By Pastor Glenn Pease
God expects us to do the impossible. He expected Luther H. Bridgers to play the role of Job and keep on singing. He was a young pastor who was away in another city for a series of meetings. The phone rang late one night and a friend had to tell him of the tragic news. Fire had swept through his home and his wife and 2 children perished in the flames. He dropped the receiver and ran out of the hotel into the empty morning streets. He walked for a long time trying to get self-control. He came to a river and felt a compulsion to end his life and be reunited with his family. Life seemed impossible-absolutely impossible. He could not make it on his own.
It was a terrible struggle, but he knew it was God's will that he press on into that impossible future. Years later he married again and raised a second family. He became best known for his song that has been sung by millions. His song goes-
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest name I know,
Fills my ever longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.
Jesus kept him singing because he was able to look beyond the impossible circumstances and his own weakness to the Lord on the throne, and to his ultimate promises. Paul was going through deep waters and he writes in II Cor. 4:8-9, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair: Persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed." What kept him pressing on being not weary in well doing, but serving and singing the praises of his Lord? He tells us at the end of the chapter in verses 16-18, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
What a paradox! The way Paul copes with the impossible is by doing the impossible. He focuses his eyes on what cannot be seen. By seeing the unseen and eternal he is able to be victorious in the visible world of suffering. This teaching runs all through the Bible. It is one of the primary messages of the book of Revelation. The perspective from which you see life makes all the difference in the world. We want to ride on John's coattails as he soars beyond space where no man has gone before, except the Son of Man, and possibly Paul. Paul does not reveal his vision of heaven, and so we do not know if he went to the very throne room of God like John did. First I want to call your intention to 4:1 where we see-
I. THE IMPOSSIBLE COMMAND.
The trumpet like voice of the risen Christ shouted, "Come up here!" Jesus commands John to do the impossible. Do you think John would be languishing on that island as a prisoner if he had the ability to soar off into heaven? He could no more go through that open door to heaven than he could walk on water back to the mainland and be free. Some things we call impossible are really just very hard, but for John to somehow rise up off that island of Patmos and ascend into the realm of heaven was an absolute impossibility from a human perspective. And yet John was soon in heaven seeing the very throne of God just as he was commanded. Here we see the impossible made instantly possible. This reveals just how relative the impossible really is. The fact is, it is almost impossible to keep anything in the category of the impossible for very long.
It was impossible John to fly in an airplane or a space ship that could blast him beyond the earth's atmosphere. These seemingly absolute impossibilities were really only relative impossibilities, for man has now done what was impossible in the day of John. And so it was never really impossible, but just not available. John could not fax his letters to the 7 churches of Asia either, but not because it was impossible, but because it had not yet been invented. There are literally hundreds of things that were impossible for John that are now possible for us. So the point is, in the light of all the impossible things that are now possible it is nearly impossible to speculate as to what is impossible, for anything we might say could become possible in a short time.
Now if this is true on the human and earthly level, how much more does the sphere of the impossible decrease when we bring the power of Christ into the picture? He commanded John to do what was impossible, but then he made it possible for John to do it. If Jesus wants you to do something, He will make it possible for you to do it. Paul said he could do all things through Christ who would strengthen him. Nothing is impossible if Jesus wills it. He wanted John to come up and see heaven, and in a split second John was in heaven. Either heaven is very close to the island of Patmos, or we are dealing with speeds that make the head swim. We have spacecraft that can circle the globe in minutes, but even to get to the moon takes a while, and beyond that it can take a long time to get anywhere specific. But here we see John going from earth to heaven in the times it takes to end one sentence and begin another. This is impossible with any technology that we know, but it is only relatively impossible because John did it, and this is a hint as to how all of the redeemed will travel in eternity. We will travel with the speed of thought that leaves even the speed of light looking like a one legged turtle with arthritis.
There are many fascinating implications that come out of this instant trip to heaven. It immediately eliminates all concepts of the universe being too vast to explore. No matter how many billions of light years it is across the vast wonder of God's creation, it only takes a second to cover it by thought. We can speculate, in the light of thought travel, that redeemed man will explore everything in the universe, and what doors this will open up is beyond our wildest dreams. If there are many other experiments of God with intelligent beings, we will know this and be able to interact with them, and this may provide the way of service we will offer to God in eternity. None of this will be impossible in the light of what God will make possible with out redeemed bodies.
Another thing that is comforting here is how this scene with John changes my perception of the rapture. I have a fear of heights, and the idea of soaring up into the clouds has never been very appealing to me. But in the light of John's rapture into heaven it no longer needs to be seen as scary for those with a phobia. John was there in an instant. It is not as though he soared through the air whizzing past clouds and then stars with his hair and robe waving in the wind like a flag. He was caught up and was there with no experience of passing through space at all. This is the kind of travel that is only relatively impossible. It is not available to us yet, but it will be our mode of travel for eternity.
The famous Christian mystic Sadhu Sundar Singh said, "In heaven distance is never felt by anyone, for as soon as one forms the wish to go to a certain place he at once finds himself there." All vehicles will be obsolete, and oil companies will no longer have any power at all. Mark Twain wrote a piece about wings in heaven, and he came to what appears to be a very valid biblical conclusion. He said that wings on angels are like a uniform, and they are only for show and not for travel. That makes sense, for if they were actual flight heaven would be slower than time. Wings are only symbolic of swiftness. They are not the mode of heavenly travel. If that was the case Gabriel would still be on his way to earth with the message of Christmas, and John would still be somewhere in the solar system winging his way toward the throne of God.
