“Never tell a young person that anything cannot be done. God may have been waiting centuries for someone ignorant enough of the impossible to do that very thing” G.M.Trevelyan
In the Old Testament King of Judah, Jehoshaphat is a classic example of getting into situations where the defeat and destruction of his own self and his kingdom appears imminent. Each time he cried out to the Lord to save him and God intervened by directing the enemy forces to turn away “diverted them from him” (2 Chronicles 18:31). Filled with pride, we often tend to rely on our own strength and capabilities to do something that in hindsight appears foolish and impossible to do. David was sent by Jesse, his father to take nourishment for his two elder brothers fighting in the armies of King Saul at Elah and found the Israelites “dismayed and terrified” of Goliath, a Philistine giant who had been ‘defying them’ for forty days heaping insults. Saul and all in his army had given up in fear and despair to fight Goliath for it seemed an impossible task to them. But for David it appeared to be an opportunity to reveal the might and glory of his God before the Philistines and also the Israelites. His claim to fight Goliath was based on his belief that “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37).
David refused to put on the armor of protection offered to him and went forward covered with the “blessings of his Lord God” to fight Goliath. David did not even carry a sword but only had his shepherd’s staff and his sling but “David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him” (1 Samuel 17:50). David believed in the Lord their God and what was apparently an impossible situation was turned into a victory procession. God does not hand out situations that are detrimental to our interests but He allows these events in our lives to teach us dependence on Him and thus become more mature in our faith.
In everyday life to be victorious over evil as well as in following our Lord in “taking up our cross daily”, two points emerge- first, it is impossible for man to achieve this but alongside is the key in the second point- what is impossible with man is possible with God. It takes many a fall and defeats that one learns these difficult lessons, especially the second one, for in that is the guarantee of leading a successful life in tune with the Word of God. And in this road to discovery and success there are different stages to go through.
Impossible with man – Among the chosen twelve the life of Simon Peter provides a classic case of this personal effort. Man tries to do what he presumes his best and yet fails, tries again with better preparation but still is unsuccessful and all his efforts end in failure. During this effort, first the man fights against his failure and tries again. But after a few times of trying, a situation of total frustration takes over. In our early Christian life the enthusiasm is great “to do the Will of God” for that is what is prayed for everyday. There is great joy and love for the Lord in a person’s heart and the race begins in earnest belief that he will triumph. But after a while at the most unexpected moment sin gets the better of him causing a downfall. He repents and again strives to do better this time but fails again to his utter disappointment leading to either accepting defeat and going on to live the life of a loser, thinking that God probably does not desire this of him. The other option is to carry on the fight relentlessly in firm belief “I can and I will”.
Need for external source – It is at this stage that God urges him to the next level in his efforts and that is the realization of personal inadequacy and need of an external source. The sources available range from expert counselors, self help books to astrologers, soothsayers and the like. Then starts another journey of looking for the right source for the required help and friends are contacted citing a third person’s need for help and avoiding acceptance of personal lack. More money, time and effort are wasted with no result. A friend who has tried all this has learnt a few tricks that are used by these fortune tellers and healers and these range from using chemicals to make a coconut explode, display two or more tumblers sticking to a cloth covering a book of any religion and not falling off; to name a few. After all these wasted efforts, either the individual gives up altogether for having lost a lot of money; restarts with a new vigor or looks for some other source. It is at this stage that someone may lead the hapless victim to the Lord Jesus and finally a change of life. The story of the woman who suffered for twelve long years from flow of blood reveals- her losing all money to various physicians and secondly to no relief (Luke 8:43-48).
Five reasons for failure/ partial success – A detailed study of Scripture reveals that there are four basic reasons that cause any effort of anyone to result in failure and the fifth one being the cause of partial success. We shall see these one by one and learn the ways to adhere to them for absolute success.
