Wednesday, April 27, 2011

With God All Things Are Possible

One of my favorite books is Pawn of Prophecy, the first installment in the five-book Belgariad series by David Eddings. It's a fantasy tale set in a fictional world in which a boy, Garion, is growing up in a country full of solid, practical, hardworking values, not knowing that there is magic all around him that will eventually become an integral part of his life. His idea of reality is challenged for the first time by an old storyteller who is more than he seems:

   "It's only a story," Garion said stubbornly, suddenly feeling very hardheaded and practical like any good Sendar. "It can't really be true. Why, Belgarath the Sorcerer would be—would be I don't know how old—and people don't live that long."
   "Seven thousand years," the old man said.
   "Belgarath the Sorcerer is seven thousand years old—perhaps a bit older."
   "That's impossible," Garion said.
   "Is it? How old are you?"
   "Nine—next Erastide."
   "And in nine years you've learned everything that's both possible and impossible? You're a remarkable boy, Garion."
Garion flushed. "Well," he said, somehow not quite so sure of himself, "the oldest man I ever heard of is old Weldrik over on Mildrin's farm. Durnik says he's over ninety, and that he's the oldest man in the district."
   "And it's a very big district, of course," the old man said solemnly.
   "How old are you?" Garion asked, not wanting to give up.
   "Old enough, boy," the old man said.
   "It's still only a story," Garion insisted.
   "Many good and solid men would say so," the old man told him, looking up at the stars, "—good men who'll live out their lives believing only in what they can see and touch. But there's a world beyond what we can see and touch, and that world lives by its own laws. What may be impossible in this very ordinary world is very possible there, and sometimes the boundaries between the two worlds disappear, and then who can say what's possible and impossible?"
   "I think I'd rather live in the ordinary world," Garion said. "The other one sounds too complicated."

Sometimes we are all a bit like Garion, stubbornly wanting to believe only in what we can see and touch because it's less complicated. But as Christians, we also claim to believe in another world—a world in which God acts directly through signs and miracles, in which the sick are healed and the dead are raised and each of us has a part of God—the Holy Spirit—living inside us. Still, we're terrified to say that anything can happen. We need rules, restrictions, laws of nature to make us feel safe. We need to be able to say what is and isn't possible. But unfortunately for us, God doesn't work that way because He has no limits.

How often have we heard Christians around us making definitive statements about what is or isn't possible in our faith? Some people say that there aren't prophets anymore, that God doesn't speak directly to people like He did to Moses at the burning bush. Some people believe that the stories in the Bible are fables—that Jesus didn't really walk on water or feed 5,000 people. Others argue that even if miracles happened in the Bible, the same sorts of things don't happen anymore. Some think that God is nothing more than some sort of universal cosmic force and that angels and demons and even Satan don't exist at all. That stuff sounds like it came straight out of a fantasy book like the one I quoted above. It can't be real, can it?

Jesus tells his disciples (Matthew 19:23–26) that we as humans cannot achieve the things he talks about. We can't save ourselves from death. We can't make the world perfect or work miracles with our own power. But God makes anything possible. God made the laws of gravity and can defy them if He chooses. God made things both visible and invisible—who are we to say there are no angels or demons when not so long ago we didn't even know about bacteria? Who are we to say that miracles can't happen while also professing that Christ died for us? The rules don't matter to God as much as they matter to us. He made them and He can break them if He chooses to. He is wiser and more powerful than we could ever comprehend. The limitations that we try to place on God and His creation for our own peace of mind mean nothing to Him. With God, all things are possible.

If we want to truly be a part of God's magnificent plan, then we need to be open to all the possibilities—even the ones we never could have imagined were possible. What if on the day I began this blog I had decided instead that I couldn't possibly be wise enough at age 25 to say anything useful? What if Mother Theresa had decided that one woman couldn't make a difference? What if the disciples had decided that their experiences with the risen Christ must have been delusions brought on by excessive grief or mental illness? What then? There is more in this universe than we can see or touch. There's more even than we can imagine. When God calls us, He gives us the power to do things that we shouldn't be able to do on our own. Throughout our lives we may find ourselves succeeding when the odds were against us, surviving when doctors said we ought to have died, experiencing things so strange and wonderful that we may even question our own sanity. But if we are truly filled with the Spirit, we will ultimately accept the things that come from God, even if we didn't believe they were possible before they came into our lives.

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