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James Merritt - Is There Anything God Can't Do?

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    James Merritt - Is There Anything God Can't Do?

So today I'm talking about the can-do God. And year after year, the biggest religious polling companies in America like Gallup poll, they always ask a question every single year, and they do it, and they've done it since I think for the last 50 or 60 years. And they ask a simple question. The question they ask every year is do you believe in God? Now I used to think that that was kind of a helpful question, that it kind of served as a thermometer that measured how secular our country was becoming, because it used to be that belief in God was one of the strongest markers that our country had to show how religious Americans really are.

But then the Gallup poll changed something, and I think for the better. Gallup poll decided that they maybe need to take a different tact and here's why. In the latest Gallup poll, belief in God in America dipped to 81%. Now you may think that's a lot. They started asking that question in 1944. You do the math. That is the lowest percentage in the history of this country. And we started asking that question in 1944. Now that's alarming. It should be alarming to the church. It should be alarming to pastors in particular. But then I came across an article, and I said, okay, I get it. And here was what this article was entitled, "When you say you believe in God, what do you mean"?

The Pew Research Center has spent a decade, 10 years, conducting its own religious attitude survey in United States and abroad, and now they're saying we need to take a brand new approach to this age old question of belief in God. And here's what they said. I want you to listen to this. This is staggering to me. What they found was eyeopening. Here's the good news. They found out that 80% of Americans, which is close to the 81% say they believe in God. That's the good news. Here's the bad news. Only 56% believe in the God of the Bible. 33% say they believe in this nondescript higher power or spiritual force, a Star Wars kind of a God, but not in the Biblical God.

Now what makes believers in Jesus different, what makes followers of Christ different is we happen to believe in the the Bible's God, which, to be honest and frank, I think the only God worth believing is the God I find in the Bible. I don't find the God of any other religion, and I don't mean this to be disrespectful, I just don't find the God of any other religion appealing. I don't find the God of any other religion really worthy of the kind of belief that we want to give, because the God of the Bible is not just a generic god. He's not just a whatever you wanted to be kind of God. He's what I call the can-do God. Now, before I get into what I mean by the can-do God, let me explain what I mean when I call him the can-do God. The God of the Bible and the God I believe in can do anything, qualification, that does not contradict his character and is in his sovereign will.

So here's a good example. We were asked this as a kid, right? Can God create a rock so big he can't pick it up? Well, that's a dumb question, first of all, we're going to answer. The answer is no because God can do anything. And if God could create something he couldn't do, it would contradict his character. So God can do anything as long as two things are true. It does not contradict his character and it is in his sovereign will. And I say all that to say this. I'm becoming more convinced that God would almost rather we don't believe in him at all than to believe in the kind of God some of us believe in, 'cause here's what I found and it's true in my own life sometimes.

I think the biggest insult to God is to believe he's too little. Not to believe in him, he gets that. You know when God says if you don't believe in him, you're a fool, that's all he says. He just moves on. He's not gonna argue. You're just a fool. But I think what hurts God, what breaks his heart, what insults him is we believe he's smaller than he really is. So today I really want you to look at a chapter with me, okay. Get out your Bible, your phone, your iPad. I want you to go to an Old Testament book called Jeremiah.

Now let me tell you how you work these books in the Old Testament. It's easy. Anybody can find the first one. So go to the first one and just turn left and just keep going and you will hit Jeremiah. I want you to turn to Jeremiah chapter 32. Let me give you the background of what's going on. Jerusalem is under siege by the Babylonians. God had warned Israel time and time and time again, if you obey me, I'll bless you, if you disobey me, I will curse you. Well, they didn't listen. They broke God's law, they disobeyed God, they did not listen. So God finally says, okay, I'm gonna take you down. I warned you, you didn't listen. So God is now going to allow the Babylonians to take Israel captive. He's gonna shut the nation down.

