Doing the Possible
After preaching a service this past May in Thonon-les-Bains, France, I was looking around the church bookstore as we waited for the pastor to finish visiting with the people. The titles were all in French, but I recognized some names of the various authors and one of the titles caught my attention. I don’t know exactly what it said, but I could tell it was something about trusting God for the impossible.
Later, I did a search on a Christian book website and found multiple books about God working to bring about the impossible. Some of the titles include:
- Experience the Impossible
- Master of the Impossible
- A Passion for the Impossible
- When You See the Invisible, You Can Do the Impossible
- When You Need a Miracle: How to Ask God for the Impossible
- Stepping Into the Impossible
- Facing Your Giants: God Still Does the Impossible
- Bigger than Impossible: Keys to Experiencing the Impossible through God
- The Joy of Supernatural: Believing God for the Impossible
And the list went on and on. I have no criticism of any of these books or titles whatsoever. I am thankful for everything that encourages, lifts, and helps people, especially when they are facing enormous challenges and seemingly insurmountable problems. How could anyone be against teaching that encourages people to trust God? After all, Jesus Himself said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).
When I saw that particular book in the bookstore in France, though, I had a very impacting thought. “We so often focus on God doing the impossible, but how much emphasis do we place on us doing the possible?” I began to wonder if sometimes we are not practical enough in emphasizing simple obedience and acting on what we can do in the natural to see results produced and to see the plan of God furthered.
Is it possible that some could even be so focused on the “impossible,” that they actually use that focus as an excuse—a cop-out—not to seize and act upon the very tangible possibilities that are right in front of them? I continued to consider, “Did Jesus only commend people when they exercised great faith (e.g., Matthew 8:10), or did He also have positive things to say when people did simple, practical things that were helpful to others and honoring of God?
Do you remember the story of the woman who came to Jesus when He was in the house of Simon the leper? She poured expensive perfume over the head of Jesus, anointing Him. When she was criticized by some present, Jesus not only told them to leave her alone, but He made an astute observation. He said, “She has done what she could” (Mark 14:8).
Jesus wasn’t disappointed that she hadn’t attempted some magnificent, impossible feat, but He commended her because she did what she could with what she had. Jesus was so pleased with her action that He said, “…wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Matthew 14:9).
Many people know the story of the widow woman in Luke 21:1-4 (NLT). “While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said, ‘this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.’” There are so many lessons that can be derived from this story, but this woman, like the woman who anointed Jesus, did what she could with what she had.
Some have said, “God, if you give me a million dollars, I will give you a massive offering.” Others have perhaps thought, “God, if you give me a great anointing, I will really do something big for you.” But the question is, “What are you doing with the resources you already have, and what are you doing with the gifts and potential you already possess?”
If we put this in a church context, what would it look like if a pastor said, “God, if you will give us a master-strategy, we’ll reach our whole city for you.” Maybe, in reality, the Lord would simply have that church to begin to reach out to the people in the apartment complex that’s very close to their church. Once they’ve been effective reaching and serving those people, perhaps God would give them a strategy to reach even more people in their area.
Likewise, an aspiring preacher might say, “God, if you’ll open doors for me, I’ll preach in the uttermost parts of the earth!” While that individual might be very sincere, God might be waiting on them simply to start ministering at a nearby homeless shelter or nursing home. When Jesus spoke with His original disciples about their assignment, He did talk about them going to the end of the earth, but He first mentioned them being witnesses in Jerusalem. In other words, He asked them to start where they were.
Gordon Lindsay once said, “To young men who are looking for an opportunity and who complain there is no opening for them, permit me to say this: Go where the poor and the underprivileged are. They will be glad to hear you. When you have learned to bless them, others will be calling for your services. Don’t wait for opportunity to come walking up to you. Go to meet it.”
I recently reviewed some teaching notes from when I began instructing at Rhema in 1983. One of the statements I made was this: “There are those who are waiting for something, but are committed to nothing.” I also had written down, “Those who are called to the ministry, and yet fail to get established in the ministry, are not people who fail to establish a large ministry, but they are people who fail to establish a small ministry.”
How many people are doing nothing small because they’re waiting for God to do something big? Start small if you need to, and let God bring increase. Don’t wait for God to help you do the impossible if you haven’t even lifted your hand to do the possible!
The Apostle Paul had presented a project to the churches in Greece to help the struggling saints in Jerusalem. As a follow-up, he wrote them: “The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t” (2 Corinthians 8:10-12 MSG). The NLT renders the last part of that verse, “…give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.”
The Body of Christ is full of people with good intentions, noble ideas, and even lofty aspirations. But how many people are taking action? How many people are taking concrete steps? How many people are doing the deeds that actually produce results?
Successful, fruitful, and productive people are doers who use what they have. They get busy and do something with the resources they possess. Unsuccessful people, though, do one of two things. First, they focus on what they don’t have and as a result, do nothing. Or, second, they day-dream about something they hope to have in the future, thinking they’ll do something big in some future moment, but do nothing now with what they have in the moment.
One of the issues many of us have to face is that we want the overall, master plan from the beginning. We want to know every detail and have every base covered before we take the first step. In some cases, we may have a general idea about what we want to see happen in the final analysis, but practically speaking, we typically always have to start where we are with what we have. For example, when it was time for Israel to enter the promised land, they had to do it one step at a time. Moses said, “And the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little; you will be unable to destroy them at once, lest the beasts of the field become too numerous for you” (Deuteronomy 7:22).
Little by little. Not all at once. Moses understood taking the first step; he understood acting with what he had, even when it didn’t seem like much. In this case, God did give Moses the big picture—he was to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt—and it overwhelmed him. Moses said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.” God’s response to Moses was not to show him 50 steps he would need to take in carrying out his assignment. Instead, God asked Moses a simple question, “What is that in your hand?” (Exodus 4:1-2).
God knew that Moses needed to use what he had—that rod—and if Moses would take a step of obedience in the natural, God would do His part as well. Let’s make sure that in our quest to see God do the impossible, that we’re doing what is possible, and making the most of the opportunities that right in front of us.