“And he said, ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.’”
Christ had said to the rich young ruler, “Sell all that you have…and come, follow me.” The young man went away sorrowful. Christ then turned to the disciples and said: “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples, we read, were greatly astonished, and answered: “If it is so difficult to enter the kingdom, who, then, can be saved?” And Christ gave this blessed answer: “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”
The text contains two thoughts—that in religion, in the question of salvation and of following Christ by a holy life, it is impossible for man to do it. And then alongside that is the thought—What is impossible with man is possible with God.
The two thoughts mark the two great lessons that man has to learn in the religious life. It often takes a long time to learn the first lesson, that in religion man can do nothing, that salvation is impossible to man. And often a man learns that, and yet he does not learn the second lesson—what has been impossible to him is possible with God. Blessed is the man who learns both lessons! The learning of them marks stages in the Christian’s life.
The one stage is when a man is trying to do his utmost and fails, when a man tries to do better and fails again, when a man tries much more and always fails. And yet very often he does nto even then learn the lesson: With man it is impossible to serve God and Christ. Peter spent three years in Christ’s school and he never learned that, “It is impossible,” until he denied his Lord and went out and wept bitterly. Then he learned it.
Just look for a moment at a man who is learning this lesson. At first he fights against it; then he submits to it, but reluctantly and in despair; at last he accepts it willingly and rejoices in it. At the beginning of the Christian life the young convert has no conception of this truth. He has been converted, he has the joy of the Lord in his heart, he begins to run the race and fight the battle; he is sure he can conquer, for he is earnest and honest, and God will help him. Yet, somehow, very soon he fails where he did not expect it, and sin gets the better of him. He is disappointed; but he thinks, “I was not watchful enough. I did not make any resolutions strong enough.” And again he vows, and again he prays, and yet he fails. He thought: “Am I not a regenerate man? Have I not the life of God within me?” And he thinks again: “Yes, and I have Christ to help me. I can live the holy life.”
At a later period he comes to another state of mind. He begins to see such a life is impossible, but he does not accept it. There are multitudes of Christians who come to this point: “I cannot”; and then think God never expected them to do what they cannot do. If you tell them that God does expect it, it appears to them a mystery. A good many Christians are living a low life, a life of failure and sin, instead of rest and victory, because they began to see: “I cannot, it is impossible.” And yet they do not understand it fully, and so, under the impression, I cannot, they give way to despair. They will do their best, but they never expect to get on very far.
But God leads His children on to a third stage, when a man comes to take that, It is impossible, in its full truth, and yet at the same time says: “I must do it, and I will do it—it is impossible for man, and yet I must do it.”; when the renewed will begins to exercise its whole power, and in intense longing and prayer begins to cry to God: “Lord, what is the meaning of this?—how am I to be freed from the power of sin?”
It is the state of the regenerate man from Romans 7. There you will find the Christian man trying his very utmost to live a holy life. God’s law has been revealed to him as reaching down into the very depth of the desires of the heart, and the man can dare to say: “I delight in the law of God after the inward man. To will what is good is present with me. My heart loves the law of God, and my will has chosen that law.”
Can a man like that fail, with his heart full of delight in God’s law and with his will determined to do what is right? Yes. That is what Romans 7 teaches us. There is something more needed. Not only must I delight in the law of God after the inward man, and will what God wills, but I need a divine omnipotence to work it in me. And that is what the apostle Paul teaches in Philippians 2:13: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work.”
Note the contrast. In Romans 7, the regenerate man says: “To will is present with me, but to do—I find I cannot do. I will, but I cannot perform.” But in Philippians 2, you have a man who has been led on farther, a man who understands that when God has worked the renewed will, God will give the power to accomplish what he desires. Let us receive this as the first great lesson in the spiritual life: “It is impossible for me, my God; let there be an end of the flesh and all its powers, an end of self, and let it be my glory to be helpless.”
“Your religious life is every day to be a proof that God works impossibilities.”
Praise God for the divine teaching that makes us helpless!
When you thought of absolute surrender to God were you not brought to an end of yourself, and to feel that you could see how you actually could live as a man absolutely surrendered to God every moment of the day—at your table, in your house, in your business, in the midst of trials and temptations? I pray you learn the lesson now. If you felt you could not do it, you are on the right road, if you let yourselves be led. Accept that position, and maintain it before God: “My heart’s desire and delight, O God, is absolute surrender, but I cannot perform it. It is impossible for me to live that life. It is beyond me.” Fall down and learn that when you are utterly helpless, God will come to work in you not only to will, but also to do.
