My mind has been swimming in words for the past week. For six days straight I’ve had books spread over my desk as I’ve been writing curriculum for a Bible study on the women in Jesus’ genealogy. Delving deeply into their lives, I’ve discovered connections I’d never noticed before. For starters, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, and Jesus’ mother, Mary, have something pretty spectacular in common.
You might remember Sarah, from Genesis. At the age of sixty-five she agrees to leave the only home she’s ever known to follow God’s command and move hundreds of miles with Abraham to Canaan. Scripture tells us Sarah is barren. In spite of this, God promises Abraham he will father a great nation one day. After waiting ten years, Sarah begins to lose hope and decides to take matters into her own hands. Following a common practice for her time period, she suggests that Abraham conceive a child with her maid, Hagar. Although the union does produce a son, God makes it clear that the child, Ishmael, is not the one who will fulfill His promise.
Finally, when Sarah is eighty-nine and Abraham is ninety-nine, the LORD tells them the time has come for her to conceive. Sarah will bear a child at the age of ninety. When she laughs at the absurdity of the news, God says to Abraham:
“Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:14, NIV)
Sure enough, a year later, Sarah gives birth to Isaac, the child promised by God twenty-five years earlier.
In the New Testament, the story of Jesus’ birth shows another version of God doing the impossible. This time, His chosen instrument is not a ninety-year old woman but a young girl, barely in her teens. When an angel named Gabriel visits Mary proclaiming she will be the mother of the Messiah, she asks: “How will this be since I am a virgin?”
Gabriel tells her the child will be conceived by the Holy Spirit and ends his proclamation declaring: “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37, NIV)
I’ve been thinking about these two passages all week. God asks the rhetorical question in the Old Testament: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” and Gabriel answers it in the New Testament: “Nothing is impossible with God.”
Throughout the pages of Scripture, we see examples that show these words are true. But sometimes we forget that the stories in the Bible are real situations that happened to real people. We boil down the spectacular into cute children’s stories and forget that God really did (and does) amazing things all the time.
The same God who did impossible things in the Old and New Testaments is living and active today. When I forget this, I waste time worrying. For example, if I truly believe God has called me to write the Bible study I mentioned earlier, then why do I still lie awake at night fretting I won’t finish it by the deadline? Or, if I truly believe God changed a Christian-hater like Saul into one of His greatest evangelists, then why do I struggle to imagine Him softening the hearts of certain people I know who need Him desperately?
Reading these stories reminds me that God accomplishes His will in His timing according to His plans, not mine. I can try to manipulate circumstances like Sarah did, but I will never accomplish His purposes without Him.
How about you? Does something seem impossible in your life right now? Are you willing to consider whether it is what God wants for you or not? This might sound scary, but take a risk and ask God to align your will with His. Sometimes He’ll answer your prayer in the way you envision, but often He has a different, better plan. Many times He changes our characters or attitudes instead of our circumstances.
Jesus says, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:14, NIV)
Many of us use the phrase, “In Jesus name” in our prayers because it’s what He instructed us to do. In fact, Jesus says it six different times in the gospel of John alone. Although we may view this as a nice phrase to wrap up our prayers, it’s really meant as an acknowledgement of two things:
1) The only reason we can have a relationship with the Creator of the Universe is because His son paid the penalty for our sin by dying on the cross. We can approach God only because we’ve been washed in the blood of Christ.
2) We want to see His will accomplished, not ours. We affirm that the things we are asking for in prayer align with what Jesus would want for us. Our wills are inconsequential.
So, think back to your “impossible” thing. Is it something that would please God? Or are you trying to convince Him that your will is really the best plan? Does it align with His Word? If you’re not sure, study the Bible, pray and ask Him to make it clear. Understanding God’s will allows you to pray with wild abandon and to celebrate that nothing is impossible for Him.
Click on the link to hear the upbeat encouragement of “Impossible” by Building 429.