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Nothing Will Be Impossible To You!

Matthew 17:14-21

I carry this little book in my pocket always. I carry it there not just because there are wonderful words in it, not just because there are great stories on its pages, not even just because there are wonderful truths to be mined in its lines. I carry it close because it is nothing less than the Word of God delivered to me and to you. Here is a portion of that word, Matthew 17. I’m going to begin to read at the 14th verse. This is the Word of God:

“When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, and kneeling before Him said, ‘Lord have mercy on my son for he is an epileptic, and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire and often into the water, and I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”

 Hear the cries of an anxious father, desperately seeking help for his child, unable to find it even among the disciples of Jesus. And Jesus answered – notice, He didn’t answer the father – answered the father by speaking to the disciples: 

“Jesus said, ‘O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.’” 

You sense the note of despair. Jesus and His disciples have been together for some time, by this time. And He has empowered them, instructed them, given them nothing less than the power of God to do the work that He wants them to do. And on only rare occasions have they shown the inclination to use that power and use it properly. And here once more, they have failed Him. And the note of despair expressing Jesus’ exquisite humanity creeps into His language as He says, “How much longer? The world has such need. And you are my disciples, and you can’t seem to catch the vision of what you’re able to do.”

But then He returns to the focus. He says to the father – at this point, He’s been speaking to the disciples – now He turns, looks at the father and He says, “Bring your son to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon and the demon came out, and the boy was cured instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately. I love the way the Bible never – all of the words in the Bible have such incredible meaning, and they’re all there for a purpose. And I love the way this verse is expressed. The disciples came to Him privately. Remember, they had already blown it once. They’d done that in public, and they had too much pride. They didn’t want to admit that they hadn’t been able to do it. And so they waited until everybody was gone, and then they came to Jesus privately, and they said, “Lord, now that nobody is looking, please tell us why could we not cast it out?”

And Jesus said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move hence to yonder place,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible to you.” That’s the word Christians never use. Impossible. It’s the word that is never in a Christian’s vocabulary. Impossible. On this father’s day, a wonderful encounter between Jesus and an anxious father evoked from Jesus one of His most magnificent teachings. And I want us to take a look at that in just a moment after we pray. 

Lord God, as we encounter the truth of Your Word, spare us any misinterpretation or misinformation. Instead, let the words leap off the page and grip our hearts and change our lives in Jesus’ name. Amen.

What an incredible promise. Jesus says, “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed – not much faith – but if you have just a little faith, even, then you will say to this mountain, ‘Move hence to yonder place,’ and it will move. But nothing will be impossible to you.” When Jesus delivered that teaching, He wasn’t referring to actual mountains. That was not what He was intending to say at all. In fact, everyone listening to Him at that particular moment would have understood instantly what He was referring to. You see, in those days, people who were widely known and respected as being great leaders, great problem-solvers, great individuals who had managed to overcome significant obstacles and challenges in life, people who had it together and who exercise power and authority over other people, those people were commonly called mountain-movers. What do we call those kinds of people today? We call them movers and shakers, right? Well, that’s exactly what Jesus was talking about.

And so He was talking about the ability to solve any problem to overcome any obstacle. When He referred to moving mountains, He was talking about this incredible ability to master any challenge no matter what it happened to be. Even a challenge created by an anxious father about his son, a challenge so stout that even the disciples carrying the power of the spirit couldn’t do anything about it. Even that, Jesus says, even that mountain will move. What Jesus is trying to say to all of us at this point is that if we have even just a little bit of faith, we are the recipients of the power of God. It’s not our power. That was the disciples’ problem. They were trying to do it basically on their own power. Our power is feeble and frail. The power of God is limitless. And when we have just a little faith, just a mustard seed sized faith, then even the vast limitless power of God belongs to us.

