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. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)
Paul had an unshakable confidence in the power of God. He knew that he was limited in what he could do on his own, but that God was not limited in what He could do through Paul. Paul saw obstacles as opportunities to demonstrate the power of God. Paul had an enormous vision, a God sized vision. He was going to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, all the Gentiles. Instead of focusing on what he couldn’t do he focused on what God could do. The result was monumental.
In life we can let obstacles immobilize us or energize us. We can choose to say I can’t or say I can by the power of Christ. So let’s get practical.
View the challenges of life as temporary. Every crisis, every setback, every disappointment looks life shattering at the time. Yet the crisis will pass, the setback can be overcome, the disappointment will fade. As followers of Jesus we know that this life is important and meaningful, but it is not the end of the story. When we live with our eyes fixed on eternity the bumps in the road along the way seem much smaller. The events of this life are the tools God uses to shape our character and to refine our souls. What is most important is what is happening within us, not what is happening around us. In Luke 12:15 Jesus reminds us that our life is not measured by the externals of life. “Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
Don’t give up before you start. We have all done it. We look at a challenge and, almost automatically, say I can’t do that. When I was growing up I loved baseball. I still do. We played baseball in our backyard all of the time. But when I looked at being on a Little League team I said to myself I can’t do that. So I didn’t even try. Looking back I regret that decision, not because I could have been good, but because I missed an opportunity to experience playing on a team. Several years ago if you had told me that I would run a ½ marathon I would have said I can’t do that. But in 2010 I ran my first ½ marathon and I did it again in 2011. What holds us back is not our lack of ability but our lack of confidence. To be fair, there may be some things that at this point in your life you simply cannot do. We all have limitations. But they are far fewer than what you think. It is better to try and fail then to never even try. Even if you fail you have gained a valuable experience that you can use in some future challenge.
If you can’t find a way through a challenge find a way around it. During the Normandy invasion in WWII the allies began to systematically push back the German lines. Along the way they would encounter some small pockets of stiff resistance. Instead of stopping their forward movement they simply bypassed and isolated those pockets. Later they were able to go back and “clean up” what they had left behind.
When Paul would go to a new community he would start at the synagogue. He would present the Gospel message to the Jews first. In most cases they rejected his message. He didn’t give up. No, he just went next door and began preaching to whoever would listen. In this way he was able to start churches even in some of the most resistant communities. As the old saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Some challenges in life just need to be sidestepped. In many cases once we have moved by the challenge it becomes minimized.
Trust Christ to use every circumstance for your good and His glory. Sometimes we glibly throw around Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We use it as a Band-Aid when other people are going through a difficult time. Yet when it is our turn to face the music we are not so sure that it is really true. How we face the trials of life is one of the greatest measures of the depth of our faith. Paul was able to see God’s hand is every situation he faced. We can to. It doesn’t mean that we need to somehow find something good about the situation. No, we need to look for the good that God will bring about because of the situation in our lives.
The summer before I entered college I enrolled in a three-week wilderness adventure experience sponsored by the college for incoming freshmen. If I would have known in advance what I would be asked to do I probably would not have participated. I am so glad that I did. I learned that I could do things I never thought I could do. Near the end of our experience we hiked to the top of a ridge. When we arrived at the top we were informed that we would be rappelling down the 150 foot face. I am not a huge fan of heights. My heart sank but I knew that I had to do it. I will never forget the fear I felt when I took that first tentative step over the edge. I immediately fell and just as quickly was caught. Once I regained my footing I found that I could indeed do it. The challenge was not over though. Once I reached the bottom I was told that I had to climb back up. I fell three times as I attempted the climb, but I made it to the top. I can’t was transformed into I did!
So the next time you find yourself saying, “I can’t”, stop and ask yourself this question. Is this really beyond my ability or just beyond my will? Then follow that with another question. Even if this is beyond my ability is it beyond God’s ability? Remember that God can do immeasurably more that we ask or imagine. Let God lead you beyond your limits and discover just how far He can take you.