Now God's already told Jeremiah what's about to happen. They don't believe Jeremiah. They think everything's gonna work out, but it's not. But God's already told Jeremiah, Jeremiah, this is going to happen. The nation's going to down. Jerusalem's gonna be destroyed. The temple is gonna be brought to nothing. And then God does the strange thing. He says, Jeremiah, I want you to go out and I want you to buy a field and I want you to take title to that field. I want you to take all your savings and I want you to buy this piece of property. Now you'd be asking an obvious question, wait a minute, why in the world would I buy a piece of property when the nation is going to hell in a handbasket? When I know we're going to be taken to captivity? Why would you ask me to buy a piece of property?

It seems like a colossal waste of money, 'cause he says, look, I will never see that property again. Well, God doesn't answer his question. He actually asked Jeremiah this question, am I the Lord? "I am the Lord, the God of all mankind". He says, "Jeremiah, is anything too hard for me"? There's some of you right now that need to be asking yourself this question. The God that you believe in, is there anything too hard for him? Now here's the interesting thing about that question. It was not asked of God. It was not asked about God. It was not asked to God. It was asked by God. Jeremiah, simple question, yes or no. Don't have to deliberate about it. Just give me your answer. Is anything too hard for me? Now, it was actually a rhetorical question, because Jeremiah earlier had already answered the question. Here's what he said, "Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you".

Say that with me right now, you ready? Nothing is too hard for you. Now say it like you mean it. Nothing is too hard for you. Now, Jeremiah, when he said that, he didn't even really realize the full breadth of the truth of what he was saying, because I guarantee you, if he really understood what he just said, he would absolutely been more sure of that statement than ever, ever before. Let me tell you why. Let me tell you something he didn't know that you and I are gonna learn. The next time there's a clear night, go outside and look up into the night, and you're gonna see what's known as the Milky Way.

Now I want you to listen to this. We live in what's called the Milky Way galaxy. If the Milky Way galaxy was the size of the entire continent of North America, so in other words, United States and Canada, if it was the size of the continent of North America, our solar system in terms of the entire universe would fit into a coffee cup. There are two satellites, two spacecraft that we launched 45 years ago, Voyager 1, Voyager 2 two. We launched them 45 years ago. Ever since they have been traveling at a rate of 100,000 miles an hour. Now you may think that's fast, but if you don't go at least that fast, you're gonna die on the freeway in Atlanta, Georgia, okay.

So those things are going at 100,000 miles an hour. Since that time, 45 years ago, they have traveled almost 14 and a half billion miles. When engineers send a message to that spacecraft traveling at the speed of light, it still takes 20 hours for that message to get to that spacecraft. And yet this solar system where we live, which is so tiny in the grand scheme of things, fits along with several hundred billion other stars in the Milky Way, which only is perhaps one of the hundred million galaxies in the universe. So let me put it to you this way. If we were to send a message at the speed of light to the end of the universe as we know it right now, it would take 15 billion years. And yet Jeremiah said, you made all of this with your hand. You made all of this with your outstretched arm. So, no, there is nothing too difficult for the God of the Bible. He is the can-do God.

Now what I wanna do though is this, you may think, oh, so we're gonna have a deep theological message. Not really, 'cause what I wanna do today is assuming the truth of that, assuming there's nothing too hard for God, I wanna give you today four practical applications that you can take from church on Sunday, you can take them to work on Monday. I'm gonna give you four things that I hope you'll write down, I hope you'll remember, I hope you'll believe, because when you do, when you face the most difficult times in your life, here's what you're gonna know. I'm gonna make it. I'm gonna get through this. I'm gonna be victorious because I know a God that can do anything. So if there's nothing too hard for God, that means, number one, there's no promise so big God cannot keep it. There's no promise so big God cannot keep it.

Now we're gonna learn all this right out of this passage of scripture, Jeremiah 32. Jeremiah refers to a promise that God made centuries earlier before he even wrote these words right out of the gate. He goes does a little history lesson. He says, "You brought your people Israel out of Egypt with signs and wonders by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror. You gave them this land you had sworn to give their ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey". Now that word sworn is a very powerful word in the Hebrew language. It's a judicial term. It means to take a sacred oath. In other words, it was almost like that God didn't say so help me God. He said, so help me me. I'm going to do what I tell you that I'm gonna do. I'm giving you a promise. I am gonna take you out of Egypt and I'm gonna bring you into Israel. He made an unbreakable promise.

