Good News and Bad News about your Favorite Verse on Strength from God

Here’s one of my favorite “Good news, bad news” jokes from growing up.

A man took an airplane ride to take pictures of his farm. That’s good news! He leaned out to take a picture and fell out of the plane. That’s bad news! He had a parachute on. That’s good news! The parachute didn’t work. That’s bad news! Below him was a haystack. That’s good news! In the middle of the haystack was a pitchfork. That’s bad news! He missed the pitchfork. That’s good news! He missed the haystack. That’s bad news!

Haystack strength from God

I’ve got good news and bad news for you about what may be your favorite verse about strength from God, Philippians 4:13.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

What do you want first, the good news or the bad news? Most people want the bad news to get it out of the way.

The Bad News on Strength from God

  • This verse doesn’t mean what most people think it says. It doesn’t mean we can do anything. It doesn’t mean nothing is beyond our powers to accomplish. It does not teach triumphalism.
  • The words “all things” are the literal translation of the Greek but the meaning of every word is determined by its context. Here’s what Paul said just before this verse. Philippians 3:11-12

for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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.

  • When Paul said “I can do all things” he meant “all these things I just mentioned.” This verse isn’t a blank check from God where you can fill in what you want to overcome. I wish it were! But we all know from our experience this isn’t true. However, I do have good news!

The Good News on Strength from God

  • There is strength available to us. It’s real power that we don’t have but need. It is greater than our own power. When we have it, it’s ours! Then we can say like Paul, “I can do . . .”
  • It comes through our union with the One who strengthens us, Jesus. Ephesians 6:10, 1 Timothy 1:12 In this verse he uses the preposition “through” to emphasize it is our union with Jesus that enables us to have this strength.
  • It is the strength to overcome circumstances. Paul specifically says whether we are humiliated or praised, whether we have plenty to eat or not enough, whether we are rich or poor, we have the strength to be victorious. It’s the power to cope and to be content at all times.

How do we access this power? Don’t let your weakness be an excuse for inactivity. The secret of Paul’s strength was his dependence upon Christ. Are you depending upon Christ? Our weaknesses can be our greatest assets if they lead us to trust in Christ moment by moment.

p.s. If you’re disappointed that Philippians 4:13 doesn’t mean what you think it does, don’t be. I have good news for you. Here’s a verse that does say what you thought this verse did Matthew 17:20.