I often think about some of the popular verses of the Bible that tend to be misused, and the blessing that comes when our views are challenged and corrected. It’s not easy to be told that a verse that has encouraged you wasn’t used in the right way, and so our first reaction is to acknowledge the truth, but still stick with our way of seeing things.
But in my personal experience, it was when I accepted the right context of a verse that I was able to grow and appreciate the depth of the passage, while find what I was encouraged with before in another verse that actually fits the encouragement. One verse that brings out this reality to me is Philippians 4:13, I’ll quote it below:
Many of us have used this verse to encourage ourselves in the Lord, that He will strengthen us to accomplish any task before us, and that nothing will stop us when God is our strength. To that I say, amen, this is what the Lord is able to do. But that’s not what this verse is talking about. If this is your first time hearing this your first reaction may be to brush it off as me being too nitpicky, drawing so much attention to a verse when people are being blessed and encouraged.
But I’m so adamant about addressing this because when we see it as encouraging us to being strengthened for anything through God, we miss out on the depth of strength God does specifically, which causes us to miss out on a deeper level of encouragement. In the context of this verse, Paul mentions a few verses back that he learned that whatever state he is in, he learned how to be content. The question you have to ask yourself is why would contentment be hard to come by as a godly man or woman?
The one thing that threatens our contentment in life is what we need in life, and the means that are available to fulfill them. If we don’t have enough we can become bitter that we don’t have, and if we do have, we can become self-sufficient and forget about the Lord. So when Paul declares that he can do all things through Christ that strengthens him, he is declaring that Christ is the source of strength for his contentment. This tells us an important truth. Contentment is supernatural.
We are so used to talking about being content when we don’t have BIG money like Jeff Bezos or Jay-Z, and it becomes a topic for us in the struggle. But when you’re able to earn enough income that you don’t have to worry about bills, and you can increase your wealth, contentment is very hard in this place. When we’re in that place in our lives, our talk is different, our friends are different, and our concerns end up different. The Bible says, “Money answers all things.” in Ecclesiastes 10:19, and when you have that money, it has a lot to say!
It talks so much that it can drown out the voice and importance of God as needs are met with ease before our very eyes. When you want for nothing, contentment is hard to live out, because you don’t have to wait for what you want in this world when you have the money to get it. But when we are godly with contentment, there is great gain in that, and it is through Christ that we get the strength to be content in that way.
Context is so important when we read the Scriptures, and if we don’t read this verse in it’s context, we’ll take “all things” too literally and apply it to everything in life that we think it applies to, instead of the contentment we all need. Once we see contentment as something Christ strengthens us to be in life, it’ll even change how we pray, as we praise God for His strength in keeping us content.