And so what I want us to do tonight, I want us to work together for a few moments, developing what I would choose to frame in your mind as five basic principles for being able to overcome any challenge that life sets before you. If we’re going to claim this great promise, Jesus says, “Nothing will be impossible to you.” If we’re going to claim that, then we need to understand how to claim it. And to do that, I want to write five principles on your heart. If you’ve got a pencil and paper, you can put them down. If you can remember them, remember them.

Principle number one. When you encounter anything in life that poses a challenge to you, principle number one, cast down your bucket where you are.

Not so many years ago now, there was a ship sailing the waters off the coast of South America. They found themselves in desperate straits. They had run out of freshwater. They were a long way from port. They didn’t know exactly where they were, precisely, with regards to land. The weather was threatening, and they were really in deep straits at that point in time. They saw another ship. And using their semaphore signals, they send a message to the other ship, “Send us freshwater. We have run out. We’re desperate.”

The message was flashed back, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” 

They said, “We can’t do that. Out here in the middle of the ocean, you can’t drink saltwater for heaven sake.” They repeated the message feeling that perhaps the message had not been communicated properly. “Send freshwater. We’re desperate.” 

The message came back, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” And so they did in fact cast down their bucket where they were, and they discovered that they were actually at that moment in the headwaters of the Amazon River where the Amazon meets the sea. And the Amazon River at that point spreads out so far and so wide that when you’re in the waters of the Amazon, you actually feel that you’re in the middle of the ocean. And the waters of the Amazon are fresh, not salt. By casting down their buckets where they were, they found freshwater to drink.

So many times in life, we encounter things that set us back, and we don’t quite know how to deal with them. And yet what I want you to always understand: the promise of Jesus is that He will work with us. The work does not always occur instantly, and the results are not always seen in the moment. Sometimes there’s actually a delay. And that’s why it’s so important for us to cast down our bucket where we are. I remember John 11 – sometime you need to sit down and read that through if you haven’t recently – it’s the story of Lazarus. Lazarus died. And the Gospel of John tells us that Mary and Martha, Lazarus’s sisters, were terribly upset. They sent message to Jesus that Lazarus was ill. They wanted Him to come to see if He could heal Lazarus. And the Bible says He didn’t come, waited two days longer where He was. And in that period of time, Lazarus died. Finally, Jesus made it to Bethany where Lazarus lived. The sisters felt it’s too late. If He’d come earlier, if He’d done what He could do earlier, then things would have been better. Why this delay? The delay was costly. It cost them their brother.

And yet, if they had cast down their bucket right where they were, they would have understood that they were in the grip of something infinitely bigger than healing Lazarus from some illness. See, Jesus waited two days longer in the place where He was so that He could then perform the greatest miracle He ever performed, raising Lazarus from the dead. He wanted to prove once and for all and forever that He and His Heavenly Father had the power over death. And that was His moment to do it. And so while the sisters saw it as a frustration and a delay, in fact, they were in the grip of an infinitely greater truth and didn’t know it. Cast down your bucket where you are. When things come along in life that sets you at challenge, focus on the immediate, focus on what’s happening to you right now. Recognize there may be delays, but God is there. Sink yourself right there. Cast down your bucket where you are. Principle number one.

Principle number two. Hang on to the people who can help you.

Dr. Joseph Matazzaro is a professor of psychiatry in one of the leading medical schools up east. He says, listen carefully, “More psychotherapy takes place in conversation between good friends over coffee every morning than it takes place in all of the hours in doctor’s offices the rest of the day. A good friend is the best way to find healing for your soul,” spoken by a professor of psychiatry. That’s exactly the point that the Gospel of Jesus Christ delivers to us. Hang on to those who can help you.

We, as Christians, are called not just to be individual Christians, but to be the Body of Christ. That’s what the Bible teaches. That’s no accident. You see, it’s impossible to be a lone ranger in the Christian faith. You can’t do it. And the fact of the matter is you can’t make it through this life alone. We’re not made to be alone. We’re made to be in partnership, in relationship with others. And the Christian faith calls us together as sisters and brothers in Christ and says to us, “Bear one another’s burden.” We are, as Christians, to have a symbiotic relationship. You know what a symbiotic relationship is? It’s a relationship where two creatures live off of and live for each other. Not a parasitic relationship; that’s where one creature lives off the other. It’s all take, no give. A symbiotic relationship is both give and take.

