You probably remember the story from Genesis in which God appeared to Abraham. The patriarch was sitting at the door of his tent during the heat of the day, when suddenly three men appeared before him, standing under a tree. Abraham went out to meet the men, prepared a meal for them and visited with them.
During their conversation, the Lord asked Abraham where his wife, Sarah, was. Then God said something incredible: "...lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son" (Genesis 18:10).
At the time, Sarah was inside the tent, listening to their conversation. And when she heard this, she laughed at the idea. Impossible, she thought. She was way beyond the age of childbearing, and Abraham was too old to sire a child.
Yet when God heard Sarah's laughter, he said, "Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (verses 13-14).
I'm writing this message today because God asks the same question of his children in these present times: Is anything too hard for the Lord? Each of us has to face our own difficult situations in life. And in the midst of them God asks, "Do you think your problem is too hard for me to fix? Or do you believe I can work it out for you, even though you think it's impossible?"
Jesus tells us, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27). Do you believe this word from the Lord? Do you accept that he can perform the impossible in your marriage, in your family, on your job, for your future?
We're quick to counsel others that he can. When we see our loved ones enduring difficult times, we tell them, "Hold on, and look up. The Lord is able. Don't stop trusting him. He's the God of the impossible.
Yet, I wonder -- do we believe these truths for ourselves? Sarah, who doubted the Lord, probably would have offered this very counsel to her friends. Imagine that she heard about a godly couple in a similar situation -- faithful people who wanted a baby but were too old to bear one. The couple believed God had promised them a child, but now they were growing older. And little by little, they were losing confidence in their dream.
If you asked Sarah what she would say to them, she probably would answer, "Tell them to hold on. They can't give up hope for their dream. They serve a God who does the impossible. He will fix it for them."
Yet Sarah had a hard time believing this for herself. And many Christians do likewise today. We boldly proclaim God's power to others, but we don't believe his word for ourselves.
It is not enough for us simply to believe in God as creator, the maker of all things. We also have to believe he's a God who yearns to do the impossible in our lives. The Bible makes it very clear: If we don't believe this about him, we don't trust him at all.
In my opinion, no amount of counseling will do a person any good if he doubts God for a miracle. Don't misunderstand -- I am not against Christian counseling. But it is useless to counsel someone who isn't fully convinced God can fix his problem, no matter what the problem may be.
As a pastor who counsels, I know I can't offer anything to a married couple who doesn't believe God can save their relationship. Things may appear absolutely hopeless to them; they may have built up years of resentment and bitterness. But they have to be convinced God can do the impossible.
I tell such couples right away, "Yes, I'll counsel you. But first I have to ask -- do you truly believe God can fix your marriage? Do you have faith that no matter how impossible things look to you, he has the power to restore your relationship?"
Some answer, "But you don't know what I've been through with my spouse. I've been wounded deeply. My hurt is beyond what you could ever imagine." This kind of response tells me they have bought the devil's lie. He has convinced them their situation is hopeless. Yet Jesus has spoken clearly to every one of his children: "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27).
All over this nation, Christians are giving up on their marriages. Even some of my minister friends are divorcing. When I talk with them about their situation, I realize they don't think their marriage can be healed. They simply don't trust God to do the impossible for them.
Yet any Christian couple who throws up their hands and quits the battle doesn't truly want their marriage to be restored. In fact, many spouses who come to see me for counseling have already made up their minds to leave the relationship. The only reason they're there is to get my approval on the direction they've predetermined.
Beloved, no counselor in the world can help you unless you absolutely believe God's word on this matter: Nothing in your life is beyond his ability to fix. Otherwise, your Christianity is in vain -- because you believe in God only up to a point. You don't truly believe him to be God of the impossible.
A pastor's wife wrote to us recently about her husband's habitual lying. This man's lies are so blatant, he has been caught in them time after time. And even though people in his church have confronted him about his problem, he remains in denial about it.
His wife wrote, "I'm ashamed of my husband. And our children don't trust him. He preaches a powerful message, but he can't tell the truth, because he doesn't have the truth in him." She closed her letter with these words: "I am thinking of leaving him."
