When my mom was in the final stages of her life, she was in the ICU at M. D. Anderson hospital. On one particular day, I got to spend the whole day with her. She must have seen the worry on my face because she said, “There’s nothing too hard for God you know.” She then spent the next few hours telling me of all the times in her life that God came through in impossible situations. She then said, “I have no doubt that God knows what He’s doing. I have peace in whatever He chooses.”
That day was one final lesson from her that God is in control, and that there’s nothing He can’t do. Just because she didn’t walk out of that hospital completely healed and cancer free, doesn’t mean that God’s doesn’t have the ability to heal. For whatever reason, He didn’t heal her the way we were praying. She knew that was a possibility so she reminded me, and herself, of all the times God had performed miracles in her life.
I don’t know why God answers some prayers and not others. I don’t know why He shows off in great form in some instances and not in others. What I do know is that He has the ability to. Jeremiah felt the same way. He was locked up while Jerusalem was under siege for prophesying that Jerusalem would be under siege and lost the battle. While He was in prison, God told him that his cousin would come sell him some land. I’m sure Jeremiah laughed. Why would someone in prison need to buy land? Because God was going to do the impossible and set him free one day and return him from captivity.
When the deal was done, in Jeremiah 32:17 , he prayed, “Sovereign Lord, you made the earth and the sky by your great power and might; nothing is too difficult for you” (GNT). He reminded himself, like my mom did, that there’s no situation too hard for God to intervene in. There no whole so deep that He can’t pull you out of. There’s no sickness too far spread that He can’t heal. There’s no life so far gone that He can’t rescue. Whatever you’re facing today, know that there’s nothing too difficult for God to handle.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Several years ago, we were taking a team on a mission trip. It was going to cost each person around $1,300 to go. We decided to do a couple of fundraisers to help bring the cost down. Since we live in Texas, we decided to sell BBQ plates. After everyone had picked up their plates, we still had several whole briskets left over. I asked the pastor if we could sell it after church the next day. He agreed, so we wrapped it up and put them in the refrigerator.
The next morning, my wife and I went to cut the briskets up. We decided to cut them into chunks of several pounds each rather than to slice it all. As the counter filled up with all these chunks of wrapped meat, my wife looked at me and said, “I hope God honors your faith instead of mine!” I said, “Me too,” as we headed to the foyer to sell them. Within 10 minutes all the brisket was sold, and we raised more money off of it than all the plates combined.
I tell you that because faith is essential to every believer. We need faith to believe God exists, and that He’s forgiven us. Beyond that, we need faith for our prayers to be answered. We need to be able to see in our minds something that doesn’t exist in that moment when we pray if God is going to answer. Many of us are good at asking for what we need, but we’re not good at believing what we are asking for. To me, that’s a critical part of getting your prayers answered.
When Jesus healed people, He almost always told them that their answer depended on their faith. Matthew 9:29 is a typical response from Jesus when someone asked Him for something. It says, “Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, ‘Let it happen, then, just as you believe!’” (GNT) I believe that’s still His response today to whatever you’re praying for. As you pray, begin to see in your mind what you’re asking for, and tell yourself God will answer until you believe it. God answers our prayers according to our faith and belief.
To help you grow your faith, I’ve published a book called “A Devotional Guide to Stretching Your Faith”. You can get the pre-release now on Amazon by clicking here. I’ll officially launch it in the next couple of weeks, but wanted you to be the first to know about it. If you’d like to be on the launch team, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Believe. It’s a word that we see a lot of at Christmas, but what do we believe, and what are we asking others to believe? Mary believed what the angel had told her. She might have been confused and scared about the news, but she didn’t question it. She began preparing for her pregnancy and even told Joseph about it. She didn’t just sit around, and do nothing with it. Believing forces us to action. It’s not a passive thing.
All of us believe in things, and our actions are a result of those beliefs. As we move closer to Christmas, take time to find out what you believe by looking at your own actions. Don’t just listen to what your mind tells you that you believe. Others can’t read your mind. They can only see your actions, which speak louder than words. Our belief has a greater impact on the lives of others than our words. So, what do you believe?
Here are some Bible verses about believing.
1. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed…You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
Luke 1:42, 45 NLT
2. Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.
John 14:1 HCSB
3. Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”
John 20:29 MSG
4. But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the right [the authority, the privilege] to become children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name.
JOHN 1:12 AMP
5. If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved. For it is by our faith that we are put right with God; it is by our confession that we are saved.
In II Chronicles 20, a huge army invaded southern Israel. The king and all the people were terrified because they defeated several strongholds easily. He begged God for help and asked others to pray with him. It sounds a lot like any one of us when we are facing something that seems impossible to beat. Fear is our first response, then we beg God for help. I believe what follows in this story is something we can all learn from in these moments in life.
The first thing that happened was King Jehoshaphat got like minded people together, fasted and prayed. We are not to fight these battles alone. Fear’s goal is to intimidate you and to push you into seclusion. Don’t let it! There is strength in numbers and in fasting. Get a group of people around you who can fight on their knees and touch God for you. This first step is critical if you’re going to win an impossible battle.
