December 20, 2006

Don't Even Think About Doing the Impossible!

2006 1535 page14 capoes God require too much?”
I pondered the question posed by the preacher that morning. The main point of his sermon was that of doing the impossible. He went on to give us a “solution” to the seeming impossibility of meeting God’s expectations that confront us, such as doing greater works than Christ did, being perfect as the Father is perfect, and making disciples of all nations. The preacher’s “solution” for the challenge of being asked to do the impossible included the following steps:
            1. Be in the circle of God’s will
            2. Wait for God’s timing
            3. Take some risk
            4. Focus on Jesus
            5. Harness prayer power
I agreed with the message. I can find no fault with the steps. Yet over the following week I found myself composing a response for my own soul. The message of my sequel: Don’t Even Think About Doing the Impossible!
2006 1535 page14It’s not that I don’t agree with Paul that I can do all things through Christ’s strength—even the humanly impossible (Phil. 4:13). My message was about thinking about doing the impossible. It was not about whether or not the impossible could be accomplished in and through me. In my experience, when human beings think too much about doing the impossible, they have a tendency to become either petrified or proud.
The only way I can approach doing the impossible without becoming either petrified or proud is not to think about how to do it, but rather to pray for the courage to let the impossible be done in and through me. When I think about (or focus on) how I can accomplish the impossible, even in Christ, I have a tendency to feel in some control of the process (which feeds my spiritual pride); especially when I have a list of steps. Or I just run the other way and hide—petrified to inaction by the apparent impossibility.
On the other hand, if I think about (or focus on) clearing myself out of the limelight while having the courage to let God take control and do whatever He needs to do in me to accomplish the impossible, I find peace instead of becoming either petrified or proud.
Think of God as a Father who has three children who have been playing in the mud. He calls His children in to ready them for a visit from the relatives. One child is petrified at the thought of the Father’s sending him to the tub and scrubbing away the dirt. He hides under the bed doing nothing, and letting nothing be done to and for him. Another child is so independent and capable that she insists on drawing her own bath and washing and dressing herself, checking regularly in the mirror to see if she has done a good enough job (or in my case, she sincerely but mistakenly believes that doing this is her responsibility). The third child is courageous and humble enough to let the Father lead him to the tub, scrub him clean, and even show him how to button his shirt so that the buttons line up right. He complies obediently, taking no thought about whether or not he looks good enough.
When the relatives (all the other created beings in the universe) come to greet the three children lined up on the front porch, just imagine what they see. Petrified is still a mess from head to foot, slime in his hair and mud between his toes; Proud still has mud behind her ears, around her neck, and her blouse buttons don’t line up with the appropriate buttonholes, but she is all smiles about her efforts; but Peaceful stands there happily, one hand in the Father’s, without even thinking about how the impossible was accomplished in and through him, and how clean and sharp he looks.
I’m all for God’s doing the impossible in and through me. I just have to keep focused on the fact that figuring out how to make that happen isn’t my responsibility. He is the one doing it. He is the only one who knows how to do it right. My job is to peacefully trust and obey, keeping my hand in His—and not spending too much time peering into the mirror, trying to rearrange the mud behind my ears.
Kathy Beagles is editor and curriculum specialist for the General Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department.