I sympathize with this dear woman. Yet I know she isn't convinced God can do the impossible for her. She has believed God only up to a point -- and then decided to run. But divorce is never an option for a Christian, unless your spouse abuses you physically. In that case, you should definitely leave. In all other cases, however -- the Lord says very clearly: "I'm your God and I can fix it."
Here is what I wish this woman would have written: "I realize my children have become heirs of my husband's dysfunction. And I know he's probably going to lose his pulpit because of his continual sin. But I know I serve a God who is able to fix any problem. And I believe he can save our marriage, restore our family and build up our church again. So, I'm going to hold onto my husband, no matter what it costs me. I'm going to believe what God says is true -- and that nothing is impossible with him."
In Mark 9, a distraught father brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus' disciples seeking deliverance. This boy wasn't simply troubled or rebellious. He was full of evil spirits, and they controlled his every action. His situation was well-known all over the region, so that when parents saw him approaching, they probably rushed their children indoors.
This poor boy was considered absolutely hopeless. He was both deaf and speechless, so he spewed out only guttural sounds. He foamed at the mouth like a mad dog, and physically he was skin and bone, emaciated by his awful struggle. His father had to hold onto him continually, because the demons constantly tried to cast him into the nearest river, lake or open fire, wanting to kill him.
I wonder how many times this father had to leap into a pond and drag out his son to resuscitate him. It had to be a full-time job just keeping his child from killing himself. Imagine the number of scars and burn marks on that boy's torn body. It must have broken his father's heart daily to see his son in that condition, with no one able to help.
Now, as the father stood before the disciples, Satan began manifesting in the boy. He started foaming at the mouth and rolling on the ground, contorting and gyrating wildly. Scripture tells us the disciples prayed over him -- perhaps for a long time -- but nothing happened.
It must have seemed like an impossible situation. Soon the doubting scribes crowded around, asking, "Why is the boy not healed? Is this case too hard for your Lord? Is the devil more powerful in this kind of situation?"
But then Jesus came on the scene. When he asked what was going on, the father answered, "I brought my son to your disciples, but they couldn't heal him. He's a hopeless case." Jesus responded simply, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23). Christ was telling everyone present, "Do you believe I can handle all situations except those under the devil's control? I tell you, there is no problem, no impossible circumstance, I cannot fix."
Then, with just one word, Jesus made the impossible a reality: "...he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him" (verse 25). At that point, the boy fell to the ground as if dead. But, Scripture says, "Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose" (verse 27).
Can you imagine the joy in this scene? That clean, freed boy must have run to his father and embraced him. And the father's heart leapt with joy. God had fixed it all.
So, why did the Holy Spirit move Mark to include this story in his gospel? I believe it was so every parent from that moment forward would know God can be trusted to do the impossible with their children. The Lord was saying, "I can restore anything and anyone. If you'll just believe, all things will be possible to you through me."
All over the world today, multitudes of Christian parents agonize because their children are under the devil's power. In our own congregation, I see the pain of mothers who ride buses upstate to visit their sons in prison. They know the pain of sitting on one side of the thick-glass window, gazing at a boy who once was tender in spirit. Somehow he got hooked on drugs and then attempted a robbery to support his habit. And now he's in prison, becoming even more hardened. She has prayed for him for years, but now she's losing hope. She doesn't think she'll ever see him change.
I also see heartbroken fathers who never dreamed their daughters would turn to drugs. They saw their little girl fall in with the wrong crowd at school and get hooked. Soon she was so rebellious, her dad had to ask her to leave the house because of her influence on her siblings. So now she's on the streets, selling her body to support her habit. And her father lies in bed at night crying a river of tears. He's convinced he has lost her forever.
I know one father who drove to the slums to try to find his drug-addict son. He had to ask around until finally a pusher told him the boy was in a crack den. When the man walked into the place, he saw a mere shell of the son he'd known. The boy's body was skeletal from drug use. When the father pleaded with him to come home, the young man wouldn't even look at him. He just said, "Get out. This is my life now."
That broken father walked out onto the street in tears. He had lost all hope, agonizing, "That's my son in there. He's dying, and he won't let me help him."
The devil has told these parents their children are hopeless, that their problems can never be fixed. He has convinced them of a powerful lie -- that God is unable to help them.
