If “nothing will be impossible with God,” then it is true that “all things are possible” for Him. Jesus declared that all things are possible on two occasions: The first was immediately after the transfiguration, when He healed a boy with an unclean spirit in Mark 9:14–29. After the father has asked Jesus to heal his son, and Jesus saw how the demon afflicted him, we read the following exchange:
“And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘“If you can!” All things are possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:21–24, emphasis added; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version).
Some time later, Jesus would make a similar statement after meeting a rich young man who could not bring himself to accept Jesus’ terms of discipleship: to sell all he had, give the money to the poor, and follow Him.
“And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:23–26, emphasis added).
Salvation is impossible without God. We cannot save ourselves. Only God can do that. However, for God it is possible.
Deliverance from the power of the devil is impossible for the natural man. Only God can win that battle. However, when His Spirit and strength dwells within us, victory is possible.
The Christian life is itself impossible for normal human nature. It goes against all that dwells within us. Several months before I surrendered my life to Christ, I was reading the Sermon on the Mount and was stunned by how much Jesus called His disciples to live above basic human nature. Love your enemies? Turn the other cheek? Don’t worry about what you will eat or drink; instead, seek first the kingdom of God? Such commands go against human nature. It would seem to make as much sense to tell us to flap our arms and fly away.
The ability to repent and surrender to God’s will are gifts that He alone can give. They are not possible without His assistance and empowerment. However, with Him, all things are possible. In His strength, you can do whatever you think is impossible.
Worldly pleasure, material goods, and comfort often hinder us from doing God’s will.
“Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:18–19).
Christians are often zealous to watch out for the so-called “big sins,” like sexual immorality or drug abuse. However, we can easily be led astray by things like materialism or commercialism, which most do not even consider sinful. These keep us from making sacrifices for the Kingdom of God. They discourage us from giving to the needy in hard times. They keep us from making time for others, since we may be using our time to accumulate more wealth. Perhaps, while many of us are in a state of self-quarantine during the coronavirus outbreak, we may be challenged to examine what is really important to us. Perhaps God has used this time to force many of us into a much-needed solitary spiritual retreat, so that we can gain His perspective on what really matters to Him and what should matter to us. The rich young ruler realized something was missing in his life and asked Jesus what he was lacking spiritually:
“Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:21–22).
Giving up his wealth was too much. He knew he was missing something. He thought he would be willing to do whatever it takes to enter the kingdom of God. However, he did not expect this. He knew Jesus would give him something to do, but he did not expect Jesus to demand “the impossible.”
In his book The Normal Christian Life, Chinese pastor Watchman Nee tells the story of “Mr. Paul,” an American pastor who eagerly wanted to earn a Ph.D. He believed he could bring glory to God by being “Dr. Paul” instead of merely “Mr. Paul.” However, he could never gain the peace that God really approved of his plans. He continued to study—and to bargain with God, trying to convince Him that nothing was really wrong with an advanced degree and that he could do so much more for God’s kingdom with the prestige that came with the title “Dr.” He eventually surrendered to God’s will just before taking his final examination. Prestige, title, relationships, reputation, wealth: All of these things must be surrendered to God’s will.
Ask yourself: What do you think “I cannot live without?” That is the thing you most need to surrender to God’s will. In many cases, that is the thing you need to give up. Whatever seems to be impossible must be given to God.
Surrendering to God’s will is impossible for all people. It is especially impossible for those who have become accustomed to comfort and luxury, who do not know what it means to go without food, clothing, or shelter. It is impossible for us, but not with God. With Him, all things are possible. We need to rely on His strength when we face what seems impossible.
Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.