Edith Lovejoy Pierce said, We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity, and its first chapter is New Years Day. (www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/new-year).
My goodness, were already into chapter 10! What words have you already placed onto your blank pages?
I want to point us to a word that we should avoid, and maybe even purge from our vocabulary, in 2018. Thats the contraction of the word cannot the word cant. This word is a highly destructive word, maybe even the most debilitating word in the English language.
Cant destroys motivation, shifts responsibility, and pours cold water on our efforts before we even get started.
Ray Prichard wrote, When you say cant, especially in reference to the problems of life, you are simply giving up without a fight. You are walking off the field, turning in your uniform, resigning your commission and admitting defeat all without a battle. You are saying Ive lost and its not even worth trying. (Prichard, www.keepbelieving.com, January 3, 1993).
In contrast to cant, Paul makes a great declaration in Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
The New Living Translation reads, I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.
The NIV reads, I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
J. B. Phillips reads, I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives in me.
Lets ask four questions as we discern where are spiritually as we being 2018:
First, do I have the personal desire to improve my life? Early in my ministry, I was venting frustration to a friend about being in the middle of a growing church field, but having a hard time getting our internally-focused members to reach out beyond the four walls of the church.
He gave a wise answer: You can lead, you can preach it, you can set the pace, but you cannot put the want-to into their hearts.
Heres question that only you can answer: when it comes to making the changes that you need to make this year to improve your life, do you have the want to deep within your heart? Are you ready to pay the price to change and improve your life?
Second, do I have the personal discipline to reprogram my thinking? Go back to verses 4:10-12 to get the context of verse 13. Paul did not randomly write this verse. He was in chains, writing from prison, unable to continue his missionary journeys. Yet, he chose contentment because his entire focus was on Christ (see Philippians 1:21).
We have the wrong idea about contentment. We pursue what we think will make us happy only to discover that it wasnt the answer to happiness we thought it would be. Paul wasnt in the best situation, but he allowed God to use him anyway.
Along with choosing contentment, we should focus on can rather than cant. What could you accomplish in 2018 with an I can do it attitude? Suppose you knew you could (fill in the blank)? What would you undertake?
Instead of I cant, what if you asked, why cant I?
Third, do I have divine enablement to do all things? If you know Jesus as your Savior, then the answer is YES! You have the strength of Christ Himself to do whatever God calls you to do.
All things refers to anything God desires for your life. J. Vernon McGee wrote, Whatever Christ has for you to do, he will supply the power. Whatever gift he gives you, he will give the power to exercise that gift. A gift is a manifestation of the spirit of God in the life of the believer. As long as you function in Christ, you will have power . . . (www.preceptaustin.com/philippians_413).
Fourth, do I have a growing relationship with Jesus? Note the little phrase through Christ. Pauls doing is dependent on his relying on Christ. Through Him refers to our union with Christ, the continuous action of drawing life and sustenance from Jesus Himself.
Am I living in a healthy union with Jesus? Is my relationship growing every day? If not, what will we do about it so that, one year from now, we will be stronger then than we are today?
(Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. The church family gathers at 352 McDonough Road and invites you to join them this Sunday at 9:45 a.m. for Bible study and 10:55 a.m. for worship. Visit them online at www.mcdonoughroad.org).