Now I've thought about this. Have you ever thought about how many promises God's made in the bible? We have the saying don't ever over-promise and under-deliver. I've learned in my own life, probably the fewer promises you make, the better off you are. Well, God doesn't have that problem. So there was a man by the name of Everett Storms. He was a schoolteacher in Ontario, Canada, Kitchener, Ontario. He had read the Bible through 26 years. So the 27th year he came up with this idea. He said, you know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna read the entire Bible, and every single time I come to a promise of the Bible, I'm gonna write it down, I'm gonna add it up. It took him a year and a half.

Here's what he found. In the Bible, there are 7,487 promises that God made specifically to the human race. And here's the good news. I can say with 100% confidence God has kept, God is keeping, and God will keep 100% of them. God keeps his promise. Now if you don't think that's a big deal, let's just do a little survey and I'm gonna go ahead and raise my hand. How many of you ever made a promise you didn't keep? Yeah, you made promises you didn't keep. We've all made promises we didn't keep. And I'll be honest, I know I have, and, in fact, I'll tell you, I think I may have shared this with you before.

One of my favorite stories I love to tell is about a little boy. He was playing with a buddy of his up the street. And so he came home one day and he told his daddy, he said, "Daddy," he said, "I was playing with my buddy Johnny". And he said, "You know what he told me"? He said, "No, what did he tell you"? He said, "His dad has a list of men he can whip in the neighborhood". And he said, "Your name's number one on the list". Well, his dad was kind of a hot-tempered guy and he said, "Are you serious"? And he said, "Yeah". He said, "Where does this guy live"? He said, "He lives two doors up".

So this guy goes to the house and he goes up to the door, he knocks on the door. Johnny's dad opens the door. He said, "You Johnny's dad"? He said, "I am". He said, "I understand you got a list of men you can whip". He said, "I do". He said, "I understand that I'm number one on the list". He said, "You are". He said, "I can't do it". He said, "I don't think you can do it". "What you gonna do about it"? "Take your name off the list". We've all made promises we don't keep. But you don't have to worry about God being unable or unwilling to keep any promise. As a matter of fact, God said this to a prophet named Balak. I love what he said. Listen to this. "God is not human that he should lie, not a human being that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill" God does not change his mind.

God says what he means. God means what he says. When he says he will do something, he will do it. And every time he says it, he will do it every single time. He is a promise-keeping God. And the reason I say this is this, there are gonna be times when you and I are gonna find ourselves in the middle of this dark and stormy night. You're gonna be drowning in a sea of trouble. You're gonna be facing waves so big you can't see how you'll ever get over them. And at that moment when you're in those, and you may say, hey, I'm in that moment right now, then I want you to remember something. God's made a promise. God promised I'm gonna fulfill my plan for your life. I'm gonna achieve my purpose for your life. And at the end of the day, I'm gonna work everything out together for your good and for my glory.

So you go to sleep at night and remember this, God always keeps his promise. No promise so big that God cannot keep it. Well, there's something else that's true. If God can do anything, there is no prayer so great that God cannot answer it. There is no prayer so great God cannot answer it. Now listen again to verse 21. He says, "You brought your people Israel out of Egypt with signs and wonders by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror". Now we all know what he's talking about, the exodus and all of that. And we all love that story. But have you ever stopped to think when you go back and you read that great story, Moses comes on the scene and they have the Passover and then they part the Red Sea and they pass through, have you ever thought about why did God do that?

Well, you'll learn the lesson when you go back and study the chapter before. Because he had been asked to do it. The people had been praying for it. Because 800 years before Jeremiah wrote these words, let me tell you about Israel. Israel was a beaten down nation. They were slaves to the most powerful country in the world. They were totally dominated. No weapons, no money, no leader, no hope. It looked like there was no way out. To the outside looking in, it looked like the door had been locked and the key had been thrown away, and they weren't going anywhere. But they had an ace in the hole. The same ace we have in the hole is called prayer. And here's what we read. During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. And God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and he was concerned about them.

