Philippians 4:13: A Lesson in Faith

Good morning and thank you for joining me. Today, I want to focus on a verse that often is used as a little misleading, but at the same is always underestimated. And I would wager is one of the top 2 quoted verses in the Bible.

Today, my focus is on the truth of Philippians 4:13. We all know and love the verse, and turn to it often in times of need. When Paul says “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13, King James Version), he means it. Even if we take it out of context. So, let us look at what Paul meant in the full context of the situation.

There are two important things to note about the letter to the church of Philippi, the first is that a disciple of that church brought Paul word of the welfare of the church, which wasn’t the best. They were going through some troubles and some persecution. Also, they faced a major insider threat of what was call Judaizing, the belief that for one to become Christian they must first become a Jew, which meant circumcision for men, not just babies, but grown men. This deterred a lot of would be believers, or misled those young in faith. And secondly, Paul himself was imprisoned and was writing from a dungeon where he was daily tested for his faith by the guards and other prisoners.

Now, let us look into the actual textual context.

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. 2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. 10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 14 Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. 21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (Philippians 4, NKJV)

In this account, we can see that there is little talk of personal accomplishment outside of the ministry. No great physical accomplishment, Paul doesn’t write the next great sonnet or play, no simply Paul acknowledges that he can suffer and serve because no matter what, as long as he and those whom believe continue to have faith, then we can do all things that Christ has called us to do. It is not I can suddenly be stronger because I believe in Christ, it is because I am faithful, and Christ needs this of me, therefore I can. In simple terms, God gives us strength to do that which He expects of us, or sometimes He uses our weakness to display His glory by using us in His plans. Many times, this has been shown in the Bible, and I know in my own personal life. From Gideon, to Daniel, to David, to Stephen, and Paul, God gave them what they needed to go forward, and then He, God, worked through them. Most often we see athletes, or competitors use this to say that they are going to win, when in fact, sometimes God is not glorified by winning, but other acts of humility.

On the personal side of this, I learned my lesson of humility over the past few years. It was hard, and it still is one I struggle to keep in the forefront of my mind. In high school I was great at quite a few things, and was leader in academics, and other organizations in the school. Sure, I was a Christian and I thought that my success was attributed to God, but I really used each accomplishment to my own vainglory. Then one day my disobedience led me to straight into a trap, that I could not walk out of. I was injured, and it took a toll on me, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I spent months battling doctors and myself to try and get better. I thought, if I just fought through the pain, I could be strong like I used to be. Then I hit the bottom and contemplated things that bring shame to me, and then I looked up…and when I stopped fighting God’s plan and let Him lead, then I finally found a way. He gave me the way to healing, sure I had to get to the point where I had to drop out of college, and stop everything in my life and career, but when I stopped trying to show I could do it all, God stepped in and provided the way. God laid the right doctor in front of me at the ER and he got me to a specialist that could help, and shortly after that, I recovered. When my faith was true, God was true to me. My life, all of it is a testament to what God can do through me. The verse of “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me,” is true, but for it to be true, you must be true to God and His will.

To close out, I would like to share a quote from a ballad Steven Curtis Chapman wrote:

I can do all things

Through Christ, who gives me strength.

But sometimes I wonder what He

Can do through me

And I ask you today, what can Christ do through you?