First, Attempting without God – The woman with the blood flow realized soon enough that, If I may touch His (Lord Jesus’) clothes, I shall be whole” (Mark 5:28). God has created man and He has placed everything under his control (Psalm 8:5-6). But the power and authority remains with the Creator and we must realize this that “The Sovereign Lord is my strength” (Habakkuk 3:19) and to look unto Him for everything right from the planning stage itself. Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt and he was well aware of the situation within the camp and without, for the opposition was strong. God promised to send His angel with them but Moses prayed to God “If Your presence does not go with us, do not take us beyond (into the Promised Land)” (Exodus 33:15). Abraham agreed to Sarah’s suggestion and the slave woman Hagar bore Ishmael but Abraham had to send him out of his house.
The question then arises, how do we ensure God’s hand on our plans? King Solomon has provided the best solution to this puzzle in Proverbs 16:1-4. The normal perception of verses 1 and 2 is that the preparation of all plans and resolutions is given to man in his heart but what to say and the way to success of what he is designed to do is from the Lord. Thus it would imply that God has given free will to man to plan his projects and schemes as per his will and choice. But the answer to their success or failure rests with God and man cannot succeed without His hand being on him. In actual fact the correct translation of verse 1 should be “The plans of the heart are man’s; but the answer of the tongue is from Jehovah. We make plans, prepare convincing arguments in support but it is God’s power that gives us the proper words to express the same as also to tune the ears of the listener to understand. Thus it means that God has given free will to man to plan his projects and schemes as per his will and choice but the answer to their success or failure rests with God and man cannot succeed without His hand being on him.
Solomon then goes on to advise “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans. The Lord works out everything to its proper end” (Proverbs 16:3-4). The Hebrew word translated as “commit” is “gol” which means to “roll or roll away” or ‘transfer your burden to the Lord, place upon His shoulders all your plans” and do all as if in His sight and guidance as an act of surrender and worship. It is also translated as “Reveal to the Lord all your works”. And your works will be established- the thoughts, discussions and prayers through which those plans have emerged shall be fruitful for His will has been superimposed over your will and the Holy Spirit will guide and lead us to success. We must realize that God gives us the vision for a plan, gives knowledge and wisdom to plan and execute and succeed through the power of the Holy Spirit. We must seek Him for “He works in us, both to will and to do” (Philippians 2:13).
Acting without God’s Word – The power of the Holy Spirit was there “hovering over the waters on the face of the earth” but nothing started without the Word of God (Genesis 1). In a similar manner our plans will not succeed without specific instructions from God or if our plan is in contravention to the living principles enshrined in the Holy Bible. The classic example of this is of the Moabite King Balak sending for prophet Balaam to come and curse the perceived enemy- the Israelites, camping in the area. The request was “Come and curse them for me. Maybe I will be able to fight them and force them out”. But God’s command was different from Balak, “Don’t go with them! Don’t curse these people, because they are blessed” (Numbers 22:10-12). Balaam in his greed did go and in his heart carried a curse but God pronounced a blessing. For completion of your plans it is imperative to look for specific promises from God in His Word, declare the same on your plans and move to success.
Thirdly, Acting without belief – Our Lord declared “All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23) and this is the key to successful completion of all plans. God created Garden of Eden and placed man in that place of abundance of everything and He desires the best for His people. God’s love is revealed in His promise “I have engraved your photo on My palms and that your walls/ boundaries are ever before Me” (Isaiah 49:16). God is always keeping an eye over His chosen people and takes pride in their faithfulness and the book of Job is a great example of this. The success of our plans, even if they are as per His will, always rests on God and “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). This verse contains the key to success. Firstly, we must believe in God, His power and will to bless us and secondly to believe that when we seek Him, He showers His special blessings as ‘rewards’ for us. Joshua was tasked with the most difficult part of leading the Israelites into Canaan and after crossing Jordan; his first test was the battle for Jericho, a place with big boundary walls. He acted in faith and led his people to go around the walls for six days, praising God and on the seventh day success was his for the taking.
