Philippians 4:13 is an extremely popular bible verse and made even more popular by athletes like Tim Tebow and Stephen Curry but most of the time, people don't really know the true meaning of this scripture and its also misused alot. There are differences in the translations and context so we will take a deep dive into and explore the real, true meaning of this bible verse.
1. What Does Philippians 4:13 Mean?
The meaning of Philippians 4:13 referred to Paul’s different seasons in life, with him talking about some of his experiences, and that because of the strength of Christ, he was able to endure every season he faced.
Philippians 4:13 is a scripture that is commonly used for encouragement to Christians, focusing on the ability to accomplish things because Jesus gives us the strength to do so. Messages of faith and hope are preached across the nation in churches citing this verse.
There are those who have not attended church regularly but have a reverence for God without great understanding of the Bible. For them, this scripture can be interpreted that it is acceptable to live any way a person chooses because all things are acceptable when someone believes in God.
Another common belief for Philippians 4:13 is that a person can accomplish anything he has focused his mind on because God will give him the supernatural ability to do so.
While reading the scripture by itself, it isn’t hard to see how it can be interpreted in more ways than one. The depth of commitment from different people makes the two mentioned interpretations sound good, hinging on a person’s goals and motivation in life.
However, in the full context of what Paul had written in Philippians chapter 4, neither interpretation is accurate. This article will shed additional light on the verse to give us greater understanding.
When it comes to our Christian walk, the life and letters of Paul are proof enough that Paul does not condone a careless lifestyle. Many people are not familiar with the Word, possibly only drawing their conclusions by the scriptures they see promoted publicly.
Even so, Paul exemplified a consecrated life that demonstrated deep devotion. He willingly and intentionally committed himself to the service of Christ and did not entertain thoughts of defeat.
Resignation and withdrawal were not part of Paul’s thinking. His own realization of limitations due to being a mortal man only caused him to rely more on the strength of Christ.
Instead of offering his approval to abandon the faith when life became difficult, Paul encouraged us to “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1
Paul was taught and well educated by Gamaliel, a leader of the Pharisees, being very zealous of his learning. When he converted to Christianity, we can surmise his zeal for knowledge and truth in Christ were equal to his previous learning, probably even more so.
Paul demonstrated the Spirit of God within him when he had a thorn in his flesh and asked God to remove it. His prayer had some resemblance to Jesus’s prayer about His crucifixion in Matthew 26:39: “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Paul shares his own experience in 2 Corinthians 2:8-10, with some form of a trial that is not completely identified:
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.“
God’s answer for Paul was not to throw in the towel, but rather to lean on His strength. Grace is that divine influence on the heart or enabling power of the Spirit that God gives us enough of to survive any trial and tribulation that comes our way.
To give in means we are leaning on our flesh instead of leaning on God’s strength. Many believers have discovered this personally and they have realized their flesh is no comparison for the power we need from Christ in order to overcome.
Philippians 4:13 is on par with other writings of Paul, who modeled consistency in his Christian walk. This scripture by itself can be encouraging in the sense that through Jesus, we can accomplish things.
It does no injustice to the Word since the Bible speaks of impossibilities becoming possible when our Savior is part of the equation. While that is an angle with a truthful thought, it is not the meaning of this particular scripture.
When read with the surrounding scriptures, we see the greater picture of what Paul is referring to. Let’s dig in a little deeper to learn more of Paul’s story and the background to this statement in Philippians 4:13.
Paul knew what it was to go through some things. He gives us a summary of his hardships in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29:
“…I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”
Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote to the Philippians. They had sent Epaphroditus to tend to Paul’s needs, bringing great joy to the imprisoned man for their generosity and care toward him.
They gave even when it was not given from an abundant supply of their own. When writing to the Philippian church, he was so grateful for all of their sacrificial giving and wanted to be sure that they knew he was not asking for more.
He expressed his contentment and assured them that his needs were taken care of. Paul learned to be satisfied with little or much, whichever happened to be the case at different times in his life.
In other words, Paul learned to survive when times were lean, or when times were plentiful. Each season, each trying time and each time of sufficient blessing were met with a spirit of gratitude, being glad for what was available to supply Paul’s needs.
In little or much, he was content. That was the true meaning of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
2. What things can Christ strengthen us to do?
Christ can strengthen us to do many things through Him, in accordance to His will.
Understanding that the Spirit gives us strength, Paul shares some key elements of things Christ will give us the strength to do. By looking into the life of Paul, his areas of strength, given through Christ, still apply to our lives today.
Christ can strengthen us to endure hardships. He Himself was not untouchable when life was not easy and sometimes even cruel.
Our Savior continued to live without sinning, no matter the circumstance. His Spirit gives us overcoming power, even when we suffer uneasy and cruel times, just like Paul did and Jesus Christ before him.
Christ can strengthen us by reminding us to turn our focus toward Him, instead of dwelling on our problems and trying to handle everything on our own. To focus on Jesus is to surrender our problems to Him and allow Him to take care of them.
True surrender does not snatch the problems back from Jesus in our impatience, hanging on to the ideal outcome we want, and not trusting God to give us the outcome He desires.
