How many of us try to do something but don’t have the discipline we need? We want to change certain things in our lives but simply don’t have the strength or fortitude to do it. We realize we are weak or undisciplined or maybe a bit complacent or lazy and can’t accomplish certain goals or changes in our lives. Where do we find strength? Where can we discover a Source of power? It’s interesting to note that in the 12 Step recovery program from addiction, the first three steps state this: 1) We are powerless over our addiction, 2) We believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity or wholeness, and 3) We make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God. The 12 Step Program articulates something essential we all can discover in our lives. We are weak! There is a Power greater than ourselves that can help us! If we turn over our lives to God, we will discover a new life!
Well, I’m continuing my four-part sermon series on “Why Believe?” In Part 1 I shared how all people from diverse cultures throughout history believed in something beyond themselves, beyond the here and now, beyond this material world. In “Part 2” I noted how different religions and religious thought throughout history tried to offer answers to the existential questions of life. And I focused on the specific question of “What is the meaning of life? What is our purpose during this brief existence here on earth?” In Part 3, I turned our attention to how greatness inspires greatness and how Jesus Christ was arguably the greatest and most influential person in all of history. Not only His words but His life can inspire us to reach the divine potential and greatness we have within.
Today, in “Why Believe? Part 4” I will focus on the strength and power that God gives us in our lives. His power can help us fulfill our God-given potential and overcome whatever weaknesses and brokenness we have. Why Believe? Because belief in the Divine not only helps us understand who we truly are as children created in the image and likeness of God, not only reveals to us our uniqueness as well as our potential, but empowers us to overcome anything that hinders us from fulfilling our unlimited potential. We believe in the power of God to help us grow in His grace and truth, to mature in His love and Spirit, to become fully human as Jesus Christ was human. By believing in God we discover the Source of Power that helps us realize who we truly are and gives us the strength to fulfill an exciting vision for our future!
It’s one thing to simply understand who we are and understand the divine potential we possess and it’s quite another thing to fully actualize our potential. How many people do we know with potential unfulfilled? How few people do we see live up to their full potential?
Here lies a central reason why we believe! Our belief in God and our journey with God reminds us that we are never alone. We don’t journey through life by ourselves and thus, never rely solely on our own efforts. God is with us, walking with us every day. Yet He not only gives us direction and inspiration but empowers us and strengthens us to face and overcome whatever struggles, obstacles and challenges hinder us from fulfilling our potential. Not only “In God We Trust” but “In God we find strength and power!”
A popular Bible verse is Saint Paul’s encouragement to the Christians in Philippi when he himself was in prison and when the first Christians faced persecution. He shared the secret of life with these followers of Jesus, showing them how to be content in any and every circumstance, in joy and abundance as well as in trial and tribulation. In the midst of all situations, he declared, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)
Paul realized that he himself wasn’t so strong. He couldn’t rely solely on his own abilities or desire, on his own intellect or charism. At one point in his life the Apostle even said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but I do what I hate … For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Rom 7:15-20)
Yet instead of getting discouraged and remaining on a path of failure, he discovered the Source of ultimate strength when God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you. For My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” Paul would go on to say, “So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9-10)
Think about what Saint Paul is stating. He discovered strength and power in Jesus Christ, yet this discovery only came through humility, through trusting in God and not in oneself. Our Lord Himself taught His disciples, “With God all things are possible.” (Matt 19:26)
Shortly after His Resurrection from the dead and right before His Ascension into heaven, Jesus made an astounding promise to His disciples. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” To this insignificant and uneducated band of followers, Christ promised to give them power to become His bold and courageous witnesses throughout the world. They faced a fearful future with all kinds of hostility, struggle, persecution and death. Yet they confronted it without fear, receiving the strength and power to endure all things.
This is the power that we discover through belief in God. Not a worldly power to dominate others, but an inner strength that leads to a changed and transformed life. Saint Paul reveals to us, “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; old things pass away. Behold, all things become new.” (2 Cor 5:17) In Christ Jesus, we discover the strength to fulfill our divine potential, to become a new being, to become truly human. We find the power in Jesus Christ to overcome our weaknesses, to heal our brokenness, to become disciplined and cultivate the virtues, and to live life in union with God, the Source of all love and joy and peace!
In His final dialogue with His disciples before His arrest, Jesus promised His followers, “I have said these words to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)
Jesus Christ has conquered the darkness and evil of the world. He has healed the sickness and brokenness not only in society but in each one of us. He offers all people the ability to discover a new life in Him, a life filled with His power and strength. Over the last four weeks I have been asking “Why Believe?” Today, we hear the clear answer that we believe because no where else where we find the strength and power to fulfill our God-given potential, to overcome our weaknesses, shortcomings and brokenness, and to become truly human, to become a new creation fulfilling the likeness of God in whom we were created.