“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Philippians 4:13 is likely one of the most misquoted, misapplied, and misunderstood passages within the New Testament. Suffice it to say, it is not about how one can literally do anything you put your mind to simply because you are in Christ. Paul has a specific context in mind here—and it is not about attaining your personal goals and aspirations, developing a healthy conception of self-worth, nor is it designed to be a coping mechanism to deal with the hardships of life. The passage isn’t even about finding the secret of contentment in all things, despite insistence from many that this is the focal point of this passage. This interpretation has more validity due to the previous verses:
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for 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.” Philippians 4:11-12
Paul undoubtedly affirms learning contentment in all circumstances. However, the overarching point of Paul to the Philippians in this passage is not contentment, but one of enduring through suffering, particularly, a suffering brought on through no fault of their own.
The thing that is rather sad about focusing on both the ability to do “all things” and “contentment” is that we don’t focus properly on the message of Paul, which is Christ Himself. Not only does emphasizing the “all things” profoundly miss the point of the passage, but it just doesn’t stand the test of basic logic. It isn’t even an adequate application of this passage, because “all things” to Paul here has a specific context, and that context is enduring through suffering for the prize gained through the glorious gospel of our Lord. Even more clearly, they stand to be glorified with Christ, as they too share in His sufferings. Yet equally as sad, though perhaps in a less heinous way, is the focus on learning contentment that is often also presented as the point of this passage. Again, it must be restated: contentment is the fruit, not the root. The root is Jesus Christ
A rather large focus in Philippians surrounds the idea that the knowledge of Christ and His great work is the means by which the Christian is able to endure persecution. What that means is that a true knowledge of Christ leads to us seeing Him as greater than everything else—even our suffering. A true knowledge of Christ will produce in us the heart attitude that believes all else is to be considered as loss, and that to live is Christ. The one who sees Christ as the preeminent One will actually remain stable in the midst of either incredible prosperity or incredible duress, because their eyes are fixated on the risen Christ Himself (Hebrews 12:1-2). They are not lured away to treasure or trust in wealth, yet neither are they acting as if the sky is falling in the midst of even the most horrendous of circumstances. They are able to say with Paul that they may be, “…hard pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Why? Because it is invariably through weakness that the Lord is pleased to show His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). They are content, yet their contentment is born exclusively out of seeing that their “light and momentary” afflictions produces an eternal glory, which is the hope of the resurrection that the gospel of Christ brings (2 Corinthians 4:1-5:10).
Taken from article by Grayson Gilbert (Patheos) “Philippians 4:13 is not about your life goals”. Grayson completed his Masters of Divinity degree at Moody Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing church planting under the umbrella of his home church.