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The Often-Misused Philippians 4:13

(The following is the September 7 devotional from my Next Step Devotions book. Before reading it, I suggest you read Philippians 4 and pay close attention to verses 10-14.)

People often misuse Philippians 4:13, which says, “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” Many misapply the verse, connecting it to every imaginable ambition and desire, but such misapplications ignore the statement's original context.

The larger context of this well-known verse is Paul’s appreciation for the Philippians’ practical support during a time of hardship: “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly because 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 find myself. I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with 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. Still, you did well by partnering with me in my hardship” (vv. 10-14).

Given the broader context, verse 13 has nothing to do with imagining great things for ourselves and naming and claiming them. Instead, it encourages being content, whatever our circumstances materially. Paul could face any situation regardless of material prosperity because he had learned the lesson of contentedness.

What an important lesson for modern Christians to learn. God is not a magic genie in a bottle granting our wishes, as we misinterpret and misapply Philippians 4:13. However, he is an ever-present God indwelling us through his Holy Spirit, and we can face anything life throws at us when we cherish Christ above all else.

Next Step:

Do you recall times when you or others have misinterpreted or misused Philippians 4:13? Reconsider the verse’s meaning regarding how content you are in Christ despite outward circumstances. Pray that you become content as Paul was, whether you have much or little.

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