The Bible doesn’t say that Christians should do everything for themselves. Nor does it say that God will do everything for Christians. Rather, the Bible shows us that God will do certain things, and we must then respond to those things. It shows us that the power and resources are there, but we must appropriate them.
The apostle Paul wrote, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NLT). This is a great balance because it shows us that there is our part and there is God’s part. Instead of saying that Christ does everything and we do nothing, it says that we “can do everything through Christ,” who gives us strength.
God has given us the strength to be the people He is calling us to be, but we must appropriate it, apply it, and utilize it.
There are some things that only God can do and some things that only we can do. For example, only God can enable, but only we can yield. Only God can guide, but only we can follow. And only God can convict us of our sin, but only we can repent of it.
God won’t step over the boundary of our free will and make us do what He wants us to do. If He did, then we would be nothing more than robots. But because He wants us to act out of our own free will, He initiates. At the same time, we must respond to what He is doing.
This is the same principle we find in Philippians 2, where Paul wrote, “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (verses 12–13 NLT).
So, it is God who is working, but we must be yielding. Yes, we “can do everything through Christ, who gives [us] strength,” but it’s also true that apart from Christ, we can do nothing (see John 15:5).
We can move forward in our own strength, try to make things happen, and fail. For instance, we can try to break free from an addiction, or put a marriage back together, or undertake a ministry with our own wisdom and resources. And we can fail.
Or, we can say, “I can’t do it, Lord, but I can do all things through Jesus, who gives me strength. I’m going to yield to the power of the Holy Spirit and take steps of practical obedience.” And everything can turn around.
Many times, we don’t take hold of the resources that God has given us so that we might effectively resist temptation, be bolder witnesses for Christ, or be better husbands or better wives. We’re trying to do it in our own strength. And we’re falling short.
Which way are you living right now? Are you trying to do things in your own strength? Or are you doing things through Christ who strengthens you? That is the key.
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