Is anything to hard for the Lord? What do you honestly believe?

Posted: January 21, 2014 in Thoughts on God
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have faithAre you facing a seemingly impossible situation in your life? Is there an apparently irretrievable breakdown in a relationship? A health issue? An almost impossible challenge in your job? Is there a habit or addiction that you are finding hard to break?

Whatever challenges you may face in the year ahead, nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Abraham was a hundred years old. His wife Sarah was ninety. God promised them a son. They said, in effect, ‘that is impossible’. This is the context of the great rhetorical question: ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ (Genesis 18:14). The answer is ‘no’. If Sarah could conceive when ‘already very old, and … past the age of childbearing’ (v.11), then nothing is too hard for the Lord.

In our passages for today we see three great challenges that all of us will face in the year ahead. In each of these challenges we need to remember that nothing is too hard for the Lord.

1. Resisting the temptations

Proverbs 1:8-19

Jesus never tells us to withdraw from the world. The challenge is to be ‘in the world’ but not ‘of the world’. We are called to resist the temptations of the world around us.

The book of Proverbs gives us practical advice on how to achieve that balance: ‘Don’t let others entice you into sin’; ‘If bad companions tempt you, don’t go along with them (v.9, MSG). ‘If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for innocent blood …” ’ (v.11), we are not to give in to them.

Before I knew the Lord, I noticed how many people were led into a life of sin by others saying to them, ‘Come along with us’.

In the midst of the global financial crisis, some banks in the US defended unethical practices on the basis that other banks were doing the same thing. In 2013, many celebrities from the 1960s and 1970s were defending past sexual offenses on the basis that the behavior was common practice at the time.

Don’t be led into sin by the fact that everybody else seems to be doing something – getting drunk, being promiscuous or avoiding travel fares. The book of Proverbs warns us, ‘Don’t follow the crowd’ – ‘Do not set foot on their paths’ (v.15). Something is not acceptable just because others are doing it. I can’t justify my actions on the basis that it is the way in which the world works.

In the end, if our ‘feet rush into sin’ (v.16), or we go after ‘ill-gotten gain’ (v.19a), it is a path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13). ‘When you grab all you can get, that’s what happens: the more you get, the less you are’ (Proverbs 1:19, MSG).

Lord, the enticement of the world is very strong. Yet, ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ Lord, I pray that in the year ahead you will give me the strength to resist all the temptations of the world and not to be enticed into sin in any way.

2. Living the Jesus lifestyle

Matthew 6:25-7:23

Jesus’ words are the greatest words ever spoken. They are so challenging. For example, he says, ‘Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them’ (7:12, MSG). This golden rule is beautifully simple but seems impossibly hard to live out.

The greatest challenge in reading Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount is not understanding them, but putting them into practice. His instructions are clear, but some of the standards seem impossibly high. Yet, ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?

  • Stop worrying and start living
    Jesus commands us not to worry about our lives or material things (6:25,28–31). We are to think ahead, plan ahead but not to worry ahead. We are to trust in our Heavenly Father to provide (v.26). He knows our every need (v.32). Faith is the antidote to worry.

We cannot add a single hour to our lives by worrying (v.27). As Corrie ten Boom put it: ‘Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow; but it empties today of strength.’

Live in day-tight compartments. Live one day at a time. Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow: ‘each day has enough trouble of its own’ (v.34b). Make a decision today not to worry about tomorrow. Trust God to provide for you each day at a time.

  • Sort out your priorities
    Jesus tells us to change our ambitions and priorities. We are to seek God for who he is and not for what he can do for us. Like us, God does not want his friends only to be only interested in what they can get out of him. He wants us to seek his ‘presence’ not his ‘presents’.

He calls us to take on a new set of responsibilities that are both exciting and challenging: ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be yours as well’ (v.33).

  • Do not be judgmental
    We are not to take pleasure in judging others, not to enjoy seeking out other people’s failings or presuming their actions spring from bad motives. If we knew what people had been through, their sorrow and their suffering, we would not be so quick to judge. Jesus tells us to get our own lives sorted out first. We are to change ourselves before we try and change other people (7:1–5). Rather than sowing harsh criticism and judgment, we are to sow mercy, kindness and love.
  • Persist in prayer
    We are not to be repetitious, but we are to be persistent. Jesus makes wonderful promises of answered prayer (vv.7–8). He promises good gifts as we pray (vv.9–11).
  • Choose to live a radical life
    Jesus tells us to stay on the narrow road that leads to life (vv.13–14). On the narrow road there is no room for pride, dishonesty, anger, hatred of enemies or un-forgiveness.

Humility is the order of the day. You have to give, to pray, to exercise self-control and seek first the kingdom of God. It is a road of purity, integrity, honesty and forgiveness. It is a road where you are required to ‘do to others what you would have them do to you’ (v.12). You are to show good fruit – by your character, lifestyle, teaching, actions, impact and relationships (vv.15–23).

Lord, as I face the challenge of living the Jesus lifestyle this year, thank you that nothing is impossible with you. Fill me today with your Holy Spirit and help me to live the kind of life that deep down I long to live. 

3.  Trusting the Lord in difficult times

Genesis 17:1-18:33

The Lord appears to Abraham and says, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.  Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers’ (17:1–2).  God lays before Abraham a huge challenge – to walk before him faithfully and be blameless – and he makes a wonderful promise.  No wonder Abraham ‘fell face down’ (v.3).

God makes a covenant with Abraham.  He promises him the land of Canaan, and also that many descendants and nations will come from him (vv.4–8).  This promise is highlighted by God in the name change from Abram to Abraham, as Abraham means ‘father of many nations’ (v.5).  God also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah – who was to be ‘the mother of nations’ (v.16).  The sign of the covenant was circumcision (v.9 onwards).

God does not just say once to Abraham that he would have a son.  He confirmed it time and time again (15:4; 17:16; 18:10).  We can expect God to speak to us about major matters in our lives and confirm them many times over.

Abraham’s relationship with God is very intimate.  God engages in conversation with Abraham.  Abraham pleads with him about Ishmael.  God’s response is ‘Yes, but …’ (17:19).  He says he is not only going to answer Abraham’s prayer for Ishmael, he is also going to do more than Abraham could have ever asked or even imagined (vv.19–21).

The third time that God made this promise to Abraham he sent the ‘three visitors’ (18:1–15).  As we read this through New Testament eyes, we can see an image of the Trinity here.  It is clear that there are three of them (v.2) and yet it seems they speak as one: ‘Then the Lord said’ (v.13).

God promises, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son’ (v.10).  Sarah laughs.  She thinks, ‘After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?’ (v.12).

It is encouraging that Sarah also had the usual human weaknesses.  The Lord says to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really have a child, now that I am old?” ’ (v.13).  ‘Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh” ’ (v.15).  We all are tempted to lie to get ourselves out of trouble.  The Bible never presents the great men and women of God as faultless.  Only the Lord Jesus Christ lived a faultless human life.

The Lord’s response is to repeat his promise, ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?  I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son’ (v.14).

Lord, thank you that, whatever the issues I am facing in my life, nothing is too hard for you.  Help me this year to continue to trust in you.

Never forget that Like Abraham, sometimes the walls around us seem to high to climb. They are if we try to do it alone, but  for the Lord, it’s nothing at all.

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