“And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”
(Luke 18:27 KJV)
Christ had said to the rich young ruler, “Sell all that you have… and come, follow me.” The young man, distressed, 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: “Then who can be saved?” And Christ gave this blessed answer:
“What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
The text contains two thoughts—that 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 Christian 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.
This is of first importance for man to learn: With man it is impossible to serve God and Christ. Peter spent three years in Christ’s school, and even he never learned that, It is impossible, until he had denied his Lord and went out and wept bitterly. Then he learned it. 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.”
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 on your own, well, guess what?! You are on the right road! Accept that position, and maintain it before God: “My hearts 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 although 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.”
Your Christian life is every day to be a proof that God works impossibilities. Think about it. Your Christian life is to be a series of impossibilities made possible and actual by God’s almighty power. That is what the Christian needs. We worship an almighty God, don’t we? We must remember that we need more than just a little of God’s power, but we need—with reverence be it said—the whole of God’s omnipotence to keep us right, and to live like a faithful 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 almighty power 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 (Ephesians 1:19-20).
Every tree must grow on the root from which it springs. An oak tree three hundred years old grows all the time on 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.
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?