In verses 15-17, God answered those praying. The Word of the Lord came back saying, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (NLT). Things only seem impossible when God is not in the equation. The battles we face are not our own, but they are God’s. We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged at the sheer impossibility of anything that comes our way because God goes before us.
As the army of Israel approached the battlefield, Jehoshaphat spoke in verse 20 and reminded them, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets and you will succeed.” Faith will help us to stand firm when standing is all we can do. We can trust in God, and in His Word, to get the courage to keep standing in the face of impossibilities. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to continue to trust God and His Word so we can see the victory.
Finally, the king appointed singers to praise God and he sent them out in front. At the very moment they began to sing, the Lord gave victory. We need to be able to praise God in advance of victory. We need to honor Him when all else seems to be going wrong. Praise is powerful. It activates our faith and moves our God. If you can’t find it in you to praise, play praise music until you do. Victory is dependent on God, not us. We can praise Him for that. Our impossible battles are no match for a God who says all things are possible.
In Luke 17, the disciples asked Jesus for more faith. I’ve fallen into that trap myself: believing I could have more or less faith and that my amount of faith determines God’s response. They felt like it was the amount of faith Jesus had that gave Him the ability to do the things He was doing. The response Jesus gave them in verse 6, proves it isn’t the amount of faith you have that motivates God.
Jesus said, “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it” (MSG). There isn’t a size of faith. Either you have faith or you don’t. If you have faith that God will do something, you will act on that faith. If you have faith, you can speak to things and they will move.
James tells us that faith without works is dead. He’s saying, if you really have faith, you will act on it. If you aren’t doing anything by faith, you have none. Either you have faith and prove it daily, or you have none and prove it too. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” He understood that you will always act according to what you believe. If you don’t believe God will answer, you won’t really pray. If you do, you will pray and show you believe it.
Faith isn’t about size, it’s about action. When the disciples asked for more faith, they got schooled by Jesus. When a man in Mark 9 asked Jesus if He could heal his boy, Jesus responded in verse 23 with, “If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.” Our response should be like this man’s. He replied, “Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!” You only need a greater faith than your doubts if you want to act on it. If your faith isn’t strong enough to act on, then ask God to help you with your doubts.
I saw a funny exchange that a friend of mine put on Facebook. A person told her, “I didn’t think a Christian would be so into yoga.” She replied, “You’re right. Christians don’t normally stretch.” It hit me that she’s right more than she knows. While she was talking about physically stretching, I was thinking of spiritually stretching. It’s not something that most of us do. We prefer to leave things the way they are and to not be challenged.
Brian Tracy speaks to the Law of Inertia. It says that people continue doing what they’re doing until they’re acted upon by an outside force. It’s not until we face a trial or gave a bad day that we wake from our zombie-like spiritual existence and begin to stretch spiritually. If we don’t voluntarily stretch, God is happy to be that outside force that moves us off the path we are on. He’s not content with our spiritual contentment.
We shouldn’t be either. We should each desire to be the best Christian we can be, to have a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Christ. The problem is that desire is only part of the equation. The other part is that we test our faith, push our spiritual limits and strive for the high calling in Christ Jesus. Stretching prepares us for growth. If we don’t stretch, the growth will be painful.
I’ve been in sports my whole life. Stretching has always been a part of every workout, every practice and every game. It warms up the muscles that we are about to use. I Timothy 4:8 says, “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way.” Paul understood that our spirit needs exercise. If it needs exercise, it needs stretching. The way we do that is to put our faith to the test. We believe God for more than we think possible. I heard He’s able to do abundantly more than I could even ask or think, So why not think big?
If you don’t like to stretch, you’re not alone. Don’t wait for an outside force from God to get you to stretch your faith. Find ways today to stretch it out. Give more than you thought you could give (I’m not just talking about money here). Go farther than you thought you could go. Step into waters that are deeper than you’ve been in. Believe for more than you think is possible and watch what a God does. Don’t be a Christian who doesn’t like to stretch.
In Luke 1, two different people are told by the angel Gabriel that something amazing will happen to them. They responded almost identically, yet one was punished and one was praised. One spent the next several months unable to speak, while the other used their voice to praise God. How we respond to the plans God has for us matters. When God first puts them in our heart, they scare us because they seem impossible to accomplish on our own. Through the years, I’ve discovered if God put it in you, it’s impossible to do on your own.
Zechariah was a man who was up in age. He was a faithful servant of God and even served as a priest in the Temple. One day, while performing his duties, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary to burn incense before God. After he entered, Gabriel appeared to him to bring him the message that his wife would become pregnant and have a son. In verse 18, Zechariah responded, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years” (NLT). It seems like a logical question, but it upset Gabriel to the point that he made Zechariah mute until the baby was born.
Mary was a young lady who was engaged to be married. She believed in God, but wasn’t involved in ministry. She was going about her normal business when Gabriel paid a visit to her. He gave her the incredible news that she would become pregnant while still a virgin. In verse 34, she responded, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Again, this is a logical response to the angel, but this time he wasn’t angry. Instead he gave an explanation. So what was the difference? Their responses are very similar.
