I’ve often heard professional athletes say their favorite Bible verse is Philippians 4:13. They credit God for the “against all odds” strength that he provided so they could pull off a “come from behind” victory. But Paul, the author of Philippians, is not crediting God for his physical strength. Verse 13 in the NIV says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” In the context of the surrounding verses, Paul is acknowledging that God’s strength gives him the ability to be content in any and every situation.
Paul had died to himself and his own abilities. He’s the one who wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) Paul also wrote, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24–25 NIV) In other words, by writing “I can do all this through him who gives me strength,” Paul was saying that yielding his passions and desires to the Spirit of God is what gave him the strength not only to be content when he was hungry and living in want, but also supplied the strength he needed to keep from patting himself on the back when he was well fed and living in plenty.
Rather than merely empowering us to achieve an unexpected victory, God provides the strength to live in peace and contentment whether we win or lose. When we surrender our passions and desires to God, we neither fear when all hope seems lost nor exalt ourselves when we win.
Also worth noting is verse 14. Right after acknowledging his total dependence on God, Paul gave a grateful nod to the Philippians by writing, “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.”
Longing to Belong: Discovering the Joy of Acceptance is now available for purchase on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Walmart.com, Booksamillion.com and Christianbook.com. It’s also available for download to your Kindle or from the Apple store for your iBooks app. Or visit my website to purchase a copy at shawnamariebryant.com
This week’s scripture: Philippians 4:10–14