I can’t do public speaking. I can’t learn to play a musical instrument well. I can’t play sports. I’m pretty sure most everyone has something they believe they can’t do. I know I’ve struggled with a lot of can’ts. I can’t write anything worth reading. I can’t communicate. I can’t paint. (And yes, those are real examples.) The problem with believing I can’t do something is that it leaves me believing it’s not even worth trying. And worse, it leaves me defining myself by my can’ts and avoiding anything that is can’t-related because I won’t be able to do it well (or even decently). Unwittingly, the can’ts form a prison wall all around me, as cold and hard as though they were physically there.
There are worse can’ts too: I can’t be a leader. I can’t understand God’s Word. I can’t overcome sin. I can’t be good enough. They stack up like individual stones in an insurmountable wall, their dismal messages painted everywhere in glaring neon colors. (And everyone wonders why I’ve had confidence issues all my life…) For years I accepted the fate my can’ts doomed me to, not realizing that there was more to life than the walls that had become my world. I accepted them just as though they were physical disabilities, and lived accordingly.
I was ignoring the truth of a commonly-recited verse that probably everyone already knows –
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
No small print, no exceptions, no states where it’s unavailable. (Don’t you just hate those? I feel bad for people who live in Alaska and Hawaii…) There’s (yes, I’m being grammarly rebellious) two phrases that I think need emphasized at the moment. I can. Let’s be reasonable here. It doesn’t say “I will”. Obviously you aren’t going to do everything. But… “I can”. To me, that means that if the need arises, I have the ability to rise to the occasion. How? “Through Christ.” Duh. I can’t do it by myself. We all know I’m not that capable. (I have all those can’ts, remember?)
Let me be very plain. Can’ts are lies of the devil. Satan knows how effective they are in limiting our service to God. He’s not dumb. He’ll throw any can’t at you that he thinks you’ll buy into. Can’ts are not disabilities. Can’ts are lies. And lies can be combated with truth.
I am not defined by can’ts. I am defined by Christ and Christ alone – and Christ says that through Him I can do ALL THINGS. Especially if He specifically asked me to do it. And guess what? Quite a few of the can’ts refer to things He did ask – no, even told – me to do. I firmly believe that it was He who commanded me to write. It was He who gave me a love of creating things through art. He wants all His people to communicate freely with each other in love. Duh. Of course He will give me strength to do what He already wants me to do. Has He not promised, and is He not faithful?
I wish that slaying the can’ts was a one-time deal. (I could be publishing books and music by now if that was the case…) Unfortunately, can’ts are like flies; they keep coming back. The devil doesn’t give up on his favorite methods that easily. He comes back and hammers on us again and again and again and again ad nauseum. He tries to wear us out until we fall apart of our own accord. (Also a very effective method. There’s a reason God tells us to be persistent in our prayers. Persistence pays off.) What can I do when I’m exhausted from fighting the lies and just want to give in and agree with them; when I feel like I’m falling apart?
I’m reminded of Ephesians 6, which contains the well-known passage about putting on the armor of God. One of the pieces to the armor is “the belt of truth”. Is it just a coincidence that Paul decided to name the belt ‘truth’? I don’t think so. One, I don’t believe coincidences exist, and two, I love analogies far too much to brush this off as an unintentional one. What do belts do? They don’t just hold your pants up. They – and here’s a key – hold your outfit together. Belts hold things together that would otherwise fall apart. (Or fall down. Like pants.) The truth can hold me together when lies have worn me down and I’m falling apart.
I’ve fallen for a lot of can’ts in my short life, and maybe you have too. Do you feel like your life is defined by all the can’ts, limitations, ‘disabilities’? You don’t have to. Like we sing at STEP (You knew that was going to come up eventually, didn’t you?), “Go ahead, leave behind what you thought you were and instead be defined by a better word. [Christ]” You don’t have to be defined by what you can’t do. Because by the power of Christ Jesus our Lord you can do all things. So go ahead. Slay those can’ts.