I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me meaning refers to the ability to be content in whatever situation you are in. I know. This is not how most people interpret or use this verse.
It is easy to miss the message of this verse when it is used in isolation from the rest of the verses surrounding it. In this post we will talk about Philippians 4:13, what it truly means, and how to apply it.
I can do all things through christ who strengthens me meaning – background context
The book of Philippians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the churches in the city of Phillipi.
Paul had done some missionary work in the city and had gotten very close to the members of the church.
At the time of Paul writing the letter, he was in prison in Rome. The members of the church had sent him a gift. Although Paul talks about a variety of things in the letter, his major aim was to express gratitude for the kindness the Philippian believers had shown by sending him financial support.
In chapter 4, Paul directly addresses the group about the gift. To get the entire context, read Philippians 4:10 – 13.
What Philippians 4:13 does not mean?
So often, Philippians 4:13 is quoted by athletes before a big game or a student before a big exam or achieving a personal goal or realizing a big dream.
Philippians 4:13 is not referring to physical or mental abilities. In fact, an athlete or a student likely have not experienced some of what Paul had to endure as a Christian missionary in a highly Paganistic society.
Philippians 4:13 absolutely does not mean achieving success under more or less favorable circumstances like having food, a comfortable bed, warm clothing etc.
So then, what is the true meaning of Philippians 4:13?
Philippians 4: 11-13 meaning
Philippians 4:11 meaning
To get to verse 13, we should probably backup to verse 11 to catch a bigger picture of the context.
In verse Philippians 4:11 Paul expressed to the Philippians that although he was grateful for their financial support, he had placed himself in a state of contentment.
Paul’s contentment is the focus of these few verses.
The Greek word for contentment is autarkes. It means to be self-sufficient or to be independent of circumstances or people.
Paul was able to be sustained mentally and spiritually.
How did this happen?
Philippians 4: 12-13 meaning
In verse 12 Paul explains how and why he is able to be content, even while sitting in a Roman prison, possibly shackled to a few Roman soldiers at times.
He tells the Philippians in verse 12 that throughout his life he has had a wide range of experiences: he knows what it is to be hungry but he also knows what it is to have access to more than enough food.
Then, in Philippians 4:13 he says because his experiences are so vast, he has learned to endure or enjoy whatever life brings his way due to the enabling power of Jesus Christ in his life.
Let’s go deeper.
Philippians 4:13 meaning – What did Paul mean when he said I can do all things?
In this particular letter, Paul mentions only that he has known both hunger and a full stomach.
But in his letter to the Corinthians he mentions a list of other things he has experienced.
Take a look at the list:
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 1 Corinthians 11:24-27 NIV
Consider all of these experiences. In fact, don’t just read it. Write a numbered list and look at it. Soak it in. Do you think you could survive all these things?
When Paul says he can do all through Christ, please know he’s not saying it because it sounds cute or fashionable.
Can do is the Greek word ischuo. It can refer to physical strength and power but it can also refer to having the personal resources to accomplish something.
I can do all things literally means I have strength or power for anything.
Before you say this is certainly applicable to athletes and life goals, remember the context in which Paul is speaking.
Paul has lived a hard life because of his calling from Jesus Christ himself.
His Damascus road experience was ever on his mind throughout his ministry and through all of these terrible and rough times in his life.
Many of us will never experience some of the things Paul did. Yet, he was able to say he was content in Christ.
But Paul did not experience and endure all these things by himself or in his own strength or power. And this truth, this reality is the secret to his contentment.
Philippians 4:13 meaning – Who gives me strength
Paul states that he has been able to endure all his experiences because of Christ.
Paul says Christ strengthened him. This is a powerful word. Let’s examine the meaning.
Strengthen is the Greek word endunamoo. It means to infuse with power or to enable or empower. It carries the idea of putting gas in your car or plugging in your cell phone for a charge.
The word describes the process of causing someone or something to be able to function. This word primarily refers to inner strength or spiritual and moral strength.
Remember earlier when we saw that being content means to be self-sufficient? We see here that this self-sufficiency is not relying on oneself. Rather, it is being sustained inwardly by the power of God that has been infused inside of us.
Paul is basically saying the only reason he has been able to successfully Iive and do ministry under such a wide variety of conditions is only because Jesus put power and strength into him.
For all the hardship he faced and he never compromised his morals or turned on God, he absolutely couldn’t have done it on his own.
This isn’t the only letter in which Paul has declared being empowered by Christ. To Timothy, he wrote:
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 1 Timothy 1:12 NIV
Paul also encouraged believes to tap into this power that Jesus made available to them:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Ephesians 6:10 NIV
Paul’s contentment was due to the fact that he was constantly relying on Jesus and Jesus was constantly showing up to fulfill every spiritual and other needs Paul had.
Paul had been through enough to know Jesus would be enough for him. (Do you know the song?) There was now nothing he couldn’t face because he knew Christ was constantly empowering him as the situations call for it.
H2 I can do all things through christ who strengthens me reflection
How do you know if you are not content? I’m glad you asked. Here are a few signs to watch for.
Jealousy is running wild in your heart
In the well-known love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says “love does not envy”.
Why did Paul say this?
