I can do all things?

by Daniel Rieke

I remember in high school, I got “Phil. 4:13” on my letterman jacket. And I quoted the verse silently before I shot every free throw during basketball season. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Certainly, “all things” could technically include making a free throw in a basketball game or any other of the things people mean when they quote this verse. But I wonder if making jump shots and excelling in school or fighting our way towards some career goal is really the main focus of what Paul means to communicate when he made that statement in his letter to the church at Philippi.

Looking at the context, Paul’s fuller statement is this:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  –Philippians 4:10-13 ESV

Paul was in prison as he wrote this letter. And the sentences immediately preceding v. 13 are not focused on achieving our dreams or setting lofty goals that Jesus will enable us to reach. This isn’t a “reach for the moon and if you miss you’ll be among the stars” kind of message. 

Paul is saying that he has learned how to be content in every circumstance, whether that means suffering or whether that means all his needs are being met. What’s his secret to being able to operate this way?

He tells us: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” This isn’t an overly triumphant endorsement of trying to get Jesus to give us our own selfish desires nor an assertion that Jesus fulfills the role of “power source” for all our personal whims. Rather, this is an encouragement that if we have Christ, we have enough. Jesus is enough in every circumstance.

Jesus is enough when I miss the game winning free throws.
Jesus is enough when a family member gets cancer.
Jesus is enough when we get the job of our dreams.
Jesus is enough when our car broke down and we don’t have any money in the bank.

Jesus is enough. Period. That’s what Paul wants to communicate to us in Philippians 4:13. Jesus will give us the strength to give Him glory with our lives, regardless of our circumstances. Whether we are in a season of blessing or a season of trial, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. He gives us the strength to walk faithfully no matter what we face.

So let’s go out and advance the kingdom of God and focus on glorifying His name, regardless of what we’re walking through. We can cling to Jesus’ promise that He will be our strength.