I confess that in my early years of following after Jesus, I basically would 'claim' this verse to mean that I just needed to muster any last bit of effort that was left in me and then God would see that I, in good faith, was putting all my effort into that particular challenge. Only then would God wave His hand and make me advance with great wonder. If we were to use math, I basically thought that 'claiming' this verse and having God 'honor' it was like this equation: my effort + God = success.
After following Jesus for some time, I realized that, although the equation seemed logical, it didn't quite describe the meaning of Philippians 4:13. There was something off, I just didn't know what it was exactly.
So for many years I continued to follow after Jesus without fully comprehending the true meaning of this statement. I knew there was more to it; I just could not get past the equation that was etched in my mind. Because of this, I ceased to 'claim' this verse. I just didn't feel I could 'claim' something I did not understand and I needed to understand what I was asking for, otherwise, how would I recognize that the prayer was being answered? Fast forward to the near past and God gave me answers to questions I didn't even know to ask.
The Lord had been telling me to study the book of Ezekiel. When I began to study it, I read something that blew my mind. I heard all my neurons explode at the same time and saw stars along with it all. Check out Ezekiel 1: 28b and Ezekiel 2: 1-2.
Who in their right (or wrong) mind would not fall on their face when in the presence of the glory of God? Ezekiel falls on his face, as would I (plus I would have had a heart attack to go with it), and the Lord commands him to get up on his feet. As I read this, I understood that it was a command - and when God commands, we obey (wouldn't we like for this to be true all the time, sigh). But how do you stand in the presence of God when you are on your face out of fear (He has the power to throw body and soul into the lake of fire), reverence (who can look at God?), and ignorance (we do not know everything there is to know about God)? Well the short answer is: you don't, you can't get up.
What I learned from Ezekiel's encounter with the likeness of the glory of the Lord is that Phil 4:13 is not about adding God's touch to my efforts. It is about adding God's power to my NON-effort. Ezekiel tells us that the Spirit CAME INTO [him] and RAISED [him] to [his] feet. It does not say that as he was starting to get on his feet, an invisible hand gave him a lift up. It wasn't Ezekiel who got to his feet, it was God Himself who put Ezekiel on his feet.
That's when I realized that I had originally understood Phil 4:13 as something akin to steroids, a performance enhancing drug (PED). I was performing, but 'Christ who strengthens me' was my PED. However, that is not how it works. The equation goes: 0 effort + God = success. It is all God and none of me, otherwise, where would the miracle be?
The miracle is not that we are able to stand on our feet while God lends us a hand; the miracle, and quite frankly the only way God's power can be displayed, is that we are NOT able to get on our feet, and God does not lend us a hand - He puts us on our feet.
John tells us that all who believe in Him, He gives the right to become children of God (John 1:12-13). And if children of God, then it is His Spirit that testifies with our spirit that we are God's children (Romans 8:16). And this Spirit we have been given is not a Spirit of fear, but of POWER, love, and self-restraint (2 Timothey 1:7). So just like the Spirit entered Ezekiel and put him on his feet, the Spirit of God Who lives in us can and will put us on our feet. Only, I need to stop treating the Holy Spirit like a PED and more like God; less like a helping hand, and more like the Power of God. Only then will I witness the great and mighty things of which I do not know, because He can do things for which my strengths, efforts, intelligence (or lack thereof), would only be a stumbling block.
So now that this truth has been unpacked, now I need to incarnate it. BUT this incarnation is not dependent on my ability to put it into practice, rather, it is dependent on Him alone and Him having His way with me...because everything is about grace, a gift of God, not by works lest I should boast.
May the Lord increase our faith even as He tests and stretches it to unimaginable dimensions, so that His glory can be seen and He alone be worshipped.