"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)I'm a runner. It's been about 14 months since I've been able to run due to an injury. Yesterday, I "ran" my first 5K race in over a year. I've missed running so bad, that I'm thankful to be able to run at all. I was very disappointed that I had to stop and walk about 1.5 miles in and that my time was my new personal record slowest -- even slower than my very first 5K 3 years ago.
I prayed for much of the race. I could have easily prayed that verse above, but I didn't. I mostly gave thanks for even being able to run in a road race again (something I wasn't sure I'd be able to do, even as recently as two months ago).
What if I had recited that verse? What if I had recited that verse for the entire first 1.5 miles and then when I had to walk, does that make me weak? Did God not give me strength? Is that even what Paul means in this verse?
That verse (and many others like it) are very easily taken out of context if we allow ourselves to try and use the Bible how WE see fit. If we aren't careful it could cause a warped illusion of God which could ultimately cause us to lose faith, or doubt the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God because God isn't living up to our expectations. God said I could do ALL THINGS through Christ who gives me strength, and I STILL had to walk!
It's so important to handle the Bible properly, and take everything in the context in which it was intended. So, let's step back a little. What is the message that Paul is conveying here in this verse? In order to see that we have to zoom out a bit. We have to look at a larger chunk of scripture and then we can interpret and apply it in our lives.
For a little context, Philippians was written by Paul when he was under house arrest in Rome. He wasn't sure what was going to happen to him. He wasn't even sure if the Romans would execute him. He wanted to write to the church in Philippi, which was the first church that he started in Greece (Acts 15:36-16:40). Paul wanted to write a letter of encouragement to that church. He loved them, and wanted to see that they were serving God faithfully. He didn't want them to be worrisome or anxious. He wanted them to be prayerful and faithful. The main purpose of this letter was to keep them form worrying about their physical needs.
Let's step back and take a look at this passage at the paragraph level.
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that once again you renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me but lacked the opportunity to show it. I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13 HCSB)The church at Philippi had been occasionally sending Paul financial support, so that's what Paul was thanking them for in v. 10 when he said "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that once again you renewed your care for me." We can see that Paul was very grateful for their gifts to him. He uses the opportunity to tell them, however, that it doesn't matter what your situation in life is, be content. How can we be content in the middle of our very human struggles? We can be content through Him who strengthens us!
That is the context for 4:13: No matter what situation I might be in, no matter what struggles I might be facing, I have learned to be content. I have learned to face both abundance and need, and I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 isn't about having the stamina to run a 5K because Christ gives us strength to "do all things", it's about having the strength to be content when we are facing a challenge in life and have faith in God to be in control and meet our needs.