Thursday, December 20, 2007

Experiencing the Impossible

The God we serve specializes in doing the impossible. He is the God who creates a universe out of nothing by saying a Word. He is the God who turns water into blood, dust into gnats, and parts the Red Sea. He is the God who causes a donkey to speak, the sun to hold still, and an axe head to float. He is the God who delivers His people from the land of Egypt; defeats tens of thousands of Midianites with 300 men who have clay jars, trumpets, and torches; who defeats a monster of a man, a seasoned warrior, with a young shepherd boy. God makes the impossible possible.

I truly believe we miss out on God making the impossible possible in our lives because we think we have God all figured out. Several years ago Erwin McManus was lecturing at a seminary and when he was finished, a young student shared with him how she had planned to go to the Northwest to help start a new church. She continued to explain that in the process she had discovered it was not the will of God. Erwin McManus asked her how she came to that conclusion, and she said, “The money never came through.” He went on to ask her who told her that lack of finances was proof that it was not God’s will. She said her pastor and her parents. They told her that if God wanted her to go, everything would be provided before she left (Seizing Your Divine Moment, p.64).

Somehow we have gotten it into our heads that if God wants us to do something than He will “open the door” to make it happen; that everything will be provided before go. We want to risk as little as possible, and in the process we miss the impossible God wants to do in our lives. Here is what I want you to understand: God wants to do the impossible through you. Just as God has used Noah, Moses, David, Esther, John, Paul and many more to do great things God wants to do great things through you. I don’t care if you 99 or 1 it is God’s desire to make the impossible possible because of your life.

How can we live a life which leads us to experience the impossible? I think the answer is found in the Christmas story. God is once again working to make the impossible happen and this time it involves as young girl.
26 Now in the sixth month of her pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 The angel came to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!” 29 She was startled by his statement and tried to figure out what his greeting meant. 30 Then the angel told her, “Stop being afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his forefather David. 33 He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.” 34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not had relations with a man?” 35 The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come over you, and the power of the Most High will cover you. Therefore, the child will be holy and will be called the Son of God. 36 And listen! Elizabeth, your relative, has herself conceived a son in her old age. This is the sixth month for the woman who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing is impossible for God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Truly I am the Lord's servant. Let everything you have said happen to me.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38, ISV)

Mary exhibits two traits of a person who is ready to experience the impossible.

1. Obedience

When we receive a word from God there are only two ways to respond. The first way we can respond is to reject God’s word.

Earlier in Luke Chapter 1 we read the story of Zechariah. Here are a few things to consider about Zechariah: One is that he was just one of 18,000 priests. He wasn’t a superstar or in a position which demanded a lot of attention, he was just one of many priests. The second is that Zechariah is righteous. He prayed and he followed the Law, which means when he did sin he did what was necessary to take care of it. He was religious. Being a priest he was part of the assembly which kept the religion in Israel moving. When Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, the aging priest decided to reject the angel’s message. It’s not enough that an angel personally delivered the message, but Zechariah wanted a sign as proof: “How can I know this?” He asks. “I am an old man and my wife is well along in years” (Luke 1:18).

Isn’t this the exact same reason why we want to make sure God “opens a door” before taking a big step of faith? We want to know for sure that things will work out the way we want.

But that is not faith. Faith is seen in obedience when God reveals His will. Faith is Abram leaving his homeland to follow God into the unknown. No map, just following God’s lead. Faith is Jonathan taking his armor bearer and going to pick a fight with 30,000 Philistines, because God wanted the Philistines out of Israel (1 Samuel 14). Faith is Ruth leaving her family and homeland to follow her widowed mother-in-law back to Israel. Nothing but a life of poverty could be promised because of her decision, yet she ends up being an ancestor to David, and ultimately Jesus. Faith is not about guarantees; it is about doing what we know God’s will to be.

We can reject God’s word, but we also can accept it. Mary’s statement in verse 34 is significantly different from Zechariah’s statement: Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not had relations with a man?”

First, we note that Mary doesn’t ask for a sign. She isn’t sure how this is going to be possible, but she doesn’t doubt that it will happen. Second, she wants to know her role in making sure this miracle happens.

When we attempt to do God’s will our way, bad things can happen. Remember Abraham? God promised him a son, and Abraham waited and waited and nothing happened. Abraham and Sarah decide that they would help God out and Abraham has a child with Sarah’s maidservant. That was not God’s plan, and it cost Abraham, and it is still costing the people of the Middle East. Abraham was to have a child with Sarah, and he was to wait for God’s timing to make it happen.

Mary had to be wondering how this would happen, since she was not yet married. Was it going to happen after she married? Was she supposed to go tell Joseph that she didn’t want a big wedding and that they should elope instead? If Mary simply went with her understanding on how babies are born, then things would have been a disaster. It was essential for Mary to clarify how God was going to make this happen. Mary wanted to do God’s will.

James 4:11 reads:
Don’t speak evil against each other, my dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize each other and condemn each other, then you are criticizing and condemning God’s law. But you are not a judge who can decide whether the law is right or wrong. Your job is to obey it (NLT).
We are not to sit in judgment of God’s will, but rather, when we understand what God’s will is we are to obey it.

2. Humility

Humility is not about ignoring talent or degrading our abilities, but it is about a proper evaluation of our talent. Without a proper evaluation of our talent we either end up like the horrible singer trying out for American Idol or the talented person who wastes their talent because they didn’t understand what they had been given. Each of us has talent. We might put different values on the talent we have, but we all have abilities which can be used to expand the kingdom of God.

