Is anything too difficult for the Lord?

difficult

As Christians, we believe that God is sovereign, and Lord over the universe.  We comfort ourselves with promises like Rom 8:28, that “all things work together for good for those who love God”, and we regularly [mis]quote verses like Phil 4.13 when getting ready to set out a new adventure:

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

We know that nothing is too difficult for God.  He created the entire universe by commanding the occurrence.  He has defeated armies, He has stopped the sun, and He parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass through on dry land.  I find it very interesting, too, that many of the patriarchs had wives who were barren.  Abraham was married to Sarah who was barren.  His son Isaac married Rebekah who was barren.  And Isaac’s son Jacob married Rachel who was barren!

God, however, touched all three women and gave them children.  The crazy part about these stories, however, is that Sarah was 90 years old when she had Isaac (Scripture even says she was “beyond child bearing”).  Rebekah was approximately 72 years old when she had Jacob and Esau, having been barren for 20 years, and Rachel was 36 years old when she gave birth to Joseph, after being barren for 14 years.

Yes, Sarah was by far the most dramatic example of God’s sovereignty and hand in “unnatural” childbirth, but even Rachel was barren for 14 years.  Anyone nowadays who has struggled with infertility would have most likely adopted or given up the dream of a family after a few years, let alone fourteen!

But when the Lord was appearing to Abraham and Sarah and promising a child, both of them laughed.  It seemed the impossible when He made the final promise that within the year Sarah would have a baby, and they were 99 and 89 years old.  His response is simple and profound:

“Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

– Gen 18.14

Is anything too difficult for the Lord?  We have heard the Bible stories often enough that we mentally assent that God can defeat a giant with a single stone.  He can bring plagues on Egypt when they disobey His command.  He can raise people from the dead.  But how often do we think of Him as having intercessory power over infertility or a job search?  What are the things for which we long the most, or over which we stress?

Job hunts tend to be intense.  We compromise what we want and desire because we need something to pay the bills, and then when we are in our new roles we tend to be unsatisfied and longing/looking for something more.

Unexpected bills and budgets can leave us fretting, when the bank account just cannot keep up with the Jones, or the medical bills rolling in.

Failing health can cause immeasurable stress.  Many of us live for years with a sense of invincibility but then they find cancer, a blood disorder or a heart disease and we are suddenly left facing the reality of death and our inability to live forever.

Nothing is too difficult for the Lord.  He can put us in the most impossible situations and provide a miraculous escape.  He can leave us wanting and pursuing something that He will only fulfill after a seeming eternity of effort.

God has reasons for all of these trials, and we know that they will work out for our maturity and good, and also for His glory.

God never promises to give us everything that we want and that we ask for.  He does, however, promise to meet those needs He sees – which will lead to our good and His glory.  Sometimes that will mean providing and preforming the impossible!

There is nothing too difficult for God.

Can You Do All Things?

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

– Phil 4.13

How often have you heard and/or quoted that verse?  Jesus gives us the power to do everything.  All things.  We can interpret this in a variety of ways:

  1. I can do all things – therefore I can be über successful, I can set my mind to my work and I can do whatever I set out to do because Jesus, who is God, provides my strength.  This is the core of the Health & Wealth Gospel that blinds many people to the reality of God’s establishing faith and building disciples.
  2. I can do all things – therefore Christ will give me the power to do the things that he wants – I can be Spiritually successful.  Like Jesus told the disciples, I can follow Him.  I can share the Gospel boldly, I can fast well, I can love my family, I can serve the Church.  YES!  Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit does empower us to be obedient and to do all of these good works.  But I think this is only half of the picture.
  3. I can do all things – therefore I can suffer as well.  Let’s look at what Paul said just before he made that statement:

“…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”

– Phil 4.11-12

Let’s take a minute and reflect on the life of Paul.  I will let him speak to his own circumstances and experiences throughout his ministry:

“Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.  I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”

– 2 Cor 11.24-27

Can you do that?  If you live through the power of Christ who strengthens you, YES!  You can do that!  God miraculously called Paul through a radical conversion.  As with all of the disciples, the command was simply “follow me”.  And then God established the path.  The path for eleven of the twelve disciples was a lifetime of persecution and martyrdom.  And joy.  Joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1.8).

So often we focus on the blessings of God as physical and obvious benefits to our daily life.  Seeking relief as it were.  We do not want to suffer and when we do suffer we turn to God to ask Him to take it away, because if God is love, surely He would not want us to go through this.  If God is love, he wants me to be comfortable, to have a house, two kids and a dog, and go to Church on Sunday.  And give my 10%.  Right?  Doesn’t God want us to be comfortable?

“…but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.”

– 2 Cor 6.4-10

If you have not yet had that moment where all you have is God, and He is the only one who can establish you and lead you, you will.  And if our picture of God is that he is primarily concerned about our happiness, we will be sorely disappointed and frustrated and angry when such trials come.  But if we trust Him fully and stand in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can say with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1.21).

Paul tells us that he has learned to happy, content and satisfied in any situation.  He lived in wealth, success and with a good reputation and he lived in poverty, persecution and as one hated.  And neither life situation affected his faith because that was not his primary concern.  His primary concern was honoring God always and trusting God’s provision and plan.  Let us learn to do the same.