But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
-1 Corinthians 15:10
“I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam!”
One of the greatest catchphrases from the old Saturday-morning cartoons comes from Elzie Crisler Segar’s “Popeye”, a skinny, scrappy sailor who became a giant-defeating powerhouse when eating his favorite spinach. When trouble came around, Popeye would grab a can of spinach and throw it back before pushing up his sleeves and heading into battle. Once the green vegetables hit his lips, his once-skinny arms would balloon up, and no one could stand against his powerful muscles. When asked how he was able to achieve such great power, Popeye would shrug and say “It’s just who I am!”
The apostle Paul was a lot like Popeye. The Bible says that Paul was a poor, afflicted ex-Pharisee who traveled around teaching about Jesus and making tents to get by. Being beaten by the authorities and often thrown into prison, Paul was weak from hunger and his injuries.
In other words, Paul was the last person you would imagine could give birth to the greatest church movement in the history of the world!
Yet Paul had his own “can of spinach” – the gospel of grace that came from Jesus Christ as His Lord. When Paul looked in the mirror, he didn’t see a weak or incapable man. He saw a beloved son of the King of the Universe – someone who had God at his side everywhere he went. Though Paul could say that he worked as hard as anyone else to teach the world about Jesus, he knew that only by the power of God through grace enabled him to do the amazing works and wonders that he accomplished.
Paul teaches us that true humility is found when we look to God as our source of power and strength. When we try to rely on our own power to make things happen, we are like pre-spinach Popeye, swinging our tiny arms at a giant. But in our weakness, we are made strong through Christ, and we can stand up to any army that stands against us!
Have you eaten your can of grace today? Imagine all that you could accomplish when you truly say “I am what God says I am – and that’s all that I am!”
Questions For Reflection on 1 Corinthians 15:10
#1 Paul writes to the Corinthians that they should live in humility. What does humility look like in your daily life, and how can you continue to work hard while giving all of the glory to God?
#2 For Paul, all that he was able to accomplish in his life was due to one simple thing: grace. What is grace? How does today’s reading bring to mind areas of God’s grace in your own daily life? Does that grace change how you view your circumstances?
Lord God, forgive me for any places in my life where I have failed to give You glory and credit for working through me. I am often drawn to congratulate myself when You alone have given me breath and life today. Without You, there is nothing I would be able to accomplish. Thank you for Jesus, who graciously gave His life for me, that I may be able to live with freedom and forgiveness.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.