One was born out of doubt and one out of faith. One saw the impossibility and questioned God’s ability, while the other’s faith made them curious. Look at their responses again. One wanted proof it would happen and the other wondered how God would accomplish His will. There’s a significant difference, and I think it’s important how we respond to the things God reveals to us. So many times we want proof from Him instead of trusting that He’ll do what He says. I don’t know what God placed in your heart, but I can imagine it’s pretty big. Instead of asking Him for proof, trust Him to do it, and be available as Mary was.
One of my favorite quotes is from Henry Ford. He said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” Our thoughts are so powerful that they literally control our ability to accomplish things. It doesn’t matter if everyone tells you that you can’t do it, if your mind says you can, you’ll do it. Conversely, if everyone tells you that you can, but you don’t think you can, you never will. It’s not what others think that makes us believe. It’s what we think.
Solomon understood this principle. In Proverbs 4:23 he wrote, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (GNT). You and I can control what thoughts we entertain, and what thoughts we dismiss. The ones we replay over and over in our heads and become our reality. They determine whether or not we apply for that job, write that proposal, take that class, put on those running shoes, or you fill in the blank. Think about that for a minute and replay the voices in your head when you tried to do whatever you filled in the blank.
If your whole life is shaped by what you think, wouldn’t it be important to you to think the right things? Changing your thought cycle is difficult, but not impossible. In most cases, you’ve told yourself a certain thing so many times that you actually believe it to be true without question. You say, “I can’t do that because that just who I am.” When you say that, you’re proving Henry Ford right. You don’t think you can, so you don’t. You rationaLIES that it’s just who you are. Yes, I spelled that with “lies” because that’s what those thoughts are.
In order to change the lies, you have to challenge them just like you would challenge anyone else telling you lies. You ask, “Where’s the proof?” When there is no proof (“because I said so” isn’t proof), you then insert what the truth is. You begin to think the new thought over and over (remember “The Little Engine That Could”) until it is true. This is hard work, but you can reshape your life and what you do by what you think. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (AMP). It’s time we quit believing the lies. Whatever you think in your heart and mind is who you will become. Be someone awesome since you get to choose.
I once heard about a farm community who was experiencing a drought that threatened to bankrupt the whole town. One church decided to hold a prayer meeting to ask God for rain. Many people from the community showed up and lined the pews of the church. The preacher walked up front to address the crowded church. He said, “This prayer meeting has been cancelled.” The people gasped in disbelief. They had shown up to pray. How could he dismiss them? He said, “I noticed that none of you came with an umbrella. Why pray if you don’t believe God is going to answer?”
I’ve always loved that story. It reminds me of Hannah in the book of Samuel. She had wanted to have a child, but couldn’t. Her husband would go to the temple every year to offer sacrifices. He would then give his other wife, Peninnah, and her children meat from the sacrifice. He then gave the best piece of meat to Hannah. When he did, Peninnah would taunt her and tease her because she couldn’t have kids. Hannah would get so upset she would break down in tears and couldn’t eat.
On one such occasion, Hannah ran to the temple to pray. She quietly wept before the Lord as she prayed. She asked God for a son and promised to give him back if He answered her. As she sat there weeping, Eli the priest, confronted her thinking she was drunk. When she explained that she hadn’t been drinking and had been in prayer, he responded, “In that case, go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him” (1 Samuel 1:17 NLT). Hannah then went back, ate food, and was no longer sad.
She acted in faith before she got her answer. She believed that God heard her prayer and answered it. We could all learn from her and the farming community. Jesus said in John 14:13, “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” If we will start acting like God is going to answer our prayers, we will start to see more of them answered. Faith doesn’t wait in order to act. It acts before it knows there will be an answer.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in Joshua 10. Joshua led the Israelites into war against five kings. As they were fighting, God threw hailstones from the heavens and killed more men than the Israelites combined. The battle continued to rage, but the daylight was going to end. That’s when Joshua stopped, looked up into heaven, and said, “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon” (Joshua 10:12 NLT). The next verse says the sun stood still until Israel defeated their enemies.
Can you imagine the kind of boldness, courage, and faith it took to make such a request? This is one of the greatest miracles of the Bible. God paused time so that Joshua could defeat his enemies. I love it when God shows off like this. To me, it’s Him saying, “If you can think it, I can do it. All you have to do is ask.” The problem is that I feel like I’m bothering God when I ask for something crazy like this. But God is sitting there wanting me to stretch my faith and ask Him for the unthinkable.
Ephesians 3:20 is a familiar verse to most Christians, and I love how the Amplified Bible writes this verse. It says, “Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams].” God can do infinitely more than your wildest prayers, craziest hopes, and unrealistic dreams. He’s just waiting for you to trust Him enough to do it.
Many times I wonder if I’m asking God for enough, is my faith big enough, or do I trust Him enough. Joshua asked the sun to stand still, a widow asked Elisha to bring her son back to life, and Peter asked to get out of the boat. All three were granted because they were bold and courageous enough to ask. All three had the faith in God to answer their requests. If God is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all we could ever ask or think, I believe it’s time we had a faith that’s crazy enough to ask for those things.