Christians who like to train, or just Christians in general when they attempt great things for God, normally appeal to Philippians 4:13; “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” It is indeed a great verse, it makes a great Tee shirt so you can broadcast your inspirational message to an unbelieving world. Taken out of context as many of us do, it can be applied to anything. With the power of Christ I can overcome the financial struggles I am enduring. Now if you are learning to be content as the apostle Paul is speaking of in the context and learning to go without for there is no dire need, then indeed you are living that verse out in context. However, that is not how we use that verse. Take my training for example. Oh Brother, you can do all things in the strength of Christ. You can run a marathon, work 50+ hours a week, you can ______(fill in the blank) with the power of Christ, if He is in you.
I think there are a couple of problems with the verse that we are speaking about in its application to our lives and the things we set out to achieve. I have dealt with the first, let us proceed to the second. Many Christians, myself included have used this as a crutch for poor training, poor planning, poor execution of a well thought out plan. We come to the starting line in a haphazard way, raising our little arms and raising our eyes to heaven we mumble out Philippians 4:13 in a mantra, that somehow the power of Christ is going to just empower you through the course (whatever that course is you are about to do).
Flippant prayers such as the one I discussed above, however humble they may appear to be, are worthless and show little regard to the work that Christ commands in us if we are going to perform well, in whatever avenue we are pursuing; i.e. career, endurance sport, finance, college, marriage, evangelism in the uttermost, church planting, pastoring, parenting, the list can go on, you fill in the blank. You don’t do any of the above without a well thought out plan, then execution of said plan.
I think a more appropriate passage comes from the same book Philippians in 3:12-21. It is a glorious passage about forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Whatever your goal, whatever you think your purpose is, forget it. Verse 14 says it all. Just a little food for thought. However, this is not the passage of Scripture that is lying on my heart when it applies to my training. It is the 50th chapter of Isaiah. Verse 7 in particular.
7 But the Lord God helps me;
Therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I will not be put to shame.
The best of plans are bound to fail, you will eventually get sick, get exhausted, over-trained, kids will get sick, wife will disagree with the amount of time you are training (Alisha you haven’t said a word, just using an analogy, I’ll be home in a while), financially doing events are too expensive, the list goes on.
But what I like about this verse is that your face is like flint. Ever seen flint in use before? Two years ago, the love of my life and I were able to celebrate our marriage, at that time 10 years. We went to Gatlinburg and did the artisanal loop. Great stuff, we stopped in at a little leather working studio, where the owner/shop keeper was doing flint work. He was learning to manipulate flint like the Native Americans did. He would take rocks that were shaped differently and would hit these small pieces of flint, edging out sharp edges in order to make knives, arrowheads, etc. How does this apply to my life and training?
Well I like to think of myself more highly than I should. I like to make plans that are lofty, goals that are larger than my pocketbook or time card. Some of these are good, don’t get me wrong. If I’m not going to be ambitious in life, I might as well retire now and go home. So you take your plans, you take your goals, you make dreams, then you set out to do them. And you have a face like flint. God, the Holy Spirit is that rounded rock that chips away at your rough edges, the Scripture speak into areas of your dark soul, once again, another rounded rock; you sit amongst godlier people than yourself and are inspired/challenged/troubled/humbled/sometimes angered, and once again there is that rounded rock chiseling out a piece of your rough face. You attend church, family group/community group and people get up in your grill about your ugly flint face that is fat and rounded and filled with sin and a cupcake, they too have become the chisel that makes you sharper, more like an arrowhead. Your plan doesn’t go through, just the way you want it, do you anger, do you bend, do you fold, do you re-group your focus, this too is that rounded rock chiseling out your face. What should your face look like? A sanctified image of God, that is going hard after the life that God has given you.
Also flint is hard. If rounded rocks that are harder than flint weren’t hitting together, flint would go on the same. This effects me. This encourages me. Yes my plans are lofty, my goals large, my visions grandious, but if God and the means that He has set in our lives do not come into contact with you and set themselves against you, then what the hell are you doing besides pursuing your goals. You ought to get after it. You should get after it. If you don’t then your goals were worthless, and meaningless. As a friend of mine and I talk about things in life using a weightlifter analogy; “If the bar ain’t bending, then your pretending.” Get after it!
Now before you start commenting that I’m taking this verse out of context, I will concede that I am learning about the passage, something that has I’ve been pondering. So please bear with me as I study Isaiah 50, but for now that is what I’ve got. Training, for me isn’t about having a sexy body, bustling with a six-pack and ripped veins (although that would be nice), it isn’t just so I can say I ran a marathon (ok, maybe it is partly that), but I think the main goal of my training is becoming more like Christ in my thought life, in the way that I carry myself in light of having big goals, it is the fact that I want to be a more godly parent when these 4 months are done than when I began.
Just food for thought. If you’re reading this, I pray this inspires you to the same end. Make big plans for your life, goals for yourself, and then set your face like flint.