The Greater Promise Of Philippians 4:13

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The Greater Promise Of Philippians 4:13

How we undermine the power of a popular verse

Brian Smith

I know why you play your sport.

And if you are like thousands of other Christian athletes, at one point you have probably claimed Philippians 4:13 as a way to gain you what you desire most.

But Philippians 4:13 actually promises to deliver far more than we allow ourselves to hope. We often claim it in hopes that God will allow us to experience some form of victory through maximum performance, but God offers it to us for something much deeper and more satisfying.

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What We Think We Want

Before we look at the verse used by Christian athletes everywhere, ask yourself this question: What do you really want from your sport experience?

When you perform well, what about that experience makes you want to come back for more? When you struggle or fail, what motivates you to either push forward or sink back? Why do you really play your sport?

Maybe some of the following resonates with your own situation:

  • I play because I like winning

  • I play to feel the joy of playing

  • I play to gain my parent’s approval

  • I play to experience a coach’s approval

  • I play to garner fan’s admiration

  • I play to impress the opposite sex

  • I play to make it to the next level

  • I play to impress my friends

I played sports growing up to impress others. I loved it when I did well and other people told me how great I was. As a runner, I literally chased after the admiration I sought from my parents, friends, and coaches.

What We Really Need

Where does Philippians 4:13 fit into all of this? You may have this verse tattooed somewhere on your body. If you don’t, you probably know someone that does.

"We wrongly claim Philippians 4:13 to help us succeed in sports but what God is shouting at us from this verse is that we already have everything we could ever want in Christ."

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

What a great verse! I cannot even count how many times I prayed this verse as I toed the line for a track race. I have claimed this verse as if to say, “God, I know I can win this race because you will give me strength!” It says so right in the Bible!

Let me introduce you to another passage of scripture.

“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 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.”

If I were to ask you to sum these three verses up in a single word, what would that be? How would you describe what the apostle Paul is trying to articulate to his readers?

Hopefully the word you would use would be—contentment.

Paul is saying that he has learned to be content in every situation. Whether he has a lot of success or a little, whether he is full or hungry, whether he is on top of the world or in the lowest of valleys, he has learned the secret of being content.

How is he able to do this? Interestingly, the next verse is the launching point of our discussion.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Is Paul talking about making the winning shot, or winning a championship, or setting a new personal best? No! What he is saying, athlete, is that regardless of whether you succeed or fail in your sport—or at anything in life—that you can find contentment because of Christ.

We wrongly claim Philippians 4:13 to help us succeed in sports but what God is shouting at us from this verse is that we already have everything we could ever want in Christ.

More satisfying than gaining people’s approval is getting to a place where you no longer need it.

Philippians 4:13

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

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