Christ can strengthen us when we allow and commit ourselves to be content in every season, every trial and tribulation in life. Being determined to have gratitude in all stages and phases of life keeps us strong against murmuring, disappointment, anger, discouragement and depression.
Christ can strengthen us by building confidence in our walk with Him. Allowing His power to transform our lives shows us that when we are committed to Him, incredible things happen.
When we claim God’s promises for our own lives because of our commitment to Him, we can expect to see the unexpected and miraculous. Trials and temptations do not have the upper hand in our lives.
As Ephesians 3:20-21 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
We only imagine that Jesus can do things for us according to our human thoughts, but the truth is, God is still in the business of blowing our minds.
3. What are the differences in some of the Philippians 4:13 translations?
Let us look at some of the different translations of Philippians 4:13, making note of some of the differences.
While this verse shares a true and accurate statement that applies to every area of the life of a Christian, this particular verse is tied in with other verses that present more of the meaning Paul was expressing at that time.
Philippians 4:12 is necessary for interpreting verse 13. Verse 12 says, “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.”
Let’s look at four different Bible versions and their translations of Philippians 4:13:
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” New International Version (NIV) Paul endured many different circumstances in life, conditioning him to be content whether things were going well or not going well at all.
He knew Jesus was the one to give him strength, no matter what he had to face.
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” KJV King James Version This Bible version says Paul can do all things and goes on to specify who he was speaking of, which was Christ.
Paul’s Christian journey was not always well received. Even so, he gathered his strength from God.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” NASB Paul knew what the answer was to being content in all circumstances.
As much as he appreciated the generosity of the Philippians and how they helped meet some of his needs, Paul was strengthened and endured every situation directly from the God of the Philippians because their own power and abilities were limited.
“Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” MSG This translation brings the Bible to contemporary light, mentioning the One who died for Paul and who makes Paul who he is.
In other words, the focus is on who God says we are in Him: His children, with whom He has given power to, able to make it through anything.
4. How is Philippians 4:13 misused?
Philippians 4:13 is misused when convincing ourselves of accomplishing our dreams through Christ, claiming victories for what we desire, and getting promoted in life when we pray really hard for what we want.
When we are using this scripture as our proof of job promotions, achieved goals and victories that are guaranteed to us, we are being ignorant to its true meaning. While there are Biblical principles that can help us accomplish successes in life, this particular scripture is not related to them.
Philippians 4:13 does not mean Jesus will give us everything we ask of Him. Our prayers need to be according to His will.
It does not mean that a supernatural faith will overcome us and grant us our petitions. It also does not mean we will dominate every human, fleshly field in life simply because we desire it.
5. How is Philippians 4:13 Misused in Sports and Christian Products?
Philippians 4:13 has been misused by more than one athlete, and additionally by Christian products that misinterpret the true meaning of the verse.
This Bible verse has appeared on the faces and shoes of athletes, not interpreting it to mean that they will be content in all that life throws at them. Instead, the idea is that they can conquer and win because God has given them the strength to do so. Some examples might be athletes like Tim Tebow (football), Stephen Curry (basketball), John Jones (MMA) and more have the image of this scripture on their uniforms so they can perform their duties better in a game through adversity. Despite winning or losing a game, its how they interpret this bible verse and their behavior and personal improvement that is important. They might be winners who achieve great success and maybe hit new heights in their careers.
Keychains, wristbands, jewelry and more are often engraved with this popular Bible verse as well, touting a motivational understanding of a verse that is quite different from the idea of crushing our goals because we believe our desire and prayers will bring our wanted outcome.
6. What short reflection can we ponder about Philippians 4:13?
A short reflection of Philippians 4:13 should be one of looking within ourselves. How does our own attitude measure up to Paul’s, who told us to follow him as he followed Christ, and showed evidence of the Spirit of God living inside of him?
What is my attitude when I have more than enough? Do I remain thankful during my times of plenty?
What is my attitude when I am facing difficult times? Do I remain thankful still?
Is my personal testimony harmed because I’ve allowed my sufferings and troubles to alter my claims of contentment? Does my current situation determine my attitude, or do the challenges I face change my spirit?
Do I continue to share with others about the goodness of God?
7. What is the lesson of Philippians 4:13?
The lesson of Philippians 4:13 is in times of leanness or in times of overflow, we can make it through the things that make us want to give up or give in and do it with a good spirit. The season and time in our lives makes no difference; the strength of Christ makes every season and time possible to survive with contentment.
In times of prosperity or poverty, Christ’s strength and our decision to remain faithful and thankful will continue to keep us through the many years of our journey. The scripture was never meant to give a false idea that we are capable of doing anything that comes to mind when we attach it to Jesus Christ.
8. How do you explain Philippians 4:13 to kids?
We can explain Philippians 4:13 to kids by telling them they will face good and bad days in life, but Jesus will help them get through each one of them. Having an attitude of thankfulness will assist them on the bad days. God will give them all the strength they need.
This is a simple message that a child can easily understand. The teaching and example of living out Philippians 4:13 is one that is beneficial from the moment it is embraced and practiced, which means the earlier, the better.
Those who lead a family household in their spiritual walk with the Lord have the perfect opportunity to implement and stand on the truth of this scripture, impacting others in the household with their example.
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