In Mark 9, a distraught father brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus’ disciples seeking deliverance. This boy wasn’t simply troubled or rebellious. He was full of evil spirits, and they controlled his every action. His situation was well known all over the region, and when parents saw him approaching, they probably rushed their children indoors.
This poor boy was considered absolutely hopeless. He was both deaf and speechless, so he spewed out only guttural sounds. He foamed at the mouth like a mad dog, and physically he was skin and bones, emaciated by his awful struggle. His father had to hold on to him continually, because the demons tried to cast him into the nearest river, lake or open fire, wanting to kill him.
I wonder how many times this father had to leap into a pond and drag his son out to resuscitate him. It had to be a full-time job just keeping his child from killing himself. Imagine the number of scars and burn marks on that boy’s torn body. I am sure the father’s heart was broken daily to see his son in that condition, with no one able to help.
Now, as the father stood before the disciples, Satan began manifesting in the boy. He started foaming at the mouth and rolling on the ground, contorting and gyrating wildly. Scripture tells us the disciples prayed over him—perhaps for a long time—but nothing happened.
It must have seemed like an impossible situation. Soon the doubting scribes crowded around, asking, “Why is the boy not healed? Is this case too hard for your Lord? Is the devil more powerful in this kind of situation?”
But then Jesus came on the scene! When He asked what was going on, the boy’s father answered, “I brought my son to Your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him. He’s a hopeless case.” Jesus responded simply, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). Christ was telling everyone present, “Do you believe I can handle all situations except those under the devil’s control? I tell you, there is no problem, no impossible circumstance, I cannot fix.”
It is not enough for us simply to believe in God as creator, the maker of all things. We also have to believe that He’s a God who yearns to do the impossible in our lives. The Bible makes it very clear: If we don’t believe this about Him, we don’t trust Him at all.
In my opinion, no amount of counseling will do a person any good if he doubts God for a miracle. Don’t misunderstand—I am not against Christian counseling. But it is useless to counsel someone who is not fully convinced God can fix his problem, no matter what the problem may be.
Couples must believe that God can save their relationship; otherwise, my counsel is in vain. Things may appear absolutely hopeless to them; they may have built up years of resentment and bitterness. But they have to be convinced God can do the impossible.
I tell such couples right away, “Yes, I’ll counsel you. But first I have to ask: Do you truly believe God can fix your marriage? Do you have faith that no matter how impossible things look to you, He has the power to restore your relationship?”
Some answer, “But you don't know what I’ve been through with my spouse. I’ve been wounded deeply. My hurt is beyond what you could ever imagine.” This kind of response tells me they have bought the devil’s lie. He has convinced them that their situation is hopeless. Yet Jesus has spoken clearly to every one of His children: “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).
All over this nation, Christians are giving up on their marriages. Even some of my minister friends are divorcing. When I talk with them about their situation, I realize they don’t think their marriage can be healed. They simply don’t trust God to do the impossible for them.
We do not really believe in God unless we believe He is the God of the impossible!
You probably remember the story from Genesis in which God appeared to Abraham. The patriarch was sitting at the door of his tent during the heat of the day when suddenly three men appeared before him, standing under a tree. Abraham went out to meet the men, had a meal prepared, and visited with them.
During their conversation, the Lord asked Abraham where his wife, Sarah, was. Then God said something incredible: “Lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son” (Genesis 18:10).
At the time, Sarah was inside the tent listening to their conversation. And when she heard this, she laughed at the idea. “Impossible,” she thought. She was way beyond the age of childbearing, and Abraham was too old to sire a child.
Yet when God heard Sarah’s laughter, He said, “Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (verses 13-14).
I am writing this message today because God asks the same question of His children in these present times: Is anything too hard for the Lord? We all must face our own difficult situations in life. And in the midst of them God asks, “Do you think your problem is too hard for Me to fix? Or do you believe I can work it out for you, even though you think it’s impossible?”
Jesus tells us, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). Do you believe this word from the Lord? Do you accept that He can perform the impossible in your marriage, in your family, on your job, for your future?
We are quick to counsel others that He can do the impossible. When we see our loved ones enduring difficult times, we tell them, "Hold on and look up! The Lord is able—don’t stop trusting Him. He’s the God of the impossible.”
Yet, do we believe these truths for ourselves? I wonder.
John and his brother James were disciples of John the Baptist, the fiery prophet with a national following. Working in their father’s fishing business, the rough-and-tumble brothers acquired the nickname “Sons of Thunder.” In other words, they didn’t back down from much.
I’ve known some “sons of thunder” in my time. The wonderful ministry Victory Outreach reaches a lot of people from rough backgrounds, saints who might stay rough around the edges after they’ve come to Christ. It’s as if some of them go from gang life to being in God’s gang—unintimidated, speaking their minds, preaching boldly.
That was James and John. Even after following Jesus for some time, they wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy those who rejected the gospel. Decades later, in writing his gospel account, John spoke of a transformation that took place within him. He now saw himself as “the beloved disciple,” no longer the tough guy. He was telling the Greeks that Jesus was not just truth for head knowledge but truth for transformation of the heart.
Do you find yourself filling your head with knowledge about Jesus, yet you sense your heart isn’t being changed? Are you annoyed that your life is no different from day to day by the work of His Spirit in you? Jesus has come to transform you by His presence. In that sense, the real Word is not just information but the living God who dwells within you.
Jesus is also the real light who illuminates, revealing all truth. Carter Conlon, pastor of Times Square Church, tells of an encounter he had at a conference where he preached passionately on the holiness of God. After his sermon, he sat down next to a man who said, “I don’t agree with anything you preached.” When Carter asked why, the man said, “My God would never raise His voice with me.” Puzzled, Carter mentioned the biblical passage where Jesus took a whip into the holy temple to drive out the moneychangers. The man responded, “Yes, He did that, but that’s not who Jesus is now.”
Carter thought for a moment, then asked the man, “Tell me, friend—did your father yell at you growing up?” At that, the man dissolved. “My dad yelled at me all the time,” he said through tears. Carter ministered grace and truth to the man, ending by saying gently, “There is no such thing as ‘my God.’ There is only one God, and He can’t be yours or mine. We are His.”
Let me make a bold statement: Christianity is not predominantly a teaching religion. We have been almost overrun these days by the cult of the speaker. The person who can stand up and expound correct doctrine is viewed as essential; without such a talent the church would not know what to do. The North American church has made the sermon the centerpiece of the meeting, rather than the throne of grace, where God acts in people’s lives.
The Jewish faith in Jesus’ day was dominated by rabbis—teachers of the Law. Their doctrine was thorough. Jesus told them “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40, italics added). They knew the written Word of God very well, but not the living Word, even as He stood before them.
The Scriptures are not so much the goal as they are an arrow that points us to the life-changing Christ.
Unfortunately, the rabbis never did realize who was among them. In the last few days before His crucifixion, Jesus wept over the city as He said, “You did not recognize the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:44).
It is fine to explain about God, but far too few people today are experiencing the living Christ in their lives. We are not seeing God’s visitation in our gatherings. We are not on the lookout for His outstretched hand.
The teaching of sound doctrine is a prelude, if you will, to the supernatural. It is also a guide, a set of boundaries to keep emotion and exuberance within proper channels.
But as Paul said, “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). If the Holy Spirit is not given an opening among us, if His work is not welcomed, if we are afraid of what He might do, we leave ourselves with nothing but death.
Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn and longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson, Cymbala is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.