If you take this experience of John and start telling people that man has traveled faster than the speed of light, you will be met with words like, "That is impossible." And they would be right, but it still happened, and it will happen all the time, for with God the impossible is just something we are not doing yet on a regular basis. When God says to all the saints what He said to John when He said, "Come up here!" Then we will all be traveling at the speed of thought. The practical implications of this are that we should never be quick to call anything impossible. To assume that anything cannot be done is to shut God out of history. You might be right that it will not be done, but it is only because it shouldn't be done because the time is not yet right. An incurable disease is only a disease that we don't know how to cure yet. But history is full of these impossible to cure diseases that have been cured. All the impossible is, is something that hasn't happened yet. Those who believe this are the ones who always wined up doing the impossible.
When the engineers were called in to evaluate the possibility of building a railroad across the Andes Mountains of Peru they concluded that it could not be done. American engineers were called in, and they agreed it could not be done. As a last resort a Polish engineer named Ernest Malinowski was called in. He said it could be done, and at age 60 he began the task of digging 62 tunnels and building 30 bridges. Once he had to flee the country and remain in exile for a while, but he went back and completed the engineering feat that became one of the wonders of the world in 1880.
The point is that he did the impossible because he believed that the impossible is only relative. Too many Christians give up on projects and become weary in well doing because they feel it is impossible. I know Christians who have ceased to witness to people because they feel it is impossible to change them. Or they give up on study of the Bible and conclude they are just not cut out for it. Or they cease to try to have meaningful devotions because it just doesn't work. On and on go the impossibilities, and they are real, but they are only relatively impossible. If they things God wants you to do, they are very real possibilities. There are many things we will never do, for they are, for all practical purposes, impossible for us to do. This is true for everyone. None of us can leave the body and enter into heaven in a split second. This is impossible because God does not call us to do it, but if He did, it would be just as possible for us as it was for John.
We can do anything God calls us to do, and so we need to be ever striving for higher goals. There are many examples of people who have achieved seemingly impossible goals that no one would have ever dreamed. Bob Richards, the famous Olympic champion, was teaching a Sunday School class many years ago, and he was expounding on the theme of self-confidence, and of being all you can dream of being. There was a girl in the class who was about 100 pounds overweight, and she had the audacity to take him seriously. She began to jump up and down and say, "I'm going to be a great tennis champion." Richards was embarrassed, for he knew she was an exception to his message. But she didn't know any better, and she believed that by God's help she could become a tennis champion. She was Billy Jean Moffitt then, but she became known the world over as Billy Jean King-the greatest woman tennis player in the world. It was highly unlikely, but only relatively impossible, for she was inspired to make it possible. It is fear of failure that makes it impossible for us to achieve our dreams. We need to learn to take risks and believe that with God all things are possible.
The impossible is always possible if God calls you to do it, but if it is not God's will, then it may be just plain impossible. If John would have decided that he was bored on that deserted island and decided that he would rather take a trip to heaven he would have chosen an impossible path to follow. He only did the impossible because he was called to do it. God is calling us all to that which is impossible without His power and grace, but how often are we not listening and responding because we have already determined that we cannot do it. Almost every wonderful thing ever done in history was declared impossible before it was done. Napoleon Hill wanted to be a writer as a boy, but he was poor and could not get a good education. Everybody told him that it was impossible. But he saved his pennies and finally got enough to buy a big beautiful dictionary. The first thing he did was to take a pair of scissors and cut the word impossible out of it. He then went on to become a famous writer who influenced millions.
In San Juan there is tribe of people called the Chamulas. They have not trusted and outsider since the Spanish Conquest. Those conquerors betrayed them to get their gold, and they became a closed society. Ken Jacobs and his wife tried to take the Gospel to these people, but soon became discouraged and understood why they were called the impossible people. It looked hopeless, but they obeyed God anyway and began to translate the Bible into their language. Five years later the man who helped them became a Christian. One by one others came, and when the New Testament was finished 500 of them sold in just 20 minutes. Today there is a well established church with hundreds of believes in the midst of the impossible people, or more accurately the relatively impossible people.
The point of this message is not to motivate you to go out and try to do a lot of impossible things. The point is to stop telling your self the lie that nothing can be done in impossible situations. Sammy Tippit is an international evangelist, and he illustrates the point. He had spent a week in meetings at a university and then boarded a plane to fly home. He was seated next to a lady with a screaming baby. As the plane took off the baby screamed louder and louder. The mother was very frustrated, and it was an intolerable situation, and he felt helpless and miserable. That is when it is time for a Christian to get his eyes off the situation and on to Jesus. He began to worship the Lord in his heart and listen for an answer. Tippit saw that he must do what Jesus would do. He said to the distraught mother, "Can I play with the baby?" She immediately said, "Please do." He began to make faces and talk silly to the baby and got the baby to calm down. He thought to himself, "Is this what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit?"
The mother was grateful for his help that she began to ask him many questions, and he was able to share Christ with her. She began to weep and told how her mother-in-law had become a Christian just a few weeks ago, and she had told her and her husband about Jesus. She said, "I'm going to pray that God will send you someone to explain His salvation more fully." There Tippit sat on the plane realizing he was the answer to that mother's prayer. He could have lost that temper and scolded that mother and had a miserable trip. He could have felt justified in so dealing with an impossible situation, but by the grace of God and his willingness to seek the mind of Christ he was able to fulfill the plan of God.
Robert Mallet said, "It is not impossibilities that fill us with the deepest despair, but possibilities which we have failed to realize." If only we could realize that in every impossible situation there lurks the possibility for us to do the good, acceptable and perfect will of God. If we could see from this perspective, it would change how we react to life's problems and burdens and make far more effective tools for the kingdom of God.