**** This is an excerpt from Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him published in 2008.

People often look for Scripture passages suggesting that God wills the worldly success of His children. Sadly, in so doing, they sometimes take passages out of context and woefully distort the meaning of His Word. Philippians 4:13, for instance, states: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” This beautiful verse, originally meant to convey spiritual strength, is often used and abused by those wanting to believe that worldly success is a God-given right. When people choose to claim this verse as an affirmation of their entitlement to have more of the world, they miss the whole point: Those confident in Christ’s spiritual provision can be content in all circumstances, knowing that the Lord will see them through. The spiritual blessings the Lord gives, things like hope, peace and perseverance with joy, are what we really need.

Understand that Paul, the writer of Philippians, recognized the gracious and generous provision of our physical needs came from God. Paul promotes the promise of God’s physical and spiritual provision that is just as applicable for us as it was for the believers at Philippi: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Upon reading Philippians, though, we must discern the difference between God’s provision of spiritual necessities and the modern drive for worldly success.

Our earthly affluence and comfort are not necessities to God; that we grow in His spiritual bounty is. We need to understand that our selfish wants rarely align themselves with godly contentment. But how many times have we heard Philippians 4:13 quoted as fellow believers seek victory in the areas of finances, career, health, and human relationships?

Paul saw success in a vastly different light than most of us do. Unlike many of us, the victory he sought was spiritual, not material. It was eternal not temporal. When it came to obtaining worldly things, Paul was not confident that he could obtain more stuff because he was a Christ-follower. His goal, which stands in complete contrast to the way this verse is often misused, was finding satisfaction in Christ instead of in the “success” the world offers. Paul’s focus was on God-centered contentment not world-centered conquest. This is evident in verses 11-12: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” His God-centered proclamation of contentment is summarized in verse 18: “I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received … the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.”

Paul had the same idea in mind when he exhorted young Timothy concerning the right things to pursue and the dangers of pursuing the wrong things. First Timothy 6:6-11 states, “But godliness with contentment is great gain … But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction … But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”

Paul’s message is clear: We don’t need more of this world: we need more of God.  When our “everything” becomes His “everything” we can truly do things through Him and His strength. God is our Provider and our Supplier in all that we need. Found in Him is the only victory that counts―Godly contentment. When we tap into this, we can have true confidence that everything will work out for our spiritual and eternal good. (See Romans 8:26-30).

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