I needed today’s sermon. More than I even knew.
A new year always brings with it a sense of a fresh start, a new beginning. A chance to “be all you can be”, if you will. I always feel a certain excitement, anticipation in the air as the new year dawns. I always purpose certain things in my heart and set my mind on starting this… stopping that… being more consistent. And inevitably, even if the year starts well, the determination to see it through fades as the weeks go by.
John put before us today a verse that is very familiar-even outside of the church world.
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
Today, that verse sank a little deeper into my heart.
Do I live with an “I can” perspective on life? Sadly, I more often lean toward “I can’t”. I think, to some degree, we all do. We are living at a time when every headline is at our fingertips and a culture of fear saturates our thoughts. We live in a world where comparison has become the norm and we can easily spot the ways we don’t measure up.
And what about the rest of the verse? I purpose to “do all things”-especially at the beginning of a new year-but, often, I leave out the “through Christ” part. When I try to do things on my own-when I write out long lists, plans and ambitions, but I don’t align them with Christ, I don’t get the strength to see things through. In fact, most of the time, many of my lists and ambitions don’t even line up with the purposes God has for me. Willpower and raw determination can carry us pretty far-but for how long? Can I sustain my life’s purpose on my own, without aligning myself with Jesus and leaning on the strength of His Spirit in me?
Nope. No one can. Not with any lasting success.
There are things I want to do in 2017. Things that I know God has been drawing me into. Some of them are the same things I was sure I would do in 2016. Why didn’t I?
I suppose, as John spoke about today, I let my imagination wander into that place where I asked,
“What if He doesn’t show up?”
I let fear and doubt hold me hostage and, at the same time, tried to chart my own course into unknown waters.
But God is the Maker of the waves. John said, “We ride the waves that He has created”.
I want to do that this year. I want to start-now, in this moment-realigning my perspective from “I can’t” to “I can”. Because I know our God can be trusted. I know He is Miracle Worker and Purpose Giver and through Christ, I CAN.
You can, too. You can face that thing that you’ve struggled to overcome. You can move toward that dream that God planted in your heart long ago. You can let go. You can taste freedom. You can say no to what needs to go. You can say yes to what you need to embrace. Whatever it is that God is calling us into or away from, no matter how big or how scary–we can.
This year, we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. Imagine if you can…
Like Laura, Philippians 4:13 spoke to me in a new way through John’s sermon.
“I can do ALL things THROUGH CHRIST who STRENGTHENS me.”
Knowing that Paul was in a prison cell when he penned that verse, gives even deeper meaning . The quote from holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl that John shared keeps flipping over in my mind. In its entirety it reads:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Will I choose, in 2017, total dependence on God? Will I choose to let Him strengthen me? Will I choose to live in His “I can” because of Christ’s presence in my life? Will I choose to believe that all things are possible through Christ who strengthens me, no matter what 2017 holds? Will I choose to hang on to His promises and take responsibility to act based on what I do know? Will I continue to paddle in pursuit of Him while I wait on His divine waves so that I’m ready when they come? Will I choose to live by faith?
When John said that if we wait for everything to fall into place we will miss many divine moments, my immediate response was–I don’t want to do that! I want to be living by faith, making choices based on what I know God has already promised, so that when the God-wave comes, I’m already in position to ride it. John highlighted that All Christ followers are called to ride waves, to make a difference. “He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does. The good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” (Eph 2:10- Msg) If we are not doing it, who is?
Jonathan and his armor bearer lived in the “I can through Him who strengthens”.
Daniel before the lion’s den was ever a thing , pursued God and lived in the “I can through Him who strengthens”.
The apostles, after the resurrection of Christ lived in the “I can through Christ who strengthens.” The early church lived in the “I can through Christ who strengthens.”
Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:17 …”the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it…”
Living in the “I can through Christ who strengthens” is very personal and very purposeful simultaneously. It’s for me, AND it’s for the world. My “I can” is how His kingdom comes to earth THROUGH CHRIST who strengthens me. Your “I can” is how His kingdom comes to earth THROUGH CHRIST who strengthens you.
Will I choose to live in the “I can” with urgency, intentionality, and total dependence upon “Christ who strengthens me”? Will you? Will we let Him change the world through our “I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST who STRENGTHENS me?” Thoughts?