I Can Do All [Crappy] Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me

Say it with me now …

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

What does that mean to you?

Do you have it scribbled on a sticky note in your gym bag? Is it on one of your coffee mugs to psych you in the morning, “I CAN wake up!” We’ve all heard it touted from various sports fields and courts.

Yes, it’s true. None of those things would be possible with out Christ.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

But if we take a close look at what Paul was saying, he really didn’t have any intention of implying that God’s crazy, awesome, supernatural, sustaining power was specifically designed to help you finish the marathon. Read the whole passage, starting with verse 10:

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (emphasis mine)

The context of Paul’s famous phrase was him telling the Philippians not to worry about him. No matter that he was in jail even as he penned the letter. A quick cross reference with 2 Corinthians 11:25 tells us that Paul was no stranger to physical pain and suffering. And it’s from that place that he tells the Philippians, “I can do anything … ”

Basically, I think, boiled down, Paul was saying, “I can deal with all the crappy stuff through Christ who strengthens me.”

Paul wasn’t claiming that he could obtain any promotion, conquer any athletic feat or leap tall buildings in a single bound. No, he was telling them that he could survive anything. Christ’s strength was his anchor, his sustenance, his confidence to endure suffering, pain, loss, defeat and rejection.

If you reframe this famous line in the context of the Apostle Paul’s original words, what is Christ enabling you to do today? What are you confident he will enable you to face tomorrow?

Setting Captives Free, A Review

This week I am in Texas preparing for the best day of my sister’s life! Chelle gets married on June 16!

But, the show must go on! So, this week I was planning to share some life-giving, truth-giving resources with you. With each of the links I provide, I am speaking from personal experience. I have either done the Bible study, sat through the tuition, faithfully read the blog, dialogued with the founder or participated in some other way.

This week we are looking at Setting Captives Free. I began the In His Image study  a couple months ago. I was in the middle of a couple other studies at the same time, so it took me a while to gain momentum. My generous mentor never rushed me, but she did encourage me that doing the study at a steady pace produces better results. She was right!

When I finished Breakaway at my church, I stepped up my progress at In His Image. Almost every morning, I find myself in tears in front of my computer. The lessons have been convicting – very. At the same time, my mentor balances the brunt of the truth with empathy and hope-sustaining Scripture. But I warn you these studies aren’t for the faint of heart, or just to make you feel good!

Here’s an additional devotional that my mentor shared with me today. We have actually developed a broader relationship, as she has experienced many similar pains to myself. This devotion was in response to another situation I shared with her. Enjoy!

WHICH ARE YOU?

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

A young woman went to her mother and told her how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see?” “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter then asked. “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity—boiling water—but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. After being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do you wilt and become soft and lose your strength? Or are you an egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Do you have a fluid spirit, but after a loved-one’s death, a relationship breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have you become hardened and stiff? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside you are bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart? Or are you like a coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If I am like the bean, when things are at their worst, I get better and change the situation around me through Christ-likeness.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level? How do you handle adversity?

RESPONSE: Christians are like carrots, eggs or coffee beans. They don’t know how strong their response is until they get into hot water. Which are you?

PRAYER: Lord, help me realize that every experience You gives me, every person You put in my path, is the perfect preparation only You can see.

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS)
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International.

Run Baby RUN

Obviously, endurance is important in a marriage. You’ve got to survive the honeymoon, then the seven-year itch, then the kids and dirty diapers, the moves, the financial catastrophes, the football games and shopping trips, the burnt dinners, the in-laws and late nights without courtesy phone calls.

For many of these posts, you have endured my cloaked complaints about the ups and downs of marital bliss.  I can tick off the idiosyncrasies that I have endured but I haven’t humbly given credit to my husband’s endurance.

A prime example of his endurance and patience is our recent road-trip back to our roots in Oklahoma and Kansas. Patrick drove 20 hours each way. He stopped every 2-3 hours for my pathetic bladder. He allowed my dog to climb up, back and over the seats when he wanted to sit in my lap. He let me pack home twice as much stuff as I packed to begin the trip. And he barely complained at all!