Attempting without prayer – Prayer is not only about placing our plans before God, making Him thus a partner in the venture, but also to ensure His Divine presence with us all the way. God declared to Jeremiah about “His plan of hope and future” but the same gets operational only “when we seek the Lord God to find Him” (Jeremiah 29:12-13). This seeking is only through prayer and our Lord’s promise is clear “Ask and it shall be given to you”. Any effort to succeed in any plan without the hand of God being on that is bound to fail. Every effort is a battle and we fight against the evil “principalities and powers” and success can only come through aligning the authority of God with our strength. WE may presume that we have the capability, resources and required expertise in the form of manpower but “our strength and sufficiency comes from the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:5). Prayer is heeding Solomon’s advice to “roll away” our burdens on to the Lord for His help and guidance in fulfillment of His promise of never leaving nor abandoning us. He is All-knowing and is aware of all our thoughts and deeds and is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine, with the power that is working in us” (Ephesians 3:20). The ability to do is His, the limits of our boundaries are set by Him, the power working in us is (the Holy Spirit) is His and given to us by Him; then how can we expect to succeed without Him.
Prayers are answered by God through empowering us to tackle any circumstances, meet all needs and remove all shortcomings. Our Lord and Savior set a personal example before us by praying to the Father before, during and after every situation where He, even being the Son of God, required His guidance, power and help. How much more should we depend on this powerful available to us every day and in every situation. Prayer is humble acceptance of our own deficiency to tap into the perfection and power of God and await His intervention. “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up like eagles; they will run and not get tired; they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31). Renewed strength and vigor, special gifts from God through the Holy Spirit and His assured presence with us are the results of prayer. And one will then definitely succeed.
Ensuring beyond success – It is accepted that even if just about fifty to sixty percent success is achieved the plan is considered fulfilled. However in such a scenario we shall not be where God destined us to be but where we expected to reach. That is why many a times such extra-ordinary plans are made where the targets set are beyond expectation and this is done with a belief “Plan big and you will receive at least something”. The woman with the twelve years of blood flow wanted relief from her physical symptoms of sickness while the Lord desired to bless her beyond her expectation. That is why He turned back to make her accept and receive the blessings as a right and not by stealth from behind to be “made whole”.
The ten lepers who cried out to Lord Jesus for healing were likewise directed to go and show themselves to the Priests to be certified as healed. But one of them, a Samaritan, realized that he was healed while on the way and returned to “give thanks and worship the Lord Jesus” (Luke 14:11-19). This act resulted in additional blessings being showered on this man beyond what others had received and He was “made whole”. The Greek word used for healing is “laomai” which is translated as “miraculous healing of some disease including relief from demonic control”. However in the case of the ‘blessed leper’ the word used is ‘sesoken’ which is the root word for ‘sodzo/sozo’. Sozo is translated to mean ‘salvation, restore, preserve or make whole’ and this involves many more aspects of human existence beyond the physical realm. In the case of the leper, he would have suffered, loss of limb extremities or other physical damage; loss of all contact with the family for being ceremonially unclean and carrying a communicable disease; financial loss due to expenses on treatment and social loss for being shun by all in the community. The blessing received by him included restoration of all this and above all the hand of the Son of God touching him for salvation. The Psalmist was well aware of this to exhort all to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name” (Psalm 100:4).
To a believer the gift of the Holy Scripture; birth of our Lord Immanuel; His resurrection and ascension and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit to ensure our continued relationship with God are all wonderful testimonies of the greatness, might and love of our God. It is His omnipotence on display for our good and our thanksgiving is just an acknowledgement of the same. The Lord clearly specified “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). The law of nature is that a tree, howsoever big and old it may be, it can and must grow on the root from which it springs forth and the root reaches far and wide to provide sustenance for the tree. Our Lord is the source of everything and what better source can one get to be successful. Each and every Christian is an example of the Lord’s Omnipotence for He has chosen each one and it is his power that works in each of us to transform us into His own victorious image.
There are two basic facts worth remembering; firstly, that He is able and mighty to do the impossible and secondly, that He is willing and ready to make it possible for us to achieve this in His power. Our beginning is in our Lord’s power, our continuation and final place also must be in the same name and authority. For there is no other way that we can ever achieve anything big in our lives!