An example: the rhinoceros, the great beast of Africa. If you see a rhinoceros, you will always see, perched on the rhinoceros’s back, a little bird. That little bird’s called the tickbird. Now, the tickbird and the rhinoceros – the little bitty bird and the great big rhinoceros – have a symbiotic relationship. The rhinoceros, as he hooves and paws the earth kicks up all kinds of insects that the tickbird loves to eat. That’s what the rhinoceros does for the tickbird. So the tickbird’s never going to be very far away from the rhinoceros because the rhinoceros is always stirring up his food. Here’s what the tickbird does for the rhinoceros. The rhinoceros’ hide – you know a rhinoceros’ hide – has huge, great, big, deep folds in it. Insects and parasites have a tendency to get down into those great, big folds and set up pockets of infection.

And so the tickbird rides around on the rhinoceros’s back and pecks away in those deep folds in the rhinoceros’ hide and eats those insects and those parasites so that the rhinoceros is kept from infection. The rhinoceros takes care of the tickbird, and the tickbird takes care of rhinoceros. That’s a symbiotic relationship, and that’s what we have as Christians. Jesus says to us, “Stick together, feed one another and feed off of one another. Give and take.” Paul puts it a bit more nobly. “Bear one another’s burdens.” So when you find yourself in the time of great challenge, principle number two, hang on to your sisters and brothers in Christ because they can help you.

Principle number three. If you don’t succeed at first, try and try again. You’ve heard that a million times, but it’s a part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

You see, Jesus understood about failure, and that’s why He kept calling His people to keep trying, to keep on keeping on. Whenever I think of failure, I think of Winston Churchill. That’s right. I don’t think of Winston Churchill when I think of great success, world leader, and all the rest of that. We’re very much aware of Churchill’s great success as the leader of Great Britain during the Second World War, speaking words that the world still remembers and leading those people in an incredible way through those war years. What we tend to forget is that after the war, a conflict-weary British people actually turned Winston Churchill out of office. They wanted no more of him and no more of his leadership.

At that point, Churchill could easily have retired to his country estate and spent the rest of his life painting and writing and enjoying the world about him. Instead, you know what he did? He immediately hit the campaign trail again. And he worked, and he worked, and he worked, and he worked. The great world leader, out traveling from one village to another across the British landscape until at last, he was elected again. And in fact, some of his greatest service to Great Britain came in those post-war years. It’s why when Winston Churchill died, the British people placed a great black, onyx tablet in the floor of the Westminster Abbey. Engraved in that great onyx tablet, are three words, “Remember Winston Churchill.” And every time I remember Winston Churchill, I remember one who, when he didn’t succeed at first, tried and tried and tried again. We have to stick with it in the faith.

Principle number four. If you try and try and try again and still don’t succeed, then quit. Don’t make a darn fool out of yourself.

You know who said that? The distinguished theologian W. C. Fields. I’ve actually cleaned it up just a little bit. But did you know that’s actually biblical? Jesus said to His disciples on one occasion, “If you enter a village and they do not hear and respond to you, give them time, and if it still doesn’t happen, then shake the dust off your feet and move on.” In the New Testament it says – if we are in the company of people who repeatedly bring us down and who undermine our spirit and our faith – the New Testament says, “Come out of the midst of them.” Understand, please, we are never to quit on Jesus, but we do need to have the courage to sometimes change direction in life. We’re never to quit on our pilot, Christ. But there is nowhere in Scripture that it says never give up the ship. Hang on to the pilot. But sometimes you may need to change the ship.

