What Does Philippians 4:13 Really Say?


“I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” (Philippians 4:13)

My wife and I live approximately 200 miles from the Vatican of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville.  There are fewer than 3% of the population who are Roman Catholic. There is a bit of a distrust towards Catholics since the Protestant population may not completely understand us, or our faith.  One woman with whom I was chatting asked if Catholics were really still into cannibalism.  I told her that we were, and if she checked the 6th chapter of John and then read the Last Supper accounts, she would see that while we eat the Body of Christ, we are not going out and killing people with lances and shrinking their heads.

Our Neck of the Woods

It is rather easy to tell if a person with whom you are speaking is Catholic.  For example, I wear a distinctive crucifix which has the cross in silver and the corpus in gold.  If a person comments that he/she likes my cross, I know that most likely they are Christian, if the person indicates they like my crucifix, they are most likely Catholic.

The area in which we live is widely and openly Christian and make no apologies for not being “PC” ( Politically Correct ).  It is not uncommon while driving through the small towns near us, to find the marquis of a family market with words of encouragement such as “Let the Son shine in” or “Today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present – share it”.

When we first moved here from a rather large, deep blue, metropolitan area, I found myself saying, “Surely these people cannot be serious about this.”  ( Cue Leslie Neilson, “Of course they are serious and don’t call me Shirley.” )

Over time, I came to realize that the words judge, judges, judging, judgment, and judgments must appear in excess of 500 or 600 times in the Bible.  In each of the references I could rapidly find, the word did not describe my job or talent, so, I decided to let someone whose job it is to judge their hearts do his job.

Matthew 7:21 and Following

The words of Jesus told me not to worry about it and that He had it all under control.  Matt 7: The True Disciple.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.* Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

I have finally learned to leave judging in the hands of God. Evangelicals simply express their faith differently than I do. So, after living in this area of East Tennesse for nearly four years, I have found that most of the people with whom I have spoken are, in fact, proudly Christian and try to live out the life He had told us to live.

It is refreshing to be walking away from the cashier at a large box store only to have him/her call out to you “Have a blessed day.”

“Have a Blessed Day, Philippians 4:13”

My wife and I had stopped into a cute, little cafe’ in one of the small towns around us and we were greeted as if we were long-time customers.  Following the meal, the waitress dropped off the check, on the rear of which she has written, “Have a blessed day, Philippians 4:13”.

Clearly, this tract is a note from Paul in which he states, “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” At first blush, this phrase simply seems to read as being highly confident that Paul can get through everything as long as Christ stays with him and is in control.

I have rather felt for quite some time that Paul is not speaking with confidence as much as he is with contentment.

As with most tracts in the Bible, the aperture needs to be opened a bit more to see exactly what is being said.  The 12th and 13th verses help put it all in perspective.

I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” (Philippians 4:12,13)

Paraphrasing Paul a bit, he tells the Philippians that he has found that in humble circumstances, or in times of abundance, when well fed, or when going hungry, he says that he has found the strength for all in Christ who sustains him.

Even though writing a Bible verse on the back of a check is not a Catholics tradition or something Catholics are even comfortable doing, God is teaching me how to let these Southern Baptists bless me.

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1 thought on “What Does Philippians 4:13 Really Say?”

  1. Pingback: TVESDAY AFTERNOON EDITION – Big Pulpit

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