Written by Paul J. Bucknell on March, 15, 2023
Philippians 4:10-13 God’s Rich Promises: A Study on God’s Promises
Philippians 4:13 presents an opportunity to study the rich promises of God.
“10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:10-13, NASB)
Finding Strength in the Lord
Paul shares how he has found extra strength in the Lord. We will examine the nature of God’s promises before more closely examining the promise enfolded in Philippians 4:13.
1. The Nature of God’s Promises
Promises, “to pledge to do, bring about, or provide, to give ground for expectation,” offer hope by one to meet some immediate or long-term need of another. God’s promises, in contrast to man’s word, are built upon His unchanging word, enabling us to properly and timely meet all our challenges.
God’s promises are sturdily built upon: God’s existence, His goodwill, His commitment to His people, and His ability.
Never take His promise for granted. We live under His sphere of amazing grace. “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39). Promises are predictions of how God will act. Jesus, risen from the dead, promises, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mat 28:19-20)
What does it mean that Jesus is with us? I like to think of the outworking of this promise as, “God’s extraordinary grace will be with you to accomplish all the good purposes for which He has created you.”
Can we even comprehend the wonderful peace that issues from the constancy of His presence in our lives as we conduct His mission in this evil age? How do we know of His presence? His promises!
Because God speaks to us, we can and should put our hope in His rich promises. I’ll present several examples of biblical promises to familiarize ourselves with them. They are abundantly scattered throughout God’s Word.
Salvation’s Promise (the Gospel)
Our salvation is built upon His promise. Jesus did the saving work undergirding our salvation and relayed it through God’s eternal promises. The Gospel itself is a promise that extends its hope to all who believe, resulting in eternal life.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).
Do you believe in Jesus and have eternal life?
We will now look briefly at four Old Testament promises.
Genesis 15:5-6 - Abraham’s children
“And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:5-6).
God’s promises are rich and full because they show off God’s power, wisdom, and timing. God steps into the world in odd ways and at strange times. God promised Abraham and Sarah a son. Why didn’t the Lord promise or help with a child many years earlier rather than waiting until they were almost a hundred? But Abram believed God’s words, despite the barren, aged, past-childbearing age of Abram and Sarah to provide a child and as many descendants as stars in the sky. God wonderfully gets involved in our lives, so everyone knows He is doing something special. Through this promise, the nation of Israel came into being, and all believers in time spread throughout the earth.
God graciously involves Himself in our lives, bringing hope to our lives.
Genesis 37:6-7 - Joseph’s Dreams
“He said to them, “Please listen to this dream which I have had; for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.” (Gen 37:6-7)
Most people do not think of Joseph’s dreams as a promise. God, however, shaped Joseph’s life around this promise, seeding hope through the two dreams. This far-off hope would powerfully sustain him through his bitter trials. One day, the dreams came true. He and others knew God worked this marvelous way to guard and provide for Israel. This was important for the 400-plus years the Israelites lived in the foreign world empire of Egypt, the latter part as slaves.
God powerfully influences and directs us through His promises.
2 Samuel 7:12-13 - David’s son
“I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam 7:12-13).
Some promises are very specialized, like this one. 2 Samuel 7:12-13 spoke explicitly to David’s circumstances, marking one of his sons to sit as king over Israel forever. That last word, “forever,” is surprising. How would David’s son forever be king? But these are the promises of God and would fulfill His words in David’s ancestor in the person of Jesus Christ. God gave the Israelites, and even us today, the Christmas story to help us look back at His excellent redemption plans. “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
God specifically identified His Savior through His promise.
Proverbs 3:5-6 - General promise
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
This general promise is for God’s people. God inspired the wisdom writer, preserving God’s words for us. In it, God gives insight into how He desires to work marvelously in their lives by directing their paths.
His people would read the words and see how the Lord would intervene in their lives if they would but trust Him. Always. The promise reveals God’s unchanging ways with His believing people. The promise lifts us from our attachment to the world to God Himself (Mat 6:33). He reminds us of our exalted status above all creatures, having the promise of uniquely relating to our Maker by trusting Him.
God instructs His people on how to rely on Him through His promises.
