Do you remember the saying, "Anything you can do, I can do better"? It was from a song written by Irving Berlin for a Broadway musical, "Annie, Get Your Gun". The point of the song was the "pitting" of the male actor against the female actress in constant competition to "one up" the other in increasingly difficult tasks - ranging from safe-cracking to living on meager supplies. It was comedy at its finest - two sharpshooters challenging each other to hit various targets - trying to prove who really was best. We are kind of competitive in nature, aren't we? In fact, I wonder how many times we think we can "out-do" God?
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (Ephesians 3:20 The Message)
The scripture is quite plain - God can do ANYTHING! Even more than we could imagine, guess, or request - not even our wildest dreams could "out-do" God! Now, if that doesn't set us straight, I don't know what will! The abilities of our God are often limited by our mind's imaginings - not his strength or capacity!
The main portion of this scripture I would like to focus on this morning is the last sentence: He does it not by pushing us around, but by working within us. I don't know if you actually read this when you considered this scripture. I think we are most familiar with the teaching of God's "possibilities" in our moments of "impossibility" - the "he can do anything" part. We are probably less familiar with the fact God says he "works" within us to accomplish his purpose!
Now, lest you think I am teaching we have some part in accomplishing the "big stuff" God actually does, let me dispel this thought right away. God does indeed use us whenever we yield to him - but it is clearly God who accomplishes the mighty things we are totally incapable of accomplishing on our own. Look at our passage again:
- More than we can imagine, guess, or request in our wildest dreams: This suggests we don't even have the capacity to "think up" a plan as grand as God is capable of accomplishing! When we imagine something, we are forming a mental image of the way we believe something should be. Now, have you ever said, "If I was God...."? You probably said it in some kind of jest, like saying, "If I was God, I would never have created slithery snakes." Yet, imagine (form a mental image) of a world without snakes. God created everything for a purpose - what would our world look like overrun by field mice if we had no king snake to choose them as their breakfast? I think I'd rather deal with a few king snakes than a "herd" of field mice!
- God uses the imaginings of our mind, the wildest dreams we concoct, to "build upon" and even "sculpt" into the things he will use for his glory and a display of his grace in our lives. He is a "gentle" God - he doesn't push his way into our lives - instead, he gently urges us to think outside the "box" of our imaginings to see things from a bigger perspective (his).
- God works within - until his inward work begins to affect the outward appearance of our character. Too many times I think we try it just the opposite - we try to "clean up" our outward appearance first, then attempt to work on the inward stuff later. Now, I have to ask, how well has that been working for you? If you are like me, it probably lasted about a week at the most! The other thing we need to realize is "changing" the outward without the similar change taking place inwardly is like putting clean clothes on a filthy body - the "smell" of the filth still comes through!
I don't know if you are challenged as I am with the struggle to let God do his gentle work inwardly, but if you are, there is hope. God has given us his Spirit to do the "inward remodel" we so desperately need. Looking again at our passage, we find it is a "deep" work he does. I guess this is because our preconceived ideas of how we are to be and what we are to do are deeply-rooted in our imaginings.
In order to affect change, God goes "deep" into our "roots" in order to bring us to places of new heights in him. Earlier in this same chapter of Ephesians, Paul says this about experiencing the love of God: Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. (vs. 18-19) We will never experience the breadth, length, depths, or heights of his love until we allow his Spirit to begin the work of ending the competition between "self-control" and his control within our lives. Let me end with this - ANYTHING God can do, we are incapable of doing ANY better! Experience his best!