Paul made a pretty bold statement in Philippians 4:13 when he said “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But I have to ask myself, could he really do anything he wanted through Christ? I mean come on…could Paul have gotten out of house arrest in Rome “through Christ who strengthens” him if he wanted to? Could he have prevented the ship he was sailing on from being shipwrecked on the island of Malta? Maybe it’s just me, but I have a little bit of a problem with that. Although many Christians have used this verse and quoted it as some sort of “Super Christian Mantra,” that they could do “all things through Christ who strengthens” them. But can they really? Let’s carefully examine this verse, and the “context” it was written.
In the context of which this verse is written, the “all things” refers to the list in 4:11-12. What Paul was saying was that in every possible circumstance, he could truly be content because he didn’t let outward circumstances determine his inward attitude. Paul had complete confidence that no matter the circumstances, Christ would give him the strength to meet it.
As we contend for the faith, we will face troubles, pressures, and difficulties. But we don’t need to worry about being given more than we can handle; Christ will supply resources sufficient to complete what he asks us to do. His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul asked God three times to remove the “thorn in his flesh.” But God’s answer was “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Could Paul have “taken away the thorn in the flesh” because he could “do all things through Christ who strengthens him?” Absolutely not. It was in the weakness that Paul was able to do all things. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Notice it’s not Paul’s power, but Christ’s.
The question isn’t “what do I want,” but “what does Christ want.” Philippians 4:13 has been woefully misused as a result of many Christians quoting it as some sort of “Super Verse” to accomplish and get “all things” that they want. It’s not about some “positive motivation and self-assuredness” that “I can do all things I want to do, through Christ who strengthens me.” It’s “I can do all things Christ wants me to do, because he will strengthen me.” See the difference?
This verse doesn’t promise that Christians can do anything they want. For instance I can’t go to the Dallas Cowboys football training camp and tell them I want to try and make the team, because “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That’s crazy, and potentially suicidal. What God promises is that we can do everything He wants us to do. It may seem a daunting task at times, but this is God’s promise. He will give us the strength to do what He asks.
What does God want you to do that you must depend on His strength? Step out in faith and do it, trusting him for the strength and the ability to accomplish His will not yours.