Maybe you think your unsaved husband is hopeless, that he'll never come to Jesus. Or, perhaps you've given up hope for your wife, who leaves you at night to go out partying. But no person is ever too far gone for God to fix. I know many Christian spouses who testify today, "I prayed for my spouse for years. Then one day, after I'd given up hope, God broke through. He saved and delivered my loved one."
We must never give up on anyone -- because nothing is impossible with our God.
Mark 5 tells the story of Jairus, the desperate synagogue ruler who asked Jesus to heal his daughter. The twelve-year-old girl was dangerously near death, and Jairus pleaded with Christ to come to his house and lay hands on her.
Jesus agreed to go with him. But first he stopped along the way to minister to a woman with a blood disease. (This was the woman who was healed when she touched the hem of his garment.) Yet while Jesus tarried, a messenger came with tragic news: Jairus' daughter had already died. He told the synagogue ruler, "Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?" (Mark 5:35).
Jairus' heart was gripped with grief. He thought, "If only we had gotten there on time. Now it's too late. My daughter is gone." But Jesus assured him, "Be not afraid, only believe" (verse 36).
As they approached Jairus' home, they heard sounds of wailing and mourning. It was Jairus' family and neighbors, grieving over the girl. Picture the contrast in this scene: Here was God in flesh, creator of the universe, able to perform any work imaginable -- yet they were weeping in his presence. In short, they were testifying, "God can only help as long as there is some sign of hope left. But once all life is gone, there is no need to call on him anymore. Even he couldn't restore that kind of situation."
How many Christians today no longer call upon the Lord because they think their problem is hopeless? Multitudes trust God only to the point that something in their life dies. I'm not referring to the death of a person; I'm talking about the death of a marriage, a relationship, a dream, your hope for an unsaved loved one -- anything in your life you think is impossible to fix, change or restore.
Jesus rebuked such unbelief. He said to the weeping crowd at Jairus' home, "Why make this ado, and weep? The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth" (verse 39). He was stating, "This situation is not what you see or think. You think all hope is gone. But I say there will be restoration." He then went to the little girl's room -- and, speaking a mere word, he brought the child to life. "Straighway the damsel arose, and walked..." (verse 42).
Why did the Holy Ghost include this story in Mark's gospel? He did it to show us that nothing is too "dead," or too far gone, for him to restore to life. He's saying, "Put your trust in me to fix your problem. It's never too late for me to work."
Indeed, when we say God can't fix something, we call him a liar. John writes, "He that believeth not God hath made him a liar" (1 John 5:10). Are you like Jairus' family and friends, who sat around wringing their hands and talking about how hopeless things were? If you grieve and worry without ever testifying, "My God can do the impossible," You're telling the world God is a liar.
God can restore whatever has seemed dead in our lives with just a single word. Are you having financial problems, unable to pay your bills? So it was with the Lord's disciples -- and he fixed their situation supernaturally.
When tax time came around, Christ and his disciples had no money to pay the needed amount. So how did the Lord fix the situation? He sent Peter out to catch a fish. Jesus told him he would find a coin in the mouth of the first fish he caught, and that coin would cover their tax bill.
I can only imagine what Peter must have thought; "Tax money in a fish's mouth? This I've got to see. I've been a fisherman all my life, and I've seen a lot of things inside fish -- worms, hooks, seaweed. But I've never seen a coin inside one." Yet, when Peter reeled in the first flopping fish, he opened its mouth to find a gleaming coin. The amount was enough to pay their taxes, just as Jesus had said.
Why did the Spirit move upon the gospel writers to record this story? And why did Jesus choose to fix their situation through a miracle? Why didn't he just take up an offering, or send the disciples out to work for a day to bring in wages for the tax?
I believe Jesus moved supernaturally here because he wanted to prove to his children he'll do the impossible for us. He can fix any financial problem, any family crisis, any overwhelming need.
He wanted us to know he is the same God who fed Elijah with bread delivered by a raven...who kept a widow's barrel of meal from dwindling during a drought...who saved that widow from her creditors by filling huge pots of cooking oil from a little pint jar of oil...who fed a crowd of 5,000 -- and later another crowd of 4,000 -- with a few fishes and loaves of bread. He knows that at certain times in our lives only a miracle will do. And he wants to assure us he can do the impossible for us, in any situation.
