Believing God can do the impossible

There's a curious trait that we all possess, and it has a habit of showing up in interesting ways. In general, we prefer to place our trust in what we can observe. We want our eyes to be convinced of something before our hearts are willing to trust in its reliability.

In many respects, this trait makes a lot of sense. Throughout my house, I have a series of night-lights strategically placed to help my family avoid tripping or falling if we need to walk when it's dark. On the front of my house, I have a sensor light that illuminates the driveway when I pull in. I have solar lights along my front steps to allow visitors to see better. Likewise, I keep the windshield of my car clean and I don't hang anything from my mirror because I don't want my view obstructed. I think this all makes sense.

Why do some of us wear reading glasses? Why do we put windows on airplanes and buildings? Why is real-estate that's perched on a hill with a scenic view often more valuable? The answer to each of these questions is because we like to see, and to be honest, the sense of sight is a gift from God.

But in regard to our faith, God is honored when we trust Him for what we cannot yet see. He is glorified when we take Him at His word. Anyone can walk by sight, but not everyone is willing to walk by faith, and God has promised us many things that can't be facilitated through natural means. Naturally speaking, His promises seem impossible, but God wants us to trust Him to do the impossible.

So what does it look like to have this kind of faith? What kind of "impossible" things has God already demonstrated that show us He can be confidently believed when He speaks?

I. God can make one man into many nations

“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.”
— Romans 4:13-15, ESV

During the course of his life, Abraham received several promises from God, one of which had to do with his offspring. Abraham was told that he would have more descendants than could be counted. The imagery the Lord used to reveal this truth to Abraham was to compare his descendants to the stars of the sky and the grains of sand on the shore. Could you easily look up at the sky and number all the stars you see? Could you take a walk on the beach and number the grains of sand under your feet? So too would Abraham's descendants be, yet this promise was given to Abraham before he even had a child.

And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
— Genesis 15:5, ESV

This is an amazing blessing to be granted by the Lord, but did Abraham do something to earn this special designation? Had he met the demands of a divine checklist before God graced him with this blessing? Was he keeping the requirements of the Law of Moses when the Lord revealed these things to him? No, he wasn't. In fact, the Old Testament Law was still hundreds of years away from being revealed and written down.

God told Abraham something that, naturally speaking, was impossible. How was an old, childless man, going to become the father of many nations? It was going to happen because God was going to do something miraculous. Abraham believed that God could do this even before he saw it fulfilled, and true to His word, the Lord delivered on His promise.

Interestingly, there's a two-fold fulfillment of this promise that we would do well to notice. Not only was this promise going to be fulfilled in the natural sense, but also in the spiritual sense. Spiritually speaking, all who come to God through faith in Jesus Christ are counted as children of Abraham, the man who gave us such a vivid example of the nature of faith.

“And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.”
— Galatians 3:29, NLT

So we can see that God blessed Abraham in both the natural and spiritual sense. He made one man the father of many nations, not just naturally, but spiritually. By faith in Christ, we're counted as part of the greater picture fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham.

II. God can give life to the dead

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 
— Romans 4:16-17, ESV

Some time ago, I heard the testimony of a woman who had the terrifying experience of having her heart stop. I don't recall the specifics of her medical condition, but one thing I remember her saying was that even after it seemed to everyone that she had died, one of her doctors insisted that they keep performing CPR on her. From what she said, it was unusual that a doctor would continue trying to resuscitate a patient for the length of time he attempted to do so, but thankfully, her heart began to beat again. She received surgery to repair her heart, and as you can imagine, she is grateful to be alive. She's likewise grateful that her doctor didn't abandon her to death in a context where it probably would have made logical sense to do so.

In the spiritual sense, we too can be grateful that it isn't God's desire to abandon us to death. In fact, Romans 4:17 makes it clear that God gives life to the dead, but this life He grants is an act of grace on His behalf. He grants life as an act of undeserved favor to those who trust in His Son. This promise of life rests on grace because we certainly couldn't earn it and definitely don't deserve it.