Humility is not minimizing your talents or the successes you have in your life. Humility is all about understanding who we are. Romans 12:3 reads:
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith (NASB).
We need to honestly look at ourselves and the gifts God has given to us. Humility then isn’t about think lowly of ourselves, but understanding who we are in relationship with God.

Mary had this understanding: Then Mary said, “Truly I am the Lord's servant. Let everything you have said happen to me.” Then the angel left her. Mary had surrendered her life to God, and she was willing to do anything that He wanted her to do. Humility begins when we realize God is God and we are His servants.

Sometimes we forget this and we want to bargain with God about the details of our service. “God I will start a quiet time with You as soon as things settle down at work.” “God I would be willing to help a week at church camp, but I can’t afford to take time off right now.” “God, I would go visit John in the hospital, but I have this deadline I have to meet.” So much of what God wants from us will inconvenience us and result in personal sacrifice.

Poor Mary didn’t have a choice, she was inconvenienced. She had no idea how Joseph would react to the news that she was pregnant, if he divorced her it would lead to a life time of shame. Even if he didn’t people would always talk about the fact her oldest child was conceived before she was married. I don’t think we can fully understand the “inconvenience” God was giving to Mary.

The amazing thing is that she accepted the responsibility without complaint or guarantee. She could have no idea how people would respond to her, but she probably understood what happened to girls who turned up pregnant without being married. God did not guarantee that Joseph would stand by her side or that she would have the support of her family. God turned Mary’s life upside and did not promise a smooth ride. Mary simply said; “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” That is humility, understanding who you are compared to God.

I believe God longs to do the impossible with your life. He wants you to experience His power at work, to use your life to do something incredible, and to make the impossible a reality in your life. Yet we miss out on the impossibilities becoming possibilities because we haven’t put ourselves in the position to make it happen.

God used J. Edwin Or mightily around the world in the area of spiritual revival. He was an ordinary man who experienced God working repeatedly in his life in extraordinary ways. God invited him to travel across Europe, preaching and spreading awareness of the need for revival. Orr was not a wealthy man, but he concluded that if God called him, God would provide. As he obeyed his calling, Orr witnessed a tremendous response. Wherever he went, people united together to pray for revival.

He arrived at Londonberry late in the evening of January 29, 1934. His funds were exhausted and so was he, but he knew of no place to spend the night. A Christian man at the YMCA told Orr he would take him to a comfortable lodging place. When they arrived at a luxurious hotel, Orr felt uneasy because he knew he could not afford such first-class accommodations. Nevertheless, the proprietress set a hearty meal before him, then ushered him into a spacious room.

The next morning Orr prayed silently all the way to the front desk, prepared to be shocked by the extent of his bill. To his surprise (and great relief) he was told there would be no charge. The owner explained that she was a Christian. That morning during her devotions the Lord had clearly instructed her that she was not to charge her guest for his stay because he was God’s servant. She had resisted at first, planning to charge just enough to recoup her costs. However, the Holy Spirit so convicted her of this attitude that she relented and chose not to ask for a penny.

In Ireland, Orr went to the train station without the funds for a ticket, yet convinced God was directing him to a nearby city. As he neared the ticket booth, a stranger suddenly appeared and handed him a ticket to his destination. On another occasion Orr was in Glasgow, Scotland, when he was encouraged to attend a rally that was taking place in Stirling, thirty miles away. Orr sensed God leading him to attend, but he barely had enough money to purchase a one-way bus ticket. Since he was committed to preach in Glasgow that evening, Orr knew it was imperative that he make the return trip that same day. At the close of the afternoon service, people began to leave the meeting place until Orr was left almost entirely alone. He began to pray that God would provide for his need.

Suddenly a stranger approached him and introduced himself as Austin Stirling, pastor of the Baptist church in Cumnock. When Orr introduced himself, the man’s face lit up. He had been praying that God would allow him to meet Orr! Stirling urged Orr to accompany him home but was informed of Orr’s commitment in Glasgow that evening. Suddenly, his new friend had an idea. “I simply must have an hour’s conversation with you,” he declared. “Would you mind not using your return ticket to Glasgow? I’ve got a car around the corner. I’ll motor you to Glasgow, and then we shall have our talk.” God had provided yet again, and again the provision came after Orr proved his faithfulness by obeying God’s specific directive. (Henry and Richard Blackaby; Hearing God’s Voice; pp. 55, 56)

When I hear or read stories such as this one about J. Edwin Orr I become very skeptical. After all it doesn’t quiet fit my image of God, “God doesn’t work like that!” I think. My experience with God is not anything like what J. Edwin Orr experienced. Orr experienced the impossible, but my life is filled with what I have managed to accomplish.

Could it be that the reason we haven’t experienced a life of the impossible is because we haven’t put ourselves into the position to see it happen? J. Edwin Orr was a man of obedience who realized that he was just a tool in the hand of God. He made the decision, not only to keep the moral teachings of Jesus, but also to obey the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations.

We are not in the position to experience the impossible in our lives because we have limited obedience to obeying the moral teachings of Jesus. Our great concern is living right and not expanding the Kingdom of God. While we may recognize God’s power, we haven’t humbled ourselves and submitted our entire lives to God. It is still about our dreams and desires, not what God wants to do through your life.

God, the Creator of the Universe, wants to do the impossible through you. Will you put yourself into position to make that happen?

  • Point to Ponder: God wants to do the impossible through you.
  • Passage to Remember: Luke 1:26-38
  • Question to Consider: How have you prevented God from working through your life?

1 comment:

matthew said...

"...but my life is filled with what I have managed to accomplish."

I love this statement. It speaks so much to how I feel about my walk with God. Thanks for the insight!

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