Reclaiming Philippians 4:13 – How to truly apply this powerful Scripture in your life
Owning a Christian bookstore and always being on the lookout for new gift items for the store provides ample opportunities to see scriptures out of context on mugs, journals, bible covers, décor, tee-shirts and the like. My good friend and co-laborer in Redemption Press Carol Tetzlaff shared a perfect example of this the last time we team-taught when covering the importance of handling the Word of God correctly.
In Habakkuk 1:5 God answers the prophet’s complaint:
“Look among the nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if told.”
This verse sounds like a promise to cling to – who doesn’t want God to do something beyond our imaginations? In fact, a middle school summer camp used this verse for their summer theme and printed it on their t-shirts…
Look … be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. (NLT)
Wow! As the pre-teens ran around the camp all summer, they were sporting a message of amazement of all God will do. Yet, when this verse is placed in context the people to whom this message was written would be astounded because God was going to destroy them and take them into bondage. Just read verse 6!
6 For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,
that bitter and hasty nation,
who march through the breadth of the earth,
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 They are dreaded and fearsome;
their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.
Clearly, the moral of the story is: context matters!
Last week we started a series on Christian contentment after our experience at the marina in Gig Harbor feeling like hillbillies. As I continue contemplating this facet of the Christian life, I came face to face with one of the most out of context scriptures ever, and it’s actually all about the secret of contentment.
In Philippians 4, Paul is grateful to the church for their concern displayed within the gift they had given him. Instead of thanking them directly he offers a lesson to them about how he had determined he would be content no matter what his financial circumstances were.
Paul continues this conversation with the frequently misunderstood passage:
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.(Phil. 4:12-13 ESV)
We see this everywhere and on everything. In sermons and blog posts and social media memes, the declaration that “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” abounds.
But what about the context?
Paul is not talking about running a marathon, scoring an A on a big test coming up, getting a promotion, becoming a bestselling author, or anything else like that. He is giving instruction about his own experience and how he has found a way to be content no matter the circumstances he found himself in.
And his circumstances were not great!
We are encouraged to be content, too. Believing God will give us the strength to embrace the suffering that comes with being in need, when provision seems absent, when the doubts flood in, and God seems distant.
J. Vernon McGee writes:
Whatever Christ has for you to do, He will supply the power. Whatever gift He gives you, He will give the power to exercise that gift. A gift is a manifestation of the Spirit of God in the life of the believer. As long as you function in Christ, you will have power. He certainly does not mean that he is putting into your hand unlimited power to do anything you want to do. Rather, He will give you the enablement to do all things in the context of His will for you.
When we see the evidence of God’s power in us, we have reason to be content.
Have you experienced God strengthening you when doubt clouds your vision about how He might provide? What did that look like in His desire to teach you the secret to contentment? I’d love to hear.
Thanks for hanging out with me today!
 Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, vol. 8, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 264.
Welcome, I'm Athena!
I start each day by tithing the first hour to the Lord in prayer, reading the word, doing word studies of the Text, and asking God how I can live out what I am reading. This time is usually met with meditation on devotionals that are usually written by dead guys like Oswald Chambers, CS Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, AW Tozer, and Andrew Murray.
Right now, I’m reading a daily devotional with a friend called Tozer on the Almighty God for my focus for the day. It's fun to see individually what pulls us in to spur one another on to good deeds!
The Bible is filled with action steps to walk out in practical and intentional ways. This sets my day in motion to walk it out! I hope this is your heart, too.
Consider this a personal invitation to join me in this journey!