One of the most quoted verses is Philippians 4:13, but so often it is taken out of context or used as a motto to say declaring that you can do anything. Paul was writing this letter while he was in prison. That must be recognized first. I think it is important to read the verse prior to get a better understanding of what verse 13 means.
Paul says that he knows how to live in every situation – whether he has a lot or whether he has a little. It didn’t matter if his stomach was full of food or deprived of food. He knew how to live. He could live in every situation because he could do everything through Christ, because Christ provided the strength he needed.
Don’t ever use Philippians 4:13 as an “I can do everything” card that says you can do whatever you want because God will provide the strength. Paul was serving God—serving while in freedom and serving while in chains. Paul learned to live with whatever God provided and understood that it was enough. Paul’s focus was on Christ. You can do everything through Christ—if He calls you to do it, He will provide for all your needs to accomplish it. You might be living with almost nothing or you might be living with a lot more.
“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:12-13 [NLT]
I love to read about the parting of the Red Sea. As the Israelites were traveling, it must have been awesome to have this presence of God in the form of the pillar of cloud. That pillar of cloud and pillar of fire went before them and led them all the way. I think that’s so awesome to consider—God’s presence in those forms leading the way of the people.
When the Egyptians approached the Israelites after Pharaoh decided he no longer wished to allow the Israelite slaves to leave, something happened which I see happening again and again in my own life. In today’s key verse, we read that the angel of God as well as the pillar of cloud moved from the front of Israel’s army and went to the back to stand between Egypt and Israel’s armies. The presence of God right there, blocking the enemy from attacking. Amazing.
Sometimes we expect that God will be leading us in a particular way, but He is repositioning to fully do what only He can do to bring about His plan. Sometimes we cannot see what God is doing in our lives, even to the point that we wonder if He is doing anything at all, when He is actually repositioning to do something great. Don’t ever forget that He is always there—He’s always at work seeing His great plan fully achieved.
“Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them.” – Exodus 14:19 [NLT]
We so often focus on our own strength—what we can do on our own. In Exodus 4, Moses pleaded with God because he wasn’t “very good with words.” He told the Lord, “I never have been” (NIV). Those four words touch home. I could say I have never been one with good penmanship. I have never been one who could do math in my head. I have never been….
A few verses later, Moses gets a promise from God—a promise that we all receive. God says,” I will be with you” (NLT) or “I will help you” (NIV). We aren’t alone. We are not supposed to consider things with our own strength in mind. We were never meant to do life alone.
So God has left us this promise. He is with us. He will not forsake us. He will help us. He will strengthen us. He will uphold us. He will provide for us. Therefore, do not focus on the “I never have beens” in your life—focus on Him. Focus on what you can do through Him. Remember, you are not in this alone.
“But Moses pleaded with the LORD, ‘O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.’” – Exodus 4:10 [NLT]
“For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.’” – 1 Kings 17:14 [NIV]
Elijah announced there was going to be a drought for years and God directed him to a brook for water and he had the ravens supply him with food. When the brook dried up, the Lord sent him to a widow in Zarephath. Now this widow and her son hardly had much left for themselves. Elijah went to meet her and wanted a drink and some bread. The widow says she is gathering sticks so she can make some food for both her and her son. She states, “That we may eat it—and die” (v. 12).
I imagine myself in her shoes, a widow with a child and very little to eat. Here’s a man who God has directed me to feed. I only have so much food—barely enough for myself and my child. Would I make a small loaf for Eliljah and trust that God would provide? Would I trust the promise of God, that the flour would not be used up and the oil would not run dry? In this passage, it is clear to see that God is this woman’s only hope.
If we think about it, she only had that small portion left for the day. It wasn’t much; it would only have lasted that meal. She said they would die. But as she gave what little she had to God, she ended up having enough food for every day that followed. She had no lack. This is the hope that God gives each one of us. To each of us, He has made promises. To each of us, He provides provisions. Today consider what small loaves you are holding back in your own life. Is it possible that He has abundantly more for you waiting if only you would walk in faith?
Do you wash your hands? It is a strange question for me to ask. Most people would think that I was making a suggestion about your hygiene; however, I am not talking about washing your hands as part of a routine for good hygiene. In Matthew 27, when Jesus was standing before Pilate, there was a great push for His crucifixion. Pilate did not want anything to do with what was to come, and so he washed his hands before the crowd and claimed his innocence in the matter.
If we turn a few chapters back in Matthew, we read about judgment. We do not like to discuss judgment, but Jesus painted a clear picture. He gave us an important image, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me” (Matthew 25:42-43 NASB).
When I ask if you wash your hands, I am referring to helping your fellow brothers and sisters. Do you wash your hands and move along, ignoring reality, ignoring the needs of others? Or do you help to take care of the needs around you? Jesus said if we feed a person who is hungry, it is as if we are feeding Him. If we clothe someone who is without clothing, it is as if we are providing Him with clothing.
Helping others does not always take some overabundance of finances and belongings. People who have so little are like the widow who gave so much– providing for the needs around them without concern for letting go of something. I have seen people who do not have a large savings help to buy food and clothing for another family. I have seen families barely getting by invite others into their homes for dinner. I have seen people barely scraping by provide for the needs of others.
So I ask you today, do you wash your hands? Do you say that it’s not your problem and you won’t be bothered by it? Or do you pull up your sleeves and see what you can do for others? What you can do for Jesus?
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
– Acts 20:35 [ESV]