God brought the Israelites to the banks of the Jordan River in the pring of the year. The melting snows from the mountains had brought the river to flood stage, making it impossible to cross at the usual fording places. Only a miracle from God would make the crossing possible.
Notice three points in the experience of ancient Israel at the Jordan:
1. God's challenge.
2. The response of God's people.
3. The necessity of spiritual preparation.
In Joshua 1:2, we find God's challenge to His people, "Arise, go over this Jordan." Their response can be summarized in two words: "They removed" (chap. 3:1). God gave the assignment and His people moved.
It is significant that as they began to move forward, they reached a point in their experience when they were receptive to the admonition, "Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you" (Joshua 3:5). When we begin to move forward in service for the Lord, we soon realize our need of divine strength. If we do not stay close to the Lord in prayer and Bible study, we will soon give up in discouragement in our attempts at soul winning.
When we who claim to be God's people move out in obedient service for Him, we become more aware of our spiritual needs. At the same time, we qualify for a greater infilling of the Holy Spirit, which is given for service.
The power that piled up the waters of the Red Sea 40 years before Jordan was the power that opened for the people of God a path through the river. The same God is ready to do wonders today if His people will be committed and willing to receive the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.
God, then, can communicate His message without human instruments. He does not need us, but we all desperately need the involvement with Him in service. God could have performed a different type of miracle than He did to get the Israelites across the Jordan, but He chose a means that would test the faith of each individual. He gave them a seemingly impossible command, and not until they accepted the challenge did He miraculously intervene to open the way before them. There was no miracle until the people moved forward in response to God's call. Do you see the parallel for our day?
As members of the church, we think our assignment is impossible, and, humanly speaking, it is. When we consider becoming actively involved in a soul-winning project, the devil presents many reasons why it is impossible—physical reasons, economic reasons, social reasons, and reasons of disposition. But when we do what is in our power to do, the miraculous power of God will do the rest.
Sarah Walker attended a lay preachers' institute and caught a vision of what could be done by the small, rural church of which she was a member. The inspiration she received at the institute revived memories of her youth in the West Indies. She remembered the group of laymen who banded together as a soul-winning team. One was the speaker, another had charge of the music, others looked after ushering, advertising, visitation, and so on.
Sarah was the only one from her little church to attend the institute. She went home fired up with enthusiasm, certain that one of the men in the church would be willing to step into the role of lay preacher. But the men had not attended the institute. They had not caught the vision and the inspiration. Finally, in desperation, Sarah asked, "Will you support me if I do the preaching?" The church members assured her of their support.
It seemed impossible—a woman from the West Indies preaching in a conservative rural community with a 99 percent white population.
The meetings were held in a country schoolhouse. After two months of preaching and personal work, seven adults were baptized.
God knew that there was a harvest to be gathered in that little community. He arranged the timing of that lay preachers' institute and planned that Sarah Walker should be there to get the inspiration. God laid on her heart a burden, and she did something about it. Her actions opened the way for God to work and perform miracles of conversion.
When Jesus gave the gospel commission to His little band of disciples, their reaction might easily have been "Impossible!"
To go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature could appear as a physical impossibility; the disciples did not have the means of transportation and communication available to us. It was a numerical impossibility; they were only a handful. It was a financial impossibility; they had no money or material possessions. It was a social impossibility; who would listen to these adherents of a new religion, and these followers of an unknown Jew, a Galilean carpenter?
But Jesus' followers had seen Him command a man with a withered arm— "Stretch forth thine hand" (Matt. 12:13). It looked impossible, but there was a power in the command that made it possible. Jesus' disciples had seen Him command a cripple who couldn't even stand on his feet—"Rise, take up thy bed, and walk" (John 5:8). This, too, seemed impossible, but once again, in the command of Jesus was the power that made it possible.
For a person knowing nothing about the principles of flight, it may seem impossible for a jumbo jet filled with passengers and cargo to leave the ground and fly through the air. But the laws of aerodynamics make the seemingly impossible possible.
When the sister of the Wright brothers received a telegram telling of their first successful flight, it included the message "Home for Christmas." She took the telegram to the editor of the local paper and told him about the flight. He looked at the telegram and said, "I'm so glad your brothers will be home for Christmas."
After she left, he turned to his associate and said, "Who does she think I am? Anyone knows that flying is impossible." That editor missed a news scoop because he was too quick to say, "Impossible."
The authority and validity of Cod's commands are important factors in accomplishing the seemingly impossible. The apostles accepted the command to witness "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea. . . . and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8) on the authority of their Lord. When they were brought before the Jewish leaders for following this command, they declared, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (chap. 5:29). Constrained by the love of Christ, they declared fearlessly, "We are His witnesses" (verse 32). Verse 40 describes how they were beaten and commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus. However, there was a command from a higher authority, and the record says, "They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ" (verse 42).
The apostles who were stirred to action by Jesus' command to witness were fishermen, tradesmen, and businessmen. They did not have the opportunity to receive formal theological training, but they had the privilege of association with Jesus. That association impressed upon their minds the urgency of carrying the gospel to everyone, everywhere.
You and I have the privilege of spending time with Jesus in Bible study and prayer, and out of such communion will grow the conviction to do our part.
This article is excerpted and adapted from the practical resource, How To Help Your Church Grow by George E. Knowles. The entire book is available for purchase at <www.ministerialassociation.com>.