This promise tells us what happens when we trust Him but also cautions us not to rely on our minds. “He will make your paths straight.” Numerous times Jesus warned His disciples to be careful of the coming delusions in the end time. His precious words guide and build our confidence so that we will find extra grace as we wait on Him. Challenging situations lead us to depend on Him further.
Our strength is our confidence in God’s provision, care, help, guidance, physical strength, healing, wisdom—all enabling us to carry out His purposes for our lives. No matter what we face, we can find ample confidence that God is with us—“He will make your paths straight.”
This ancient promise helps us combat the longstanding problem of social distancing ourselves from God—only go to God when you face a big problem. It also helps fight the secularism of our age, which shout’s God irrelevancy.
What promises of God are helping you through your life?
2. The Power of God’s Promise (Phil 4:13)
We next want to study the promise in our passage—Philippians 4:13. Many Christians know this promise for a good reason! I remember reviewing and using it many times throughout my Christian life. When a young Christian, I often used the pamphlet, “The Jesus Person Pocket Promise Book” compiled by David Wilkerson, where he lists 800 promises of God under many topics.
What about you? Do you rely on the promises of God? We will look into the meaning of the Philippian promise but then go back and study the essence of God’s promises and how they need to be used in the last point.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
“I” - Personal
The “I” speaks about the personal nature of promises. They are meant to be personal. It’s not good enough that it’s for a nation or family. They need to be applied and become personal. Paul said, “I” because he knew this promise was true for him. God is involved in our lives as His people. Paul has many a time seen God work marvelous things in his life. Let’s look at the particular situation in which he is thinking.
“Can do all things” - the what
What does Paul think when saying, “I can do everything?” He tells us through the greater context (Phil 4:10-13). Let me focus on two of his life lessons: his contentment and secret. Both are very intriguing.
“10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:10-13)
Contentment. Can you see in verse 11 how he speaks about contentment: “I have learned to be content” (Phil 4:11). It doesn’t matter whether he had money or was in need. He had already learned to be content through many former trying circumstances. “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity” (4:12). This powerful lesson focuses mainly on trusting God to care for one’s physical needs. It is part of the “all things”—whatever circumstance we live under. We will speak more of this meaning in the following aspect - the secret.
Secret. So what is Paul’s secret? Fortunately, he tells us! “I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Phil 4:12).
So why is it a secret? Because most of us haven’t learned how to do this. Like contentment, it is learned—a faith lesson, probably learning through facing many of life’s difficulties.
How does a person learn to catch a ball? We train our arms, timing, and grasp. Spiritually, we learn to see our situations as places God gives grace and ask Him to help.
How do you learn this secret? Going without and going with gives you the opportunity to have needs and discover how God can care for you. Interestingly, he didn’t just learn about trusting God without the comforts of life but also when he had an abundance. Do you want to learn this secret?
Let’s further explore the implications of Paul’s stated promise.
“Through Him” - the means
“Through Him” is different from the self-reliant mentality popular today. Self-reliance stinks because of its self-sufficiency, making us falsely conclude that God does not exist or is irrelevant; we can handle things. God desires a worry-free life. Earlier in the same chapter, Paul says,
“6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)
God made us live dependently upon Him; Jesus is our Savior. He does not only do this for our salvation but for our daily lives. Jesus uses this dependence illustration in John 15 with the vine and branches. Think of the branch that boasts being separate from the vine and the one that connects. The varied results are predictable.
Boasting of one’s self-reliance states that we can live apart from God and steals the praise and glory that only God deserves. Those who boast of a higher evolutionary state can’t admit that every cell in their bodies is amazingly designed and depends on the Life-Giver. “All things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col 1:16-17).
This is the apologetic side, but the positive lesson is very stirring. God tells us that we can trust Him, no matter our circumstances. “The Lord is my Shepherd.” It is fantastic to see how the Lord involves Himself in our lives to help us further lean upon him and find His grace in helping us in our need—like Jesus.
“Who strengthens me” - the how
Our question is, how does God give strength to us? Note that strength is given to the inner man, mysteriously developing his faith because of what God causes to happen in the real world. Everything that happens is part of God’s sovereign work in our lives and circumstances.
This is all related to the second stage of Christian development. Please remember that gaining God’s strength for our inner spiritual life happens at all three levels.
