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Dr. Steven J. Lawson 

Bible Gateway recently found this to be one of the most-read verses in the Bible:

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

But could it also win the title of being the most misapplied and
misunderstood? It’s a wonderful truth, but it needs some qualification.

Seven things to think about

1. First, this does not mean God will empower me to
sin. God is not the author of sin. That comes from the flesh. “All
things” would never include that which God hates or that which is
opposed to his very nature.

2. Second, this does not mean I can do supernatural
physical feats, such as jump across the Atlantic Ocean or flap my arms
and fly to the moon. It does not mean I can perform miracles. “All
things” are the simple things of life that all believers are called to

3. Third, this means I can do all things within the
will of God. I can do all things that God calls me to do. We must
understand “all things” as everything that is defined the word of

4. Fourth, this does not relieve me of my
responsibility to commit myself to the means of grace—God’s word, God’s
meal at the Lord’s Supper, and so on. In other words, if I just sit back
passively, I am not going to know this strength. It requires my active
pursuit of the means of grace for me to experience this supernatural
power in my life.

5. Fifth, this does not remove my responsibility to
confess our sin and to repent. If there is unconfessed, unrepentant sin
in your life, it will pull the plug on your joy. Sin and joy cannot
coexist in the same heart. Of course, we will never be perfect, and
there will always be sin in our lives, but if there are patterns of sin
going on in my life, no matter how good my circumstances happen to be,
there is no joy.

6. Sixth, this does mean that as I can live my
Christian life knowing that the power of God is far greater than
whatever the difficulty is that I am facing. There is no trial too
difficult. There is no obstacle too high. There is no temptation too
strong. There is no opposition too powerful. There is no persecution too
threatening. If we put our faith
and trust in God and follow him in obedience, this joy will be our joy,
and this contentment will be our contentment, and this confidence will
be our confidence.

7. Seventh, God does this work in the Christian at the
deepest level of their innermost being. This is not a superficial work
that God does on the façade of your life. Down in the very depths of
your being, this is where God enables you the strength of the Lord
Jesus Christ to do what God would have you do, and it is a comprehensive
work that he does. It involves your mind, your affections, and your

What it does mean

Context is key. Philippians 4:13
is Paul’s secret of contentment, as the preceding two verses clarify:
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how
to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in
prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of
being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering

Imagine being able to write what Paul can write and that it is close to the truth in your own life. Imagine being able to say, I
am content no matter what my circumstances are. I can get along with
little, and I know how to live with much. I am content whether I am full
or hungry, wealthy or in great need. I can do all things through my
Lord, who strengthens me
. Imagine being able to live like this. We can. We have all we need in Christ. Motyer sums it up this way:

“No circumstance could ever arise which would be too much for Paul’s
God, and therefore no circumstance could ever beat Paul.” (The Message of Philippians, page 219)

Paul’s God is our God. So when we lack the contentment that Paul
enjoyed and exemplified, it is not because we do not have what we need
to enjoy it; it is because our eyes are on the wrong place. They are
upon our circumstances instead of upon our Savior.

Do you need to be living above your circumstances or are you pulled
down in a whirlpool of emotional collapse? Do you need to experience joy
in the midst of your situation right now? Do you need to know what it
is to say, “I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me”? If
so, then remember that all joy for your soul and all power for your
life is found in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you need to get as close to
Christ as you can.

If you will look to him, trust him, live for him, worship him, adore
him, serve him, follow him and obey him, then this joy will increase by
filling and flooding your soul. I need this; you need this; we all need
this. You are either in a very difficult set of circumstances right now,
or you are about to head into one, or you have just stepped out of one
momentarily to head back into one again. God had only one Son without
sin, but he has no sons without sorrow. You will know what it is to be
hungry. You may know what it is to be full. But this is the secret which
Paul has let us know: you have all you can ever need in Christ, and you
can do all things through Christ, who strengthens you.

Dr. Steven J Lawson is President and Founder of
OnePassion Ministries and Professor of Preaching at The Master’s
Seminary in California. He preaches and leads preaching conferences
around the world. The author of 24 books, Dr Lawson served as Senior
Pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, Mobile, Alabama. He and his
wife Anne have three sons and one daughter.

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