Philippians 4:13 (KJV) – ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me‘, is one of the most misunderstood verses in our Bible. We will see why below. In Philippians 1, 2, 3, Paul asks the Philippians to stand together in humility, in a society with strong pressures towards nationalist and ethnic pride; a society where the Roman emperor was worshiped as god and failure to do so could lead to death.
Paul says in Philippians 4:1 (NIV): “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” This follows his counsel in Chapter 3 where the message was to be humble like Jesus; so Paul starts Chapter 4 pointing back to that message – stand firm in humility!
Paul then asks two women elders in that Church, Euodia and Syntyche, to be of a humble mindset, and settle their fight (verses 2-3). While this is important for gender discussions in the Church today, Paul does not stay on it, he moves on.
Paul tells the Church in Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV): “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Paul is saying to a persecuted people, who could be killed if they spoke against emperor worship, rejoice – and he said it twice for emphasis. I live in the USA, and over here, lots of Christians have lost all their joy because of those who disagree with them. Paul says rejoice, don’t hate, pray, petition God with thanksgiving, wow!
Paul uses himself as an example; in Chapter 1 he said he was in jail in Rome and might be killed by the emperor; in this high pressure situation, he says in Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV): “I know what it is to be in need, and… to have plenty… learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry… living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Paul copes well with tests and persecutions, because of Christ who gives him strength. Paul has learned the secret of being content (coping well), instead of being depressed by his circumstances, and it is to humbly look to Christ for strength.
Jesus Lord, as we face high pressures from COVID-19, annoying neighbors and leaders, give us strength-joy-peace to cope and not hate, Amen!