Have you ever considered how you have benefitted from another’s endurance? I’m not just talking about putting up with you (that may or may not be a chore). Patrick and I have prospered in direct proportion to our parents’ endurance. Both of our parents’ are still married – my own just celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary! CONGRATULATIONS AND THANK YOU, DAD AND MOM! All of our grandparents honored their wedding vows well over 6 decades, till death parted them. Now, I easily run to the arms of my mom or mother-in-law with full assurance that they will advise to the preservation of my marriage – not to simply tickle my ears.

I have been noticing and admiring endurance in many aspects of life, recently. My sister, Kelsey and her husband have embarked on a long blessing that will require great endurance. I introduced you to Kylie , in November. Doubtless children demand endurance!

My youngest sister just got engaged to one of the most fantastic men. She endured a long, sometimes long-distance dating relationship while she waited for God’s perfect timing for the marriage. I’m sure these last few months of waiting for the date to arrive will seem to stretch on forever, but it will be worth it!

What are you enduring? Is it painful? Is it in high hopes of a wonderful future? Is it worth it?

As Christians, our high calling is to be Christ-like. Endurance is an indisputable requirement to imitate our savior.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

It will all be worth it.

The Three “E’s” of rElationship

Friday, my husband I returned from a two-week-long adventure. I had told you that the third week of January, I would share with you what God has been faithfully teaching me especially in regard to my marriage. I figured that our 40 hour road trip would be a fishbowl-view, magnifying all the issues and instances of conflict in marriage. Dousing one’s self and one’s spouse in extreme family situations, bookended by 20 hours in the car in each direction has unlimited potential to round off rough edges and polish one’s personality and patience into perfection or oblivion.

With the utmost humility, I am pleased to announce that due to the Holy Spirit’s intervention, the Son’s intercession and the Father’s grace, we have emerged stronger than before! Thanks be to God. God taught me numerous things over these past two weeks but I think I can best sum them all up in three words: Esteem, Endurance and Empathy.

Let’s start with Empathy. I just discovered the primary difference between the friendships that I really enjoy and those that are peripheral to my joy and personal growth. Imagine a conversation that goes like this.

Person 1: HI! I’m so glad I caught you! I’m going to be driving for the next three hours, so I thought I catch up with you.

Person 2: That’s great, thanks for calling.

Person 1: So tell me, how are you?

Person 2: I’m great, blah, blah, blah…. By the way, what’s going on in your life?

Person 1: Oh nothing. I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go.

That may not be a self-explanatory example, but what if that conversation repeats itself every single time Person 1 calls you? They are minutely interested in your life, knowing your struggles and daily details, but as soon as you seek reciprocation, they curl into a spiny little ball and roll desperately away from you? You just bared your soul, or at the very least, shared from your true self, and yet they repeatedly prove that they don’t trust you enough to do the same.

I have a couple of friends like this. Then, there are the relationships that go both ways. When I pour out my heart – full of joy or sorrow – they respond from their very depths. Empathy. They know how I feel. Even if they have never experienced my exact circumstances, they are comfortable wearing my shoes for the course of a conversation.

I have always prided myself (ooohh… that’s a no no) on being a good friend. I love to listen to people. I long to help bear their burdens. I’ve even joked that I must have the phrase, “Talk to me,” written across my forehead. But that’s not enough. We’ve all heard that, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Very true, but is there such a thing as too much listening?

Where do the ears meet the heart? Can the heart express itself through facial expressions or words of self-divulgence?

It’s easy to sympathize; to let someone poor themselves out in the space between us and then respond with, “I’m so sorry.” But, I submit to you that your friendship will go deeper, your words be heard more clearly and your own heart be more buoyed by joy, if instead of sympathizing, you Empathize.  Be vulnerable. Share your joys and pains. Let the cards away from your chest. Relax your poker face. Be willing to be known.

After all, isn’t that what Jesus did?