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Stronger: Abandon Your Tough to Max Out Your Strength

As we get ready to send our kids back to school, I can’t help but reminisce a little. I remember a guy I went to college with, Charlie.

Charlie was a smaller guy, from a smaller town, yet he had a big ego and an even bigger mouth. Charlie had a chip on his shoulder. You saw his attitude come out on full display when he was drinking, especially. Charlie was mouthy, incredibly sarcastic and even a little mean.

Often, he would find the biggest guy in the room, start talking trash and threatening him and he wouldn’t stop. He provoked, threatened and even hit other guys.

Most Saturday mornings, Charlie would wake up with a swollen eye, busted lip, bruised cheek or maybe worse. He would often say, “I may not have won, but I didn’t back down.”

It seemed to me like Charlie wanted to be a tough guy.

I often wonder if Charlie thought toughness and strength were the same thing.

Psychology Today published an article suggesting many people don’t know the difference between Acting Tough and Being Strong.

People who act tough have aggressive, demanding or controlling tendencies, which are designed to mask insecurities. Fueled by power and pride, they want others to think they are always in control, they can handle anything and nothing bothers them. Tough people have a hard time navigating life because they can never be wrong … isolating them from trusting and meaningful relationships.

Strong people, those who possess grit and tenacity, are not afraid to learn and grow, as they navigate the various situations life throws at them.

God wants us to be strong, not tough. He knows a strong life comes from a strong faith, and this is a life that works well in the real world with real challenges.

So how do we develop strength and not toughness?

First, we come to understand that God tests us because He loves us.

When the Bible talks about tests or trials, it is describing events beyond our control - a sudden job loss, illness or financial setback. These have a profound effect on the way we look at life and live our lives.

When these events happen, God wants us to treat them like the best gift ever. The bible even says to “consider it pure joy…” when we face them. (James 1:2)

So God is telling us that we should be thrilled when He puts us to the test. Are you kidding me? If you’re anything like me, this isn’t what you would consider “pure joy.”

When tested, it is easy to view the one testing as the enemy. Why would anyone who claims to care for me put me under this kind of pressure?

My perspective changed when I married a teacher. Kristen reminded me that nobody likes grading all those tests. She asked, “Do you think I like to spend the extra time pouring over their exams?”

So why do they do it? Why do they put their students to the test?

Because they care. They want to see what students know when the pressure is on and when they are ready for the next lesson.

Doesn’t that sound a little like how God works?

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. James 1:2-4 (MSG)

Tony Evans has also mentioned this principle of God's before...

Just like a good teacher, God will not test us until He has taught us. He will keep teaching and testing until we have learned what we need for the next chapter.

He wants us to be whole, complete and strong … He wants to see how we will do when life’s pressure is on. Will we rely on the way God says life should be lived or will we do it our own way?

Next week, we’ll talk about two more points on how to become strong, not tough and practical, easy application steps. Stay tuned for the rest of our “Stronger” series.

Posted by Freddie Albaugh at 8:00 AM
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