Dr. Vicki-Lynn HolmesDr. Vicki-Lynn Holmes

“I’ve got this! … No you don’t”
By Dr. Vicki-Lynn Holmes, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Education

Sunday, May 5, 2024
Dimnent Memorial Chapel Holland, Michigan

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through for without me you can do nothing.

John 15:5b
Christ who strengthens me.

Greetings.  Whenever I share a message, I always ask God what He wants to say to His people, and you graduates are His people. So today’s message for you is a simple nugget of truth that will steer you in the right direction.  It’s a thought course correction that will take you far as you explore the new roads opening up to you. If you will listen to this truth, you will succeed past your wildest dreams and conquer each obstacle that you will face. I am a living testament to this.

Here it is.  Some of you are sitting there thinking, “I’ve got this!” and I’m here to tell you that NO. You do not.  Let that sink in.  Philippians 4:13 said: I can do all things how? Through Christ who strengthens me.  The last 7 words of John 15:5 say: For without me, you can do nothing.  You alone do not “got this”

Hope College has prepared you academically; you have grown these last 4 (and some 5) years. The good and the bad experiences have helped mold you into who you are today … far different from the you that walked through these doors as a freshman.  But understanding that You alone do not “Got this” will change your life and your upward trajectory. – allowing you to do far more than you have ever even thought or imagined (That’s actually a promise from God in Ephesians 3:20-21). 

In fact, all of God’s promises are true.  His word does not return void but accomplishes the things He sets it out to do.  And he is not a man that He should lie or the son of man that He should repent.  Has He not said and will He not do it?  All of His promises are for you. 

Listen again to Jesus’ words in John 15:5, focusing really well on the last 7 words. Again, Jesus talking: The one who abides in ME and I in Him, bears much fruit, but apart from me -- now here it is -- YOU CAN DO NOTHING.   Now I am an intelligent woman – two PhDs, another incomplete one in Linguistics; two masters.  I know the meaning of words. But somehow when I read this, I translated nothing (No THING) to mean “some” things. Without Jesus’ involvement in my decisions and plans, I can still do some things … and do them well.  In my mind, I erroneously made the scripture mean:  I need Him for the things that I think are too hard for me.  I didn’t read what was clearly written “without Him I can do nothing; But I want you to know as you are moving on in your life is that God didn’t stutter or mis-speak.  You need to know that YOU CAN DO NOTHING without Him.  And by nothing I mean nothing substantial, nothing enduring, nothing of substance. Nothing that will last. Nothing that will make a difference. You can look good for a moment, but …

Now to help really clarify this, I’m going to give you a real-life example.  When I came to Hope College, I had no problems teaching.  I’d been teaching since 1981 and had received many plaques and 15 different  teacher of the year awards in DC, Maryland, Atlanta, North Carolina, and California.  All over.  And so I thought. I’ve got this!  Did you hear me? “I’ve got this.” I thought I had it because of past successes. So, I did NOT pray for God to assist me in teaching. On the other hand, I had not done a lot of research when I first came to Hope, and I was super nervous about it. So, I prayed earnestly for His wisdom, insight, understanding, and favor in doing research.  What was the result:  John 15:5 played out big time. The one who abides in ME and I in Him, bears much fruit, but apart from me, you can do nothing.

I bore much fruit in research to the point that the State of MI invited me to help write the newly adopted Michigan Math State standards for teachers.  They also invited me to help with writing the new test questions.  I am honored in my field of math education.  However, my first semester teaching (where ‘I got this’), my Rate your Professor hit an all-time low and one student even wrote: If you want to hate math, take it from Dr. Holmes. I bombed miserably.  Why? Teaching I relied on me.  Research I relied on Him. Apart from me you can do nothing.   But with me, all things are possible. (Phil 4:13). 

So, let’s look at you:  Do not think: I’ve Got this.  Do not be smug.  Pride goes before a fall. Apart from Him you HAVE nothing. But through Him, you have it all.  

No matter how smart, rich, pretty, etcetera, you are, You WILL come to the end of your rope.  You will come to the end of your talent and skills.  You will face obstacles that you cannot throw enough money at or wish away. But God has no such limitations.  YOU do not have it.  But God has it in you & for you.  

He sees solutions you cannot. He makes ways for you out of no ways. He can open your eyes so you can see and work in paths you alone are not equipped to handle. IF you allow Him to be. 

“Abide in me and I in you and you WILL bear MUCH fruit, but apart from me, you can do nothing.”

Some of you out there are facing challenges and you have neglected looking at the source of all intellect, the source of creativity, the source of life.  

In the future, some of you will face all sorts of prejudices and man-made obstacles in this life.  My chair consistently made comments to me like:  “I finally found someone who doesn’t see you as just black.” But God paved ways for me around her.”  God lifted me up and prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies. That’s another promise God gives you in Psalm 23:5.

God brings the increase to your labor. I did my due diligence (worked hard, just as you have done to earn this degree).  And God magnified my results. Just as He will do yours.  IF you include Him in your plans.  He takes you further than you could go alone. 

God looks over His word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12). The promises He makes you are real.  Jesus is a very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1); and the Holy Spirit’s job is to lead you and guide you into all truth (John 16:13).  You can have the mind of Christ (1Cor2:16). You can tap into Him for answers.  

We are talking about the creator, the master architect, engineer, mathematician, scientist, physician, musician, composer, and artist.  We are talking about intelligent design.  And His wealth and store of information is available to help YOU in your every day, in your career path, in your decision making, in the chapter of life you are embarking on today.

God has plans for YOU – each and every one of you under the sound of my voice.  He wants / desires to shine through you.  He wants you to be a success. He wants you to make your mark on this world.  He gave you your bent and calling.  Follow it.  It’s not too late for some of you. And He clearly tells you that: Without Him, You. Can. Do Nothing.  But with Him, the sky is the limit. 

You can come up with elegant answers and ways that you alone would not have even thought of.  But you can’t do it alone.   Remember Phil 4:3 I can do ALL things THROUGH Christ who strengthens me.   You can find ways to pay off your loans and get out of debt. 

Proverbs 8:12 says that God gives witty inventions (Proverbs 8:12). Sara Boon, a believer, was a black woman, who invented the ironing board – a practical way to help her in her work. OR Donna August who holds several AI-based technology patents including one for a remote control system, sensors for electrical connectors, AC power line surge protector and more.  Additionally in 2001 -- and this is for you business majors out there -- she sold her Freshwater software solutions company for 147 million dollars. Or Jerry Lawson, a black man who invented the first cartridge-based video game system or James West with his white cohort Gerhard Sessler who developed the first foil electret microphone.  When God helps, it’s no joke. That first microphone was developed in the 1960’s and I read recently that 90% of all microphones used today follow that original design.  That’s saying something.

So, what does God have in store for you?  In whatever realm you are, you can make a difference.  You bring Christ with you. You have something better than “Hey Google” … or Alexis for answers.  

The key now is to tap into this vast resource of yours.  It will be a joyful ride

I’m going to share one last example to show you the joy in Him. After all, “In God’s presence is fullness of joy.” That’s Psalm 16:11.

I am a teacher. My life has been dedicated to increasing the efficiency of the profession. I just finished writing a book about Jesus’ pedagogy and how we can all learn to teach better by learning from the master Teacher.  As I would sit an hour or two every morning at the computer, it became something I eagerly looked forward to doing. Why? because it was fun seeing what insights God would give me out of the text.  I KNEW God was revealing to me connections I didn’t make on my own.  I would hear myself say: Wow that was good.  Or Woah, nice.  It’s because the Holy Spirit was giving me such cool thoughts and ideas. I truly believe this is the best book I’ve written so far (and I’ve written several on prayer, suicide, an Algebra textbook, diversity. Many). But this one is truly special b/c of His greater involvement. I want to gift wrap the book and give it free to all new and incoming teachers.  With God, all things are possible.  WORK was no longer a 4-letter word.  Didn’t Mark Twain say Find a job you enjoy doing and you never have to work a day in your life?  It’s true.  God said it first.  Drudgery is a curse.  Your work can be a fulfilling delight.

They (people who follow after God) do not worry about how short life is, because God keeps them busy with what they love to do. Ecclesiastes 5:12 (New Century Version):  King James says:  For this is a gift from God. Receive His gift

So, I’m going to end with a challenge for you and then a prayer

  • The challenge:  This comes from Deut. 30:19. You are at the crossroads.  This is the beginning of a new adventure and God puts before you life and death; blessings and cursing.  Then he so lovingly says (in case you are dull-witted):  Choose life so that you may live.   Jesus is the way, truth, and life (John 15:6) and he came to give you life and life more abundant (John 10:10b) – even and especially in your work and career path.

And now my prayer for you:

  • Father God, I pray that each of the graduates here and those you know are almost there, will humble themselves and learn from you.  I pray that they will be transformed by the renewing of their minds and seek you.  Not relying only on their own understanding, intellect, and skill-sets. I pray they will lean on you, acknowledging you, and that you will direct their paths.  Show them not only what to do, but how to do it.  Lead them to success and I pray they will have loads of fun along the way. 

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.