GOD CAN, BUT WILL HE?
In tonight’s message I want to ask the question, “Do you believe that God can do anything?” This morning, Pastor William brought a message on the Omniscience of God – that God is all-knowing; tonight we’ll be talking a little about the Omnipotence of God – that God is all-powerful. The two messages go very much hand-in-hand, and so those of you who were here this morning will probably see some overlap.
Moving on through Luke we come to the next section. Last week we looked at the foretelling of John the Baptist’s birth; this week we’re looking at the foretelling of Jesus’ birth.
Last week we saw that John’s birth was unusual in two senses: (i) Firstly it was unusual because John had godly parents – not just religious parents, but godly parents; and (ii) Secondly it was unusual because Elizabeth was barren and well past the age of having children.
I wonder if you can imagine your parents or grandparents in their 60s come to visit you for the holidays. And as you’re having dinner they just keep glancing at each other as if they have something to say but they just really don’t know how to say it. Finally, your 65 year old grandma bubbles up, “Grandpa and I are going to have a baby!”
You’d be stunned, you’d have to lift up your Mom’s jaw from the ground. “What?? A baby? But you’re 65! I think you got it wrong, Grandma, that’s highly unlikely!”
What made it more unlikely in Elizabeth’s case is they had no children or grandchildren to announce it to. She was barren, and old – a biological improbability.
Today, we’re going to be looking at a biological impossibility.
Let’s read from Luke 1:26-38.
Do you believe that God can do anything? That’s not a rhetorical question. Do you believe that God can do anything?
Do you believe that God can take you out of debt? Do you believe that God can heal you loved one’s cancer? Do you believe that God can fix your marriage? Do you believe that God can help you finish that project on time? Do you believe that God can make a way for you to have a holiday? Do you believe that God can make a way for you to have children? Do you believe that God can break the stronghold of addiction in your life? Do you believe that God can do anything?
If you begin to read the Bible, you begin to see that it paints a beautiful picture of an omnipotent, all-powerful being. And I love to read about all that He’s done and can do.
He created the universe in 6 days.
He covered the earth with water and destroyed almost all that He had made, yet He also saved Noah.
He enabled barren women to give birth.
He took His people out of slavery by breaking the Egyptians.
He opened the sea for His people to walk across safely – twice.
He broke down the walls of the impregnable city of Jericho.
He stopped the sun for a day so the Israelites could defeat their fleeing enemies.
He brought down fire from heaven onto Mt Carmel to consume an offering.
He healed Naaman’s leprosy.
He raised the Shunammite’s son from the dead.
With one angel He destroyed 185,000 Assyrians in one night who threatened Judah.
He closed the lions’ mouths for Daniel.
He saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the flames.
He became a human, born from the womb of a virgin.
He fed 5,000 people with 2 fish and 5 loaves.
He walked on water and enabled Peter to do it too.
He died on the cross to deliver us from our sin, rose again from the dead, and is among us today by His Spirit
Even today He is raising people from the dead, protecting people from harm, delivering people from their sins, healing the sick.
So I ask you, is there anything that our God cannot do?
If we look at the evidence from Scripture the answer would have to be a resounding “NO!” There’s nothing that our God cannot do if He decides to do it.
But let’s waver a little off the point here. I mean, to be completely honest, there are some things the Bible tells us that God cannot do.
God cannot sin
God cannot tempt man to sin
God cannot lie
God cannot deny Himself/be false to Himself
God cannot break His promise
God cannot simply overlook sin because He’s a just God
To be summed up, because He is perfect, God simply cannot go against His own nature.
These have nothing to do with God’s power and omnipotence, but with God’s nature. In other words, it’s not because God is unable to, that He is limited in power in any way. It is because of who He is in nature.
Can God create a rock too big for Him to lift? That’s a nonsensical question. It’s like asking a bachelor what his wife’s name is. The nature of the bachelor is he has no wife. The nature of God is that He is Highest, Supreme, Absolute – there is and can be nothing above Him because if anything is greater than God then surely that thing becomes God, so God cannot make anything greater than Himself because He is Greatest.