At level 1, God inspires us with His promises. God’s uses His promises, His Word, to teach us to lean on His wisdom and strength. At level 2, John emphasizes the lesson, “I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14). We might not feel strong, but by His strength and our confidence in this promise, we can overcome.
At level three, like Paul, we can say God’s promises have become regularly seen and relied on, so they become more like principles of the spiritual world operating in this world. They are set, like rules, and obvious, partly because we have in the past regularly witnessed these things. Our confidence grows so that we can encourage others to trust God.
The key is not to avoid the testings of life but use our challenges as opportunities to strengthen our trust in God. It’s easy and hard to learn to trust God. The more wealth we have, the more challenging to learn—we don’t have such an obvious need of God. Of course, God means to give us strength to endure all sorts of temptations—we do not need to fall into sin, whether it be anxiety, fear, lust, greed, selfishness, self-oriented ego times, etc.
The context speaks about financial matters, but Paul uses the most concrete need to show that “All things” means all we need to conduct God’s work and live for His glory.
- He will always give us strength to overcome sin.
- He will always give us help in times of need.
- This promise doesn’t mean we are immediately escaping the situation. (Paul went through many tough times.)
Once we understand this, we can gain a better footing in life. Life changes. Our purpose becomes more centered around Him. We don’t like struggles, but neither, like Jesus, do we avoid them, always seeking to carry out His will. We are strong and, through His grace, can accomplish all that He has appointed us. This is true practically, even in relationships with our spouse or needing wisdom for work. We can trust God to oversee our life circumstances divinely.
3. The Invitation to Live by God’s Promises
I want to reflect a bit on God’s purpose for these promises. Sometimes, we focus so much on our needs that we forget what kind of lesson He wants us to learn.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)
- Look at the Bible - there are so many promises! God evidently wants us to rely on Him!
- God encourages us to trust Him personally—relationship building with God. Paul had many lessons, and God sets out in front of us to better realize His goodness to us.
- God can help us (can do). There is no limit to God’s power.
- We sometimes must weather the storms of life (e.g., Paul). Paul was three days lost at sea. Why would God let Paul get in prison? It became a place to see God provide and wrote to the Philippians!
- Strength does not mean absence from troubles.
- Our life situations are classrooms to apply God’s promises.
- Live by money or faith (spend by what I have). Let us master being content rather than always placating our desire for more!
- Spiritually troubled? Even if we are anxious, earlier in chapter 4, God builds up our faith.
- “I can’t forgive!” >>> “I can and will forgive!” God promises us that He will not forgive if we do not forgive. However, if we do forgive, so will He forgive us!
“14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Mat 6:14-15).
- Impossible! >>>> “all things.” Nothing can hinder us from experiencing the needed grace to serve Him.
Strength is inner faith and confidence for God to work within our circumstances to glorify His Name.
Let’s build up our confidence and turn Philippians 4:13 into a full-fledged promise by turning Paul’s “I” into our experience! We might extend the promise this way.
“God’s extraordinary grace will be with you to accomplish all the good purposes for which He has created you.”
- What promises of God do you know?
- What does Philippians 4:13 promise?
- Have you learned contentment?
- Have you discovered the ways God strengthens your inner man?
- Have you learned that God’s greater purpose is for you to live for His glory, giving Him praise?
“Everything about God is great, vast and incomparable. He never forgets, never fails, never falters, never forfeits His Word” (A.W. Pink, Attributes of God, p.59).
God’s promises entice us to trust in Him. He presents His word to us in our time of need, beckoning us to believe Him. We, like Paul, will go through many life lessons to learn how trusting in God is better than all the things we have to experience. He takes our eyes from what we have and see to what we don’t have but what He promises.
Study Questions for Philippians 4:10-13
- Is it easy for you to trust God? Give an example.
- What is the promise in this passage (Phil 4:10-13)? Memorize it.
- How is the offer of salvation a promise?
- What was the promise to Abraham (Gen 15:5-6)?
- How might Joseph’s dream help him through his life (Gen 37:6-7)?
- Read verse 11. What does Paul mean by “learned to be content.”
- What does Paul refer to when Philippians 4:13 states “all things”?
- How is the way a muscle strengthens like how God strengthens our faith?
- Do God’s promises something change situations around us? Give an explanation or example.
- What is a Bible promise that you have used?
- What does Philippians 4:13 promise?
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