Are Christians Misusing and Misinterpreting This Wildly Popular Bible Verse?

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

These words come from Philippians 4:13, a wildly popular Bible verse  — one that is often cited and used to inspire Christians to reach their goals and to press on when the going gets tough. But is it being “misunderstood, misused, and misinterpreted” as Religion News Service columnist Jonathan Merritt recently charged?

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The columnist wrote this week that improper use of the verse is rampant in modern Christian culture.

“For them [many Christians who use the verse], the ‘all things’ that Christ empowers them to accomplish includes fulfilling their dreams, climbing to new heights, and embracing their destinies,” he said, noting that former football star Tim Tebow, among others, has been known to tout the verse.

Merritt continued, “Unfortunately, this way of interpreting and applying Philippians 4:13 couldn’t be further from its actual meaning.”

The writer argued that it is essential to look at the verse in context, noting that it was written by Paul when he was in prison. Rather than advocating for people to seek out new personal “heights” and to fulfill their destinies, Merritt said that the text is very literally instructing believers on how they should rely upon their faith when faced difficult situations.

“Paul isn’t telling Christians that they should dream bigger dreams; he is reminding them that they can endure the crushing feeling of defeat if those dreams aren’t realized,” he continued. “He’s not encouraging Christians to go out and conquer the world; he’s reminding them that they can press on when the world conquers them.”

So rather than use the verse as a launch point for motivation — a text that can help catapult someone toward new career achievements or personal goals — Merritt argued that it’s really more about finding the strength to carry on when life takes negative turns and when hope isn’t so easy to see on the horizon.

Brian Orme of (Orme was on TheBlaze Cast yesterday; watch his appearance here) agreed with this sentiment.

“Paul is writing this letter to the church in Philippi to let them know that God has taught him to be content in times of plenty and in times of desperation,” Orme wrote. “So, in its proper meaning, this verse is a tribute to a man who learned to follow God in any circumstance. Whatever came Paul’s way, he handled with faith.”

Read Merritt’s entire argument here. What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.

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