The Power of “I CAN” in “I CAN’T”

  By Bob Brubaker  |  

Just three miles to go to complete 26.2 miles and I was feeling pretty good. It was a brisk Thanksgiving morning in Atlanta, and I was thinking of God’s goodness and things for which I was thankful. All of a sudden, I came upon a drill sergeant who was trying to convince a young man, no doubt one of his constituents, to keep going even though the young man wanted to just stop. “Come on!” came the command from the drill sergeant.  Then the question, “What do the last four letters of American spell?” It took me as long to figure that out as the young man, but at the end of a marathon you aren’t thinking clearly. Again, the demand was barked, only this time a little louder and a little more demanding, “What do the last four letters of American spell?” And everyone around the young man with his drill sergeant said in unison, “I CAN!” In spite of the young man yelling back the response, “I CAN!” he stopped from exhaustion and received further wrath from the drill sergeant.

Many times, we try to just convince ourselves to keep going or accomplish something on our own by just saying I can, but in reality we don’t believe it. Just repeating it or having it repeated to us just doesn’t do the job. So, what can we do when we face difficult as well as everyday situations? Learn the power of I CAN in I CAN’T.

Consider the words of Paul in Philippians 4:13 – we may think of Paul doing the “I can” motif but look at the verse, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul learned the I CAN in the I CAN’T. He learned the source of his strength was the Lord Jesus Christ. He learned that the way to tap into that supernatural strength was not to pull himself up by his bootstraps and just say, “I can, I can, I can” until he was blue in the face. Rather he learned to admit, “I can’t.” In seeing our weakness and admitting it before the Lord Jesus Christ, we become candidates to see Him work in us and through us.

To get the full impact, consider what Paul relied upon the strength of Christ to accomplish:

Philippians 4:11–12 (ESV) — 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Paul learned contentment by relying upon the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not the only example of Paul finding great strength to accomplish the impossible, being content in whatever state he found himself – good or bad, but also the great secret to life. When we admit we can’t, we are open for the power of Christ to shine through us. Likewise, just as learning true contentment in our own strength and power is just as impossible for us as for Paul, so to as Paul received this lesson directly from the Lord Jesus Christ when he asked for relief of a “thorn in the flesh,” we can count on Christ’s power made evident in our admitted weaknesses.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

It is clear then that the way to I CAN is to realize I CAN’T – but HE, Christ, CAN and He will through me, so I CAN through Him and His strength in me.


Relying on the Lord Jesus Christ and His supernatural power and strength means we must wait on Him instead of plowing ahead in life. It means we do more talking to Him than self-talk. It means we give Him the credit and talk about Him rather than glory in what we have accomplished.

Isaiah 40:30-31 (ESV)  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Psalms 50:15 (ESV) Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

1 Corinthians 1:31 (ESV) Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

As we learn the lesson in our everyday tasks of knowing I CAN when we realize I CAN’T but He can through me, then we are ready for the bigger challenges of life. As you face the challenges of the day, find the real strength of I CAN in I CAN’T, but HE CAN so I CAN as He works THROUGH ME. In what area of your life are you struggling, or could you be struggling today? Take a moment and admit your weakness to the Lord Jesus Christ and ask for His strength, grace, and power, knowing as you “can’t” so you “can through Christ who strengthens you.”


Bob Brubaker

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