Can I really do everything with God’s help?
What does Philippians 4:13 really mean?
Back when I was a teenager (not long after dinosaurs roamed the earth!), there was a famous heavyweight boxer called Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield. He used to show up to the ring with “Phil 4:13” written on his shorts. Philippians 4:13 is a Bible verse that says “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”.
What Evander Holyfield was saying was pretty clear: I can beat up, smack down and knock out my opponents with God’s help and God’s strength. But you have to wonder, is that what the Apostle Paul was thinking when he wrote those words? Is that the way God wants us to understand and apply this verse? Will God really help me do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING I want?
Context is everything…so take a look around.
You might have heard me say this before! But it’s worth saying again. “Don't just read one verse, take a look around.” In other words, if you want to understand what one verse means, it helps to understand the bits before it and after it too.
So let’s take a look around Philippians 4, and see what this verse REALLY means in its context:
- In verses 10-20 Paul is saying ‘thanks’. He is a missionary, and the Philippian church had supported him and his ministry. The church had sent a guy called Epaphroditus to Paul with some money they’d collected for him.
- Verses 10-12 tell us that missionary life had its ups and downs. Sometimes Paul was well supported and he could put food on the table. At other times he was flat-out broke. But either way Paul had learnt to be content: he trusted God to care for him and he was grateful for what he had.
- Verse 13 gives us the secret to being “content” no matter what. How could Paul be satisfied even when he was poor and hungry? Verse 13 tells us – “through him who gives me strength”. In other words, God was helping Paul to trust in him in all circumstances.
Philippians 4:13 was never meant to be a promise that God would give us power to do whatever we want whenever we want. It was Paul’s explanation for how he could trust in God, and his loving care, whatever life threw at him.
So…what do we do with Philippians 4:13?
Well, for a start, you don’t need to become a heavyweight champion to apply this verse to your own life! Instead let me ask you - are you are “content”? Are you grateful to God for all he has given you? Even when times are tough, do you trust in God and his care for you?
I sometimes find that hard to do. I often complain and feel like God is holding out on me. So how do I learn to be content? “Through him who gives me strength”! God will help me. All I have to do is ask.