Philippians 4: 13                Jubilee Bible

I can do all things.

You likely already know this verse and what a bunch of good news it is! There is more to this verse than meets the eye. Let’s see how it fits in the context of other verses.

In contrast to today’s verse, we find Jesus declaring in John 5: 19 he could do nothing. Where does Paul get off saying, “I can do all things,” when Jesus said he could do nothing? Of all the people in history, Jesus is the one person I believe could do anything. It leaves me thinking, “If Jesus could do nothing, where does that leave me?” How can I do all things if Jesus could do nothing? It gets worse. In John 15: 5 Jesus answers that question saying, “You can do nothing.”

That is pretty discouraging, but light begins to peek through in Proverb 10: 22 where we find that “It is the blessing that makes a person rich, and hard work adds nothing to it.” According to this proverb it is not by my labor and strength that success comes. The blessing creates success. However, many other proverbs warn about the fate of the sluggard. A good example is Proverb 21: 25, “The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.” So, on the one hand we are taught that success is not the product of our hands or even of hard work. Then, the very same author warns us not to be sluggards, but instead put our hand to the plow, as it were.

Is God schizophrenic? Does the Bible set up a dichotomy telling us one thing and then the opposite? Is the Bible intentionally confusing, cloaking its truths in mystery? Is success the product of my labor or of the divine?

As with so many topics, understanding is more clearly gained when the Bible is taken in its entirety rather than one verse standing alone. The answer to this question is in Deuteronomy 28 where we are promised that God will bless everything we set our hand to (Deuteronomy 28: 12). I am also reminded of the 23rd Psalm where we find the good shepherd who leads us in the right paths. We don’t have to find our own way. He guides us.

The way to success, in any endeavor, is through partnership with the divine. The rest of the statement from John 15: 5 is “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” Paul’s statement is incomplete too. He said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Paul would be the first person to say he could do nothing apart from Christ. However, he understood that when he partnered with the divine, allowing Jesus to guide him and the Holy Spirit to empower him, truly nothing was impossible to him. Our labor guided by the hand of God and mixed with the blessing of the Almighty is the formula for success. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing but with him, we are well able to do all things!

Blessing or Labor

Proverb 10: 4

Poor is one who works with a lazy hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

What about this? I wrote you recently that it was the blessing of the Lord which makes rich (Proverb 10: 22). So, which is it, the blessing or the work of your hand which makes rich?

I heard an expression years ago that stuck with me, “God can’t steer a parked car.” The message was that we are to begin moving and then He will direct us. In recent years you have actually heard me teach this under the moniker, “Partnership.” Therein lies your answer.

Deuteronomy 28: 12 reads, “The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless every work of your hand; and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow.” This chapter is about the blessing and you can surely see it in this passage. If you look closely, though, you will also see our part in the partnership. Let me rephrase this combining the verses from Proverbs and Deuteronomy. It is the blessing of the Lord which makes rich as God blesses the work of our hands. We must set our hands to something. Second, we must do so in the name of the Lord, committing our work to Him.  Third, we must allow Him to steer us. The outcome is blessing. If we will allow the Father to be our partner in everything we do, He will anoint and bless the work of our hands. He will show us the way to go.

Neither looking to the might of our hand nor sitting around waiting for God to do something will result in the success we desire. It is the combination of allowing God to direct us and then putting our hand to the plow which yields results. God is waiting to bless you, but you must pull away from the curb and then let Him navigate. It is the combination of our joint labors that wins the day.

Lucky or Blessed?

Deuteronomy 28: 12

The LORD will . . . bless all the work of your hand.

As many of you know, last year at the MS Bike ride, I won a bicycle. It was very exciting. At a different event I won a Jersey shadow box. Recently there was a drawing in an exercise class and, yep, I won. Yea!

People have been saying I should go to Las Vegas. Others said, “We need to get in the car right now and go buy a lottery ticket.” Truthfully, I love winning. It is exciting and fun, but I still don’t feel lucky and I didn’t go buy a lottery ticket.

I believe my good fortune comes from my Father. I don’t mean to intimate that he causes me to win a raffle over someone else that He loves. It’s just the blessing that He is and that is in operation because of him. The more I am into Him, the more that blessing seems to get on me.

Father really does help me with a lot of things. Sometimes I am lucky in games, but I think the truth is that my Dad helps me. Perhaps, I can hear Him and feel His nudges a little better these days.

I don’t feel lucky, but I will say, I am one of the most blessed people I know. I have good fortune, no doubt, but my fortune has a name, Yahweh. He is my good luck and my blessing. I just need to press into Him more so that more of Him gets on me. Then it is hard to go wrong. I love the Lord and He is good to me. He loves you too. That is not Las Vegas kind of love. It is infinite love so press into it and see the blessing flowing all around you. You are blessed!

Happy Labor Day

Colossians 3: 23 – 24

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

Happy Labor Day as we celebrate the rewards of joyous labor! What? That is not your perception of labor? Perhaps we all need a fresh approach to labor for by it we serve our Lord. It is a worthy thing for each of us to have something to which we can set our hands. We receive all of our blessing from the Lord without earning it but He certainly does bless all that we set our hands to. “The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand” (Deuteronomy 28: 12). 

Today’s verse reminds us to do our work heartily. What does that mean? I perceive it to mean that we should give our full effort to our labor and to do it with a good attitude knowing that our service is actually unto the Lord Jesus rather than to a boss or corporation. God has given us jobs and for that I believe we should be grateful and every day we should thank Him and apply ourselves as if Jesus were our personal supervisor for in truth he is. We should celebrate with a joyous heart because no matter what our job or occupation it is a means by which we can bless others. Even if you don’t particularly like your job if you really perceived Jesus as your supervisor wouldn’t that change the way you look at your job? Even the most awful job would, perhaps, be sufferable if Jesus was in it with us. And just think, maybe God has you there for some divine, Kingdom reason.

Rejoice and be happy for we have the means by which we can invest our labor. Make every day a work unto the Lord. I think that when we see ourselves offering a gift of our effort and work to the Lord, we will find joy and meaning in even the most mundane tasks. Make this “take Jesus to work” week and enjoy fruitful labor. Be blessed!