Paul was in prison when he wrote Philippians
I love the book of Philippians! It is full of encouragement and exhortation for our daily lives.
What makes it such an exceptional epistle, in my view, is that when Paul wrote this letter it was from his prison cell where conditions were dismal and he was deprived of many of life’s daily necessities.
On top of all of that, he was not doing well physically.
And yet, in the midst of discomfort, challenge and struggle he could still exhort and encourage the church in Philippi.
The Book of Philippians is FULL of encouragement
One of the well known and oft quoted verses in the Bible is found in Philippians 4:13:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
However, it is probably one of the most misunderstood and misquoted verses in the New Testament.
Fundamental to understanding the text is ensuring that we read it in its context
One of the errors we make in interpreting and understanding the Bible is to take a passage or a verse out of context. I have heard some people claim this verse in Philippians when they are facing some sort of challenge or crisis. They use it almost like a magical formula repeating over and over, “I can do ALL things through Christ . . . ”
But, hold on a minute! Can we really do ALL things?
No, I don’t think we can.
For example, saying the verse a million times won’t change the fact that even though I would love to sing I cannot! I wish I could scale heights, but I am not athletic, so no matter how often or how loudly I say this verse, it is not going to change the fact that I am not an athlete and hence there are certain feats I will never accomplish.
We can find contentment whatever our circumstances
Some people reading this might not agree with my perspective on the text. Stick with me, and let me try and explain what this verse means in its context.
Lets read the preceding verses and then try to understand this particular one. As I mentioned, Paul was writing from prison and he says in verse 12:
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
So then, what this verse means in its context, is that we can find contentment whatever our circumstance is, whether we are full or hungry, whether things are going well or we are suffering, we can ‘do all things through Christ who gives us strength’.
As someone said, Philippians 4:13 is not a Scripture to encourage you to dream bigger dreams, but to take strength when those dreams are not fulfilled.
Christ can give you the strength to endure when your dreams have failed and when part of God’s plan includes suffering or hunger as Paul experienced.
Some Christ followers do believe that they are entitled to every good thing. I am not too sure where they have read that particular concept in God’s Word. From my reading of the Bible, Christians can and will go through struggles and trying times, but Jesus will strengthen them in the midst of those times.
Take courage today
If your dreams are shattered, and it feels as if life is coming undone, you are not alone. Paul knew exactly what trials felt like and his exhortation is “You can do all things through Christ . . . ” He will strengthen you for this part of your journey.
Keep your eyes on Him!