Have you ever felt like you’ve been called to great things, impossible things? That would be because you have. The problem is we say we believe that but – do we really? The fact is that we’ve lost sight of the bottom line: “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Maybe it’s time for a quick reminder.
“Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘About this time next year I will return, and your wife Sarah will have a son.’ Now Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent nearby. And since Abraham and Sarah were both very old, and Sarah was long past the age of having children, she laughed silently to herself. ‘How could a worn-out woman like me have a baby?’ she thought. ‘And when my master, my husband, is also so old?’ The Lord then said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, “Can an old woman like me have a baby?” Is anything too hard for the Lord?'” (Gen. 18:10-13).
A “baby” equals a dream, a promise, a heart’s desire. It also represents, as with Sarah, the sign of a fulfilled covenant and the promise of a covenant to come. The same message came to Jeremiah from the Lord.
The Lord had instructed Jeremiah to buy a field from his cousin and to store away the deed. Odd thing to do but God meant it as a sign that, although Jerusalem would be destroyed and the Israelites exiled to Babylon, the time would come that He would again restore His people to their land. But as Jeremiah sees the city and nation about to be destroyed, he is in despair and wonders how anyone could ever own land in Israel/Judah again, so Jeremiah questions God as to why He had him buy the land in the first place. But the deed was a prophetic sign of a future covenant which the Lord would make with His people.
God had also had Abraham perform a prophetic action when He’d commanded him, “’Take a walk in every direction and explore the new possessions I am giving you'” (Gen. 13:17). God tells Abraham to “explore” (“Walk the length and breath of the land . . .”) – to get a vision of it. He commanded Abraham to keep the vision before his eyes in order to hold onto the dream. And we should do the same . . .
As for Jeremiah, he didn’t understand the sign and essentially asks God: “How can You do that – fulfill your promise – when Jerusalem is about to be destroyed??” God’s answer: “‘I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for Me?'” (Jer. 32:26-27).
In the book of Luke, the angel Gabriel visits Mary to inform her that she will become pregnant with the Messiah through the Spirit of God and have a baby. Mary responds by asking how she can get pregnant when she’s still a virgin. (Evidently she gets that this is supposed to happen immediately and not after she marries Joseph, to whom she is engaged. I always thought this to be very astute of her because I probably would have missed the point entirely and responded, “Why wouldn’t I have a son ? I’m about to get married. I hope I have lots of them!”) The angel tells her how it will happen (as soon as she gives the word), and then gives her a sign to believe in: “‘What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s already in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God'” (Luke 1:36).
In Matthew 19, there is the account of the rich young ruler who leaves sadly after deciding he cannot give up his possessions and follow Jesus (who was testing his commitment by asking him to do that). Jesus watches him go and comments to His disciples that it’s about as easy for a rich person to get saved as it is for a huge camel to go through the tiny city gate known as the “Eye of the Needle.” Knowing how impossible that would be, Jesus’ disciples, astonished, respond, “‘Then who in the world can be saved?'” (vs. 25). Jesus’ answer? “‘With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible'” (vs. 26). The disciples were panicked at the thought that salvation would be as difficult to attain as a camel getting through that gate (which evidently had never been done before).
Once upon a time, there was a young man who longed to climb a mountain. He’d seen pictures of the tall, dangerous mountain called Everest, its peak shrouded with blizzards; pictures of the craggy peaks of the Rocky Mountains, white-tipped with snow in August; and movies with James Bond speeding down a steep Alpine peak on skis, spraying glittering snow as he flew.
The problem was that the young man didn’t like snow. Too cold.
No worries though, he thought. There were other mountains – ones, he was sure, more suited to his climate tastes. There were, for example, lush mountains in China and Brazil, blanketed with breath-taking forests, mysterious jungles and – oh, yeah – snakes.
Well, he thought, maybe not China or Brazil. But he continued looking because, you know, he really wanted to climb a mountain.
Then it occurred to him: Hawaii had a mountain or two! Not, of course, as high or majestic as Everest (what was?), but no doubt there would be a fair-sized mountain somewhere there. Except that, as the young man discovered, Hawaii’s mountains tended to be volcanoes – which would never do. What if he stepped on some volcanic glass and cut his foot? Or worse – what if he stepped in some lava??
