The world is a crazy place. If you follow the ways of this world, you will end up in a crazy place. Jesus gave us a better way. Jesus’ way most often contradicts the ways of the world. But I choose Jesus’ way. I hope you will too. In this series, I want to point out some of the contrasts between the ways of the world’s way and Jesus’ way. I hope you will notice them and always choose Jesus’ way.
Our Scripture today is Matthew 19:23-26.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
25 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.
26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
In Jesus' day, people believed you needed to earn God's blessings. Most people were very poor and had a hard time doing good deeds; they were too busy just trying to survive from day to day. People looked up to those with great wealth thinking they were blessed by God--that's why they had so much. Furthermore, the wealthy had disposable income and could hep the poor or give money to the Temple. Thus, Jesus words astounded his disciples: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God!" The disciples thought that if a rich person couldn't earn their way into heaven then there was surely no hope at all for the poor.
Thankfully, we don't have to earn our way into heaven because Jesus already paid the price in full when he gave his life on the cross.
A Mother’s Wisdom – “You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To!”
We didn’t have a lot when I was growing up. We were part of what I would call the lower middle class. Then, things got even worse after my parents divorced. We scraped by on what little my dedicated determined mom was able to earn by herself. But one thing she gave me was far more valuable than anything money could buy. She told me again and again: “You can do anything you put your mind to.”
And I believed her. No matter what challenge I faced, I believed I could overcome if put my mind to it and was willing to work hard. My mother’s wisdom motivated me to surmount some great hurdles in life. While most of the people I grew up remained trapped in Macon, a town with little opportunity descending into poverty and crime and corruption, I went away to college. I didn’t have any money to pay for college, but I worked and found financial aid and paid for it anyway. I was determined to make a better life than the one I grew up in and I did.
I always assumed everyone had the benefit of a mother who told them, “You can do anything if you put your mind to it!” I was wrong. Story about the people of Highland UMC in a mill town…
So if you’ve never been encouraged, I want to encourage you today. You are capable of great things—far more than you may realize. But I want to do even better than my mother’s wisdom. I want to give you Jesus' wisdom.
Jesus wisdom is similar to my mother’s wisdom, but even better. Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, “Humanly
speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Jesus recognized that there are some
things that aren’t possible for us.
At 46 years old, I can’t play professional football. It's just not going to happen no matter how hard I work or put my mind to it. And even if I really put my mind to it, I can’t walk on water; the laws of nature will not allow it. And I can't earn God's love or salvation. It can't be done. Thankfully, I don' have to because Jesus already made salvation possible and I experience God's full and unconditional love through faith in Christ.
Jesus also has
the wisdom to know there are somethings you are capable of doing, but
you shouldn’t do them because they aren’t God’s will for you. When I was a child--like many other boys--I wanted to be a professional football player. And maybe, if I had really put my mind to it and worked really hard, I could have accomplished that dream. However, eve if I did, I would not be as happy or as fulfilled or healthy as I am today because it was not God's plan for me to be a professional football player. When I was in college, my goal was to be a textile engineer and I did graduate with a degree in that field and start that career. However, God showed me that was not His plan for me either and I am much happier and fulfilled serving as a pastor no because that was God's purpose for me. We are always better off doing what God wants us to do, even if we are capable of doing something else.
greatest encouragement of all is knowing God has a special purpose for your life. Your purpose is important. It means your life has meaning beyond just your own personal fulfillment. And your life will have an eternal impact on the world. Even the small things you do when you do them within God's will are more important and lasting that impressive things you do outside of God's will. Furthermore, God will help you do whatever He calls you to do. Even if it seems impossible to fulfill your purpose, it is possible with God’s help. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20)
Nothing is impossible with God. Consider, Peter walked on water even thought the laws of nature say that's impossible. The apostle Paul traveled the world telling people about Jesus even though people everywhere were trying to stop him. Martin Luther King Jr. helped defeat segregation and win civil rights for African Americans. What great thing might God want to accomplish through you? Humanly speaking, it may be impossible, but all things are possible with God's help.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can just sit on your butt and let God do all the work. Once you know what God’s purpose is for you, you’ve got to have faith in God and be totally committed. You’ve got to work for it and never give up. Faith can move mountains, but don’t be surprised if God gives you a shovel.
Know God’s Will for You
Perhaps, the hardest part of life for some is finding out God’s purpose for them. People share how they struggle with this all the time. I know it can be hard and I won’t minimize that struggle. But perhaps I can share some wisdom that might help. First of all, let’s start with what we know about your purpose.
God clearly told us some concrete things about your purpose. First of all, we know God’s purpose is to save you for eternal life. John 3:16 "For God so love the world that He gave His one and only son so that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life." That purpose is for you. We also know God wanted to save you for a relationship with Him. You are to walk with God every day. We also know that you’ve got to surrender unconditionally to God through Jesus Christ in order to start living in a relationship with God. You've got to recognize that your life is not your own to live any way you please. You were made to love God and love for Him.
Once you start walking with God, there are more things you know you should do. As you read God's Word in the Bible, you know it’s God’s will for you to love your neighbors, control your tongues, act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. You know God doesn’t want you to steal, murder cheat, lie, slander, gossip, or boast. You know this because God tells us in the Bible. When you are obedient and do what you know God wants you to do, He is more likely to reveal what you don’t know—like His specific purpose for your life. So start by doing what you do know and have faith the rest will be revealed.
I love Psalm 119:105 where it says, "Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path." Now a lamp doesn't shine hundreds of feet ahead of you. It shines on your path allowing you to see what a few steps ahead so you can walk safely without tripping. That's a fitting illustration for the life of Christian faith. God's Word shows us the next few steps and as we walk those steps, God will reveal more. Eventually, we find we've walked quite a ways down the road God is leading us on, but you have to have faith and you have to take the steps God gives you.
That’s the way it worked for me. I started out as a kid with my mother’s wisdom—"You can do anything you put your mind to.” But then a particular failure in my teenage years brought me to my knees and I turned to God. I started out small—simply walking with God by reading one chapter of the Bible every day before I went to sleep. Then, I started going to church when my wife when we started dating. Next, I tried to live the way I knew God wanted me to live. I started serving in the ways I felt God was asking me to serve—first volunteering to help our youth director with the youth group, then singing in the choir. From there, God began to reveal more and more about His will for my life. Eventually, I heard Him calling me into full-time ministry and I left my career as a textile engineer to become a pastor. My journey isn’t over yet. I still have to walk the path God puts before me. As I do, He reveals more of His purpose for me and I try to do it.
Do You Very Best
Whatever God calls you to do, do it with all your heart. Colossians 3:23 says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Martin Luther King, Jr. put it this way: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
The more you live for God, the more God reveals His purposes for you and the more people will notice there’s something special about you will open doors that lead you into the future God has for you.
It all starts with a simple choice and commitment to surrender your life to God and follow His will for you. Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God, everything is possible.