Last week we started a two week mini-series in Luke 18. Contained in this chapter from Jesus life are six stories that prompt us to think about the phrase found in verse 27. Let’s say the phrase out loud together:
What is impossible with people is possible with God.
Of course this message is not some magical mantra. It is not some easy, surefire prayer that is guaranteed to bring all the answers you want. People will get in line for handouts like you wouldn’t believe. Remember the prayer of Jabez hysteria?
Let’s begin by thinking about a couple of things C.S. Lewis had to say about what it means to really follow Christ.
“There are two kinds of people: those who say to God ’Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then have it your way.’ Tragically, many people will have to endure eternity without God because they chose to live without him here on earth.”
Warren adds “When you fully comprehend that there is more to life than just here and now, and you realize that life is just preparation for eternity, you will begin to live differently. You will start living in light of eternity, and that will color how you handle every relationship, task and circumstance’. C.S. Lewis and Rick Warren pg. 37 from Purpose Driven Life:
“When the author walks onto the stage, the play is over. God is going to invade, all right; but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else comes crashing in? This time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. That will not be the time for choosing; It will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side.” - C.S. Lewis
Last week we learned:
It is possible for God to answer persistent prayer.
It is possible for God to save all people.
It is possible for God to deliver us from our possessions.
Today we find three more possibilities. Remember we are thinking about this New Year and the uncertainty of our times.
1. It is possible for God to compensate us for our pursuit of Him
At first this seems like a strange thing to put under the heading of possible things God can do but it is important that we believe this. It is important that we believe this when things are going well so that we believe it when things are not going so well. Here is the context for this point. It touches on the last part of the last one we looked at last week. Jesus had just suggested to a young man that he should sell everything and give it to the poor and it made him really sad.
Then Luke writes in chapter 18:
“When Jesus saw this, he said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! In fact, 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!”
Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.”
28. Peter said, “We’ve left our homes to follow you.”
29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, 30 will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.” Luke 18:24-30 NLT
Here is what this means. The call of God has always been for full surrender. It has always included sacrifice on the part of those who follow Him. Moses and Abraham were men on the move who were required to leave their homes. Jonah was a man that was sent where he didn’t want to go to preach to people he didn’t really like. The apostle Paul never was allowed to stay in one spot very long but moved around the then known world at the impulse of God’s spirit.
To follow Christ completely and unreservedly means that you and I will often be called to sacrifice some of the things that others enjoy. What Jesus is teaching in this is that He will pay that back many times over in this life. I don’t know quite how to do this justice but I wish I could some day paint the picture accurately. The reason I am passionate about calling people to live surrendered lives to Christ is the fact that it is the normal standard of biblical Christian living. It will make you a bit different in your values and morals. It may mean sacrifice in many way.
If you want to follow Jesus," remarked the activist priest Berigan, "you had better look good on wood."
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." — Martin Luther King
The bottom line is that most of the Christians in America have been content to leave this level of commitment to missionaries who leave everything and live somewhere else in the world. We have been content to let them give up homes, prospects, a good salary, and in some case marriage to go where it is necessary to spread the message of Christ. About twenty years ago America became a destination mission field for Christians from around the world. Much of the American church world hasn’t figured that out yet and we continue to play Christian Tidily Winks with the greatest life changing message the world has ever known mostly because we don’t want to believe that sacrificing for our Lord here will be compensated.
A.W. Tozer says that people who are crucified with Christ have three distinct marks:
1. They are facing only one direction, 2. They can never turn back, and 3. They no longer have plans of their own.
Remember Jesus promised and it is possible for Him to compensate you and I for pursing Him with all of our hearts, mind souls and strength.
2. It is possible for God to fulfill every promise
This is not the kind of promise you are going to want to hear. In fact if someone were to publish a book on all the promises of God you can be sure it wouldn’t be a best seller.
The Bible is full of promises. More than I can preach or teach on today but here is what you need to know. God has never made a promise He didn’t keep.
In this part of Jesus conversation he gets very intimate with the disciples taking them away from the crowd and promises them something that was impossible for them to comprehend but he kept His word.
31 Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus said, “Listen, we’re going up to Jerusalem, where all the predictions of the prophets concerning the Son of Man will come true. 32 He will be handed over to the Romans, and he will be mocked, treated shamefully, and spit upon. 33 They will flog him with a whip and kill him, but on the third day he will rise again.”
34 But they didn’t understand any of this. The significance of his words was hidden from them, and they failed to grasp what he was talking about.” Luke 18:31-34 NLT
God never has taught any where in scripture that life will be perfect for those who follow Him. Jesus in fact promised a cross for all those who would follow Him but He also said HE would be there every step of the way to help us bear the crosses we encounter.
Jesus made some other promises that He will keep. He promised to return some day to wind things down on this earth as we know it. He promised that we would all stand before God one day to give an account of our life and pursuits on this earth.
In the story of Mary the mother of Jesus listen to the words the angel spoke to her prior to Jesus birth;
“35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:35-37
Here are some promises for you from God:
God’s presence -- "I will never leave you" (Heb. 13:5)
God’s protection -- "I am your shield" (Gen. 15:1)
God’s power -- "I will strengthen you." (Isa. 41:10)
God’s provision -- "I will help you." (Isa. 41:10)
God’s leading -- "And when He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them" (John 10:4)
God’s purposes -- "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil" (Jer. 20:11)
God’s rest -- "Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28)
God’s cleansing -- "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9)
God’s goodness -- "No good thing will He withhold from them that work uprightly" (Psalm 84:11)
God’s faithfulness -- "The Lord will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake" (1 Sam. 12:22)
God’s guidance -- "The meek will He guide" (Psalm 25:9)
God’s wise plan -- "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28) SOURCE: Our Daily Bread, January 1, 1985.
