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“What If You Could”

Categories: Bulletin Article, Thoughts from the Word

 

I remember it like it was yesterday.  I had stepped away from the pulpit 2 1/2 years before after laboring with a small congregation for 13 years. In the interim I had been working filling in for Tony Mauck when he was away and teaching Bible classes.  There I sat, with an open email, a blank canvas if you will, reaching out to a congregation  over a hundred miles away. A local work where few would know me and even those who did might assume that a more seasoned man might be better fit in the pulpit than one of just 37. 

 

I was also keenly aware that my life was changing in other ways. I was about to be a father.  The prospect frightened me, and now I was contemplating something almost as terrifying. I would be leaving a career in the only industry I had ever worked to preach full time.  For the first time I would be preaching without a job to fall back on.

 

What if they asked me to come, and I left my employer of nearly fifteen years? What if I moved my family?  What if I did all of this, only to find out that I couldn’t be the preacher that they needed? I had all but decide to close the email, without sending it,  when a single thought occurred to me “What if you could?”

 

I was reminded as Lauren and I were driving and listening, yet again, to her favorite podcast.  The beauty of the sentiment is in the liberation.  “What if I could” recognizes that when something is beyond my control it is not necessarily destined for failure. This is true in almost every aspect of life but doubly so in matters of Faith. 

 

“Stop saying I can’t”

 

Wayne Gretzky famously said “We miss 100% of the shots we never take.”  The same is true of our spiritual aims.  Whatever our reason, we will never succeed spiritually when we don’t try. 

 

No matter how good, noble, or sincere our intentions might be, when we believe the way too difficult to attempt, then we’ll never achieve anything.  This is the essence of Hebrews 11 and the commitment of those who not only believe in God but believe that he rewards those who are seeking Him.  Are we seeking?

 

Matthew 19:23-26 (CSB) 23 Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were utterly astonished and asked, “Then who can be saved? ”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

 

The reaction of the disciples was similar to that of the young ruler himself in the passage.  While the response the young man received was not what he had expected, it showed his weakness.  It’s easy to play armchair Christian, criticizing him, but are we really any different? Jesus’ disciples certainly were not.  It’s evident in their question.

 

The disciples were just as surprised and even disheartened by the turn of the events asking “Who then can be saved?”  Of all men, how could this one not be part of the Kingdom? After all, he had come seeking and Jesus.

 

It’s worth noting that they had a similar reaction to His instruction on marriage earlier in the chapter. They found his decree on divorce particularly hard to accept.

Matthew 19:10 (CSB) 10 His disciples said to him, “If the relationship of a man with his wife is like this, it’s better not to marry.”

 

Both accounts show just how much the first century hearer and even those that followed Him wrestled with the difficult sayings of Jesus.  But before we become too comfortable in our accepted understandings of His answer to the young ruler we might do well to better consider it.

 

The instruction was not just to sell his possessions, not just to give it to the poor, but do this to attain heavenly treasure and then to follow Him.  The instruction is not given to him simply because he is wealthy, but because that is the essence of discipleship, and according to Philippians 2 exactly what Jesus did for us. “If you want to be perfect”, Jesus explains in verse 21, this is what perfection looks like.

 

The great challenge is seeing this not as a loss but as a victory.  We comfort ourselves with the knowledge that we think we have obtained, we reassure ourselves that this is not what discipleship really costs, and yet it is Jesus who said “He that loves father or mother more than me is unworthy to be my disciple”

 

Discipleship costs everything. It sounds impossible (Jesus says as much) and it is, but  what if you could?

 

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

 

We have the greatest help that we could ever hope for. Perfection is ours to strive for but not to be obtained on our own.  The challenge in every struggle is finding the courage to step outside of our way and to try to do it God’s way trusting in the help He freely gives.

 

1 Peter 5:10-11 (CSB) The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while. 11 To him be dominion forever. Amen.

 

The question then becomes, is the guarantee of the reward worth the price I’m asked to pay?  Don’t be sorrowful. With God, all things are possible.

What if you could?

-JB

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  1. And lo, I am with you always. Even to the end of the earth. What a wonderful lesson. What a blessing Jared Bollman and his precious family has been to us. What if I could? We all know the answer to that!

    by Terri on March 26, 2018 at 6:03am.