The posters at the church I grew up in were terrible. The ones in my room at home were awesome because they had legitimate, big name athletes on them.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
But the ones at church were different. One poster in particular was a picture of a generic white dude. The generic white dude was wearing a generic basketball jersey. I think it said something like Bears or Tigers. And the generic white dude who played for the Bears or Tigers was dunking. At the bottom of the poster was this verse.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
This was my favorite verse as a kid. Mainly because I was a generic white dude that desperately wanted to dunk. Of course I couldn’t jump over a brown paper sack but the promise was right there in the Bible. Jesus will help me dunk.
Paul wasn’t writing to the Philippians about joy and perseverance only to switch gears in the middle of the last chapter to throw something out for the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was speaking of something much more miraculous than any athletic endeavor. And he was speaking from personal experience.
In Acts 14, Paul heals a man who has never been able to walk. But that’s nowhere close to the most amazing thing that happens in that chapter. As a result of the healing, a mob tries to worship Paul, thinking that he and Barnabas are gods. Paul uses the gospel in an attempt to persuade them to worship the real God instead. It barely worked (14:18) but there was something else that was much more effective in turning this mob around.
But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. Acts 14:19 (ESV)
In just a short time Paul goes from being worshipped to being left for dead. But as other believers stood around him, perhaps wondering what this tragedy meant for the church and their faith, Paul sat up. He wasn’t dead after all. Bloodied, bruised and hurting but not dead. And that’s when the amazing thing happened.
He walked right back into the city where his attempted murder took place.
After that, he went to Iconium, the headquarters of the group that instigated that attempted murder. And he wasn’t walking around like the guy from No Country for Old Men looking to settle scores with an air gun. Instead, he was “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (14:22).
That’s what Paul meant when he would later write, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
The strength of Christ is in us when stones fly by our head. Even real stones, not just the figurative ones.
The strength of Christ is in us when one or two of those stones finds its target, right between our eyes.
The strength of Christ is in us when all physical strength is gone and we are left for dead.
The strength of Christ is in us when everything else inside of us is telling us to run the other way or settle a score.
History has shown us, and Paul is the perfect example, that the people who make the biggest difference for Christ are the ones with a few scars. The ones who have been knocked down. The ones who keep getting back up even though they have nothing left inside of them.
Nothing but the strength of Christ.