Can You Really Do All Things Through Christ? (Philippians 4:13)
Philippians 4:13 is one of the most encouraging verses in the Bible. That’s the good news. The bad news is this verse can be discouraging if misinterpreted. Unfortunately, Philippians 4:13 is often misinterpreted by Christians who have not yet learned God’s plan for their lives. The verse reads as follows: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” The verse is sometimes paraphrased to read: “I can do all things through Christ.” This wording of the verse is where Christians sometimes go awry in their interpretation of it. A common misinterpretation of this verse is I can be anything I want to be and do anything I want to do as long as I have enough faith in Christ.
Let’s look at a few examples of where Christians go wrong in trying to apply this verse. No amount of faith is going to turn a short, clumsy man into an all-star center in the NBA. No amount of faith is going to allow a mediocre student who does just enough to get by to graduate Magna Cum Laude. No amount of faith is going to turn pre-med students who cannot pass Anatomy and Physiology into world-famous brain surgeons. These examples are not meant to belittle faith. Faith in Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian life. Rather, these examples make the point that faith will not change the plan God has for your life.
God has a plan for the lives of all his children, and Philippians 4:13 was never intended to be a mechanism for changing that plan. If God wanted you to be an all-star center in the NBA, he would have endowed you with height, the requisite athletic ability, and a willingness to work hard to achieve that goal. If these necessary ingredients are missing, it just means the NBA is not part of God’s plan for your life. If this is the case, the better approach is to pray for clarification concerning God’s plan for you and, then, pursue that plan faithfully and with the help of Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote Philippians 4:13. The verse is part of a letter he sent to fellow Christians in the church at Philippi, a city in Macedonia (northern and central Greece today). In writing this verse, Paul was telling his fellow Christians at Philippi to be content with their circumstances. Philippians 4:13 was intended to show Paul’s fellow believers that with Christ to strengthen them, they could endure what ever circumstances they might face and be content in those circumstances.
To grasp the proper interpretation of Philippians 4:13, it is necessary to put the verse in context. Bible verses are easily misinterpreted when they are taken out of content. Philippians 4:11-12 provide the context necessary for understanding Philippians 4:13. These verses read as follows: “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.”
With this context, it is easier to grasp the proper interpretation of Philippians 4:13 which is this: No matter what circumstances I face in this fallen world—good or bad—with Christ to strengthen me I can be content. I can endure bad times and make the most of good times. God has a plan for your life. Ask him to reveal that plan to you and to strengthen you in pursuing it. When the road becomes rocky, Christ will strengthen you to endure and when things are going well he will help you remain humble in your triumphs.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com