them) who isn’t satisfied in their career, in their place in life, in their relationship status, in the home they live in, in their financial situation, and the list goes on and on. If we are not careful, we can easily focus on all the things we don’t have and miss the blessing of the things we do.
When this mindset sets in, you can toil and strain to get ahead but you won’t enjoy the journey to get there, often leaving you frustrated or disappointed because you are not getting there fast enough. This has the potential to affect us all and we must guard against it.
The Opposite of Contentment
If there is not going to be contentment in your heart, then what will you find? John says it best:
“For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16).
This word lust can mean a deep desire, longing, coveting, or craving. If this has set in your heart guess what is absent? You go it, contentment. If you are lusting after power, position, growth, relationships, new job, new career, more money, whatever it is, if this lust sets in then you will find no contentment. Even after you get it there will be no contentment because this lust will produce another one. However, this leads us back to the wonderful truth of Philippians.
Back to the Truth
When you understand the way we are wired as humans, then these words in Philippians are words we should cling to and never let go. As you go through life and strive for more, let the truth of Philippians 4:13 resonate in your heart. You can enjoy every station in life, whether you are moving up or down, because it is Christ who will give you the strength to do it.
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