“Nothing Is Impossible With God”
December 16, 2007
On Christmas Day of 1968 the three astronauts of Apollo 8 circled the dark side of the moon and headed for home. Suddenly, over the horizon of the moon rose the blue and white globe of the earth. It was surrounded by the glistening light of the sun against the black void of space. These sophisticated men, long trained in science and technology, didn’t respond to the sight with any mention of a scientist’s name. They didn’t go to poets or song writers or playwrights for their comment about the awe-inspiring vision that was rising before them. Only one thing could capture the emotion of the sight that they were privileged to see. Millions and millions of people heard the voice from outer space as the astronaut read it, “In the beginning God…”
There are times and there are points in life when the only proper response to the moment is to humbly recognize the power of God. Notice in the event that I just mentioned that it wasn’t the accomplishment of human beings that amazed these men, but that it was instead the power of the God who made what was unfolding before them.
There are also some times in the story told by the scriptures when the power of God is what captures the imagination of man. It is interesting to me that this quality of our Maker is summarized in the little phrase, “Nothing Is Impossible With God…” This saying, or some form of it appears seven times that I can identify. From these episodes there are some principles that start emerging that are so important for how we go about living our lives. Please notice this morning the places where this thought occurs, and then the principles that we should learn from it.
The first place that I could find when this observation is made occurs in the life of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18. It had long been promised that these two would be blessed with a son, but by now, according to Genesis 17, God Almighty, as he introduces himself, had allowed this promise to languish until Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 – of course, long past the time when by normal circumstances a couple would be blessed with a child. Even though the length of life back then was apparently much longer than now, it still was humanly impossible.
Three visitors come to the household of Abraham in Genesis 18. He shows these heavenly visitors extraordinary hospitality, and because of his kindness they speak to him again of this promise. “This time next year,” Abraham was told, Sarah “your wife shall have a son.” Sarah overheard. And the Bible says “Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?’” (Gen. 18:12) “And the Lord (notice that is the way this visitor is identified) said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.’” That phrase “is anything too hard for the Lord” when it is translated into the Greek tongue becomes the statement that “nothing is impossible with God.”
The first time this statement occurs is interestingly in the context where a person of great faith, Sarah, found it hard to believe that a promise of God would actually be fulfilled. Adam Clark commented on this event, “It was to correct Sarah’s unbelief, and to strengthen her faith, that God spoke these most important words; words which state that where human wisdom, prudence and energy fail, and where nature herself ceases to be an agent, there also God has the sway…” I like that.
The next time this idea occurs in scripture is after the long ordeal that Job had endured. When Job had suffered unimaginably and his faith had been challenged, when finally after his crying out, God appears to Job and says, “Let me ask you now some questions.” There are times when man’s questions are only answerable by God’s questions, not by answers but by questions. God had given Job an opportunity to consider the fact that he did not know everything and that he, in the presence of God’s power, was far surpassed.
In Job 42: 1-2, it says, “Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.’ 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' (That is Job talking about himself) Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.’” Notice Job’s statement “I know that you can do all things.” Nothing is too hard for God. With God nothing is impossible. What a lesson Job had learned! He hadn’t learned why innocent people suffer. He hadn’t learned why his prayers had seemingly not been answered. He hadn’t learned why all this tragedy had invaded his life. He had only learned that nothing was too hard for God.
Then next, this idea comes up in the experience of the great prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32). You may remember that Jeremiah was given the unenviable task of having to proclaim to his people that the time for their judgment, the time for God’s response to their long-standing faithlessness, had finally come and that Jerusalem was going to be taken by the king of Babylon who would break down her walls and carry the people away captive. Zedekiah, the king, tired of hearing Jeremiah’s warnings, took Jeremiah and threw him in the house of the guard. In Jeremiah 32 the prophet has been preaching his message of warning and judgment for some years, and finally the king of Babylon and his armies had surrounded Jerusalem and had laid siege to it. Jeremiah has been thrown into the prison. God tells Jeremiah, “Your cousin is going to come to you and ask you to buy the field at Anathoth, a nearby village, and I want you to buy it.” Sure enough, Jeremiah’s cousin came, offered Jeremiah the privilege of the next of kin to purchase that field that had been a family possession. Jeremiah, from the jail, paid him the money and signed the deed.