So now you go back to that story and you begin to ask the question, so why did God raise up Moses? And why did God part that Red Sea? And why did God wipe out that Egyptian army? And why did God deliver the nation of Israel? Because of the prayers of his people. God heard their prayers. God keeps his promises. One of the greatest statements I've ever heard about prayer is this statement, nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God. Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God.

So here's what the Bible very clearly teaches. If you pray something in the will of God, it's a done deal. You don't have to worry about it anymore. It is absolutely a done deal. It doesn't matter how big the request is, doesn't matter how difficult it may seem for God to answer that prayer. God will answer that prayer. I found something out recently I didn't even know. You go back and read every miracle in the Bible. I didn't know this. When you go back and read all the miracles in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testament, did you know this? Almost every miracle that was ever done in the Bible was a direct answer to prayer. Almost every one. Almost every time God did something is because somebody asked God to do it.

And that's why if we will ever start really believing in the power of prayer, we will understand that the greatest power on earth is not atomic, it's not nuclear, it's not political, it is not financial. It is prayer power. There is no power more powerful than prayer, because prayer can do anything that God can do, and God can do anything. There is no prayer so big that God cannot answer it. Now there is one prayer that God cannot answer. Even for God, it is impossible for God to, there's one prayer God cannot answer. Can you guess what it is?

The one prayer that God cannot answer is a prayer that's never prayed. Jesus said, James said, you have not because you... asked not. You know what's gonna happen when we get to heaven? I really believe God's got a treasure chest he's gonna open for all of us. He's gonna say this. Let me show you what I would have done if you just asked me. Let me show you what I was willing to do if you just told me, if you just said, but you have not because you asked not. I believe God is, it's just gonna be unbelievable when we see all the unanswered prayers that we left on the table because we didn't pray. There's no prayer, there is no prayer at all so great that God cannot answer it.

Now if there's nothing too hard for God, then that also means this. There's no problem so hard that God cannot solve it. There's no problem so hard God cannot solve it, because not only is God omnipotent, he can do anything, he's omniscient. He knows everything. So listen to this statement. Jeremiah said, "Great are your purposes, mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to the ways of all mankind, you reward each person according to their conduct and as their deeds deserve". In other words, here's what Jeremiah said, God, you never miss a thing. You never miss a thing. You see everything, you hear everything, you know everything. And because you see everything and hear everything and know everything that you can do anything. And if that is true, there's no problem you've got in your life that's so hard that even God goes, man, I can't help you there. I wish I could, but I don't know what to do. He said, no, no, there's no problem so hard that God cannot solve it.

Now let me tell you why that's a big deal. And I think you already probably know. First of all, I'm gonna guess what I'm about to say is true of everybody in this room, everybody watching right now. We all have problems. Matter of fact, let me tell you this, you don't think you got any problems. That's your biggest problem. We've all got problems. Everybody in this room's got problems. And I guarantee you this, I guarantee you all of this, I can tell you right now what I'm thinking about. I've got a problem I've been dealing with for three years and I can't solve it. I've done everything I know to do. Some of you know what I'm talking about. I've done everything I know to do. I do not know how to solve that problem. And the reason that's such a big deal is because we all have problems and we've all got at least one problem only God can solve.

And by the way, if you don't think you got a problem that you can't solve, let me tell you the biggest one you've got, sin. That is the biggest problem we all have that we cannot solve. Sin is a problem only God can solve. It's a disease that only God can cure. As a matter of fact, earlier in the book, Jeremiah gave one of the most famous analogies in the Bible. Here's what he said, "Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Well, neither can you do good, you are accustomed to doing evil".

See, what we need to teach our kids from the time they're born, from the time we came out of our mother's womb, we all were afflicted with this DNA effect called sin. And no matter what we do, how we do it, how hard we try, you'll never overcome that problem on your own. The Ethiopian can't change his skin. The leopard cannot change his spots. Sin is the greatest problem the human race has ever faced. Hear me again. It will always be the greatest problem the human race will ever face. It is not the climate, it's not the environment, it's not war, it's not military, it's not gun control, it's not even abortion. The greatest problem the human race faces and will always face is sin. And let me tell you why.

