I can do all things through him who strengthens me” – Philippians 4:13

It’s one of the most popular verses in the Bible. We use it for encouragement. We use it for positive thinking. For centuries well-meaning Christians have allowed Philippians 4:13 to be the antidote for all of the incapability we as humans have. To many, it’s the spiritual equivalent of a Red Bull energy drink for the weary and exhausted.

This week I read the book of Philippians and as I read this verse in context I was actually shocked. You see, I’ve had this verse memorized for about 20 years. I’ve recited it in my head (and out-loud) thousands of times.

On excruciating hard days that felt like they would never end, “I can do all things…Jesus help me get through the day.”

In athletic events and races (most recently a marathon) where I felt like I didn’t have the energy to continue pressing forward, “I can do all things...Jesus, I need your strength.”

When serving others mentally and physically depleted and unable to meet the outrageous demands expected of me, “I can do all things… Jesus give me energy.”

When I’ve felt like I’m in over my head with a task too daunting and a skill set too inadequate, “I can do all things… Jesus equip me.”

Over the years, I’d recite it like a mantra, “I can do all things…all things….all things through Him…”  and I’d will myself to continue doing the task of the moment. Not all things right in that moment– just the one thing that was screaming an obnoxious “I can’t” to me.

Though this verse is wonderful, something about the way it’s commonly used is bothering me. The preceding scripture made me wonder in all these years of familiarity if, somehow, I’ve been missing it:

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 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).

You see? Paul is sharing his secret to contentment. The secret isn’t a self esteem booster, it’s actually the opposite. The secret is realizing our inadequacy to do all things (anything) on our own.

Realizing our dependency on Him to do all things…

When we frame ALL Things in this context, we can be content in any situation. Great times. Difficult times.

Uninteresting mundane times.

This verse is so much more than a magic formula for an A on a test, the momentum to finish a race, or the energy to complete a difficult task. It’s hidden treasure is the secret to contentment. Oh how much better that is! The secret to being fulfilled whether winning or losing. Succeeding or failing. To find our satisfaction in who Jesus is, not what we do or accomplish!

*Photo Credit: Savannah Blevins’ Photostream @