Now comes the second lesson. “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” I said a little while ago that there is many a man who has learned the lesson, It is impossible with men, and then he gives up the helpless despair, and lives a wretched Christian life, without joy, or strength, or victory. And why? Because he does not humble himself to learn that other lesson: With God all things are possible.
Your religious life is every day to be a proof that God works impossibilities; your religious life is to be a series of impossibilities made possible and actual by God’s almighty power. That is what the Christian needs. He has an almighty God that he worships, and he must learn to understand God’s power, but he needs—with reverence be it said—the whole of God’s omnipotence to keep him right, and to live like a Christian.
The whole of Christianity is a work of God’s omnipotence. Look at the birth of Christ Jesus. That was a miracle of divine power, and it was said to Mary: “With God nothing shall be impossible.” It was the omnipotence of God. Look at Christ’s resurrection. We are taught that it was according to the exceeding greatness of His mighty power that God raised Christ from the dead.
Every tree must grow in the root from which it springs. An oak tree three hundred years old grows all the time in the one root from which it had its beginning. Christianity had its beginning in the omnipotence of God, and in every soul it must have its continuance in that omnipotence. All the possibilities of the higher Christian life have their origin in a new apprehension of Christ’s power to work all God’s will in us.
“Put yourself afresh in absolute surrender into the hands of God of infinite love; and as infinite as His love is His power to do it.”
I want to call upon you now to come and worship an almighty God. Have you learned to do it? Have you learned to deal so closely with an almighty God that you know omnipotence is working in you? In outward appearance there is often so little sign of it. The apostle Paul said: “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling and…my preaching was…in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” From the human side there was feebleness, from the divine side there was divine omnipotence. And that is true of every godly life; and if we would only learn that lesson better, and give a wholehearted, undivided surrender to it, we should learn what blessedness there is in dwelling every hour and every moment with an almighty God. Have you ever studied in the Bible the attribute of God’s omnipotence? You know that it was God’s omnipotence that created the world, and created light out of darkness, and created man. But have you studied God’s omnipotence in the works of redemption?
Look at Abraham. When God called him to be the father of that people out of which Christ was to be born, God said to him: “I am God Almighty, walk before me and be thou perfect.” And God trained Abraham to trust Him as the omnipotent One; and whether it was his going out to a land that he knew not, or his faith as a pilgrim midst the thousands of Canaanites—his faith said: This is my land—or whether it was his faith waiting twenty-five years for a son in his old age, against all hope, or whether it was the raising up of Isaac from the dead on Mount Moriah when he was going to sacrifice him—Abraham believed God, because he accounted Him who had promised able to perform.
The cause of the weakness of your Christian life is that you want to work it out partly, and to let God help you. And that cannot be. You must come to be utterly helpless, to let God work, and God will work gloriously. It is this that we need if we are indeed to be workers for God. I could go through Scripture and prove to you how Moses, when he led Israel out of Egypt; how Joshua, when he brought them into the land of Canaan; how all God’s servants in the Old Testament counted upon the omnipotence of God doing impossibilities. And this God lives today, and this God is the God of every child of his. And yet we are some of us wanting God to give us a little help while we do our best, instead of coming to understand what God wants, and to say: “I can do nothing. God must and will do all.” Have you said: “In worship, in work, in sanctification, in obedience to God, I can do nothing of myself, and so my place is to worship the omnipotent God, and to believe that He will work in me every moment”? Oh, may God teach us this! Oh, that God would by His grace show you what a God you have, and to what a God you have entrusted yourself—an omnipotent God, willing with His whole omnipotence to place Himself at the disposal of every child of His! Shall we not take the lesson of the Lord Jesus and say: “Amen; the things which are impossible with men are possible with God”?
Remember what we have said about Peter, his self-confidence, self-power, self-will, and how he came to deny his Lord. You feel, “Ah! There is the self-life, there is the flesh-life that rules in me.” And now, have you believed there is deliverance from that? Have you believed that Almighty God is able so to reveal Christ in your heart, so to let the Holy Spirit rule in you, that the self-life shall not have power or dominion over you? Have you coupled the two together, and with tears of penitence and with deep humiliation and feebleness, cried out: “O God, it is impossible to me; man cannot do it, but, glory to Your name, it is possible with God”? Have you claimed deliverance? Do it now. Put yourself afresh in absolute surrender into the hands of God of infinite love; and as infinite as His love is His power to do it.
by Andrew Murray
“My Lord, O King, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have.” These are words of absolute surrender with which every...
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