“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13)
“Let a Christian begin to boast, “I can do all things,” without adding, “through Christ who strengthens me,” and before long he will have to groan, “I can do nothing.” Charles Spurgeon
Philippians 4:13 is one of those favorite “pull-out” verses for believers, and it is a good reminder when we face big tasks. But do you know this verse in its context? It really isn’t about strength at all. It follows up a different principle altogether.
Paul is in prison – and 1st century prisons were nothing like our modern American facilities. There were no cots, no pillows or blankets, and no meals provided. Prisoners slept on hard floors and were at the mercy of others for their basic needs. If family, friends or a kind benevolent soul did not bring them food, they would starve to death in prison. This “strength” verse comes as Paul thanks the Philippian church for their gifts and concern for him. He wants to assure them that, despite his situation, he is not in despair. Rather, he says, “I have learned to be content’ whatever the circumstances . . . In any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:11-12). Paul is making a point about contentment. And he said that the secret behind his unshakable state of contentment is the strength he receives from the Lord.
This is not a power-lifting verse. It’s not a touchdown verse (and I do love Tim Tebow). It’s a getting through life verse. Paul is not trying to perform great feats of strength – he’s trying to endure his chains.
The beauty of this verse is that the same strength that sustained Paul in prison is there for you and me in the challenges we face every day. I can do all things . . . be gentle with my frustrating child this morning – face my overly demanding boss – have a Christ-like spirit towards those co-workers who reject my faith – eat beans and hot dogs for supper for the third time this week – bathe my aging parent who can’t remember my name. We don’t just need Christ’s strength in the gym or on the ball field. We need it in our homes and workplaces and relationships.
Beloved, whatever your “all things” is today, God will give you strength, not just to do the thing that needs to be done, but to do it with a heart of contentment, knowing that One who provides the strength also holds you in the palm of His great and loving hand. Yes, you can – through Him.