How to Do the Impossible (A Sanctification Parable)


A while back I had a conversation with my kids about doing the impossible. Now, it was not a pop-psychology, self-esteem message about how you can do anything you set your mind to do. Actually, we can’t do anything we set our minds to. We cannot do the impossible, because the impossible is, well, impossible. But as Jesus said, “Nothing is impossible for God.”

So I asked the kids what the largest tree in the world is. They replied, “The Redwood.” Since I didn’t know the answer, I went with it. Now, what if I were driving down the highway and discovered a massive Redwood that had fallen across the road. I couldn’t go around on either end. The tree was just too large—impossible for me to move.

Now, imagine that I heard a voice from heaven. It was God. He was telling me to get out of the car and move that tree. Say what? “Yes, move that tree out of the way.” So I get out and walk up to the tree. The law, “move that tree,” simply re-emphasizes my inability to do the impossible. But God really does plan on me moving that tree. But how? What does he expect of me?

One thing of which we can be sure is that he does not expect me to pick up my end. He is not planning merely to help me, coming along side my ability with his ability. He wants me to walk up to that tree in my weakness, appeal to him for strength, grab hold of the bark and lift. This is where nothing is impossible with God. My hands lift the tree, but not my strength. It is as Paul said in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” By the way, Paul wasn’t talking about a personal self-achievement kind of “all things,” like achieving a professional football career or writing the next great American novel, but being content in all circumstances, which is beyond dificult.

Other impossible things that I hear God say are “love your wife, bless your enemies, forgive those who sin against you, repent to those whom you hurt, give generously and gladly, have the mind of Christ who emptied himself of his own glory and put the interests of others before his own, tell the truth even if it hurts, don’t gossip, take the log out of your own eye, etc.” How am I to approach these instructions? What am I to do in the face of the impossible?

First, I must know that I am not saved by my doing any of these things. Jesus fulfilled the law for me. He did what I could not do. He worked for me. He did the heavy lifting of my salvation himself. I believe this. Now, as a forgiven, perfectly righteous son, he tells me to follow him. It is no longer a Judge’s voice, but my Shepherd’s voice I now hear—a voice that guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake, and for my blessing. But with every directive he provides, it is as though I come to a Redwood. In myself, I’m still weak and unable to do the good that is before me. Now, if I don’t do it, I’m no less saved—no less loved, forgiven or accepted. But in my weakness is the big opportunity to abide even more closely in Jesus, relying on the grace of the Holy Spirit to fill me, and enable me… to do the impossible.

And when the tree moves, I get the joy, others are blessed, and God gets the glory.

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