Does the title of this blog post sound like an oxymoron? Do you believe in miracles? I do, and I believe they happen every single day–and in many places–on this planet of ours. Some people call them “coincidences.” Others call them “chance” or “luck.” However, Jesus told us that “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). That cuts out coincidences, chance and luck.
Let’s look at that verse in context to understand the full meaning of what it’s really saying to us. That verse is part of a dialogue between Jesus and a rich, young man who wanted to know what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, and it is found in Mark 10:17-27:
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Sell everything you have and give to the poor . . . and then follow me [Jesus]. . . . The young man hadn’t murdered anyone; nor had he committed adultery. He hadn’t stolen anything, nor had he ever given false testimony about anyone or anything. He even honored his mother and his father; however, what was it that Jesus told him? He told him he lacked one thing: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” And the young man’s face fell and he went away sad because he had great wealth. Jesus showed him how to have “treasures in heaven” . . . which lasts for eternity; yet the rich young man choose to keep his great wealth which is so, so temporary compared to eternity. He chose this temporary world and could not see beyond his wealth.
This brings to mind a parable Jesus told about the “rich fool” in Luke 12:16-21:
And he [Jesus] told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Money and possessions blind people all the time. It’s not money that is inherently bad, but the love of money, the greed for more of it, and the all-consuming nature of money that gets to all of us whether rich or poor. And it’s obvious, especially in a society like ours here in America, that one has to have money to survive which makes it’s hard to get away from the pressure to always be seeking more of it. But while the rich seek more, the poor need more. It’s a vicious cycle that can trap anybody no matter where we happened to be on the socioeconomic level.
I Timothy 6:10 clearly states, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” And Hebrews 13:5 also clearly states, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ ”
Before I go any further, I want you to know that the focus of this post is not on money. I’ve written other blog posts (the most recent one back in May titled, “The Secularization of American Christianity”) that centers on that topic and how much trouble we can get into when we try to serve both God and money. And in Matthew 6:24 Jesus makes it clear that we can’t do both: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” No . . . the focus of this post is on miracles–on the “possible impossibilities”–seeing beyond the obvious to where Jesus is and wants us to be. As long as we are convinced that money and material possessions or anything else will give us what we want in this life and we get to have Jesus, too, we will never “get it.” What He had to say to the rich, young man, He says to us today who are seeking after everything this world has to offer while claiming to follow after Him. Whether we realize it or not, we end up walking away from Jesus just like the rich young man did. And Jesus has already told us nothing in this world will ever satisfy us–not if we are truly seeking after Him and the kingdom of God.
I read a devotion this morning in “Open Windows,” published by LifeWay titled, “Possible Impossibilities,” by Darla Brantley, adult Sunday School teacher, First Baptist Church, Winfield, Alabama, and she writes the following (Note: devotional passage reference is Mark 10:23-27 and she starts by quoting Mark 10:27):
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” ~Mark 10:27 (NIV)
The disciples may have recognized the needle Jesus mentioned as a gate with a narrow opening that would require a camel to be relieved of his load and stoop low in order to get through. That would have been an inconvenient undertaking for travelers (and for the camel). Proverbially, a camel trying to squeeze through the eye of an actual needle was presented as a total impossibility. In the same manner, the rich, young ruler found that giving up all his possessions would present a personal difficulty—albeit, an impossibility.
The disciples could not believe what Jesus was saying. The religious traditions of their day suggested that people became rich because they were highly favored by God. If wealthy people could not get into heaven easily, then how were a bunch of fishermen and tax collectors going to get there? Astonished, the disciples must have felt like giving up. Once again, tradition muddled their understanding of God’s work.
Jesus explained that wealth was not the ticket to God’s Kingdom. Human understanding can never surpass God’s miraculous grace. He is truly Lord of all, and nothing is impossible for Him.
“Father, remind me that, in You, all things are possible.”
