Impossible? Never!

“But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” – Matthew 19:29 [ESV].

100 years old.  A century.  Think about it… someone who is 100 years old today was born the same year Woodrow Wilson became president.  The average wage earner brought home just under $1300 per year.  Milk cost 32 cents a gallon, gas was 12 cents and the average car $490.  World War I was still a year away.  Cracker Jack started putting prizes in their boxes, and the IRS started collecting federal income tax.  Stainless steel was invented that year, Henry Ford introduced the assembly line, and Charlie Chaplin began his film career.

Let’s face it.  A lot happens over the course of a century.  If you live to be 100 and still live on your own, you are doing remarkably well.  If you’re really blessed, Willard Scott will show your picture on the “Today” show.  The last thing you expect is to hear is, “Next year, you two will have a baby!”   Especially of you and your spouse were never able to conceive a child.

Consider Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham is no Tony Randall.  His wife is a spry 90 years old.  And, when Sarah overheard the proclamation that she would give birth at her age, she laughed.  (Wouldn’t you?)  And God’s response: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:13, ESV).

Likewise, upon receiving the news from an archangel that she would conceive our Savior as a virgin, and that her cousin Elizabeth (who, coincidently, had never been able to conceive and had passed her childbearing years) was pregnant, Mary was astonished.  The angel’s response: “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, ESV). 

And then there is the account of the rich young ruler, where we see how difficult it is to put God above all else, including / especially earthly wealth.  Jesus explains that, in and of ourselves, salvation is impossible.  We simply do not possess the wherewithal to save ourselves.  “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:29, ESV).

The Bible is filled with examples of the impossible: bodies healed, impossible battles won, astounding rescues, dead raised, thousands fed on the lunch of one child, lives turned around and set right, amazing grace and eternal love. 

This morning, our pastor challenged us with this: when was the last time you considered what God is possible of doing?  When did we last step out in faith, knowing nothing with God is impossible?  When did you last trust the LORD to see you through a difficulty, a hardship?  Sometimes it is easier to give up, to find a cave to crawl in and hide. 

But know this: God can do anything.  Whatever you are facing is no surprise to God.  Never will He say, “Whoa!  I didn’t see that one coming!”  Bad stuff happens.  But know that, when are at our lowest, “God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, ESV).

There is a really good reason Jesus instructs us to seek the kingdom of God first, and do not worry (Matthew 6:33-34).  Worry binds us.  Anxiety torments us.  Fear freezes us solid.  But, realizing nothing is impossible with God… now that frees us! 

Tonight, I challenge us all with this: what are you afraid of?  What is holding you back?  What’s keeping you up at night?  Whatever it is, lay the worry aside.  Go to God.  Go to your quiet place, get down on your knees before the LORD and talk to Him.  Give Him your fears and doubts and anxious thoughts.  Trust Him to work in your life, in your circumstance, whatever it is.  Accept God’s will and realize that simply having God with you is greater than anything outcome you may fear, anything you dread facing, anything that causes you anxiety or fear or doubt. 

You are loved, more than you can comprehend.  Rest in the LORD.  Trust Him without exception, for that is what faith truly is.  And hang in there.  Our circumstances are rarely what they seem, and God can bring you an outcome of great blessing.  Just cling to Him and find your joy in the LORD through Jesus Christ.

Hang in There!

It took years.  A lot of years.  I wish I could tell you we were patient and joyful throughout that long period.  The ride was an emotional rollercoaster with more than its fair share of hopes dashed, plans scuttled and doubts expressed.  We almost gave up.  The pain and the stress of it all were more than we could bear.

Then the day finally came.  We prepared her bedroom, slathering on layers of pink paint and hanging dresses in the closet.  Her name was Lily.

Then we got matched.  Surprise!  Our daughter was a boy.  (Pink is easier to paint over than it seems.)

Austin is the perfect match for us, and we for him.  It is as if we share DNA.  He is our son.  It all happened at just the right time, in God’s time.  Had it been any other way, things could have been a disaster.  We couldn’t see it at the time.  All we could see was our heart for a child, the desire to be parents and the anguish of disappointment.

I’m reminded of something David wrote, as he was facing warfare and an enemy he thought was overwhelming: “But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”  My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!  Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!” (Psalm 31:14-16, ESV).  David knew a thing or two about waiting in anguish.  The psalms bear this out in amazing clarity.  David was waiting for God.  He was anguished.  He was frightened. 

But he was faithful.  He never gave up on God.  Even more importantly, God never gave up on David.  The faithfulness of our Lord never ceases to amaze me. 

My point is simply this: hang in there.  Whatever you are waiting on God for, hang in there.  What he has for you may not look anything like what you are anticipating.  But His will is infinitely better than ours.  Whatever you are waiting for, look to God.  Keep your focus on Him.  He will not let you down. 

Do you not know?
   Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
   and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
   and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
   and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
   will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
   they will run and not grow weary,
   they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV)

Hang in there!  Wait for the Lord.  All good things come from Him in His good time.

You’re a Mess!

At least that’s what the enemy wants us to think.  The pastor made a good point this past Sunday, and it is worth remembering: The devil hates you.  He is a “thief (who) comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10, NIV).  He is our “enemy (who) prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV).  He is a “murderer” and the “father of lies” (John 8:44).

He’s cunning and crafty.  This is why Peter warns us to “humble (ourselves) before God,” rid ourselves of anxiety and “be alert and sober minded” (1 Peter 5:5-8, NIV).  Sin has us in such a mess that we don’t even know what we should pray.  Have you ever felt like that?  That feeling that life is so hard, so rough, so messed up, and you are hurting so bad that you can’t even put your feelings in words. 

But, for believers in Christ, there is great news.  You don’t have to buy into the lie.  You really aren’t a mess anymore.  Life is not defined by circumstances or past mistakes or sins.  And don’t let the devil tell you otherwise.  You are a child of God.  The enemy may want to steal your life, but fear not, because Christ came “that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10, NIV). 

God’s got your back.  We may not know exactly what God wants us to pray, but that’s ok.  “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:26-28, NIV).

Today, if you’re feeling accused – not the gentle nudge of conviction but the pounding hammer of accusation – don’t buy it.  You are not a mess – you are a blessed child of God.  Cast off the anxiety and embrace God’s promises.  You cannot sin so big, mess up so bad or run so far away that you are out of God’s reach.  If you need to confess your sins to God, then confess.  He knows them anyway, you know.  Confess, repent and move on.  Don’t let Satan steal your joy.  You are loved – even if you feel like a mess.

Exercising our Faith

It is a telling moment, one I believe to be both literal and symbolic.  Such is the importance of the event that it is the one miracle all four gospel writers recorded.  And it speaks volumes about the ability of God working through our lives.  It is the miracle of the feeding of the five-thousand, recorded in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15.

Applicable lessons abound from the passages, ripe for gleaning.  For the sake of brevity, I will pluck only one for now: if we only look to our abundance – our understanding, our gifts, our treasure – we will miss out on what God wants us to do in our lives.  We need to see things as Christ does: through eyes of faith.

Let’s assess the situation in Luke, the most succinct of these four passages.  The crowd had gathered, and Jesus had taught and healed them.  They marveled. 

And they lingered.

And they needed to be fed.

As if Christ wasn’t aware that these folks may need physical nourishment at the end of a long day, the disciples tell Jesus, “Send them away!”  (I’m always taken aback at the temerity the twelve disciples so often display.  But that’s another lesson…)

How does Jesus reply?  “You feed them.”  Eventually, “feeding” the flock would be there job anyway (read John 21:15-19, which is really still another lesson altogether, but…).  Their response was predictable: “You’ve got to be kidding, right?  Five loaves and two fishes for five-thousand people.  And not a supermarket in sight.  Anyone else see a problem here?”

Jesus saw no problem at all, because He saw with eyes of faith.  All the disciples were looking at was their ability.  They were limited by what they could logically see.  But Jesus wanted to stretch their faith.  He instructed the twelve, gave thanks to the Father, which always goes hand-in-glove with faith.  (See there?  Yet another lesson.)

Faith is a stretch.  But faith is exactly what God wants from us – expects from us.  If all we ever do is rely on ourselves to get things done, we are limited.  Crippled even.  Faith is like a muscle.  It requires exercise to grow strong, even just to maintain.  Left unworked, muscle begins to atrophy.  The same is true with faith.

What’s limiting you in doing what God wants you to do?  Do you believe He would expect something you and not equip you for the task at hand?  Step out in faith with gratitude for the wonderful work God has planned for you, not concerned about results or success, but joyful that the Lord is being glorified through your faithfulness.  And many more than you can imagine just might be fed from your hand.

The Stability of Certainty

Life is uncertain.  The news brings that fact into high relief on a daily basis (which is one reason I am personally avoiding watching the news these days, which is tough for an infojunkie like myself.  But that’s another story…)  If there is one thing people desire – crave – it is some stability in life.

Our problem is one of perception.  Our circumstances are all our reasoning minds see.  And, as faulty humans, our perception is faulty as well.  That is because, unlike God, we are not omniscient.  We only know what we know (and often what we know is wrong as well).  We can see the situation we’re in, but we can’t always see what the outcome will be.  Or, worse yet, we see a negative ending to our situations.

Let’s face it: we can’t control many (if not most) of the circumstances that come our way.  Now here comes the good news: we don’t have to be in control!  We can put our trust in God and rest secure that, no matter what comes our way, He is in control and working on our behalf, for “we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT).

We tend to look at our circumstances, rolling over the troubles in our minds as they build and build and build into a mountain of worry and despair.  The solution is a change of mind: instead of focusing on life’s uncertainties, we need to focus on God.  Let go of the doubts and fears that paralyze us and put our faith in our source of stability – God, the One Who never changes:

“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” – James 1:17 (NLT)

Jesus promised us tribulation in our lives.  But He also gave us a solution to our malaise: “Take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NLT).  When we live by faith in God through Jesus Christ, we find our source of stability and peace in life.

Sufficiency in Service

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” – 2 Corinthians 9:8 (ESV)

Doing nothing is easy.  We can give ourselves all sorts of reasons not to move forward.  “I could never do that.”  “I’m not good enough.”  “I just don’t see how God could use me.”

If you have been feeling that gentle nudge to serve God in some capacity, don’t let excuses stop you.  Don’t worry about how well you will do.  It is God Who provides the results, so get busy!  Plug in and go about the business God is calling you to do.  Follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  Don’t let “I can’t” be a reason for not serving the body of Christ.  It is by the grace of God that we live and serve, not by our own power. 

Be obedient to God.  If what you are doing is His will, you will find His grace there.