A Second Look at a Familiar Passage – Philippians 4:13

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

How often have we heard this verse quoted in the sense of overcoming, living victoriously, achieving great things, etc.? And yet, a closer look at the context reveals that this is not a verse so much about achieving as it is about abiding.

This passage starts in verse 10, where Paul thanks the Philippians for the gifts they sent to him by their messenger, Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25). Paul goes on to emphasize that he doesn’t consider himself to be in need, because he has learned the secret of contentment – “whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (verses 11-12). It’s in this context that we see the oft-quoted verse 13.

In context, this verse is about contentment, not achievement. It’s about a mindset of abundance that comes from a close, abiding relationship with God and doesn’t depend on external circumstances.

What a message for Christ-followers in the Christmas season! At a time of year when our minds and hearts should naturally turn to our Savior – when we should rejoice in the greatest gift ever given – our society encourages us to be discontent with what we have, desiring more and more of this world’s things (and often going into debt to pay for them!).

How do we, as stewards of God’s resources, think of ourselves in this Christmas season? Are we “in need” of all the things on the TV commercials, or are we content with what God has already provided? Are we focused on the “riches” we don’t have in this world, or on the riches that all believers have in Christ? Where is our treasure?