Watch any sport on TV and you may see an athlete sporting this Scripture reference somewhere on their body. Tim Tebow would write it across his eye black sometimes during a game. People quote that Scripture when they’re faced with a monumental task and boast that they can do it but only with Christ’s strength. But once again, people have taken that verse OUT OF CONTEXT. Here is the verse in the proper context. Let’s start with verse 10 and go through 13:
“10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 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.”
I’m not sure about all translations, but in the ESV, the heading at the beginning of these verses is listed as “God’s Provision”. In these four verses, Paul is writing the church at Philippi saying how he rejoiced that they were once again concerned for his welfare. In verses 11-12, he assured them that no matter what he was facing, whether in poverty or in plenty, he learned to be content. In verse 13, he says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” In the KJV, “him” refers to Christ, but this is assumed anyway since he referred to “the Lord” in verse 10. In the Strong’s Concordance, the word “do” in Greek is the word “ischuo” (pronounced is-khoo’-o). The definition of ischuo is “to be strong, to have power, to be able”. If we word it this way, we can see the true meaning of the verse: “I can be strong in all things through him who gives me strength.” So, Paul is saying in this verse, “I can be strong in poverty and in plenty because it is the Lord who gives me strength.”
This verse isn’t telling us we can perform to our optimal best in some activity with the Lord’s help. It’s telling us that whatever circumstances we’re facing in life, no matter how low in the valley we are, or how high up on the mountaintop we are, no matter if we’re facing extreme poverty, or if we’re living in abundance, we are able to be strong in these things because it is Christ who gives us the strength and that it is His strength that gives us contentment in whatever circumstances we face.