I can do all things through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)
This is a very familiar passage of Scripture. Everywhere we turn in our success-driven culture, we witness this passage being used. You can find it on everything from coffee cups to billboards. In our modern day, we often attribute the words of the Apostle Paul to the successful athletes who just overcame the latest obstacle that kept them from triumph. While it’s understandable that some view this verse in that light, we must understand the context of Paul’s situation to appreciate the full magnitude of what he is writing.
The Apostle Paul, a former persecutor of Christians, was confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus. At the point of his conversion, God revealed that Paul would indeed suffer for the cause of Christ. (Acts 9:16) At the time that Paul was writing this letter to the Philippian Church, he was in Prison. Most theologians believe he was in Rome where church history records he suffered death. Paul had been in prison before. One of those times was during his stay in Philippi, at the time the Philippian Church began.
While in Philippi, leaving Lydia’s home where he had been staying (Acts 16:15), Paul soon found himself in prison. After being beaten and placed in jail, the Roman jailer and all the prisoners witnessed Paul and Silas singing hymns and worshipping God all night in the jail. Eventually, an earthquake shook the doors of the jail open. Most prisoners saw this as an opportunity to escape. Not so for Paul and Silas. They used this opportunity to share the message of the Gospel with the jailer. This same jailer who had beaten Paul and placed him in stocks would eventually come to Christ — he and his entire household. (Acts 16:31-32)
Paul was not concerned with his status. Paul could be in Lydia’s “palace” on one day or in the Jailer’s Prison on the next day. Why? Because he learned contentment in the situation as he remained focused on Christ. As Paul writes the letter to the Philippians, he reminds them of their experience with him and the contentment which can only be found in Christ. 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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)