‘When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade,’ wrote Norman Vincent Peale, who published his best known book, The Power of Positive Thinking, in 1952. It stayed in The New York Times bestseller list for 186 consecutive weeks. Much of what he had to say was extremely good and helpful. But, the words of Jesus go way beyond the power of positive thinking.
Norman Vincent Peale said, ‘A positive mental attitude is a belief that things are going to turn out well, and that you can overcome any kind of trouble or difficulty.’ Jesus said, ‘With God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26). This is far more than the power of positive thinking.
It is the power of God that makes what seems impossible possible. Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).
1. Seek God’s wisdom and power
The fact that with God ‘all things are possible’ is proven by the fact that God created the entire universe out of nothing. The writer of Proverbs says, ‘By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew’ (Proverbs 3:19–20). Wow wow wow!!!
The writer of Proverbs personifies wisdom (vv.13–18). As we read this through the lens of the New Testament, we see that Jesus is the power and wisdom of God. God made the world through him (John 1:3), and Bro Paul tells us that ‘Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:24). Hallelujah!
Until you find a relationship with Jesus, life will not really make sense. The entire universe was created through Jesus. He loves you. In a relationship with him you find God’s wisdom and God’s power.
When you find Jesus, you find the source of all wisdom and Proverbs describes this as a blessing (Proverbs 3:13a). It is the way to understanding (v.13b). It is far more profitable than all the material blessings (vv.14–15a). In fact, ‘nothing you desire can compare with her’ (v.15b).
This is the path to long life (v.16, which is ‘eternal life’ in the New Testament, see John 3:16). Here you find true ‘riches and honour’ (Proverbs 3:16). This is the way to a peace beyond understanding (v.17). Here you find the ‘tree of life’ (v.18).
2. Believe that all things are possible with God
Do you sometimes find yourself facing a seemingly impossible situation? It might be a relationship that seems to have broken down irretrievably, or an issue to do with health, finances or something else where change seems impossible. With God there is always hope, no matter how bad things look. Nothing is impossible with God. His power makes all things possible.
The context of Jesus’ words that ‘with God all things are possible’ (v.26) is the account of the rich young man to whom Jesus calls, ‘Come, follow me’ (v.21b). He tells him, ‘Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor’ (v.21a). But it is too much for him to give up and the young man goes away ‘sad’ (v.22). Jesus points out how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (vv.23–24). Yet, with God ‘all things are possible’ (v.26).
Jesus says that, humanly speaking, it is impossible for anyone to enter the kingdom of heaven (v.26). Even worldly riches are no help, and may actually be a hindrance. Jesus says, ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God’ (v.24).
Some people have suggested that this is a reference to a gate in Jerusalem that was called ‘the needle’s eye’. A camel would need to unload all it was carrying on its back to go through it. (No be joke ooo). Other people have pointed out that a word very similar to ‘camel’ means a sort of rope. Maybe he was talking of threading rope through a needle.
These attempts to rationalise the words of Jesus miss the point. The point is that it is totally unthinkable for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. But, what is impossible in human terms, Jesus’ followers are to discover to their amazement, is possible with God (v.26).
In answer to the disciple’s question, ‘ “Then who has any chance at all?” Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it” ’ (vv.25–26, MSG).
In this world the rich, the powerful and the famous are the ones who people look up to as ‘first’. The poor are looked down on, ignored and seen as the ‘last’. But in the kingdom of heaven the reverse is the case. Jesus says, ‘But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first’ (v.30).
This is God’s powerful upside-down kingdom. That is why Jesus asks the rich young man to give to the poor. It is not simply a test; it is because the poor are such a high priority in the kingdom. They should be for us too: the 30,000 children dying each day through desperate poverty and starvation, the oppressed people of so many countries, the homeless on our streets, the voiceless and the vulnerable.
Jesus rarely told people to give away everything, but in this case he did. For everyone there is a ‘cost’ to following Jesus. There is the cost to be willing to fly his flag in a hostile world. There is what may seem to be a cost of giving up things that we know to be wrong.
Whatever ‘the cost’, it is nothing compared to what it cost Jesus to make ‘eternal life’ (v.29) possible for you. And it is nothing compared to the cost of not following Jesus. The rich young ruler missed out on so much.
Furthermore, and this is the point Jesus is making here, it is nothing compared to what you receive. ‘And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life’ (v.29). Jesus promises that for everything you give up, you will receive far more – in this life and, even more significantly, into eternity with Jesus.
My prayer is that may The Lord, help us not to make the same mistake as the rich young man. But help us to be willing to give everything we have for the sake of the kingdom of God. IJN (Amen).
3. In all the struggles of life, keep trusting in God’s love
Sometimes when we see the suffering of others it is tempting to come up with glib explanations. In the advice of Job’s friend, Bildad, we see an extraordinary mixture of truth, half-truth and falsehood (8:1–22).
When Job replies, he says, ‘Indeed, I know that this is true. But …’ (9:2). In other words, he points out that some of what Bildad said was true, but not all. He rejects his glib explanation of why he is suffering.
Job’s words are far more authentic. They come from the heart. He cries out to God, ‘I could only plead with my Judge for mercy’ (v.15). He wishes he had never been born (10:18–19). He admits his struggles and doubts, and even his anger, at what is happening to him. He says, ‘I loathe my life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul’ (v.1).
Yet in the midst of all this he recognises that with God ‘all things are possible’. Job says, ‘God’s wisdom is so deep, God’s power so immense … He moves mountains before they know what’s happened, flips them on their heads on a whim … We’ll never comprehend all the great things he does; his miracle-surprises can’t be counted’ (Job 9:4,5,10, MSG). ‘You gave me life itself, and incredible love. You watched and guarded every breath I took’ (10:12, MSG).
There is an extraordinary mixture here of honest struggles and faith. Job does not try and pretend that everything is all right, or that he can explain it, yet through it all he clings to what he knows of God.
God was able to do in Job’s life what was impossible by human effort. God restored Job’s fortunes and ‘blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first’ (42:12).
Whatever struggles you are facing at the moment, however difficult life looks, however impossible the situation seems, it is important to remember his love for you and trust that ‘with God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26).