That’s the point that I want to make to you. Not if you try and try again, quit and just throw up your hands in despair and sink into a hole. No. Try and try and try again, and if you still don’t succeed, then quit the direction you’re moving. Quit the program you’re on, quit the project which is before you, and move on to something else. Have the courage to change your direction in life. You see, what you’re beating your head against may in fact not be what God wants you to do. And if you have the courage to step back and quit, then God will open up a new opportunity in a new way for you. So when you run into these things that threatened to undo you and you can’t handle them, it’s okay. Don’t make a darn fool of yourself. Change direction. Never quit on the pilot, Jesus. But sometimes if you have to, give up the ship.

Principle number five. Never let the misery of any moment keep you from the glory God has for you ahead.

Never let the misery of any moment keep you from the glory God has for you ahead. Reminds me of Maurice and Mary Alice Flint. Maurice Flint was a failure as a businessman, had repeated failures. They were practically broke. He was bitter. He was depressed. Their marriage was falling apart. And one day he turned on the radio, and he happened to hear a sermon on the radio. It was a sermon based on these words, “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move hence to yonder place,’ and it will move. And nothing will be impossible to you.” That sermon changed his life. Turned him around. He didn’t know what it had turned him around for. And so he sought out the minister who had preached that sermon. It happened to be Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.

He visited with Dr. Peale, and he said, “How do I get this faith, this faith that’s no bigger than a grain of mustard seed.” Dr. Peale spent some time with him in prayer. And he walked away feeling that at least he had some teeny little understanding of who Christ is and what Christ is all about. But he knew it was going to be a struggle. And he tried to find some way to hang on, to remember. And so he cast down his bucket right where he was. Principle number one, remember? Mustard seed. He said to his wife, “What’s a mustard seed?” She said, “Well, I’ll show you one.” She went over the refrigerator and pulled out a pickle jar, reached in there, and pulled out a mustard seed, teeny little thing. He said, “Good grief. Not much to that.” So he said, “Maybe if I carry that around in my pocket, it’ll serve to remind me that I need to have just that much faith and nothing will be impossible to me.” The problem was the thing was so small. He kept losing it. He could never could ever find it. He reached into his pocket. He couldn’t find that thing in there anywhere.

And so he decided to hang on to the folks who could help him. He made some friends through his newfound faith, and he and his wife sat down with some of those friends, and they began to talk about, “How in the world can we get over this mammoth problem that we’ve got? No work. No money. This little faith. And I can’t even keep up with a mustard seed; trying to figure out how to do it.” And he said, “I’d like to have some way to hold on to that mustard seed to remind me what I’m all about.” And some of his friends encouraged him. And there were a few of them who said, “You really ought to do something about that. And we’ll even help you financially to see if you can make that work.” Hang on to those who can help you. And then he decided, “Well, maybe I need to go see some manufacturers, some folks who’ve got a lot more smarts about things like that.”

So he began to visit with people, one after another. And he kept saying, “I need to find some way so that I can hang on to this mustard seed so that it’ll remind me of my faith.” And the answer he always got was no. Tried, tried; he didn’t succeed at first, so he kept trying, kept trying. Principle number three. Every time all he got was no. Finally, principle number four, if you try and try again and still don’t succeed, then quit. Don’t make a darn fool out of yourself. Maurice Flint said, “I quit.” But he didn’t quit altogether. He just quit going to other people. Instead, he began to focus on the thing himself. And then suddenly, he had an idea. He wouldn’t let the misery of the moment keep him from seeing the glory that was ahead. He focused on the problem. And ultimately, he found the answer. He went on to found an establishment up in the middle west, which today manufacturers by the hundreds of thousands little crystal balls on tie clasps and necklaces and cufflinks. Little crystal balls in the center of which is a mustard seed.

Jesus said, “If you have faith, just a little faith, no bigger than a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this, ‘Mountain move,’ and it’ll move. And nothing will be impossible to you.” Let us pray. 

Almighty God, oh, what a great promise. Help us to claim it. Help us to build into our lives the principles that will enable us to claim it so that no matter what we face in life, no matter how large or how small, you will help us to find a way to overcome through the power of Jesus. Amen.


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