I have been exposed to Christianity for a long time and have been reading the bible off and on for years. One of the favorite verses I have found Christians enjoy quoting is Paul’s I can do all things when he wrote the the Philippians:
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4:13
I’m sure you have heard this scripture before too. It’s a great and inspirational verses. So there is no wonder why Christians like to quote it all the time. Who doesn’t want to be able to do anything through the authority of our Lord and Savior? But do we truly understand what Paul meant when saying I can do all things?
So what did Paul mean when he said “I can do all things…”?
First let us start by reading the whole paragraph from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 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 need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. ~ Philippians 4:10 – 14
Is Paul telling us he can do anything with his famous verse then? When I read this, I get a completely different meaning as to what Paul was trying to say.
So what is Paul Telling Us?
Paul’s intent was not that he could achieve or accomplish anything through Christ. To the contrary, he was trying to tell the Philippians that he has learned he can survive any situation he is place in through the strength Jesus provides him. Paul is telling the church that he can endure anything through Jesus the Christ.
Paul’s Key Is In Finding Peace
In verse 11, Paul states “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am“. So he is telling the members of the church at Philippi that he is always at peace no matter how difficult the situations is. He explains these circumstances in more detail in verse 12 where he talks about living in good time of prosperity and suffering. It is because of all of these situations he has experienced and survived during his ministry that Paul makes his famous statement that “I can do all things”.
Another Lesson ?
Paul completes his line of thinking. He lets the Philippians know, that despite Paul being able to find peace in any situation, that they have done good by sharing in his suffering with him.
Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. ~ Philippians 4:14
This ties back into verse 10 where he Rejoices in their ability to be concerned with him…
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. ~ Philippians 4:10
What I think Paul is telling the Philippians, and all of us too, is that we are all in this together. That as part of the body of Christ, that when one of us is hurt or suffering, the whole body feels and shares in the pain. That while we can find strength is God to make through any situation, we also have each other to share the burden of the tribulations we all endure. That when one of us hurts, we all hurt.
As you can see, this famous verse from Paul to the Philippians was not really about being able to accomplish anything. To the contrary, it is about being able to survive anything the world throws at us yet still being able to maintain our faith. As Christians, we need to understand that we will be challenged both physically and spiritually. We, the body of Christ, are all in this together, even if we are not the one on the front line at the moment. We need to support each other through prayer, love, and faith. By sharing in the faith together, no matter our differences, we can do all things through Christ.