Anyway, that’s going a little off topic.
Apart from denying His own nature, there is nothing in all of Creation that is beyond the power and ability of our God.
What does that mean for you and me on a practical, day-to-day basis? Well, He who made all the gold in the earth is more than able to provide you with what you need to pay off your bond. He who made you is more than able to heal you.
2. Will He Help Me When I Need Him To?
When we really need God to do something for/in us, we rarely wrestle with, ‘I wonder if God can do this – is this outside God’s ability?’
We wrestle with the question, “Will He do it? Will He do it for me?”
Will He take me out of debt? Will He heal my loved one’s cancer? Will He fix my marriage? Will He help me finish that project on time? Will He make a way for me to have a holiday? Will He make a way for us to have children? Will He break the stronghold of addiction in my life? Will He do that for me?
That’s the question that fills the mind of every person sooner or later. It’s the question that most often fills my mind. I know that God can, but will He do this thing for me?
That takes us from the question of God’s ability, to the question of God’s character. This becomes important, because how we view God’s character determines how we are going to answer these questions; and how we answer these questions will determine how we will live our lives.
For instance, we know that God can provide for our finances. But if we have a view of God which says that, ‘God’s never really seemed to care much about little me. He must be too busy with trying to deal with the war in Gaza. God doesn’t really care about little me. So I need to take care of myself. I’ll need to take on a second job. I know it cuts into time with my family, and Church. But I have no other choice’.
We know that God can, but we’re not sure that He will, so it affects how we live our lives – which can have dramatic affect.
Let’s look at the Israelites as an example.
The Israelites were stuck in captivity for hundreds of years. They cried out to God to deliver them, because they knew that unless Almighty God intervened, they were never getting out of there.
Finally, after what seems like forever, God decides it’s time. He calls Moses and commissions him to be His hands and mouth to Pharaoh. As Moses speaks and moves, God hurls down plague after plague and breaks the hardness of the Egyptian’s heart and Pharaoh finally lets them go.
The Israelites walk out free men and women, boys and girls. They march through the desert until they get to the Red Sea. By this time, the Egyptians have hardened their hearts again, gather up their chariots and soldiers and their courage and go hunting after the Israelites to bring them back.
Let’s read the story beginning from Exodus 14:10 “As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the LORD, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us?”
They had just witnessed the power and strength of the LORD as He completely dominated not just the Egyptians, but also the gods the Egyptians trusted in.
They saw the LORD turn all the water in Egypt into blood, even the water in buckets and jars.
They saw the LORD bring darkness over Egypt that only covered the Egyptians while the Hebrew territory had light.
They even saw the LORD pass over the land, killing off every firstborn of His enemies.
And so while they stood there with Red Sea before them and Egyptian army behind, they weren’t questioning God’s ability to perform another miracle, they were questioning His willingness – does He love us enough to save us; does He care enough to provide a way out?
As you know, God shows that He does love and care enough – He parts the sea and lets them walk through on dry land, and finishes this chapter of the story with an exclamation point as He hurls the waters over the Egyptians as they try to follow the Israelites through.
Then on and on as they walk through the wilderness, this nation who has a front-row seat to the daily power and provision of God complains again and again, and questions God’s willingness to provide for them. “Does God want us to die? Why doesn’t He provide us with food? Why doesn’t He provide us with water? Why doesn’t He provide us with meat?”
When they finally arrive the Promised Land, I’m sure you’ll remember the story, Moses sends out twelve men to spy out the land. They saw that Canaan was a rich and fertile land, and the people were strong and healthy. When they came back and gave their report, only two – Caleb and Joshua – advised them to go in and claim the land. The rest said, “We can’t attack those people. They are stronger than we are” (Num. 13).
Well so were the Egyptians. But these ten scouts spread a bad report and cause the Israelites to fear the people of the land God was calling them to conquer. Now, after so long of witnessing the power of God, the Israelites began to doubt – not just God’s willingness anymore, but even His power.