Well there was a problem in the church. People were jealous of each other’s spiritual gifts.
Some were discontented with the gift that God had given to them because it didn’t allow them to be seen and known by all. They couldn’t be happy for the successes of each other.
Being jealous of the gifts and blessings of others to the extent that you cannot celebrate for and with them is one sign of discontentment.
Chasing money and failing to trust God with your finances
We need money to function in this life. Sometimes pursuing it can become so consuming that we forget that, ultimately, it is God who enables us to create wealth.
Some people have become obsessed with scaling their business to make more money.
This goal is not so much because they have a plan to serve on a bigger scale to glorify God. It is for some other reason.
When is enough money enough?
But there is also the flip side. Some people are so desperate for money, not because they have basic genuine needs that are not being met, but because they hate their station in life. They will sell their souls for it.
Then, for those who already have a decent amount of money, there is a constant fear of losing it all. This fear leads them to chase it, wanting to make more and more of it.
Hebrews 13:5 says
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
God is in the business of honoring your hard work to earn your keep. Honor Him with your contentment.
Seeing money as a sign of godliness
Some spiritual leaders have spread the lie that your financial status is a signal of your standing with God.
You don’t pray hard and long enough they say. You don’t trust God enough. You need to think bigger. Create a financial goal and go after because that is what God desires for your life.
God doesn’t promise any of His followers wealth. Paul wrote to Timothy that there are people “who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1 Timothy 6:5-7 NIV
God will love you no more or less because of your bank account. He’s more interested in the condition of your heart. That’s the only thing you will take with you from this wretched world.
H3 Philippians 4:13 meaning in life – how to be content
How can we get to the place where we learn to be content?
H3 Be content by submitting to God’s will
I’ll be honest, I struggle with contentment. You see, I’m a driven, goal-setting, go-getter, career-focused kind of girl.
Ordinarily, this sounds good, right?
Not when what I want is NOT what God wants and I am not settled in His will for my life.
Can you relate?
One way to achieve contentment is to be like Paul who embraced every situation and circumstance as God’s will for him and then he leaned in for God to empower him.
Perhaps you want to be in the corporate world but God is calling you to be a stay-at-home wife and mom.
Maybe you planned to be an engineer but God is sending you to the classroom or the ministry.
What if you feel you have a passion for one thing but God keeps leading you away from it.
Being in God’s will isn’t comfortable but contentment is something you can work at.
Know this: God would never want something for you that you wouldn’t want for yourself if you had all the knowledge He holds about the past, present and future.
The faster you embrace what God wants for, the quicker you will get to contentment.
Be secure in the fact that God’s callings are His enabling
It’s funny. Paul always knew he wanted to spend his life serving God. He just never bet that his service would look the way it did.
He never guessed that he would give up Judaism for Christianity. And absolutely didn’t guess he would become a preacher and missionary.
But after his Damascus road experience, Paul was so certain of his call that he knew Jesus was with him all the way.
Know that whatever God has called you to, He has also strengthened you for.
Paul’s life of missionary work was not easy but God never left him alone. And God promises to pump power into you for the journey. He will enable you daily to do His will if you are willing.
H3 Develop a gratitude habit and trust God daily
How blessed are you?
This is a good question to ask yourself each day. If you can answer too, that would be even better.
Counting your blessings is a good way of developing contentment. If you can intentionally remind yourself everyday that God has fulfilled his promises to meet your needs for that day, you will feel better about your reality.
So often, we have way more than we realize we have. In the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, God provided what they needed to eat each day. It was literally a daily miracle.
If we can rest in God’s promise to take care of us like He does the birds, our anxiety will decrease and our contentment will increase.
H3 Pursue a solid relationship with God
Paul’s attainment of contentment was because of one thing: his relationship with God.
To break out in praise and worship while in prison…
To hear God’s voice in the middle of a storm at sea…
To glory in God even with a thorn in the flesh…
To bear hunger multiple times without complaint …
To experience abundance but not be consumed by it…
To have been severely beaten but never bitter…
All this and more was Paul’s reality. And all this he was able to have an inner peace no matter where he was, whether in prison or on a boat being threatened with shipwreck.
God was the one stable pole holding up Paul’s life. God is still available to be that for us today. But we have to make every effort to pursue a relationship with him.
Contentment is the fruit of a deep, solid, and sure relationship with Christ.
We can start by practicing to run towards Him instead of away from in every single situation.
Be it good or bad, run to Him. Open the Word. Fall to your knees in prayer. Run to Him. He promises to be there when you show up.
Philippians 4:13 prayer
Here is a prayer to complete this study:
Heavenly Father, I confess that I struggle with being content. I need your help to count my blessings everyday and to see you at work in my life. Help me to hand over my will and my life to you today. Help me to be satisfied with the plans you have for me. May You be enough for me, always. In Jesus name, Amen.
Final thoughts on I can do all things through christ who strengthens me meaning
I pray that you have come away being encouraged in the Lord. Having unpacked Philippians 4:!3, we can be sure that no matter what situation we find ourselves in, especially when we are in God’s will, He will not fail to bear us up on His wings, He will not fail to infuse us with His power, and He will not fail to abide with us. That’s something to put on our gratitude list each day.