Of course, we can presume upon God's promise to provide miracles for us. I did that years ago, as a young pastor in my twenties. I thought I had a good idea for ministry -- but I didn't consult the Lord before moving ahead on it. As a result, I incurred a debt of $5,000 with no way to pay it back. (In today's economy, that amount would equal close to $25,000.)
In desperation, I started claiming all the Bible passages that say, "God shall supply all your needs." Then one day, while in prayer, I heard a beautiful voice tell me, "David go down to Chester Street tomorrow at noon and walk on the left side of the street. A man will come toward you with an envelope containing $5,000. This man is my angel, and he's going to place that envelope in your hand."
I thought, "Thank you, Lord -- you truly are faithful." And the next day at noon, I walked down to Chester Street and waited for the man to appear. Now, this was a town of 1,200 people, and no one ever walked the streets during the day, because everybody was at work. So, for a long time, I didn't see a single soul in sight. I paced up and down for almost an hour, wondering, "Lord, where is he?" Eventually, a man did come by -- but I knew he wasn't an angel , because he was puffing away on a cigarette.
Finally, I went home in despair. I prayed, "Lord, how could I have been so deceived? What am I going to do now? Please, father -- forgive me for not trusting you. I put this whole matter into your hands."
A few days later, a man in our church called me. He said, "I heard about your need, and I know someone who might be able to help. He's a Christian banker who lives in another town. Why don't you give him a call?"
I contacted the banker, and he did something for me that was unheard of in those days: He gave me an unsecured loan for $5,000. He told me, "You can pay it back with $50 a month."
God fixed my situation. And through it all he taught me this lesson: "David, I could have sent an angel to give you that money. But I wanted you to learn something, because I love you. If I hadn't taught you this, you'd still be making foolish decisions -- and you'd be $100,000 in debt."
I learned that even though I am to trust the Lord to do the impossible, I can't expect an angel to suddenly show up and deliver me from my irresponsible choices.
Recently, our ministry received a heart-breaking letter from a prisoner. He wrote:
"Pastor Dave, I'm a sexual pervert, and I'm in prison because of my addiction. I know I wasn't born this way, but it's what I've become. I have been married three times and I have four children.
"The truth is, I like anything when it comes to perversion. If you can think of it, I've probably tried it. I want to stop, yet I don't. I quit smoking cold turkey -- that was no problem. I've ever been able to stay away from pornography a little at a time. I truly believe in the healing power of God. I've pleaded, cried and begged him for help. But I just can't seem to find the door to escape from my perversion problem.
"My desire to do the Lord's will is ever with me, yet I constantly push that desire aside and fall back into my lust. I've lied to God, promising never to do it again, but I always go back to it.
"I hurt because I know I've made the Lord sick. When I go to chapel, I feel two-faced. There are men here who respect me because I've given them good advice, but I haven't kept it myself. I play the piano and sing in chapel, but I don't feel right because I'm not right.
"I'd rather die and go to hell than ever bother another innocent person again. But I don't want to go to hell. I want to serve God, and I want his love. I'm trapped because I hate what I do, yet somehow I love it. I don't know what to do."
I say to this young man: Don't give up hope. God can fix your perverted mind. He wants to bring healing to you.
At one time I gave up on homosexuals being able to change, because I saw so little of God's healing with them. Our ministry once had a home for homosexuals, but it ended in disaster. All our drug and alcohol programs worked, but I saw very few victories with homosexuals.
Then the Lord began to send me testimonies of homosexuals who had been delivered from their bondage. I also received reports of other people who had been freed from the worst sexual perversions on earth. Today, I say to every person in deep heartfelt love with Jesus: If you want freedom, God is able to provide it, no matter what your struggle. He can break your habit and set you free.
Yet, you have to believe that nothing in your life is impossible with God. There is no clutch of the devil he can't break.
So, dear saint, get hold of faith -- believe God to absolutely change and transform your life. If he provided for the destitute widow, for the demon-possessed boy, and for Jairus' daughter, he can provide for you. Our God can fix anything.