They weren’t Superman, but they did the impossible because…

“With God’s Help”
July 05, 2015
By John Partridge

Scripture:

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Mark 6:1-13

What would you do if you could do anything in the world?

That is one of the questions that I have heard as career counselors and advisers try to help young people to discover their passion and choose a college major or to find a career.

If you had ten million dollars and didn’t have to worry about making a living, what would you do everyday?

If you could do anything in the world, and you knew that you couldn’t fail, what would you do?

These are the kind of questions that spur our imagination and invite us to dream, but they can also lead us, as followers of Jesus Christ, to attempt great things for God. If our church could do anything, what would we do? Of course there are always practical and physical limits in the real world. The technology of the twenty first century in which we live will not allow us to build floating cities in the sky, terraform Mars, or colonize other planets and at least for the time being, humans cannot fly, grow gills, and live underwater.

Our world has limits…

…but more often than not, the limits that we put on ourselves are far greater than the real limits of our world. We imagine limits that do not exist and more than that, scripture tells us that we can surpass and exceed many of our imagined limits when we are doing the things that God has called us to do. Remember that David, the youngest and smallest in his family was selected to be Israel’s next king? Remember that he defeated Goliath, with God’s help? Remember that even though Saul and the entire army of Israel were hunting for him, David and his small band of friends were able to stay one step ahead for years at a time and even given the opportunity to kill king Saul (but didn’t) on several occasions? Remember the miracles that Jesus performed… with God’s help? Or the miracles that Samuel, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and many other prophets of God performed… with God’s help? Or the multitudes of other ordinary men and women in scripture who did great things, things beyond what others thought possible, and sometimes even beyond what science thinks is physically possible? They did these things, not because they were born on the planet Krypton and were Superman, but because they did them (say it with me)… with God’s help.

In 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10, we hear this story as David, who is already the king of Judah, also now becomes the king of Israel, and by doing so unites all 12 tribes of Abraham into one nation…

5:1 All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the LORD said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’”

3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel.

4 David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

9 David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces inward. 10 And he became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him.

Remember that David was anointed as king by the prophet Samuel years before, but it took a long time to actually become king. For seven and a half years he had been king of the southern tribes of Judah and now, finally, he is anointed yet again and become the king of a united nation. As king, David continues to build the nation of Israel into an international power both militarily and economically. And our scripture tells us that “he became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him.” David, for all his good looks and fighting skill, became increasingly powerful and transformed his nation… with God’s help.

In 2 Corinthians 12:2-10, Paul tells a story about himself. He tells the church how he had been given a vision by God but also some kind of disability that plagued his entire life.

2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul was given great gifts by God. He had been given a marvelous vision of heaven and had met Jesus on the Damascus road, but at the same time he also received what he calls a thorn in his flesh. We don’t know what that was but it was something which caused him to pray for relief. Many people have speculated on what Paul’s thorn might have been. I have heard guesses that range from stuttering, to other speech impediments, epilepsy, lameness, some kind of facial ugliness, and we can guess any number of other things like an impacted wisdom tooth, but at the end of the day all we know is that it bothered him a lot, Paul prayed that God would take it away, and that God said “No.” But God’s refusal causes Paul to praise God and boast in God’s power even more.

Whatever it is, Paul regards his thorn in the flesh as some kind of weakness. Because of this weakness, whatever it was, Paul’s success in ministry and his endurance in the face of opposition, beatings, imprisonments, and other hardships is to be seen as even more amazing and miraculous. Paul wants us to know that when we are weak, when we have imperfections, problems, and “thorns in the flesh,” then it becomes even more obvious when God is working through us. Paul’s message is that even though we are weak, we are able to do great things…

…with God’s help.

And finally today we come back to Jesus, but in a way that makes even more certain that we know that the message applies to us. We spoke last week about how Jesus was 100 percent human and that God’s miracles were the power of God acting through him, but if you had any doubts at all, this week’s scripture should put that doubt to rest as well. In Mark 6:1-13, we see Jesus when he is powerless, and ordinary followers when they perform miracles.

6:1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

When Jesus returns to his hometown, the people were amazed at his preaching, but not in the same way that people normally were. Here the people are amazed that Jesus says the things that he says, not because of the power and authority with which he says them, but because he is a hometown kid. The people cannot see Jesus as a savior, teacher, or prophet because all they can see is the son of a carpenter. Jesus cannot do the things that he normally does… because no one has faith.

But afterward, Jesus sends his disciples out, two by two, and gives them the authority to command impure spirits and to perform other miracles. And these ordinary men (and soon he will send out even more followers, both men and women) carrying nothing except a walking stick, go out, preach, drive out demons, anoint the sick, and heal many people. Jesus could not perform miracles because the people in his hometown had no faith, but the disciples went from town to town, drove out demons, and healed the sick. They demonstrated God’s power working through them because they had little or nothing of their own. Whatever they did, was done through faith…

…with God’s help.

If you could do anything in the world, and you knew that you couldn’t fail, what would you do?

If Trinity Church could do anything in the world, and we knew that we couldn’t fail, what would we do?

Let us imagine, dream, and pray together to hear what God might be calling us to do. Because we can do incredible, amazing, and even impossible things…

…with God’s help.

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