What is impossible with people is possible with God.
3. It is possible for God to heal us physically
I touched briefly on this last week. While I certainly believe in the power of God to heal someone physically, emotionally and spiritually there has certainly been some real misuse and abuse of this truth.
“35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road. 36 When he heard the noise of a crowd going past, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him that Jesus the Nazarene[f] was going by. 38 So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
39 “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
40 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord,” he said, “I want to see!”
42 And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” 43 Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.” Luke 18: 35-43
While physical healing is a big part of this story it is certainly not the whole story. Again we can get off on some real tangents here. It reminds me of a story that I hope is fictitious.
Jesus came to a village and found a man there who was blind. He laid hands on Him and prayed over the man, and he was healed completely. The townspeople were so appreciative that they built a church, and they called it the first church of laying on of hands and healing. So, Jesus goes to the next village, and there He found another blind man. So, Jesus spits on the ground and makes some mud, and applies it to the man’s eyes. He then tells the man to go wash in the pool, and the man receives his sight. The townspeople are so overjoyed that they decide to start a church in Jesus’ honor, and they called it the first church of Here’s mud in your eye and be healed. Jesus goes on to yet a third village, and finds a third blind man there. So, Jesus tells the man, “If you go and wash in this pool seven times, you will receive your sight back.” So the man does as Jesus says. The third set of townspeople was so appreciative of God’s work that they built a church in Jesus’ honor too. They named it the first church of washing seven times and healing. One day, the Lord calls all these groups together for fellowship. But, over the course of time they began to break down over doctrinal discussion as to how healing takes place. One group said, “You can’t heal unless you lay hands on those who are sick.” A second group said, “That’s fine, but if you forget the mud in their eye it doesn’t work.” The third group said, “You guys only have part of the truth, washing seven times is the real key.” The contention became so great among them that they broke fellowship between them, none of them wanting to fellowship with heretics any longer. The reality is that their judgments were based on a sliver of insight that God had given them each individually. - Gayle Erwin
The fact is that it is possible for Jesus to heal someone. I know that there are people here today and others in the church that has been given a dire diagnosis. You are scared and you are afraid. You may even be dealing with anger. The fact is you should pray and ask God to heal you. He may do it as an incredible miracle but those are rare. He may use the work of professional medical people who have committed their gifts and talents for others health. He may give you perfect healing which is the one not many people sign up for because perfect healing is death where you never suffer any more sickness or tears.
HE WAS HEALED Tony Campolo tells a story about being in a church in Oregon where he was asked to pray for a man who had cancer. Campolo prayed boldly for the man’s healing. That next week he got a telephone call from the man’s wife. She said, "You prayed for my husband. He had cancer." Campolo thought when he heard her use the past tense verb that his cancer had been eradicated! But before he could think much about it she said, "He died." Compolo felt terrible. But she continued, "Don’t feel bad. When he came into that church that Sunday he was filled with anger. He knew he was going to be dead in a short period of time, and he hated God. He was 58 years old, and he wanted to see his children and grandchildren grow up. He was angry that this all-powerful God didn’t take away his sickness and heal him. He would lie in bed and curse God. The more his anger grew towards God, the more miserable he was to everybody around him. It was an awful thing to be in his presence. But the lady told Compolo, "After you prayed for him, a peace had come over him and a joy had come into him. Tony, the last three days have been the best days of our lives. We’ve sung. We’ve laughed. We’ve read Scripture. We prayed. Oh, they’ve been wonderful days. And I called to thank you for laying your hands on him and praying for healing." And then she said something incredibly profound. She said, "He wasn’t cured, but he was healed." ( SOURCE: Tony Campolo, "Year of Jubilee," Preaching Today Tape #212
There is nothing too hard for God to do. Whether or not He chooses to do it is another thing. We resign our will to His and trust Him with our lives and with our death.
Max Lucado tells a story in a book called “It’s Not About Me” about a friend of his who had cancer. Some well intentioned Christians had told him ‘If you have faith, then you will be healed”. But, no healing came, only a crisis in faith in that man’s life. Max suggested another answer to him, “It’s not about you”, I told him. “Your hospital room is a showcase for your Maker. Your faith in the face in suffering cranks up the volume of God’s song.” (It's Not About You, pg.126)
Here is the bottom line of these two messages. None of this matter one bit if you don’t know Christ personally. None of it matters if you haven’t accepted His gift and offer of salvation and are walking a life patterned after the life of Christ.
A preacher in the Midwest tells about a young couple in his church who boasted to all their friends & neighbors that they were flying to New York City. They were only going to be able to spend one day there, but the highlight of their trip would be to go & see the Broadway play, “My Fair Lady.” They were so proud of this, & everyone was really impressed because no one else in that small town had ever been to a play on Broadway. The day came, & when they arrived in New York they took a taxi to the theatre where “My Fair Lady” was playing. To their dismay, they found that the play was sold out for the night. They thought, “What do we do now? Everybody knows that we came to see ‘My Fair Lady.’ We don’t dare tell them that we didn’t.” So they found a couple of ticket stubs on the sidewalk & picked them up. They bought a program that described the various acts of the play. They went home singing “I Could Have Danced all Night.” And they told everybody that they had gone to see “My Fair Lady.” The preacher said, “That’s right. They had the ticket stubs. They had the program. They had been to the theatre. They knew the music. But the trouble is, they didn’t see the performance.” Then he added, “A lot of Christians are like that. We come to church. We have the bulletin. We know the songs. We know what to say & what to do. The problem is that many of us have never really made Jesus the Lord of our lives.”
Here is a promise for you in this new year: If you will make Jesus Lord of your life, the things that are impossible with people will be possible with God!