Moreover, the young man realized that many mountains in Japan, Chile, Guatemala, Italy, Iceland, Alaska and Washington were also active volcanoes – and many other such mountains existed as well (500, to be exact).
Nevertheless, the young man really wanted to climb a mountain. But it would have to be a remote mountain, somewhere which few, if any, people had ever gone.
(After all, you can’t conquer a mountain with a McDonald’s on it.)
So that ruled out the eastern mountains: the Catskills, the Adirondacks, the White mountains, the Appalachians, and especially, the Poconos.
By this time, the young man was beginning to become discouraged. Where on earth would he ever find a mountain to climb which was high enough to be off the beaten path – but not snowy? Or a mountain that didn’t have snakes? Or one that wouldn’t suddenly blow apart underneath him . . . ?
Years flew by as the young man became a grown man, then a middle-aged man, then a very old man. And then the day came when the old man could no longer leave his bed. After one very long day there, the old man’s young grandson came to visit him.
Recently, I had a conversation with some friends and we discussed our dreams: What were the things that we hoped and dreamed we’d accomplish some day? What did we really believe we were called to do? What were our secret hearts’ desires?
As we chatted, it became clear that every one of us- and there were about a dozen – had a dream. And they varied. Some were as big as to start a company which would assist churches in starting their own businesses in order to become financially independent to another who wanted to produce a worship and CD to another whose heart’s desire was to become a wife and mother. Others included a woman who dreamed of building a house that could be used as a retreat center for others and a man who wanted to return to school and become a minister. My dream? To write thriller-type novels with spiritual warfare and political themes.
Despite our dreams, however, there was one common thread – well, two, actually: doubt and fear.
Now we all know that we’re not supposed to have any of that. And sometimes we talk a good game. But the fact of the matter is that doubt and fear come in all shapes and sizes: “What if I can’t get the education I need to become __________ ?” (Fill in the blank.) “What if people laugh when I try to ___________?” “What if I don’t have the money I need to accomplish ___________?” “What if I’m not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, influential enough, talented enough????” What if? WHAT IF?? WHAAAAAT IFFFFFF????
“What if I try – and fail . . . ?”
Have you ever been so desperate to hear from God or to have Him move on your behalf that, having tried everything else, you finally just pitch a fit.
Have you ever been angry at God?
Maybe you feel you’ve been tried beyond your limits: a person in your life who – for days, months, years – has tested your patience and love beyond bearing? A job which – while you’re grateful to have one – you dread going to each and every day? Or you need a job, any job? Perhaps you’ve been waiting a long time for the desire of your heart – a husband or wife? A dream you believe you’ve been called to? A child?
Maybe you’ve been praying for the salvation of a loved one for half a lifetime – and they seem to be getting further away from the Lord, not closer. Perhaps you’re desperate to be healed or to see a loved one healed – and pain is all you know in the meantime. Maybe you’re enduring a heartbreaking marriage – and despite all of your pleading and prayers, the dream just isn’t happening.
Maybe you have financial problems: bills you can’t pay or college or retirement you can’t afford? Or just when you begin to get on your feet, something else breaks down, wears out, needs repairs or someone gets sick? What if your heart’s been broken just one too many times and you just can’t bear one more minute of pain?
What if, in the midst of any or all of those trials, heartaches, persecutions, and crisises, you’ve said every prayer you can think of or you’ve put on the game face and willed yourself to worship one more time or you’ve fasted till you’re skin and bones or you’ve declared every promise in the Bible? What if you’ve tithed every penny you’ve ever earned and forgiven till you’re blue in the face and haven’t missed church in seven years? What if you’ve read the Bible through three times in a year, pray two hours a day (on your knees), and clean toilets every week at church.
What if all of that – and you still just can’t seem to get God’s attention.
Have you ever been there? So worn out from waiting, crying, pleading, dealing, declaring, and waiting some more that you finally decide God needs a little drama?
Sometimes, in the midst of desperate circumstances over a long period of time, when everything we know to do has failed to move God’s hand – we take circumstances into our own hands.