Loving the Impossible


A sermon delivered by Joel Snider, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Rome, Ga., on May 13, 2012.

Philippians 4:10-13

Morning Prayer:

O Loving God, we pray today for all mothers everywhere.  We pray blessing upon mothers who can provide their children with all things and blessing for the mothers who struggle to provide the basics.  We pray for those who gave us birth and for those who chose us, for mothers with us and for mothers gone, for mothers full of pride and mothers who deal with regrets.  We pray for those with many children and for those who have the heart of a mother yet no child of their own.  We ask that you would teach mothers with small children how to be supporting, how to discipline with love, and how to teach their children aright and encourage them as they grown.  Give them patience—patience with themselves and patience with their children.  Teach mothers of adult children how to trust you for the care and protection of their child.  Teach them the best ways to bless appropriately.  For the married mother, we pray that there would be a deeper relationship with her husband and the bonds of their union would always strengthen a mother’s life.  For single mothers, we pray for strength, both physical and spiritual, and for a renewed sense of the presence of your spirit.  We ask that you would provide all that they need.  For mothers in circumstances we cannot imagine, for those we do not even know how to pray for, we trust these to you.  We know that you love them and that you know each one by name.  You know each need and are willing to bless accordingly.  Bless these along with all the others.  We offer our own thanksgiving for our mothers and for mothers everywhere.  We call upon you to bless with grace and peace and with all the resources they need for their task.  In Christ’s name.  Amen.

Meditation Text:

The most astonishing aspect of the earliest Christian claims was that they seemed so disproportionate to their actual worldly circumstances. Christian communities were small, isolated, beleaguered, disliked. Christianity was a tiny sect of Judaism centered on an executed criminal, having no claim to power of any manifest sort, and seemingly an infinite distance from any historical significance. Yet from the first, believers made cosmic claims. They were to witness to the ends of the earth and make disciples of all nations. The world was theirs.

               —Luke Timothy Johnson in The Creed

Two weeks ago, I began a group of four sermons directed toward the youth and younger members of our church who are at the end of a school year.  Spring always marks new beginnings so I am trying to catch the attention of younger members about matters of faith.

Two weeks ago, I talked about the future and hopefulness.  Last week, we had a takeoff on Bob Dylan and talked about how we have to serve somebody and what a dead-end it is to serve ourselves.  I have been surprised how some of the older members have applied some of these messages to themselves. 

This week, I will start with a question that is a bridge from last week.  If you were here, you will see a connection.  If you were not here, it will not matter.

What do you want to do with your life?  This is a lot deeper than, What do you want to be when you grow up?  Adults have been asking you this ever since you can remember.  It may include your vocation, but it certainly would be broader and deeper than that.  If you are away at college or preparing to leave for college, it is broader than what your major might be to prepare you for life, but it probably does include that.  What do you really want to accomplish?  How do you see merging your gifts and your passions in life with some goal out there someplace?  It also speaks about what kind of person you want to be.  What do you want to do with your life?  I would like to encourage you today to consider doing something impossible.  If you are going to do something, you might as well do something important and why not make it something impossible?  I have three reasons why you should consider this.

One is that your life is worth it.  It is the time of year when Time, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and 100 different internet sites are all going to list what the best careers are for today, for the next 10-20 years, and the ones you have never heard of.  In almost every media, they talk about what the job opportunities are and how much you hope to earn.  What will a job be worth in dollars and cents?

The real question is, What is it that I want to do that would be worthy of my life?  About 20 years ago, time replaced money as the most important currency we possess.  Right around 20 years ago, where people would do it themselves in order to save money, the shift began to take place where people would rather pay to have something done in order to save their time.  The thing that became the most valuable was time.  We would pay money to save time.  We have learned that time is our most valuable currency.  If you think about it, it is really not time, it is life.  The most important thing I possess and the most important resource I have is my life.  The question is not what I am going to do that will pay me the most money but what am I going to do that is the most worthy investment of my life?  Think about it this way:  When someone is wasting time, they are not wasting time, they are wasting life.

If you are going to do something in 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60 years of doing something that is worthy of your life, it might as well be invested in doing something impossible.

The second reason I would encourage you to consider this is because there are plenty of people to do the possible.  If you take one of those survey classes in college where you are in an amphitheater and nobody knows anybody’s name and the professor certainly does not know your name, look around and count how many people there are who can do the possible.  The room is filled with them.  There are plenty of people to do the possible.  I thought about giving some examples of what this might mean but I knew as sure as I did, that it would be something that somebody does and they would be offended by it.  But you are smart enough to figure out the things that anybody can do.  Do you really want to spend your life doing just what anybody else can do?  There are plenty of people to do the possible.  I don’t remember when I first heard this.  I would say it was about 25 years ago, but it has been a conviction that has driven many things in my life.  As a congregation, there are things that we do because we recognize that there are plenty of congregations who can do the possible.

Go back to the 1990’s when we considered a refugee re-settlement program.  It looked daunting to be totally responsible for the life of a family who was coming from a foreign culture, some not even speaking English.  Then the congregation chose to do that, not only for one family, but for four families.  Some people thought we were crazy.  There are other times when we collect things for groups that need it, and that is great but there are thousands of congregations that can do that.  To bring four families to Rome, Georgia and be responsible for them, to make a life for them, and to create situations where today they are our friends, it looked impossible.  There are plenty of people to do the possible.

