Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me
I very often hear, and see this verse. But almost every single time, it’s out of context. Usually the person quoting it, in life, or on facebook has just accomplished a difficult task. Whether rock climbing, an exam, a heavy lift, dieted and lost weight…the examples are endless.
Almost everyone of the examples given above, don’t give glory to Christ. They give us glory. We just throw Christ’s name in there to not look like we want all the glory. But if we are going to really analyze it, if we didn’t want the glory, we wouldn’t have take on the particular activity we did.
I’m not saying we can’t be proud of accomplishing incredible things. What I am saying, is not to throw that particular verse in every time you do something, that has absolutely nothing to do with the gospel.
Let’s look at a bit of background to this text.
First, realize this, the apostle Paul, was in a prison when he wrote the letter to the Philippians. He wasn’t rock climbing Mount Everest. He was anticipating his release. He was writing the Philippians to show his appreciation to them for their continued support, prayer and growth.
If we know anything about prisons in those days, people didn’t claim strength. To either fight the guards, break the chains or even start a riot. Once in prison, you had no rights. Nothing like the prisons of today with everything included. Not saying prison time is easy now, but prisoners have more privileges now than they did back then.
The context that Paul was writing this letter, was about encouraging the Philippians in their work for Christ.
He could do all things through Christ that strengthens him, was anything to move the gospel forward.
Remember that Paul had survived being stoned and left for dead, beaten with rods 3 times, whipped with 39 lashes 5 times, attached by an angry mob, many death threats. What about the hardships?
Shipwrecked 3 times and floated for about 24 hrs, criticized by other Christians, under arrest for 2 years without a trial and bitten by a viper.
Most, if not all of us, have no idea what kind of context this would be. Some of us may have had threats, but not serious death threats.
I remember preaching the gospel on Main St in Moncton. The closest threat I got, was a man clinching his fist. My only prayer was “God, let him hit hard enough, that it will put me out. That way, I won’t have to figure out if I have to defend myself, or show the other cheek”. I have to admit, it was a tense and stressful moment. But nothing compared to what Paul had been through.
If anything, the Christians in the middle east, India, North Korea and similar places, have more context to use this verse than we do.
That’s what context Paul is writing. Not self glory about unbelievable achievements he was able to accomplish. And yes, I will say, some people have had incredible achievements in their lives. But to claim that and tie it to Christ…context should always be considered.
I’m sure there are some verses that could be used, but this one, I’m not convinced.