“Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” – Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Writing to the Christians at Philippi, the apostle Paul penned one of the most misused and misapplied verses in the Bible. “I can do all this through him (Christ) who gives me strength” is treated like a magical formula that transforms anyone declaring it to become invincible or successful in his or her endeavor. Christians recite this passage when competing or when faced with challenging situations. Undeniably, it is very inspirational and builds confidence. However, is this passage really a blanket statement that promises strength and guaranteed victory to Christians? 

In context, Paul was saying to the Philippians that he appreciated the support that they sent him when he was in need. The verse is part of the section where Paul expressed his thanks for their generosity.1 However, he was very clear that as much as he was glad for their timely gift, his joy and motivation to serve Christ was not dependent on their support. With or without the Philippians’ financial or material help, Paul was determined to share the risen Christ even in prison. His changing circumstances did not affect how he viewed his life and ministry. He confessed that he learned contentment through experience (both good and bad) which made him realize that his self-sufficiency (contentment) was because of Christ.2 He understood that “being in Christ is adequate for all situations.”3 Therefore, we learn that one’s ability to face extreme situations while serving the Lord should not be dependent on his or her own resources but on the enablement and love of Jesus Christ. 

As a Christian and a minister, I have had my own share of challenging circumstances. The biggest challenge my family has faced is my wife’s battle with metastatic cancer. Through this difficult time, I have been able to learn how Paul stayed steady in Jesus despite the circumstances surrounding him. 

When my wife was battling cancer, she was forced to quit her job as an ICU nurse at a local hospital. Prior to this crisis, my wife and I relied on her income for our daily provisions and monthly financial obligations. Because of this, in addition to the fear and sadness we felt throughout her battle, we had financial instability added to the mix. We were faced with the following questions: what happens when health fails and human resources are gone? Where do we turn for help? 

Through this experience, we have truly realized that self-sufficiency is provided by the All-sufficient One. My family’s ultimate provision comes from the ultimate Provider. Human strength and resources are vain scaffolding to rely on. Ultimately, my dependence is on God who promised to never fail or abandon me especially when I am in need. Whatever the situation, God’s sufficient grace is available. Therefore, I can declare, “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” I can continue serving the Lord, learning how to depend on His enabling power and resources in every situation. 

I know there are some students at SCS (or even in our churches) that struggle to make sense of what is happening in their life and ministry. As you walk with God and serve Him, know that serving Him faithfully does not always mean living in material abundance. Regardless of our challenges, we can learn to be thankful and joyful. God is able to sustain, provide, and strengthen us. All we need to do is learn to trust and fully depend on Him in everything.

 

1) Frank Theilman, Philippians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 234.

2) Richard R. Melick, Jr., Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 1991), 153-154.

3) Fred B. Craddock, Philippians (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1985), 76.

4) Philippians 4:13 (The Message)

 

This article was written by Primitivo Pagayon, Jr. He is a professor at Stark College & Seminary and the pastor of Jubilee Christian Fellowship in Harlingen, Texas.