Here's why it's the hardest from a human perspective. How can imperfect, unrighteous, sinful human beings have a relationship with a perfect righteous Holy God? There are a lot of people who've never given their life to Jesus because they can't figure that out. How can that? I don't deserve it. I don't deserve for this God to save me. I'm too mean, I'm too wicked, I'm too bad, I'm too unworthy. There's no way this God is who you say he is. There's no way I can be right with him. Well, God's got a similar problem. He just flips it. How can a Holy God justify a sinful human without becoming unjust himself?

Albert Einstein can't solve that problem. NASA scientists can't solve that problem. Medical doctors can't solve that problem. It is an insuperable problem. How can sinful may be right with God? And how can that rightful God make me right without being unjust himself? 'Cause there's an old saying, if a judge allows a guilty man to go free, the judge is guilty too. So I got a problem. We talked about it last week. I'm guilty, I'm a sinner. You're right, I'm not perfect. So how in the world can you be right? Because you know what? Somebody has to pay. When a crime is committed, somebody's gotta be punished. Sin has to be atoned for. So the big question is this, okay, how can God forgive sin, justify the sinner, wipe the slate clean, but still maintain his integrity and still be a just, perfect God?

Well, many of us know the answer. He came up with the solution to the problem. And by the way, it had to be divine in its origin because no human on his own would have ever come up with it, much less carried it out. So here's what God does. God sends Jesus, his perfect son, but he's a human just like you and me. Just like me, he slept because he got tired, he ate because he got hungry, he drank because he got thirsty, and he died because he got crucified. He was a human being just like you and just like me. But he was perfect, no sin. It's what I've told you so many times. God says I can solve the problem. James, I can't let you get away with your sin. Carmen, I can't let you get away with your sin. Kim, I can't let you get away with your sin. Somebody's gotta pay. So I'll tell you what? Hey Dodson, you gotta pay for your sin on your own, but you can't pay it.

So God says, here's what I'm gonna do, Rich. I'm gonna pay it for you. I'm gonna send Jesus and I'm gonna take all of your sins and all of my sins and all the world's sins, I'm gonna lay every one of them on Jesus. And guess what? At the end of the day, you can be righteous and I'm still just. You can be righteous and I'm still right. I'm still the judge of universe that will never ever do anything wrong. So on the one hand, my sin got punished. On the other hand, I got forgiven. God solved the problem. God took the greatest problem the human race has ever faced and solved it in a cradle and a cross. So let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, there is no problem you got so big God can't solve it. He is the can-do God.

Now, if that is true, if that is true, no prayer God cannot answer, no problem God cannot solve, then that leaves one last thing, and I hope many of you out there listening right now on TV around the world, wherever you are, hear this. There's no person so sinful God cannot save him. There's no person so sinful God cannot save. How do you know that? It's right here in the text. Jeremiah refers to this Babylonian king. Many of us know, right? He laid siege to Jerusalem. You'll know his name. Therefore this is what the Lord says, "I'm about to give this city into the hands of the Babylonians," who by the way, were wicked, mean people. "And to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who will capture it".

Now you go back and do your history, you'll find out that King Nebuchadnezzar was not only the most famous Babylonian king, he was a mean dude. He was a pagan, he was an idolator. He was so arrogant. You ready for this? He not only commanded his people to worship him, he began to worship himself. He began to call himself God. And because of that, if you go into the book of Daniel, you'll read that God temporarily made him go insane. But this king, this pagan king saw the light. He realized the errors of his ways. And the last words this pagan king has ever recorded as saying we find in the book of Daniel, and I want you to listen to what this king said, last words we ever know he said. "Now, I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the king of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just, and those who walk in pride, he is able to humble".

