I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
We’re in a four-week series on Bible verses that are frequently taken out of context at work. Today’s may be one of the most abused passages in all of Scripture.
The athlete tattoos Philippians 4:13 on his arm to provide inspiration for the big games.
The sales executive recites the verse before her big pitch.
The author keeps these words on a post-it note to push toward a seemingly impossible deadline.
We tend to use this verse as a bite-sized motivational speech to inspire our striving. Ironically, the context of this verse in some ways inspires the opposite. Philippians 4:13 was not written to fuel your ambitions. It was written to cultivate contentment.
Take a look at the verse in the context of Paul’s words which precede it: “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 4:11-13).
In its proper context, you could paraphrase Philippians 4:13 to read, “I can be content in all things through him who strengthens me.”
How does Christ give us the strength to be content? We find the strength for contentment when we remember what Christ has already done for us.
Regardless of whether or not you win the game, land the deal, or get that big promotion, you will still be a “co-heir with Christ” (Romans 8:17), secure in your status as a child of God. That truth should lead us to the deepest levels of gratitude and contentment.
Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive in our work. Contentment does not equal indifference. It is good to want to win the game. It is good to want to close the deal. It is good to want to land the next promotion. Because with proper motives, all of these things can be a means of bringing great glory to God. But whether or not we obtain the object of our striving, we will always have the strength to be content “in all things” because of who we are in Christ.