The oft-given advice, “Don’t limit yourself, reach for your dreams, just believe in yourself and you can do it,” was expressed by the actress Audrey Hepburn when she said, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” The thinking of our day focuses on the little word “I,” considers that any goal can be achieved, and advocates “Looking out for number One” and “Just do it.” People who agree with Audrey Hepburn’s words, “I’m possible,” think that they can do anything they want to do, and they may act as if the world revolves around them. It is true that we often can do more than we first think we can, and it is important to exert ourselves to do more. However, we also need to understand that we personally are not the center of the universe, and that this world will keep right on spinning when we are not around.
The words possible and impossible truly apply only to our Heavenly Father — not to us. When discussing whether those who are rich can be saved, Jesus explains, “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” Mary was told, “For with God nothing shall be impossible,” when she asked how it could be that she, a virgin, might conceive a child. We read in the gospel of Luke, “And he said, ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.’ ”
Yet we all can do more than we are doing. Sheer grit and determination play a part, but Paul’s words, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” show us where to look for the power to achieve our goals. Paul could preach tirelessly, travel widely and convert many believers through the strength he was given from above —and so can we. Rather than saying, “I’m possible”, let us say with Paul that we can do all things thanks to Christ strengthening us.
Certainly Jesus himself relied upon his Heavenly Father to give him the strength to do what he did. He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”
As long as we do as Jesus did and say, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father,” we also can look to God for help. The words of Jesus, “With men it is impossible,” change when a faithful response to the word of God and the power of prayer are aligned with the purpose of God. Jesus explains, “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamore tree, ‘Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea;’ and it should obey you.” Jesus also says, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, ‘Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you’. ”
Not then, nor since, do we know of anyone moving literal mountains from place to place, or uprooting trees and planting them in the sea by the power of faith and earnest prayer. Perhaps it is because none of us have faith as a grain of mustard seed. No wonder we read, “And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.” All of us need more faith than we have.
We learn in Hebrews, “Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” Since we do want to please God and hope to be rewarded by Him with immortality in the kingdom, we need faith and need to seek our God. It is right for us to ask the Lord in prayer to increase our faith. He will respond favorably to that prayer. James tells us that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man is powerful.
We also need humility to accept the divine purpose for our lives. Hard work, faith in the power of God, and fervent prayer may not help us achieve a goal that is contrary to God’s will. Paul prayed repeatedly for his thorn in the flesh to be removed, and it was not. Paul earnestly desired to convert his people the Jews, but was warned against going up to Jerusalem and was told, not only that the Jews there would not hear him, but that he would be imprisoned if he went. He went and it happened. Jesus begged God to remove his cup of suffering before his death on the cross, but obediently accepted his Father’s will. We may be convinced that we want what God wants, we may pour hours of effort into our goal, we may pray to be strengthened through Christ and have faith that God can accomplish what we desire, and even yet we may not be successful.
The reason is the words “I’m possible” are simply not true. We personally cannot determine what is possible or impossible for us to do. As James advises us, we need to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” We must recognize that God’s thinking may be different from ours: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” What is possible is only possible if the Lord wills.
Let us keep praying for more faith, let us put more effort into our service to our God, and let us never give up trying to please our heavenly Father, even if our faith is not as much as a grain of mustard seed. However, let us not rely on our own strength and think “I’m possible,” but let us surrender to the Lord and ask Him to bless and guide our efforts as we do our best to serve Him. We want to do His will and accomplish His purposes while resisting the temptations that come to all of us.
May we all follow the wise advice of Solomon when he tells us: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Robert J. Lloyd