Last Saturday we climbed onto the inflated raft at 10 am. The next four hours were active on the river; we took some rapids, paddled, talked, laughed, and had fun! It was a great day with my son and grandsons. Near the end our guide told us that there would be a ‘short hike’ to the bus that would take us back to our cars. When we beached the raft the first obstacle was a slope of slippery rocks along a creek bed that we had to navigate. Next, there was a long stairway, not in the best condition. “Just do this and you’ll be on the bus, on your way to dry clothes, your car, and a cup of coffee.” But, at the top of the stairs, there was a gravel road that sloped upwards – up and up, on and on. It was probably just a half mile or so, but climbing out of that river gorge was a real effort after a day of exertion for this old guy! Inside I kept reminding myself, “Jerry, you can do this.”
What a metaphor for life. In the middle of joy, as you’re finding moments of love and laughter, there are obstacles and difficulties, challenges, and tests, too. When those things come your way in clusters, one after another, fatigue starts to set in. What then? Are you going to curse or cry; whine and whimper; sit down and wait for somebody to rescue you; or just press ahead?
Paul’s letter to the church in the city of Philippi is full of joy, a work of encouragement from a man who knew what tough times were! In his ministry, he met disappointment, experienced rejection, found himself unjustly accused, beaten, jailed, and even criticized by the very people he had brought to the knowledge of Christ’s salvation. But, he never quit. Though the up’s and down’s, he went on serving, loving, and hoping.
How did he do it? There is a little phrase that lets us see the Source of his courage: “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13, NLT) The Message goes like this: “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”
Christ in me (and in you!) will infuse us with strength beyond our comprehension, with courage that is unimaginable. Careful how you read that. Jesus is not a little slogan to drag out in hard times, a magical mantra for the hard days. We find the strength and joy Paul describes as we learn to live our life centered in Him, shaped by an eternal purpose, in submission that leads to obedience. If we act willfully, doing our own thing, and getting ourselves into a real jam, we are foolish to expect that we can cry ‘Jesus’ and find everything is instantly better. However, as we listen to Him, when we practice the daily spiritual disciplines, we will find Him present when the road gets steep, the problems multiply, and life appears to be an impossibility.
The full context of that phrase quoted above goes like this. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 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. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.“ (Philippians 4:6-13, NIV)
What a passage. Go back and read it again, slowly and prayerfully. Then, look at the circumstances that you are facing and tell yourself, “Yes, I can!” That is true, not because you are smarter, richer, more gutsy, -but because you are a child of God Who is walking with you, Who will see you through. Near the end of his earthly journey, Paul looked back over it all. There were no regrets, no gripes, just hope. He said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NLT) “I did it! Now, all that’s left is the awards ceremony!”
Christian, just do it today, Jesus helping you.
Choose His strength today.
Invite Him to lead you through today.
Yes, you can!
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.