In this passage, we're being told that we share Abraham's blessing if we likewise share his faith. The same God who can speak creation into existence and call things into being that didn't exist a moment before, can also bring life to those who were spiritually dead. And we can see from Scripture that the Lord delights in giving life to the dead.

Sarah's womb was "dead", yet she was blessed with the birth of Isaac at age 90. Jesus Christ was placed in the tomb and was "dead", yet He was raised to life again. You and I were dead in our trespasses and sin, yet through faith in Christ we are reborn to new and everlasting life. We currently inhabit the tent of a body that will wear out and die, yet in Christ, we are promised the gift of a new body that will not be subject to pain, disease, or death. God does the impossible task of giving life to the dead. And once He gives us life, He also seeks to make us strong.

III. God can make you strong in faith

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief 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. 
— Romans 4:18-21, ESV

When I was in high school, I made a promise to myself that for a period of time, I would do 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups every night before I went to bed. If, for whatever reason I skipped a day, the push-ups and sit-ups from that day would carry over into the next. At one point in this process, I skipped a full week and to get caught up I made myself do 700 push-ups and 700 sit-ups in the same evening. The process of doing this was exhausting, but it made me stronger. I was stretching myself, and as muscle was being broken down in my body through exercise, it was being built back stronger as it recovered.

God is invested in our strength. He wants us to be strong, and while caring for our bodies is very wise, there's a greater form of strength the Lord concerns Himself with. He wants us to become strong in faith, and for that spiritual muscle to grow and develop, it needs to be worked out. It needs to be tested.

God had been telling Abraham things that would have sounded embarrassingly silly to others if Abraham shared this revelation. Odds are, most people in his life would have attempted to talk him out of believing these things. But hope doesn't always seem logical (particularly to those who still walk by sight). Yet Abraham maintained hope. He believed that, somehow, God was going to make him the father of many nations even though, physically speaking, both he and his wife Sarah were much closer to the day of their death than their birth.

That fact didn't cause Abraham's faith to weaken. His faith didn't waver, it grew stronger as it was stretched and tested. Do you want a faith like that? Would you be bold enough to pray that God would grant you that level of unwavering trust in Him? Do we realize what typically precedes unwavering faith? Typically the people in this world who possess the greatest trust in the Lord are also those who have watched Him carry them through the most miserable trials. Time and time again, He shows Himself faithful, but we often learn just how fully He can be trusted when our faith is tested.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
— James 1:2-3, ESV

IV. God can make you righteous

That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
— Romans 4:22-25, ESV

No matter where you are in life or what you're currently struggling with, God is willing to accept you and welcome you into His family, just as you are. But he doesn't intend on leaving you in the condition He found you in. His will is to transform you. His desire is to make you new. Where you were once consumed with sin, rebellion, and worldliness, He wants to fill you with His righteousness. He wants to make you holy and blameless in His sight, and that's exactly how he sees you from the first moment you come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus, the Son of God, was delivered up to the religious and political leaders of the day and was executed by them. He who had no sin, was crucified to atone for our sin, then on the third day, he was raised from death for our justification. All who trust in Christ are fully justified in God's sight. We are declared righteous in His courtroom. We are made righteous by His power. Again, transforming us to reflect His righteousness was another "impossible" task that only God could accomplish.

Passages like this are useful reminders to reflect on as we walk through this world. You may have a sordid past, but if you're in Christ, you're a new man. You may beat yourself up regularly, and fill your mind with all kinds of negative-self-talk, but in the eyes of God you're declared blameless. You may tell yourself that in your current circumstances, all hope is lost, but then the word of God tells us that Jesus was raised from death just when things looked hopeless, and you will be too. Hope is not lost. Your future is not bleak. Your righteousness is secured in Christ, not in your ability to navigate your time on this earth without making mistakes.

God does "impossible" things and he wants us to trust Him in all circumstances. Don't disparage your tests and trials because they're useful tools that will confirm this fact to your heart over and over again until it finally sinks in.

© John Stange, 2018