Embracing the Impossible

Quote from J. Oswald with an image of a woman sitting on a tractor bar.

The person who lives completely yielded to Christ will often find themselves taking on tasks that feel utterly beyond them. Or perhaps to put it another way, we can’t live Spirit-empowered in our comfort zones. God continually calls us to step outside of those nice, safe walls we’ve positioned around ourselves, and into the area of insufficiency and need. Where we know, without a miracle, we’ll fail. Lives will go untouched, hearts unhealed, tummies unfed. 

As a high school dropout, former homeless girl, turned ministry leader, I often find myself in that place. Holding conversations with those much more experienced and spiritually mature than I am. Accepting eternally important assignments that I know I’m ill-equipped for. When those opportunities come, while I do take time to evaluate my skills and schedules, I never want my calendar to drive my yeses and nos. 

That might sound counter-intuitive, even irresponsible. But it comes down to this: I want to be Spirit, not logic, led. I long to imitate the apostle Paul, who, during his missionary journeys, listened for God’s guidance and responded immediately, even if that meant abruptly changing directions. 

I’m not there yet. I have moments of complete, faith-filled surrender and others where I remain stuck, in fear-based indecision for far too long. Where I’m focused more on details, on all I don’t have, rather than my abundant, limitless God. As if the results of my obedience were up to me. 

They’re not, nor does God want me to live this Christian life according to my capabilities and strength. That won’t bring Him glory, nor will it strengthen my faith. But when I respond to His promptings with faith, despite my inner wrestling and doubts, lives are changed, mine included. That’s when I encounter the God of impossible, and having experienced His miracle-working power first hand, my faith will never be the same. I will never un-see or un-hear, and no twist of logic could ever negate, all my God has done. 

Perhaps that’s the biggest miracle of all—the work He does in us as He uses seemingly impossible situations to illuminate then annihilate our doubt within. Those situations that simply seem far too difficult for even God to address.

Like feeding 5,000 hungry men from five barley loaves and two fish. Scripture tells us Jesus, noticing His disciples themselves had empty bellies (Mark 6:31), led them to a deserted place on the far side of the Sea of Galilee (John6:1). Soon, a huge crowd followed, and He began healing their sick and teaching them about the kingdom of God. By late afternoon, the disciples encouraged Jesus to send the people away so that they could find food and lodging in the nearby villages (Luke 9:12).   

“Turning to Philip, [Jesus] asked, ‘Where can we buy bread to feel all these people?’” 

Philip’s jaw must’ve gone slack. Buy food for 5,000 men and all their women and children? Impossible! He replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” (John 6:7, NLT). 

But notice what Scripture says in the verse prior. “[Jesus] was testing Philip, for He already knew what He was going to do” (John 6:6, NLT). He didn’t ask because He was baffled or concerned. He knew the solution, and the outcome, before He made the disciples aware of the problem. He was simply using the situation to “test” Philip—to reveal areas of doubt so that Jesus could move him to deeper faith. 

And so, after organizing everyone into groups of 50-100, Jesus thanked God for their meager supplies and distributed the food to the people, until everyone had eaten their fill. In discussing this passage, David Guzik from the Enduring Word reminds us that this included the little boy who forfeited his lunch as well. “The boy himself ended up with more than he started with,” Guzik wrote. “It certainly was an adequate lunch for himself; but he gave it to Jesus and He turned it into an all-you-can-eat buffet for the boy as well.”

I’m certain the child’s faith grew exponentially that day also, as he watched the disciples continue to person after person in group after group, passing out the bread. As he ate all his young belly could hold. And especially as he watched, probably wide-eyed, while the disciples gathered the leftovers—12 baskets full! And based on the original Greek, these were far from small containers. 

In this, God left no room for doubt. He was the God of abundance who can, and often does, multiply our meager offerings into supernatural displays of His power and love. But as encouraging as that might be, I’d like to end with this:

While I don’t envision the disciples telling Jesus no—even if they’d wanted to, the young child certainly could have. Consider, what if he hadn’t offered up his meal? What if, staring about at all these grown men, insecurity and shyness had held him back. Wouldn’t they think him a fanciful child? He only had five loaves and two fish, after all. What if he spoke up and the people mocked or chastised him? Or, what if they ate his food and he ended up hungry?

He could’ve kept his lunch to himself.

Then, I’m certain God would have provided for the crowd some other way, but the kid would’ve missed out. 

I’d much rather risk looking like a fanciful fool than to miss out on the amazing things of God. Hopefully I’ll remember this the next time I sense God nudging me into an unknown, uncomfortable, and seemingly impossible situation. 

Let’s talk about this! In what area of your life is God calling you to respond with big faith, even in the midst of your discomfort? What truths from today’s passage can help you find the courage to do so? And perhaps the most important question: Will you?  

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below and make sure to connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

For those following our Chronological Bible reading plan through the New Testament, today’s post kicked us off with the first day’s reading.

Make sure to check out the latest Faith Over Fear Podcast episode on living courageously as expressions of our Creator:

The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76 Faith Over Fear

Our world has become increasingly angry, argumentative, and hostile to the gospel and biblical truth. Unfortunately, the church is, in part, to blame; we’ve become more known for what we’re against than for what we are for. But we mustn’t let the hateful misrepresentation of Christ silence our voice. People need the hope and power of Christ now more than ever. In this episode Jennifer Slattery and Ava Pennington discuss ways to increase our courage while simultaneously upping our truth and grace. Find Ava Pennington at: https://www.AvaPennington.com https://www.facebook.com/AvaPennington.AuthorPage https://www.instagram.com/avapennington3/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. What encouraged you most during today’s episode? 2. What are some emotions you would have struggled with, had you been in Timothy’s position? 3. What emotions arise when you consider initiating spiritual conversations with others? 4. When do you find it most challenging to share your faith? 5. Why is it important to remind ourselves of our calling (whether that’s in a particular role or the general call to share Christ with others) during times of opposition? 6. What are some ways you can “fan” your gift “into flame”? 7. How can asking questions help reduce our listener’s defenses? 8. Why is it important to balance truth with clearly revealed grace? 9. Consider a time when someone came at you with grace-less truth. How did you respond and why? 10. Consider a time when someone spoke truth to you in a gentle and grace-filled way. How did you respond and why? 11. Why is it important to establish a relationship with someone before attempting to speak truth into their life? 12. What is one action step God might be wanting you to take this week? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Ponomariova Maria
  1. The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76
  2. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  3. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  4. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  5. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73

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