Because they didn’t trust God’s willingness to provide for them – they didn’t trust that He would love and care for them as He has promised – it affected how they lived their lives, and that had dramatic consequences – wandering through the wilderness until that generation had died off.
But we are very much like the Israelites, aren’t we? We know that God can provide for us, but we doubt God’s character, we doubt that He will provide for us when it comes to a pinch. Does He love us? Does He care? Will He provide for me when I really need it?
Tonight I want to remind you that we don’t just serve a God who is able, but we also serve a God who loves you very, very much. We serve a Father God who cares for His children and never forgets about us, never neglects us, even when sometimes it appears He’s led us into trouble times.
And that can be seen in the passage from Luke. Mary had just been told that God was going to make her pregnant before she’s even married – this was an extremely serious circumstance. She might have cried out to God, ‘You’re ruining my life!’ But God wasn’t ruining her life – in a rather unique way He was saving it through this experience. Even though to others her circumstances seemed dismal, Mary understood that God was loving her perfectly, and taking perfect care of her through it all.
Sometimes when God allows us to go through some rough times, we might trust God’s ability to get us out, but doubt His character for not immediately making our circumstances comfortable.
So we cry out to God, ‘You’re ruining my life!’ and we don’t realise that even in the valley of trouble God is working all things out for the good – even our good. We can know that even in the darkness of the valley of trouble, God is loving us and taking care of us perfectly.
And don’t doubt that God is with you even in that valley. Because He loves us as a Father and a Shepherd, He’s with us in that dark place, only a whisper away. Call out to Him in your distress. But don’t doubt His character, don’t doubt His love. Don’t doubt His plan.
As we close off, let’s look at one more story. It’s from the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were three friends of Daniel, if you remember Daniel in the lion’s den.
They served the same king as Daniel, the king of Babylon whose name was Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful king, and just as many kings in the world then and now believe themselves to be a god, so did he. So he built a huge statue of himself made of gold, and summoned all the officials in the land to come up on a certain day to bow down to this statue. Anyone who doesn’t will be thrown in a fiery furnace.
Among the officials of the land were these three men – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Now on the day that everyone was gathered, king Nebuchadnezzar announced that when the music starts, everyone must bow and worship this image. Anyone who doesn’t will be thrown in a fiery furnace. No big deal for the majority of those there because they were a pagan people.
But not Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They served the one true God, Creator of heaven and earth. So when the music started and everyone else bowed and worshiped this gold image, these three remained standing, and they must have stood out like a sore thumb. Imaging this whole courtyard of officials falling to their faces and three lonely men remain standing.
So Nebuchadnezzar sees them standing there, and he’s furious, and he sends soldiers to bring them before him. When they arrive he’s spitting mad, and says, “I’ll give you one last chance. Bow and worship my image. If you do, very good. But if you don’t, you will be thrown immediately into a fiery furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
I love their response. They respectfully but confidently say, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us. But even if he does not, we will not serve your gods” (Daniel 3:17-18)
These are three men who understood God’s ability, and trusted God’s character. And they also trusted God’s plan. ‘He can, He will, but even if He doesn’t we will still trust Him!’
We need to have the same attitude. Will God help me when I need Him to? He can! He will! But even if He doesn’t, I will trust Him still!
Mary’s response was the same. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” God has a challenge for her. He’s able to make it happen, He’s good and will help me through it, but even if He seems distant, I trust His plan and will obey.
God is calling us to trust Him, to know His power and to obey, and then leave the rest to Him. Will you do that? Will you trust God’s ability, character and plan? He is more than able to take care of you. We don’t need to question His ability, we don’t need to doubt His character, and we don’t need to worry about following His plan. He’s our Father God, and He loves us perfectly.
What does this mean for you and for me? Let us give our whole lives to God – our possessions, our hopes and dreams, our fears, our weaknesses and strengths, our family, our troubles – give everything to God and trust Him to do what’s best. He could take away the troubles; He’s able to, but in His love, sometimes He puts us or allows us to go through hard and trouble times. Trust Him; keep praying if you want and asking God to take away the troubles; but know that He is working.