In Philippians 4:13 so many of us mistook that passage as a means to accomplish any endeavor; whether it be in academia, in sports, or in the work force. That is the consequence of someone isolating the passage and interpreting it differently. The actual meaning of that verse came from the following:
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
– Philippians 4
It has never been about accomplishing one’s goals, but to adapt to and overcome adversity through Christ who strengthened him. It was through Paul’s suffering that made him stronger, and when he is in want of strength Christ strengthened him.
The Thorn in the Flesh
Paul experienced more than just hunger and poverty.
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
– 2 Corinthians 12
When Paul mentioned the “…thorn in the flesh….”, he wasn’t referring to any physical or mental ailment. In a sermon by John MacArthur, the thorn Paul was referring to was suffering which he detailed in the previous chapter (Ibid 11:23-28).
He risked the dangers associated with travel from robbers to storms in the open sea, and experienced persecution from both the Jews and Gentiles. He was whipped five times, ship wrecked thrice, and beaten with rods thrice. He was often cold, wet, and hungry; and on top of all this, he must care of the church. His “Thorn” was meant to keep him from exalting himself.
Paul has every reason to exalt himself as not only he has seen the Lord (Acts 9), but received visions no one else saw but himself. But he refused to use that as a thing of pride (2 Corinthians 12:1-5). His suffering was so terrible he besought the Lord thrice, but Jesus answered to him “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness”. Thus, he took pleasure in the aforementioned thorn, “… for when I am weak, then I am strong”.
If we suffer, it is for our ultimate good. Even when it seemed meaningless, it is not.
1. Brandon Kimbar. “American Gospel: Christ Alone” Giant Interactive Studio, Accessed: 01-15-2019
2. John MacArthur. “Strength Perfected in Weakness”. Grace to You, Youtube.com, 03-18-2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a37h5-fLNBk
3. John Piper. None of Our Suffering is Meaningless. Desiring God. Youtube.com, 07-09-2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=709s0O44Ois