There are a lot of wealthy Christians in America today and we tend to see their wealth as a sign of being “favored” by God (which can leave the rest of us wondering why we don’t fit that mold). However, God is no respecter of persons (in other words, He doesn’t play favorites when it comes to His children). Here’s what Peter had to say about this in Acts 10:34-36: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” God has His remnant at all levels of society in every nation on this planet from the highest to the lowest. And Romans 9 is the classic chapter on God’s Sovereignty and how He uses us for His purposes. In fact, Romans 9:21 states, “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”
As we can see from the verses above . . . it’s not about money or what we have or don’t have but that God “accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what it right.” That goes for the richest Christian on the planet to the poorest Christian on the planet. It’s not about our status in the eyes of others, or a pecking order (which we find in a lot of churches and religious institutions), or–as the rich, young man stated regarding his virtues–what we have or haven’t done. It’s about whether or not we are willing to lay everything we have and own; our jobs or our status in society; our current situation (in my case, 4 1/2 years of unemployment) and our very lives at the feet of Jesus Christ and let Him use us as He sees fit. As Jesus stated in John 12:25-26: “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
I remember at the time I was offered that job in Houston that I felt God was really smiling on me by giving me a director position in a very creative environment at the highest salary I had ever been paid in my life–in fact, it was almost $15,000 more a year then I was paid at the job I left to take it. And I was convinced, like so many earnest Christians in America have also been convinced, that outward “prosperity” was a sign of God’s favor. What I didn’t realize at the time (because it isn’t preached on very much anymore) is that God’s favor is not found in “stuff” and the outward trappings of success. Jesus wants US and He does whatever is necessary for us to reach that realization in each one of His children. There is no “better job” or “bigger salary” or earning “one more degree” to climb a career ladder or anything else we hold dear or strive after that will ever satisfy us, and acquiring any of that is not “proof” that God loves us or loves us more than anybody else. It’s allowing Him to have total control of every area of our lives, holding nothing back. Nothing. And it’s at that point that we can begin to see “possible impossibilities.”
Proverbs 4:23 states: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” I have to admit that at the time I landed in Houston to start that ill-fated job my heart was torn in many different directions, all of which were clouded by my personal needs and desires along with all of the messages thrown at us from our society and well-meaning Christians who don’t understand what it means to “give up everything” and give it all–every bit of it–to Jesus.
I started doing just that when I landed in Houston. It took a long while to get rid of some of things that I held dear but with every step I began to see the “possible impossibilities” in a lot of little areas in my life. As I let go of each of the things that held me in bondage (and we seldom even realize what things are “bondage” in our lives), I started to see this world from a different perspective–it was no longer just my own little world that I lived in anymore. It’s been a long haul over these past five years since I started that job and ended up losing it seven months later and then going through all that I have experienced during this very long time of unemployment. And I took my relationship with Jesus very, very seriously and became a student of the Bible in a way and frequency that I’d never done before or at least not for many, many years.
Also, I can’t emphasize enough how the discipline of fasting (for me that means going three days with no food and drinking only water–regular water and not the “flavored” water) has changed me and broken some of the strongholds I’ve had in my life (but that is not the only benefit). I started my first three-day fast back in March 2011 and have only fasted when I felt it was something God really wanted me to do. And sometimes it is only a one-day fast. Fasting is a Biblical discipline for us today as Jesus stated in Matthew 6:16-18: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Now I realize there are folks who can’t fast due to medical reasons and I’m only relating what it has done for me. For me it’s a very private matter and I’ve never shared it with anyone other then to let you know how beneficial it has been to me. I found an excellent article titled, “Spiritual Fasting: What Does the Bible Say About Spiritual Fasting,” that can give you a start in thinking about this discipline and you can access it at this link.
I realized today as I started writing this post that there was one thing I had not given to Jesus yet for Him to deal with; however, I have complained about it a lot over these past four and a half years, and I’ve begged Him a few times to end it (of course, I’m talking about this very long time of unemployment). Shocking as the realization was to me, I have never “given” my unemployment situation to Him. I was just expecting Him to change it when the time was right (and I thought it was the “right time” three years ago if that tells you anything). Now while I know He had and has His reasons for this very long time of unemployment, it’s about time I actually give it to Him, don’t you think? So in front of God and everybody here goes . . .
Heavenly Father, I come to You in the name of Jesus. You’ve taught me so much over these past five years. You’ve taken the mess that was my life and cleaned it all up; and You’ve gotten rid of some very significant strongholds I’ve had in my life (some that I didn’t even realize were strongholds). You’ve shown me things that have absolutely astounded me, and You’ve provided for every single one of my needs in ways I could never imagine. You’ve protected me in the midst of a very severe trial, and You’ve shown me that the “stuff” of this world is so incredibly insignificant compared to You. For all of that and much, much more, I thank you in the name of Jesus. And now, Lord, I give you this one last item (at least that I know of for now). You know the struggle I have gone through trying to understand this very long time of unemployment, and how desperate I’ve been at times to see it come to an end. But right now, Lord, I give it to You–every bit of it–and if You want it to go on for ten more years You have Your reasons. You are the Potter and I am the clay. It’s “Your will be done” and not mine. So I give it to You and I leave it with You because there is nobody on this planet that I trust like I trust You. You have been an incredibly faithful God to me and I thank You for all that you have done for me during this time and in my life.
Thank you, Lord . . . .
In Jesus’ name,
Amen . . . .
YouTube Video: “Faithful God” (2007) written and sung by Shannon Wexelberg: