Secret Strength: The True Meaning of Philippians 4:13 (Verse Study Series)

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:13 (ESV)

Philippians 4:13 is a beloved verse for many believers. We see this Scripture on T-shirts and faith-related decor. We see it on framed art, bookmarks and Bible covers. However, though this verse may be well known and often quoted, it is often pulled out of context. The meaning is often misconstrued and misappropriated; if anything, Philippians 4:13’s true meaning is somewhat lost.

So let’s look into this and find out the true meaning of Philippians 4:13.

Often times, this favorite Scripture is used as a catch-all for anything we need or want to accomplish. We ask God to help us gain the promotion, win the game or pass the test. Or someone “claims” it as a promise as they aim for success in a new business. But is this the way the verse should be applied?

Let’s look at it alongside the verses before it:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)

To Be Content

The phrase “to be content” is key. Paul was writing to the Philippians about their concern for him. In this he assured them that he was not speaking of being in need. Why? Because in every circumstance he faced, he had learned how to be content. He could remain at peace that God was with him.

Regardless of hunger or abundance, difficulty or ease, the Lord was Paul’s strength. He was able to endure despite the difficulty and need because he had all he needed most—God Himself and an eternity with Him that was secure.

This verse was Paul’s response detailing how he had learned to be content in everything. It tells us truths and principles worth knowing and walking out, but not something we can “hold to” for everything we want. After all, we are called to seek God’s will and deny self. It isn’t about our desires, it‘s about God’s help for us through every moment and season of our lives.

In this life, we will face trials and hardship. We will experience both difficulty and ease. Nonetheless, we can rest assured that God cares for us. He is good and uses all things for our good, and—note this—according His purpose as well, in order to fashion us into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:28-29).

Notice Romans 8:29 quoted below, which speaks of God destining us to be made into people who reflect the character of His Son. It is so rarely included with v. 28, but nonetheless a key part of this passage.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:28-29 (ESV)

The Secret Strength of Contentment

The Apostle Paul came to know the secret of strength in trials and in everything: finding our contentment in Christ.

No matter what came his way—and no matter what comes our way—we have Christ and nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:35-39). We know that we can be strengthened with the courage to “keep on keeping on” because we have what we need most—God Himself.

“We can be content in every situation and every season because God is the One we need most and the One who provides for our every need.“

It is in response to this that Paul tells the Philippians,

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Philippians 4:19-20 (ESV)

Paul knew his God, a faithful and merciful Father able to take care of him whether he was in need or want, trial or ease.

Do we know God like this? In knowing the truth of who our God is in this way, we can be at peace. We can be content in every seasons and situation because God is the One we need most and the One who provides for our every need.

To our God and Father be the glory forever. Amen!

Check out more posts from the Verse Study Series.

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Secret Strength - The True Meaning of Philippians 4:13

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