In Philippians 4:13 the apostle Paul writes, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” The “him” of this verse is the Lord Jesus, and Jesus is, of course, all-powerful (Colossians 2:10). But does this verse mean that we can do anything and everything we set our minds to?
The context of this verse focuses on the God-given power to endure any circumstance. Verse 12 notes, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Paul had faced times of abundance, yet he had also faced many trials for his faith.
In 2 Corinthians 11:24–27, Paul shares some of his sufferings up to that point in his faith: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” Despite these and other problems, Paul believed and taught he could persevere because he could do “all things through him who gives me strength.”
Also, the focus in Philippians 4 is what the believer can do through the strength that Christ gives. This is not a promise that Christians will have superpowers or that they will be invincible or immune to life’s challenges. Instead, the promise of Philippians 4:13 is that we will have strength from the Lord to faithfully endure the difficulties that arise in life.
This passage is not about having financial abundance. Some teach a prosperity gospel that says God will bless us financially if we are faithful; in contrast, Paul taught that the believer will endure suffering but can be content in any circumstance, given Christ’s strength. Just as Christ faithfully endured on the cross, His followers can faithfully endure the problems they face. In fact, Philippians 4:11 states, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Paul focused on contentment, not earthly abundance.
Finally, Philippians 4:13 is part of a larger passage that addresses Christ’s ability to meet our needs. Christ can give contentment during times of plenty and of poverty. He can help us do all things through His strength. In Paul’s case, it was the strength to serve as a missionary despite facing intense suffering. In our lives, this same strength is available. Whether we serve in another country or help someone in our own community, Christ’s power can enable us to stand firm on His promises and endure the most difficult of life’s challenges. Paul concludes this passage with these words: “My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (verses 19–20).