The same prophet who had been warning that the city was going to be destroyed and the people were going to be carried away captive was now the proud owner of a piece of land near town! Jeremiah signed the deed and gave it to his partner Baruch for safe keeping and then prayed. And he prayed, “Lord, I know that nothing is too hard for you.” (Jer. 32:17). “You brought us here out of slavery, you gave us this land, you have put up with us. Now you have pronounced judgment upon our faithlessness. You have brought the king of Babylon against us. Yet you have told me to buy this piece of ground.” Now Jeremiah doesn’t say it in so many words, but you can see where he is headed, can’t you? “What sense does this make? Why would you have me to do something like this under the circumstances?”
And God answers Jeremiah (Jer. 32:26-27) “The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: ‘Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh (meaning that all men have responsibility to God). Is anything too hard for me?’” There is our idea again. God makes the point that just as he has the power to bring judgment against a nation, he has the power to rebuild it and to bless the people and to give them new hope and new life. What didn’t seem to make any sense in view of Jeremiah’s circumstances from the guard house made all the sense in the world in view of God’s purpose to raise up the people for himself and to bless them.
The idea comes up again some years later in the days of the prophet Zechariah. Now the people have made their sojourn in captivity for all of those long years. The 70 years have passed. The people who had faith enough to do so have been allowed to come home from Babylonian captivity, and they come back to Jerusalem to find it a heap of ruble, and begin to rebuild. In Zechariah 8 God says to this weary remnant of the people, “I have returned to Zion (the hill in Jerusalem) and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city (this was spoken at a time when the city lay in ruins and the people were so few), and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain. … Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.” (Zech. 8:3-5) Notice the scenes of prosperity and peace and security and enjoyment that those pictures paint. It seemed to be unbelievable to the people. Verse 6 says, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If it is marvelous (in other words, if it is too difficult) in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvelous (too hard, too difficult) in my sight, declares the Lord of hosts?” What he is saying is “Is anything too hard for me?”
Matthew Henry made this observation on this passage: “We do both God and ourselves a deal of wrong if we think that when we are non-pulsed, he is so, and that he cannot get over the difficulties which to us seem insuperable.” That is a way of saying that God is not limited as we are. Impossible is a word that applies to us and not to him.
Then notice that the news comes in Luke 1 to a maiden named Mary that she will be blessed by a son. The difficulty in this is that she at the time remains a virgin. She raises the question of how this could be. How could she be blessed with a son? In Luke 1:36-37, the angel said, “Behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. (This would have to raise the idea to Mary that the impossible to her had already happened.) For nothing will be impossible with God." To a young Jewish woman like Mary who knew the Old Testament scriptures, that would have had to have raised the point of God’s promise to Sarah so many years before. Nothing is impossible with God.
During the ministry of Jesus, one time there came to him the man that we commonly refer to as the rich young ruler. Remember the story in Matthew 19 and its parallels. This young man had everything going for him. He was young and had the strength of youth; he was wealthy and had privilege to enjoy; he was a ruler among his people and therefore had notoriety and power. But he knew that something was missing in his life and he wanted to know what he needed to do to be saved.
Jesus, in challenging the young man to follow him brought up the issue of his possessions, his money, what he was devoting his life to. When the young ruler heard the Lord’s instruction and walked away sorrowfully, the disciples wanted to know if a man like this makes a response like that, then who can be saved? Matthew 19:26 says, “But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’"
One old writer observed that only God can remove the love of the world from the heart of man. The whole basis of the idea of being saved by the gospel of Christ is the fact that man cannot save himself and that the gospel is the power of God to salvation.
