That Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Means

Philippians 4:11-13 explains to us that whatever the circumstances, Jesus in us has made us content and satisfied in Him. By Major Matthew Satterlee

Any good Bible teacher will tell you, “Context is king.” To really understand what a Bible verse means, we need to read the Bible verses that come before and after it. It’s even better when we read the whole passage, the whole chapter, the whole book. It’s always good to ask yourself the “W” questions. Who is talking? Who is being talked to? Where are we in the timeline? Where are we geographically? Why here? Why now? What’s going on in history at this time? Answering these questions will give us better understanding when we read the Bible.

Philippians 4:13 has to take first place for being the Bible verse most used out of context. It’s probably the most tattooed verse on human bodies—with Jeremiah 29:11 as a close second. (We’ll hit that one up another day.) Philippians 4:13 is the athlete’s life verse. “I can win this game through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 is the hero’s life verse. “I can defend the weak and bring justice to the world through Christ who strengthens me.” The verse is looked upon almost as magic words. “If we say the words, Jesus has to pony up to His side of the deal and get us through the situation.”

Take a look at Philippians 4:11-12 (NIV). Paul got absolutely wrecked while he was telling people about Jesus. Paul was not only stoned, shipwrecked and jailed, but he survived by living off of the generosity of others and his tentmaking work. So, we keep Paul’s trouble in mind as we start on verse 11. “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13, NIV).  

When Jesus gives us His abundant life, when we become more and more like Him, when He fills us up more and more, the outside circumstances of our lives matter less and less. We may not get to go on the coolest vacations. We may not have a closet with shoes lined up for days. We may not ever get the blue checkmark on our socials. We may have to eat the store-brand food.

Philippians 4:13 isn’t about Jesus giving you super speed to win that football game. Philippians 4:13 isn’t just a mantra when you have an obstacle to tackle. Philippians 4:11-13 explains to us that whatever the circumstances, Jesus in us has made us content and satisfied in Him. We can be filled all the way up with joy, peace, contentment and satisfaction through Him who gives us daily strength. If it’s already inked on your skin, no worries. May the heart within match what’s written on the skin.

Bible Verse: Philippians 4:12-13

Dig Deeper:

Have you ever been in a conversation, and someone pulled a Bible verse out of context? Did you feel that did some damage to you or the other people in the group? It’s really easy to make the Bible say whatever we want it to say. We want to make sure that that Bible is speaking in to us, and we aren’t speaking in to what we want the Bible to say.

  • September 1: Proverbs 19:23
  • September 2: 1 Timothy 6:6-10
  • September 3: Hebrews 13:5
  • September 4: Job 36:11
  • September 5: Ecclesiastes 3:13
  • September 6: Ecclesiastes 5:18-20
  • September 7: Deuteronomy 6:10-12
  • September 8: Deuteronomy 8:10
  • September 9: Deuteronomy 11:13-15
  • September 10: Psalm 17:15
  • September 11: Psalm 22:26
  • September 12: Psalm 63:5
  • September 13: Proverbs 27:20
  • September 14: Ecclesiastes 5:10
  • September 15: Hosea 13:6
  • September 16: Matthew 14:19-20
  • September 17: Luke 6:21
  • September 18: Psalm 105:1-5
  • September 19: Psalm 107:8-9
  • September 20: Psalm 147:12-15
  • September 21: Psalm 81:13-16
  • September 22: Psalm 90:13
  • September 23: Psalm 91:14-16
  • September 24: Psalm 132:13-16
  • September 25: Psalm 145:16
  • September 26: Isaiah 55:1-3
  • September 27: Isaiah 58:9-11
  • September 28: Jeremiah 31:14
  • September 29: Jeremiah 31:25-26
  • September 30: Joel 2:19

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