The most misquoted passage in the Bible is Philippians 4:13.
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
I think every well-meaning Christian athlete has posted that in a gym locker, hung it on the wall, or worn it on a sweat-drenched T-shirt. They view it as motivation for winning and athletic prowess. Yes, Christ wants us to do well in our endeavors, but Philippians 4:13 has nothing to do with lifting weights or dunking the ball.
Philippians 4:13 is all about contentment.
Ever heard someone say something like this? (Ever said it yourself?)
“If I won the lottery—if I had loads of money—I’d be ridiculously generous.”
Whenever I hear that, I want to ask, “So what’s keeping you from being generous now?” Giving is not a matter of funds; it’s a matter of the heart.
- “I’d be generous if I had lots of money” shows a trust in my bank account.
- “I will be generous even if I don’t have money” shows a trust in Christ, the one who ultimately gives us all things.
That’s the point of Philippians 4:13. Paul had been talking about his circumstances.
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty” (vv. 12-13).
Paul learned contentment regardless of the size of his bank account. And he shared his “secret” in verse 13. Christ gave him strength to be content in any and all circumstances. I like the NIV translation of verse 13 because it points back to the context of verses 11-12.
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
I can be content because Christ empowers me to be content. I find my joy in Him and not in the things that may or may not fill my life and bank account.
Let’s stop using this verse in terms of running a marathon and think instead of running our lives. Let’s live with a contentment fully grounded in Christ.
So instead of posting Philippians 4:13 in the gym, maybe we should post it in our bank accounts … tape it to our credit cards before we make another purchase … and review the verse as we write a check for Sunday’s offering. Join me in being a person who says, “I will give no matter what. God gives me the strength to give—and God gives me the strength to live even if I end up giving it all away.”
When we’ve got Jesus, isn’t that enough?
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This post supports the study “A Key to Commitment” in Bible Studies for Life.
Lynn, thank you for your reminder of the need to do thorough study with scripture. I agree that misquoting is wrong for those who should know better. I have to think, however, that young athletes (young in Christ) may need something like this verse for reason they do not yet grasp.
I believe that it can remind them of their devotion to the Word. They’ve obviously been exposed to the verse, but maybe only as a quote from a coach or friend. Whether they write it on their arm, chest, or place it on their heart and mind—it is certainly a constant reminder of Christ present in their life. This is certainly not a bad thing at all, but wait…
Did not Christ use simple scripture to start dialogue with his acquaintances? See John 4:10; Matt 9:13; and google a list “How Jesus Interacted With People”
What we should do as mature Christians is to stoke that glimmer of light by encouraging them to expand on their knowledge. It is a great launching off point to a fruitful discussion. From there we may gently describe to them Paul’s intention from the greater context of the verse and the 4th chapter—and on to the whole New Testament!
Invite them to Bible study along with 5 of their friends standing around listening to you. The Lord opens an abundance of opportunities that the one non-contextual bible quote will open up! Let’s get a dialogue going with those who have good intentions.
Now let’s talk about John 3:16 and how overused/abused it is. (Repeat above sequence.)