When Katrina hit and the government was immobilized by not knowing what do to, a small group of people from our congregation figured out that we needed to get supplies to the Gulf Coast.  We needed to get to the Gulf Coast what people needed tomorrow—not next week, not next month—tomorrow.  We are just a church in little ole Rome, Georgia.  Two days later, trucks started to roll.  We sent people what they needed the minute they needed it.

Last year, after the tornadoes hit Alabama it was really kind of funny.  We set up the same process and we started sending things and they said, “We don’t need this.”  Two days later they said, “You know those things you sent, we found out we need those.”  We knew that because of other disasters.  There are plenty of people to set up collection booths and to take up donations, but as a church, we want to do the things that most people think are impossible.  In your life, you will find there are plenty of people to do the possible so why not choose something impossible? 

The most important reason is faith in Christ calls us to use the full power of God in Jesus Christ to do the things that are worthy of being said and that are Christ inspired.  Have you ever read the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11?  He is talking about some of the things that he has endured.  He says, “I have had countless floggings, often near death.  Five times, I have received the 40 lashes minus 1.”  Forty lashes were supposed to kill you.  “Three times, I was beaten with rods.  Once, I received a stoning.  Three times, I was shipwrecked.  On frequent journeys in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters, in all of these things, times where I was sleepless, hungry, thirsty and often without food, cold and naked. . .”  This is not just a story somebody made up.  There were a number of times when he was in a situation where his life depended on it.  This is the same Paul who said, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

For Paul, this was not just a nice platitude.  It was not something nice to hope that you might get a nice booklet with pretty sunset pictures in it so that you could take it and look at it and be inspired and think, Oh, I can do all things.  This was a person who was in the position of almost losing his life time after time after time.  When the Philippian church does something nice for him, he said, “This is great.  Thank you.  I appreciate it, but I have learned that no matter what my circumstances are, I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” 

I have to tell you that him who strengthens me is a very weak translation.  The root of the word is the same root that we get the word dynamo from.  If we say somebody is a little dynamo, they have energy all the time.  Dynamo makes energy.  It is the same root that we get the word dynamite from.  You know what dynamite does.  Dynamite can move a mountain.  This is the kind of word Paul is using when he says, “I can do all things through the one who gives me the power of dynamite.”  He is not saying, “I think I can handle that because Jesus strengthens me.”  It is much more than that.  There are things that Christians have done across the ages that people thought were impossible, but by the power of God in Christ they were able to do them.

We take for granted something like the Salvation Army.  If someone is down on their luck or has been burned out, we send them to the Salvation Army.  It is in nearly every town of any size.  It is in the vast majority of countries around the world.  William Booth was a Methodist minister in London at a time when everybody in the world was moving to London.  The overcrowding and poverty were so severe that nobody thought anything could be done about it.   But William Booth started the Salvation Army.  We take it for granted because we have always seen it, but there was a day when it did not exist and it came into being at a time when people did not think it could happen.  William Booth did it, and it was impossible.

Less than four hours ago in a 24-hour-day in the history of our country, people were denied the right to vote because of the color of their skin.  In Birmingham, Alabama, it looked impossible to change what was going on.  There were demonstrations and marches and everybody was thrown in jail.  People did not think they could do anything else, and they came up with children who volunteered.  On this Mother’s Day, we remember that there was a day when mothers in Birmingham sent their children to face the fire hoses and the German shepherds while we won’t even let our children cross the street without asking permission.  They sent them out in the face of that and it looked impossible, but the face of a nation was changed because of that.

If you are going to give your life to something, give it to something that is worthy of the name Christian and that is worthy of claiming the power of Jesus Christ.  Give it to something that is impossible.  People have been doing this in the name of Christ for two millennia, twenty centuries.  All it takes is the willingness to listen to the spirit and to use the resources that are at hand.  God did raise Christ from the dead, and the power that was available to raise Christ, to bring him out of that tomb, and to live with God forever is possible to live and dwell in us and to do things like this. 

Almost everything that we take for granted that has been accomplished in the name of Christ, somebody once thought was impossible.  I think of the statement, “The power in me is greater than he who is in the world.”   There is a church in Missouri that has the motto, “The power behind us is greater than the problems before us.”  Do we really believe that?  Are we more worried and in awe of the problems of the world or do we find ourselves incredibly amazed by the power of God in Christ and what is possible?

Let me just say to you who are young: When you consider what you are going to do with your life, consider doing something impossible.  Your life is worthy.  Don’t waste it on something that is just way too easy.  There are few people who will attempt the impossible, but there are plenty of people to leave the possible stuff to, people who will be just as happy doing whatever is possible.  But in you, if the power of God is at work in your life, why not do something that matters, something that changes things, something that leaves the world a better place, something out of the ordinary?  Why not something impossible?

Paul says, “With the power of Christ in us, even the impossible is possible.”  So what will you do?  How will you spend your life, the currency, the time, the hours, the months, the years, and the decades?  How will you invest it, using it with all that God has given to you and all that God wants to give to you in the future?  Do something impossible!

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Tags: Joel Snider, Life, Love, Possibility, Sermons, Time