Yesterday, my pastor preached on believing God for the impossible.

For most of my life, I’ve been the kind of person who has believed God for the impossible. I believe that God can do anything. I put no limits on His ability to do anything.

Where I stumble is when I find that fellow Christians around me don’t believe as I do. Then I question whether I’m the nut and they’re the ones making sense.

And I look at the waves.

And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
—Matthew 14:25-31

In Hebrews it says that bad company ruins good morals. But what about faithless company ruining good faith?

We’re in a tough situation right now that calls for the impossible. As much as many Christians around me will nod their heads and say that God can do the impossible, the second I start laying out our situation here, out come the naysayers.

What happened to God doing the impossible?

I’m not sure I understand that phenomenon. Evangelicalism seems rife with supposedly faithful people who backpedal the second they hear of a really tough case.

Most times, the advice starts flying. Forget faith, here’s what’s got to be done to address the situation. You better roll up the sleeve on that arm of flesh, son! It’s as if God got the boot because you and I are better equipped to deal with the intractable.

That makes no sense to me, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that I’m wrong on my position of believing for the impossible when everyone starts giving me advice—and none of it is “Believe God for the impossible. And we’ll join with you in believing for it!”

That betrays something about us: We really don’t believe God.

It goes back to last week’s post about prosperity. We don’t want to believe that God can prosper someone materially because then we have to face the truth of those folks who don’t prosper materially. What then? So we spiritualize the promises of God. Better that we put those promises outside our physical plane of existence where no one can spot the results. A wave-looker and his oppositeThat way if there are no immediate results, we can make excuses about them being “invisible.”

Isn’t that the fallback position in most of the American Church?

Is that faith?

Our super-rationalism has gotten the better of us, hasn’t it? As bad as it was for fisherman Peter when he tried to walk on those waves, it’s a million times worse for us post-Enlightenment Americans. We run screaming into the arms of whatever earthly answer comes our way, but the last thing we’ll do is stand on God’s promise to do the impossible.

Several years ago, I was walking through a mall when a shoe salesman corralled me. I knew right away where his insistence would take us: nowhere.

I wear a ridiculously hard-to-find shoe size. Over in Europe, I can find my size easily, but here in the States, fat-footed people reign and I’m lucky to find anything, especially non-dress shoes.

Politely, I said, “You won’t have anything in my size.”

He grinned, stared at my feet, and said, “We’ve got every size they make. Come inside and I’ll set you up.”

Waving him off, I countered, “No, you don’t have my size.”

“Try me.” He folded his arms and leaned back, pummeling the ether with waves of confidence.

“Okay,” I said, ready to deliver the blow, “how about 13AA?”

“Sheesh,” the guy said, laughing and turning aside to arrange a pile of shoes on a table, “we don’t have that!”

We reek of the same sort of confidence as the cocky salesman. We tend to place our faith in what we have in stock, and that stock, in America at least, isn’t quite as deep as we think it is. We encounter someone with a real problem and we end up sheepishly arranging shoes.

But that “far-off country” has a solution. And the fact that few of us get there means we never discover what it has in stock. We’ll exhaust our local reserves, but we won’t go to that far country to get what we need.

Even in the Church, we put too much faith in man-made answers. We’ll push those answers without a thought because we’ve been indoctrinated to believe they can solve problems. But they don’t. In fact, they fail more often than not. That’s when we start getting serious about prayer, isn’t it? As the last resort. Even then, we’re afflicted by the nagging doubt that our man-made answers didn’t work, so how can God’s?

Is God a fairy tale? Then why do we treat Him like one? Knowing adults wink at each other when surrounded by children who believe in Santa Claus, and sadly, it seems we do the same to people who believe that God is the resolver of the impossible. We’ve made the Lord of All into just another figment of the imagination.

Is it pride? It seems like it to me. We don’t want to have to explain why our involving God in a situation didn’t work for some untold reason. It might make us look stupid. And we all know the worst thing that can befall a self-respecting American, Christian or not, is to look stupid.

Me? I’d rather look stupid than be faithless. Still, even that’s tough to do when everyone else is looking at the waves.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
—Matthew 19:26

20 thoughts on “Wave-Lookers

  1. Dan, I think our confidence ebbs, not at the point where God can do something, but where He will do something.

    1. He will keep His promises.

    2. He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.

    We’re just not cocksure that #2 refers to us, even in spite of #1.

    He is almighty. He is also all-sovereign. He can. But He chooses.

    The big question is whether we trust Him in the long haul.

  2. lodebar

    First off, I will join you in praying for the impossible. I will also pray for my unbelief. In the narrative in Mark 9:17-29 Jesus responds to the disciples unbelief with a strong rebuke “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? He then states “Bring him here to Me. Praise God for His grace and long suffering toward us. Later Jesus says “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!

    Help our unbelief

  3. Amen, Lodebar!
    I echo that prayer.

    Another great post, Dan.
    Lately I’ve been convicted over my lack of belief that the indwelling Spirit of the living God will give me victory over sin. I hear our Lord ask Abraham, “Is anything too difficult for the LORD?” and my response is, “Of course not! He’s God!” But when it comes to me embracing that truth in my life, I see the waves, and unbelief triumphs again.
    Lord help!

