Summary: For many people, Philippians 4:13 is their favourite message, but they never look at the verses preceding that verse of following it. This message looks at what true contentment is.
It’s a favourite verse for many people. It’s a verse that gets claimed when we are in difficult situations. When we are trying new things. A verse for those times when we are attempting the difficult, the improbable, and the impossible.
But for too many people, it is more a motivational statement or a mantra then it is a promise of God, and because of that, they were claiming the wrong promise.
The verse of course is Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Or perhaps you’re more familiar with it in the NKJ version Philippians NKJV 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Now, I can almost feel some of you tensing up. Easy, it’s not like I’m denying the trinity or the deity of Christ.
The problem with the way we claim Philippians 4:13, and notice that I say the way we, because I’m guilty of it as well, Is that we cherry pick it out of context. And it’s great to claim that verse, to tell ourselves that we can indeed do everything and anything through Christ.
We can lose the weight that we need to. That we can stay committed to the gym and to a difficult marriage. That we can quit smoking and stay sober. That we can do everything, the difficult, the improbable and the impossible.
But the reality is that we can’t do everything through Christ, who gives us strength. You know that you’ve tried, and then you either beat yourself up for not having enough faith, or you begin to doubt the promises of God.
When someone tells me that nothing is impossible, I ask them if they’ve ever tried to dribble a football.
It’s a brand-new year. Usually, this signifies a sense of anticipation and hope for what lies ahead. I’m not sure that’s been the case for the past two years. There has been a decidedly different feel about the beginning of 2021 and 2022, then there was about 2020.
What will the next twelve months hold? Will there be more lock downs and restrictions? More cases of COVID and more variants? I don’t even like making predictions about tomorrow, let alone the upcoming year.
I do know that this really isn’t how I wanted to learn the Greek Alphabet.
Just a confession, Greek was the course I disliked the most while I was studying in university, and this past year hasn't really improved how I feel about it.
The other day, someone asked me about an event that was planned for later in the month, and my response was, in two weeks things will either be better than they are now, or they will be worse than they are now, but I’m pretty sure they won’t be the same as they are now.
So, let’s go back to where we started. Too often we claim Philippians 4:13 as a promise that whatever we try we will be successful at. To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that verse. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
You see, the reality is that no verse can simply be plucked out of the bible without seeing what was being said before the verse and after the verse.
Because to quote Donald Carson, who was quoting his preacher father, Tom Carson, “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.”
So, to set the stage a little bit. The book of Philippians was a letter written to the church in Philippi by Paul while he was in prison in Rome for preaching the Gospel. The Philippian church was situated in what was known then as Macedonia and now is Greece. It was the first European church and was started by Paul on what we call his second missionary journey, around 49 AD. You can find the entire story in Acts chapter 16.
This letter is different from the other letters that Paul wrote to the early churches. That difference is spelled out in the very first verse. Philippians 1:1 This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the church leaders and deacons.
What is different here is what is missing. In most of Paul’s other letters, he begins by establishing his authority.
Romans 1:1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News.
1 Corinthians 1:1 This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. . .
Galatians 1:1 This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead.