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The Difference Between Strain and Strength

challenges don't quit finish strong help leadership overcoming power quit quitting strength struggles temptation weakness Jan 15, 2024

I know you want to make it to the finish line. You want the personal satisfaction and the heavenly affirmation that you did it - you served, you invested, you sacrificed, you led, you impacted, and you gave your all for the right reasons over the long haul to make a difference. That's the goal for all of us. 

But there's a new temptation in town.

As a kid I remember getting those chocolate Easter bunnies each year. Every kid I knew had a secret wish:  "Let it be solid chocolate!" From the outside they all look good, but you have to bite into them to know what they're made of. Sometimes we won, and sometimes the bunny was just a thin shell of chocolate surrounding a bunny-shaped puff of air. 

In a world that rewards appearances, our great challenge is to become leaders of substance who can demonstrate actual strength rather than just strain.

I belong to a gym that has a rule about grunting: you're not allowed to do it. And I'm sure that turns away some customers - but for people like me it's one of the reasons I stay. That's because I don't want to be in a place where showing off is the priority (it never works for me anyway!). 

With all our modern marketing genius making it hard to tell what's real and what's just a show, our world is increasingly looking for solid chocolate bunnies. It's no surprise that when God was looking for a king to lead His people, He wanted the real thing. In fact, He told the prophet Samuel, "People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT). 

Here's how you can distinguish between Strain and Strength: 

  • Strain is about the outside; Strength is about the inside
  • Strain is about ego; Strength is about spirit
  • Strain is about my kingdom; Strength is about His Kingdom
  • Strain is about selfishness; Strength is about service
  • Strain is about instant gratification; Strength is about Patience
  • Strain is just noise; Strength gets the job done
  • Strain can't sustain; Strength goes the distance

So how about you?

Where in your life are you merely straining? Where do you need to do the deep work of building real strength that will help you lead well and finish strong?

I have a mentor who has shown me the way on this. He's one of those leaders who doesn't mind awkward pauses and prefers to speak last. And he seems to be right most of the time. He is humble, wise, loving, patient, and more. He doesn't really care what people think about him, but he is obsessed with developing and demonstrating godly character. If you know me well, you probably already know who this is. I'm so grateful for him. He has become a living example of what it means to be a person of strength. A solid chocolate bunny.

If you're wondering how to get started, Scripture gives us clear insight on this. And as you might expect it's not how our culture would begin. Isaiah 30:15 says, "In quietness and confidence is your strength" (NLT). Isaiah 40:31 says, "But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint" (NLT).

Slow down.

Get honest with God about your weakness.

Ask Him for help.

Wait for Him to come through.

Celebrate His goodness when He does.

Do this over and over again until it's a pattern in your life, and you'll start feeling the kind of power that can sustain you during good times and bad - the kind of strength that will carry you all the way to the finish line.


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