"You just gotta be strong!"
And another popular one...
"God will never put on you more than you can handle."
This thing called missions? It's bigger than me. Way bigger. The task is great. The consequences are weighty. The obstacles are numerous.
I can't do this! I can't change hearts! I can't paste on a smile everyday when I am struggling with culture stress! I can't bear the distance between family and friends! It's too overwhelming to think about sending my kids to the States for college while we stay here. And the heartaches and the persecution and when the new church plant struggles and when friends become enemies and... and...
Sounds pretty hopeless? Not really. Realizing things are too big for us is the first step in becoming strong. It's the pasting on of smile and the "just hanging in there" that gets us into trouble. Trying to push through... that will drain us quicker than anything.
John 15:5 "I am the vine, ye are the branches:
He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit:
for without me ye can do nothing."
Just Be Strong... and Weak
In the first chapter of Joshua, Joshua was receiving instruction. He was replacing Moses in leading the children of Israel. Read to what God says:
Joshua 1:6 Be strong and of a good courage...
Joshua 1:7 Only be thou strong and very courageous...
Joshua 1:18 ... only be strong and of a good courage.
Sounds like God is saying, "Be strong! You can do it!" But don't leave out a few surrounding verses that teach Joshua HOW to be strong.
Joshua 1:5 There shall not any man be able
to stand before thee all the days of thy life:
as I was with Moses, [so] I will be with thee:
I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
Joshua 1:9 Have not I commanded thee?
Be strong and of a good courage;
be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed:
for the LORD thy God [is] with thee whithersoever thou goest.
He wasn't saying, "You got this thing, Joshua! I will never put on you more than you can handle!" Leading the Israelites was definitely more than any man can handle! However, God was telling Joshua that God was not going to fail! God was going to do it. God was going to be with Joshua and strengthen and guide him.
2 Corinthians 12:9 "And he said unto me,
My grace is sufficient for thee:
for my strength is made perfect in weakness..."
God tells us that when we are weak, His strength is perfect. When we realize our strength isn't enough, and we become fully dependent on His strength, His strength shines bright and bold.
There is strength in weakness. When we admit we cannot do this thing, when we quit pasting on the smiles, when we quit relying on our own power to push through, when we depend on Him... we tap into true strength that does not fail. We can rest in the midst of struggle and suffering.
What happens when we rely pridefully on our strengths and abilities?
1 Corinthians 10:12 "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
Think you can stand on your own? Think you have enough strength to battle temptation? Trials? Hardships on the field? You are setting yourself up for a fall.
But look at the next verse.
1 Corinthians 10:13 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
This is the verse that "God will not give you more than you can handle" proponents love to quote. But notice Who is faithful? Notice Who is making a way? Notice Who is making it possible to bear and escape and endure.
It isn't us doing it. It is Him doing it through us, making the impossible possible. It is His work and His strength, whether it be a trial or facing temptation of sin.
How do we tap into this strength?
Know Our God
Daniel 11:32 "... but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits."
Learn to Be Strong in the Power of His Might
Ephesians 6:10 "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might."
His might... not ours!
His might... not ours!
But be weak... realize we are not enough. We cannot do this. We cannot "just hang in there."
Without Him, we can do nothing.
Church planting? Ministry work? Parenting?
Psalm 127:1 "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."
It's His work. His protection. His provision. His strength.
Don't be strong. Be weak... and be strong in the power of HIS might.