Are you facing a seemingly impossible situation in your life? Is there an apparently irretrievable breakdown in a relationship? A serious health issue? An almost impossible challenge in your job? Is there a habit or an addiction that you are finding hard to break? Whatever challenges you may face in the year ahead, *nothing is too hard for the Lord*. Abraham was a hundred years old. His wife Sarah was ninety. God promised them a son. They said, in effect, ‘*That is impossible.*’ This is the context of the great rhetorical question: ‘*Is anything too hard for the Lord*?’ (Genesis 18:14). The answer is ‘No’. If Sarah could conceive when ‘already very old, and… past the age of childbearing’ (v.11), then *nothing is too hard for the Lord*. In each of the three great challenges we see in today’s passages we need to remember that *nothing is too hard for the Lord*.
Resist the temptations
Jesus never tells us to withdraw from the world. The challenge is to be ‘in the world’ but not ‘of the world’. You are called to resist the temptations of the world around you.
The book of Proverbs gives practical advice on how to achieve that balance. Don’t let others entice you into sin: ‘If bad companions tempt you, don’t go along with them’ (v.10, MSG). ‘If they say, “Come along with us…”’ (v.11), do not to give in to them.
When I was practising as a barrister I noticed how many people were led into crime by others saying to them, ‘Come along with us.’
Don’t be enticed into sin by the fact that everybody else seems to be doing something – evading tax or travel fares, getting drunk or being promiscuous. Don’t follow the crowd: ‘Do not set foot on their paths’ (v.15). Something is not acceptable just because others are doing it. I can’t justify my actions on the basis that it is the way in which the world works.
In the end, if your ‘feet rush into sin’ (v.16), or you go after ‘ill-gotten gain’ (v.19a), it takes away your life. ‘When you grab all you can get, that’s what happens: the more you get, the less you are’ (v.19, MSG).
The enticement of the world is very strong. Yet, nothing is too hard for the Lord.
Lord, I pray that in the year ahead you will give me the strength to resist all the temptations of the world and not to be enticed into sin.
Live the Jesus lifestyle
Jesus’ words are the greatest words ever spoken. They are so challenging. For example, he says, ‘do to others what you would have them to do you’ (7:12). This golden rule is beautifully simple but seems almost impossibly hard to live out. ‘Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them’ (v.12, MSG).
The great challenge is putting Jesus’ words into practice. His instructions are clear, but the standards seem impossibly high. Yet, nothing is too hard for the Lord.
- Stop worrying and start livingJesus commands you not to worry about your life or material things (6:25,28–31). Think ahead, plan ahead, but don’t worry ahead. Trust in your Heavenly Father to provide (v.26). He knows your every need (v.32). Faith is the antidote to worry.You cannot add a single hour to your life by worrying (v.27). As Corrie ten Boom put it: ‘Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow; but it empties today of strength.’Live in day-tight compartments. Live one day at a time. Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow: ‘each day has enough trouble of its own’ (v.34b). Make a decision today not to worry about tomorrow. Trust God to provide for you one day at a time.
- Sort out your prioritiesJesus tells you to change your ambitions and priorities. Seek God for who he is and not for what he can do for you. Like us, God does not want his friends only to be interested in what they can get out of him. He wants you to seek his ‘presence’ not just his ‘presents’.Take on a new set of responsibilities that are both exciting and challenging: ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be yours as well’ (v.33).
- Do not be judgmentalWe are not to take pleasure in judging others, not to enjoy seeking out other people’s failings or presuming their actions spring from bad motives. If we knew what people had been through, their sorrow and their suffering, we would not be so quick to judge. Jesus tells us to get our own lives sorted out first. We are to change ourselves before we try and change other people (7:1–5). Rather than sowing harsh criticism and judgment, sow mercy, kindness and love.
- Persist in prayerDon’t be repetitious, but be persistent. Jesus makes wonderful promises of answered prayer (vv.7–8). He promises ‘good gifts’ as you pray (vv.9–11).
- Choose to live a radical lifeStay on the narrow road that leads to life (vv.13–14). On the narrow road there is no room for pride, dishonesty, anger, hatred of enemies or unforgiveness.Humility is the order of the day. You have to give, pray, exercise self-control and seek first the kingdom of God. It is a road of purity, integrity, honesty and forgiveness. It is a road where you are required to ‘do to others what you would have them do to you’ (v.12). You are to show good fruit – by your character, lifestyle, teaching, actions, impact and relationships (vv.15–23).
Lord, as I face the challenge of living the Jesus lifestyle this year, thank you that nothing is impossible with you. Fill me today with your Holy Spirit and help me to live the kind of life that deep down I long to live.
Trust the Lord in difficult times
The Lord appears to Abraham and sets before him a huge challenge: ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless’ (17:1). Then he makes a wonderful promise: ‘I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers’ (v.2). No wonder Abraham ‘fell face down’ (v.3).
God makes a covenant with Abraham. He promises him the land of Canaan, and also that many descendants and nations will come from him (vv.4–8). This promise is highlighted by God in the name change from Abram to Abraham, as Abraham means ‘father of many nations’ (v.5). God also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah – who was to be ‘the mother of nations’ (v.16). The sign of the covenant was circumcision (v.9 onwards).
God did not just say once to Abraham that he would have a son. He confirmed it time and time again (15:4; 17:16; 18:10). You can expect God to speak to you about major matters in your life and confirm them many times over.
Abraham’s relationship with God is very intimate. God engages in conversation with Abraham. Abraham pleads with him about Ishmael. God’s response is ‘Yes, but…’ (17:19). He says he is not only going to answer Abraham’s prayer for Ishmael, he is also going to do more than Abraham could have ever asked or even imagined (vv.19–21).
The third time that God made this promise to Abraham he sent the ‘three visitors’ (18:1–15). As we read this through New Testament eyes, we can see an image of the Trinity here. It is clear that there are three of them (v.2) and yet it seems they speak as one: ‘Then the Lord said…’ (v.13).
Indeed, this is famously illustrated by Andrei Rublev’s painting in 1410 (see below), which reflects the communion of the three angels who visited Abraham and symbolises the tri-unity of God (one God in three persons), and the fellowship of love at the heart of God’s being.
God promises, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son’ (v.10). Sarah laughs. She thinks, ‘After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?’ (v.12).
It is encouraging that Sarah also had the usual human weaknesses. The Lord says to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really have a child, now that I am old?”’ (v.13). ‘Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh”’ (v.15). We all are tempted sometimes to lie to get ourselves out of trouble. With the exception of Jesus, the Bible never presents the great men and women of God as faultless.
The Lord’s response is to repeat his promise and ask rhetorically: ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ (v.14a)
Lord, help me this year to continue to trust in you. Thank you that, whatever the issues I am facing in my life, nothing is too hard for you.