Kick the “t” out of can’t

Several years ago I heard a message with this same title.  Unfortunately, the title is all that remains lodged in my memory.  But I like the phrase, so I decided to write my own message.

Can’t is one of those unique words in the English language that both reveals the attitude of the speaker and triggers an emotional response from the hearer.  Ask a four-year-old to tie his shoes, or a seventeen-year-old to do his calculus homework, or a thirty-three-old husband to fix a clogged garbage disposal, you’re likely to get a common “I can’t.”   Of course, what each means is, “I don’t feel like it”, or “Why don’t you do it instead”, or “It’s not convenient for me to do at this time.”  On the other hand, if a person in authority, (a parent, a teacher, a pastor or a policeman) tells the four-year-old, “You can’t go outside and play,” or the seventeen-year-old, “You can’t associate with that boy,” or the thirty-three-year-old male, “You can’t drive over the speed limit,” watch their reaction and see if their behavior doesn’t try to prove the authority figure wrong.

I think I stand on pretty firm ground when I say that the Bible doesn’t like the word “can’t,” either in a directive or in a response.

So how does a parent avoid using the word can’t and still keep order in the household?  In his letter to the church at Colossae, the Apostle Paul put it this way: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart.” And when he wrote to the Ephesians he said it a little differently: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”   If I were interpreting Paul, I’d say, “Guide your kids, but don’t nag them.”  I really believe most parents sincerely desire to create a positive, constructive environment in the home; one where they’re involved in their children’s lives.  Parents need to learn to balance discipline and trust, protection but not over-protection, helping them set and meet realistic goals, all the while communicating love both verbally and physically. No one said it’s going to be easy. 

And what about the rest of us?  We’re told to encourage one another to be the best we can be.   And that’s exactly what the Bible does for us.  It encourages us by telling us: You can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens you; or when it says: you are the head and not the tail – you are above only and never beneath – when you are obedient to your Creator.  Even if you think you’re the one exception to the rule and you believe you are physically and intellectually challenged, the Bible has a word of encouragement for you, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”

History is filled with people who overcame physical and emotional handicaps.  T.D. Jakes was told as a young boy he’d never be able to preach because of a bad lisp.  Now he has a vast ministry that reaches millions.  Smith Wigglesworth lacked self-confidence and couldn’t speak from the pulpit for more than 2 or 3 minutes before breaking down in tears and asking someone else to finish for him.  But God gave him the ability to preach and travel all over the world.  And nearly everyone has heard of Helen Keller, who contracted a disease at nineteen months of age that made her both deaf and blind – still she became a prolific author, political activist, and lecturer.

So the next time you’re tempted to say “I can’t do that!”, just hold your tongue.  And the next time some tries to discourage you by telling you, you can’t attain one of your dreams, ignore them.  Believe in yourself – the highly valuable person God sees when He looks at you – and trust in Him to draw that out of you.

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