Then notice that when Jesus prayed in the garden, according to Mark 14:36, “And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’" Notice carefully that all the way from the life of Abraham and Sarah to the experience of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, at all these junctures where God’s promises appeared to be beyond the realm of possibility as to their accomplishment, the point has been made and then remade and then emphasized again that God can do what he has promised and that nothing is impossible with Him.
Will you please consider the principles about our approach to our lives which grow out of this background?
The first is that God can do anything that power can do. Anything that can be accomplished merely by power God can readily and easily do. Someone in trying to define what we mean by the omnipotence, the almighty power of God, said, “By the omnipotence of God is meant that all the power there is in the universe, physical or spiritual, has its source in God.” (Conner, quoted by Lanier, p. 118) He therefore can do anything that power can do.
In Psalm 115:3 the point is made that God sits above the earth and that he does as he pleases. In Ephesians 1:11 Paul noted that God works all things according to the counsel of his will.
Someone observed, “It is sufficient to the existence of a thing that God wills it to exist. He can act what he will only by his will, without any instruments. (Think about this – he doesn’t have to use a tool.) He needs no matter to work upon, because he can make something from nothing; all matter owes itself to his creative power. He needs no time to work in, for he can make time when he pleases to begin to work; he needs no copy to work by, himself is his own pattern and copy in his works.” (Charnock, quoted by Lanier, p. 119)The power of God is beyond the imagination of man to grasp. But we can say that whatever power can do he can do.
Secondly observe that scripture indicates that his power is exercised in harmony with his nature and his purpose. Some of you blessed me with a copy of E.M. Zerr’s work a year or so ago. Zerr noted about some of these passages, “God can do anything if it is a matter of power of knowledge. The Bible teaches there are some things God cannot do, but it is not because they are too hard. It is because they are not right.” (on Gen. 18:14). What we mean is that God cannot do what is contrary to his own nature. It is his nature to be faithful; therefore Paul observed in writing to Titus, “It is impossible for God to lie” (Titus 1:2-3). He can’t do it because it is contrary to his nature.
Then he will not do what is contrary to his purpose. God’s purpose is to save everybody who will be saved through Christ, and he won’t do anything to keep that purpose from being fulfilled. He works, then, according to his nature and purpose in an established order. He is the author, not of confusion, but of peace.
And that makes him worthy of our trust and obedience. In fact, it demands our trust and obedience. The Psalms often make this point. Psalm 33:8-9 suggests that anybody who stands before this kind of power ought to be in awe of it. Psalm 118:6 emphasizes that when this kind of power is on anybody’s side, they can stand secure because of it. Ephesians 1:19-21 offers the prayer that the New Testament church may be aware of the kind of power that God wrought when he raised up his son from the dead and made him head over all things to the church, which is his body.
Since I began with a story of Abraham and Sarah, I would like to return to it for just a moment with regard to God’s power. Paul argues in the great book of Romans that the power of God where salvation is concerned is the gospel (Rom. 1:16). As powerful as God is, he calls for free-chosen faith on the part of man by letting us know what he has done for us through the gospel. He knows that this news will call for some kind of response from us. And Paul uses the life of Abraham and Sarah in Romans as an example of the kind of response it ought to draw. In Romans 4, verses 20 and following Paul says of Abraham, “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”
Faith in the power of God causes us to respond with unwavering obedient trust in God. Romans 6 says that those who hear that God gave his Son, raised him up for us, are invited to die to sin and to be buried with Christ in baptism, to let God raise him up to walk in newness of life and then to yield themselves, their bodies as instruments of righteousness in the service of the God on whom all things are possible. It is not impossible for me to be saved or for you to have hope either. Therefore, if you are here this morning and you wish to put your obedient trust in the God for whom all things are possible, we would like to encourage you in every way we can. If you would let it be known while we stand and sing this song together, we will do our best to help.