“Effort without Christ cannot succeed…Effort with Christ cannot fail.”
What do you think you can accomplish?
There are two errors of thought that we might fall into here. First, we might have much confidence in ourselves and think that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to because we are simply that strong, smart, capable, or whatever. This is folly and pride. We must learn to come to an end of ourselves and this arrogant, puffed up way of thinking. The truth is that we have not the power to do even the slightest tasks without the grace of God. Let us just start here: We would not even be alive this day were it up to ourselves to maintain our lives. Who has the power to keep his own heart beating? Or to keep the sun shining? Or to cause food to grow from the earth? That is not within our power, of course, but we rely upon God for all of these things. And the truth is, we rely upon God for all other things, whether we realize it or not. I cannot have the willpower to continue with any good task apart from God’s grace. If I do have the willpower, I will fail of strength unless God supports me. There are many obstacles outside of myself that I have no control over; there are forces much greater than myself that must be dealt with by God if I am to proceed. I must rely upon Him for that and not upon myself.
In short, let me try as I might, I cannot accomplish anything without the power of Christ. So He told His disciples: “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
But there is another side. The wonderful and glorious truth of God is that we are not left to our own devices. For those who come humbly and repentantly to God and His Son Jesus Christ, there is the promise that we will be given the very power and presence of Christ Himself through His Spirit within us. This changes everything.
Whereas we would certainly be in the wrong to trust in ourselves and think that we can accomplish great things if we only set our mind to it, yet if we make only the first step (necessary though it be) of realizing our own inability and weakness, we have not come far enough at all. If we are left thinking that there is nothing we can do and never move beyond that point, we will be left in failure.
We have heard what Jesus told His disciples, that they could do nothing apart from Him. The great companion truth to this, however, is found also in the Scriptures: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Do we believe this? Do we shy away from such a statement? Was Paul perhaps simply a bit proud and boastful to say such a thing? “I can do all things”??? Who would dare make such a claim?
Well, the Christian does. Not because he is strong in himself, but because he has been joined to the very son of God and has the very strength of Christ to strengthen him. Relying upon Christ, we can indeed accomplish any task that is the will of God. If Christ is with us, leading and guiding us, He will also provide all strength that we need to bring a deed to completion. This is a grand promise. And it is something that we must not lose sight of, or we will likely be doomed to much failure and heartache, or at least many doubts and fears that are unnecessary.
Whereas the greatest man apart from Christ cannot accomplish even the slightest thing on his own, even the man who is naturally the weakest is more than a conqueror when clothed in the power of Christ.
Do you, as a Christian, think of yourself as still doomed to sin and failure in life? Do you look upon yourself as still full of weakness, wickedness, and sin? Do you accept constant failure as the inevitable fate of any man in this world?
Let me promise you that this is a very wrong way of thinking for any man who comes to Jesus Christ in true faith and repentance. Any man who comes to Christ in this right way will be miraculously changed and filled with the power and Spirit of God. If you continue to be a slave of sin and weakness, then you demonstrate to all that you do not have Christ within you, for if you did you would have been set free from the power of sin. Do you think of yourself as still incapable of accomplishing good and great things? What are you saying, then, about the Spirit of God that has been given to you? Is the Spirit of God within you not sufficient for these things? Is God’s mercy and grace, His provision of salvation and change, lacking still? Has God not done enough to save you and truly transform you?
Let me challenge you to think according to true faith in God’s word. Any spiritual battle that you ever face in the Christian life can be overcome by you through the power of Christ within you. If you do not believe this, you lack faith in God and what He has done for you. The Bible promises us that all things we need for godliness have been given to us (2 Peter 1:3). Do you believe that? Do you find it true in your life?
I wish that Christians would stop speaking of themselves in such derogatory terms. I often hear them speak of themselves in such a way that brings shame upon God and His saving work. If we truly are new creatures in Christ, then we have been changed. We are now mighty through Christ. We are not still the weak and sin-controlled creatures that we were before true life was given to us.
Do you believe that you can accomplish all things through Christ? The Bible promises the true Christian that he can.
And it will depend upon you, in one sense, at that point. If you will not trust in Christ, if you will not rely upon Him, then you will not see the accomplishment of great victory in your life. But the Christian is the one who does trust in Christ and rely upon Him. This is at the heart of who he is. Faith is all so important to the living of the Christian life.
Will you, then, believe in Christ to accomplish all things in your life? Will you accept the words of Paul, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”? It depends, then, upon you. We know that Christ will be faithful. There is no doubt about that. If we trust on Him and act in faith and obedience, if we put our full hearts into the doing of His will, we will be amazed and humbled to see how God will work in our lives. Those things we thought unimaginable will be done. You, Christian, can do all things if you are willing and if you depend entirely upon the strength of God given to you in Christ Jesus.