    You stated, “In Hebrews it says that bad company ruins good morals.” And then you posed the question, “But what about faithless company ruining good faith?” That is a good question to ponder. It can be frustrating sometimes to be around people who put the Holy Spirit in a tidy, little box. But as I’ve expressed above, I tend to do the very thing in my own life which frustrates me when I see others doing it.
    Lord help!

    • Nathanael,

      I believe peer pressure exists in this issue. We have a tendency to “lowest common denominator” in America, and that goes for our churches, too. Sliding by on a half-wrought faith may be getting a pass when it shouldn’t be.

  4. I understand how you feel Dan. I couple weeks ago I found myself in what I thought was a hopeless financial situation and felt like God was not listening. I prayed and pleaded, sought and begged for help. Finally, I reached out to my boss at work to see if anything could be done and found out that something far beyond what I could have hoped for had already been in the works before I said anything.

    My point is that God is there, even when it seems that our belief is failing. Even though I felt like God wasn’t listening, I kept praying and kept seeking Him. Matthew 7:7 says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” First, we simply ask about something, and sometimes we receive it. If we don’t receive it, but our heart is still set on it, we go out and look for it. If we can’t find it, but know someone who can, we find their house and knock on the door.

    Ignore the waves and concentrate on the Maker of the waves. He CAN do the impossible. I’ve seen it.

  5. @Dan and Nathanael:
    I believe that reference should be 1 Corinthians 15:33 (I use it a lot!) :-).

    When folk tell me they’re believing for something impossible, right or wrong, I try to guage whether or not it’s a flight of fancy or something truly held through humble trust in God. I don’t believe wanting something really bad is the same thing as faith, nor for that matter is fantasy. But God does tell sensible people to do nonsensical things, and gives rational people the opportunity to first believe in and then see irrational things come to pass. Part of faithfulness, IMHO, is not caring about getting a pat on the back from the folk that surround us, but daring to believe God and to act accordingly. Nothing is impossible with God!

  6. Dan,

    I hear you loud and clear. And much as it may seem so, you are most definitely not alone in your faith! 🙂 My wife and I often feel the same type of “are we totally off-base” aloneness in trusting God for the impossible.

    I think a lot of what takes place in American Christianity is “a form of godliness, but denying its power”. And in that sense, you have hit the nail on the head with these last couple of posts.

    I have no idea what you are going through, but if there’s anything I can be praying specifically about, please don’t hesitate to email me. In the meantime, I have been praying for/with you, knowing that the Listener of my prayers knows all the specifics.

    May His grace and peace be with you.

    your brother,
    steve 🙂

  7. Diane Roberts

    Well Dan,
    Make that two nuts..you and I. And judging from the comments above, there are other “nuts” joining us..LOL.

    Here are three cases, two of which I’ve seen and one that I have heard of from what I consider a good authority.

    In two churches I attended (one is my present Presbyterian PCUSA church), two young men who had accidents (one fell off a mountain while leading a hike and the other one was involved in a motorcycle accident) left both quadraplegic. One young man (in the Presbyterian church) was walking on his own 6 months later. The other one I don’t know what ultimatly happened but each week as the congregation prayed for him the paralysis kept coming off. First he could move his shoudlers. Then a couple of weeks later his arms and so forth. I left that church at that point but I assume if that kept on he would be walking today.
    Two decades ago in my PCUSA church, a good friend of mine who is a Christian but skeptical and a questioner, told me how a little girl in the church lost half a finger in an accident. The little girl had no problem believing God to grow back another one….and He did. My friend told me how the doctors in the church watched each week to see if the fingernail would be formed little by little or after the entire finger grew back.

    Here is why we aren’t seeing more of these things, even in our so called “faith and Charismatic” churches. It’s not the “anointed” ones that are doing this stuff. It’s the congregation who prays with so much love and desparation that faith takes hold and God zooms in with His healing power. Also, most churches do not teach how faith works and so people are just ignorant. It’s really not all their fault. It’s the churches who refuse to teach it.

    Sorry that this turned into a mini blog post…LOL…but Dan, you know what happens when I read one of your posts and it gets me goin’.

    • Diane,

      I think we set ourselves up for failure in too many churches. We have a purely rationalistic view on miracles, so we let our intellects rule them out, then say, “Ah ha! I told you there were no miracles!” when they fail to come to pass.

      That’s a logical fallacy.

  8. I have two short words for you – verses that have been my handholds in several desperate situations of my own:

    “The Lord will fight for you and you need only to be still.” – Exodus 14:14

    “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me and prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.” – Psalm 50:23

    • Violet,

      Those are both OT passage, so that must make you one of those Ot Christians I talked about last week! 😉


      The Exodus 14:14 passage is great. Yet how readily do we fall into stillness and waiting? Hardly at all. It seems to me that the first thing most churches and church people do when confronted with an issue is to start bustling around doing things. Even in our situation, people are advising us of that! Where’s the waiting on God to deliver us? No, we feel like we must be doing something in order to look spiritual. We keep referring to the old idea of “God can’t steer a parked car,” but I can’t find that in my Bible!

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