This is a great chapter. So much encouragement and guidance from Paul – settle your disagreements, rejoice, don’t worry, be grateful, pray about everything, think about excellent things, put into practice everything you saw me (Paul) doing and saying and the God of peace will be with you. This list doesn’t sound too difficult to do, particularly when things are going well, but what about when life isn’t going well. How do these verses feel when life is falling apart? Do they encourage you, or make you feel guilty for not putting them into practice?
I love Philippians 4:13. As a teenager it was one of my favorite verses, but I always thought of it in terms of athletic achievement. God can give me the strength to win this game, or win this race. Christ will strengthen me so I can do something great and get the glory. I’ve seen many professional athletes use this verse for motivation, but it is a misuse of scripture in my opinion. You can’t separate verse 12 from verse 13:
12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ,who gives me strength.
When Paul says “I can do everything”, everything for him means living through all circumstances we face in life – times of plenty, and times of need. Paul says he’s learned the secret of living in every situation. What is that secret? Christ gives him strength.
When we are in the midst of difficult circumstances it can be hard to believe in the promises of God. It can be difficult to pray, be grateful, rejoice – to do the things Paul encourages us to do in the beginning of chapter 4. That is why verses 12 and 13 are so encouraging to me. Paul writes these lines from experience, from traveling through these circumstances in his life and coming out on the other side. Paul faced more discouragement, pain, rejection, difficulties and suffering in his life than I will ever face in mine, yet he could write these incredible verses. He doesn’t say it is easy – just that he knows how to live through every situation.
Paul’s final encouragement to the Philippians and us – fix your thoughts on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and excellent and worthy of praise, then the God of peace will be with you. God with us, Emmanuel, Jesus – the secret of living in every situation.