How often have you heard this verse used when someone needs to reassure him/herself that they can do anything? This verse has become one of the most misinterpreted parts of scripture in the Christian culture these days it seems. Is Paul really trying to tell us that we can do anything we want if we have Jesus? We can get straight As in school, win every football game, etc. We have to remember that this verse isn’t to be used as a self-confidence boosting motto when we’re challenging ourselves in an area of life.
So what then does this verse mean? Let’s look at the text surrounding it:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.12 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.13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Paul is trying to simply tell us that we can be content in all situations when we depend on Christ for strength. When time are bad, when you lose your job, when your girlfriend breaks up with you, when you flunk the semester, you can get through all of that when you turn to Jesus to strengthen you. Through Him you can be content in bad situations.
But this isn’t just for the bad times, it is for the good times too. In times of plenty and abundance our contentment is to come from Christ not from what we have. I think an example of this is when we see people who have many possessions or much wealth but are just never happy. When our contentment is based on having things, even if those things are necessities in life, we will never be truly content. We can only find consistent satisfaction in the One who gave His life for us. Our sufficiency for life in any situation is in Jesus Christ