Who would have thought? Who would have thought? I mean Daniel even is going, I am not believing what I'm seeing. This pagan idolatrous king who was the most powerful man in the world, the one that took Israel down, the one that burned Jerusalem to the ground, the one that destroyed the temple, the one that took Israel captive. Who would have ever thought he would come to know the very God of the Jews that he captured? Who would ever know he would go 180 degrees and say, not only am I not God, I'm not even in his zip code. There's only one God, and he is that God. Who would have ever thought that that pagan king would do it, which tells me there is no person so good he doesn't need to be saved, and there's no person so bad he cannot be saved, because we know a can-do God who can do anything.

A few weeks ago, some of you were with me, a few weeks ago, I was in probably my most favorite place in the world, not Hawaii by the way. I was in my most favorite place in the world. This place I love to go to even more than Israel. It's the city of Ephesus. I love to go there. And it's so fascinating because they've evacuated the city streets. When you go to Ephesus, this is not commercialism, this has nothing to do with that at all. You're actually walking the streets of Ephesus where Paul walked. You're actually seeing the temple that Paul saw, that Paul preached in. You're actually seeing the amphitheater where he probably preached to crowds and crowds.

You see the great library where Paul would go in and he would study and he would read. And every time I walked those streets, I get chill bumps, because I think about the most unlikely person maybe that ever became a follower of Jesus. His name was Saul. He became Paul, but his name was Saul. And I think by common consent, nobody would argue, probably the greatest follower of Jesus ever lived since Jesus came back from the grave. And this guy, you would have said, "Even God can't save that guy. There's no way God could do that". Because there was a time, if you'd walked up to Paul, and you even said the name Jesus, you would have been eating your teeth. You would have been flat on your back. He would have cursed you. He would have handcuffed you. He would have taken you to jail. And if they stoned you to death, he would have watched by and been clapping the whole time that they did. He had a full-time job.

You know what it was? It was to persecute and prosecute every Christian he could find. He absolutely despised the name of Jesus. He hated the church. You know what his hobby was? He loved to shut churches down, kill believers. He said I'm going to put out the fire of Christianity. And every time I walk down the streets of Ephesus, I think about this guy. And then he's walking down this hot Palestinian Damascus road one day, and he meets Jesus face to face. And literally in the blink of an eye, the church's greatest foe became her greatest friend. The church's greatest persecutor became the church's greatest preacher. The church's greatest menace became the church's greatest missionary. Everybody else, all the church, you know what they were praying for? Oh God, strike him dead.

You know what God said? I'm gonna strike him alive 'cause I'm the can-do God. I can do anything. And let me tell you something. We are sitting in a building today listening to the word of God because the can-do God saved a man by the name of Paul and the rest is history. So the question we must all answer is not do you believe in God? Excuse my grammar. That ain't the question. Here's the question. What kind of a God do you believe in? The God of the Bible? The God I believe in. The God who can save anybody.

Let me tell you what that God did. That God spoke, just opened his mouth and spoke, and suns began to shine, and moons began to glow, and planets began to orbit, and stars began to twinkle, and birds began to fly, fish began to swim, a universe began to exist, and a man came back from the dead. He is the can-do God. There are a lot of things I can't do. There are a lot of things you can't do. There are a lot of things we can't do. There are a lot of things nobody can do. But we worship a God that can do anything because he is the can-do God.

Would you pray with me for just a moment? With heads bowed, with eyes closed. I wonder who is here and I wonder who's watching right now. And you thought there was no hope for you, no chance for you, but now you've learned differently. There's a can-do God, he can do anything. He loves you, he'll change you, he'll save you, and he will forgive you right now if you will just pray and ask him. He'll answer that prayer. But you don't know what I've done. No, I don't. He knows everything you've done and it doesn't matter. He can save you. And if right now you would say, I'm all in. That's the God I want to know. That's the God I want to love. That's the God I want to worship. That's the God I want to serve. Why don't you just tell him?

Today, Lord, I give my life to you. I give my life to the one who died for my sins. I give my life to the Lord who came back from the grave. I repent, I turn away from my sin today. I surrender my life to Jesus. Thank you for hearing my prayer. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for giving me eternal life. Thank you for the prayer I prayed that was so big I didn't think you could hear it, but you did. The problem I thought was so big I couldn't solve it, but you did. The person I thought who was so sinful you couldn't save him, but you did.

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