“I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?”
– Jeremiah 32:27
“With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”
– Mark 10:27
We can become something rather than nothing, because we serve a God who can do something rather than nothing. In Cuba, as in many places in the majority world, there are people who trust in idols. Literally, some people will look to a statue, or a doll of sorts, with hopes that the god it represents will help them. These idols have eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear; they have mouths, but cannot speak. They are dumb idols. But we serve a God who lives. We serve a God who can actually DO something, rather than nothing.
In 1970, Richard Bach authored a fictional story about a seagull named Jonathan Livingston Seagull (JLS). In the story, JLS has a passion for flying, and presses all known limits to discover how far and fast he can possibly fly. He later meets others who show him a better way of flying—a more excellent way. However, to break through all preconceived limitations of flight, JLS will have to leave the familiar shore-life of an ordinary seagull and become extraordinary.
We All Have A Choice
For JLS his choice was whether he would accept the run-of-the-mill life of an erratic, squawking, low-flying seagull, just fighting other birds for more scraps, or become an extraordinary model of excellence; in other words, a leader. In the early stages of his transformation, as he pushes the limits of air travel possible for a seagull, he begins to touch the outer edges of the extraordinary; and as a result he feels the tension.
His common, unexceptional seagull nature was touching something extraordinary, and in that instant an inner voice begins to whisper questions and doubts. Beginning to see his newly realized potential, he shirks back, afraid of the sure conflict and confrontation with those who are satisfied with the status quo. Succumbing to his own “low-level” thinking, he considers giving up the pursuit of greater things.
But It Was Too Late!
By reaching beyond his perceived limits and seeing that boundaries are not absolute, JLS had been changed. There was no turning back. What was once impossible was now in the range of the possible—limitations began to dissolve into seamless, endless possibilities. “We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!” [i] Pressing further and further, breaking through each consecutive boundary of possibility, beyond every perceived limitation, he began to believe “All things are possible.”
Possibility is the ability to do a thing within certain limits, certain conditions, along the lines of criteria; but for JLS these “criteria” were gradually becoming obsolete, until finally he began to see a kind of being that transcends limitations. Jeremiah 32:27 declares, “I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? The obvious answer is No! There is nothing too hard for God! Jesus said in John 15:5, “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” Flip it around and it plainly teaches us “With me you can do anything!”
There Are No Limits
Those who have been enlightened to see and understand a life without limits, i.e. nothing to impede the actualization of potentiality, nothing to gauge whether a thing can or cannot occur because of perceived boundaries, these people have a different air about them — they stand out! In Jesus’ life it began at a wedding feast. Mary knew her son was extraordinary … that’s why at the wedding feast she said, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it” (John 2:5). And what followed was a miracle—the impossible becoming possible. Standing out means coming under scrutiny. To truly BECOME, to think and speak extraordinarily—to defy mediocrity—means drawing the attention of naysayers and critics. “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). Can anyone think, speak, or be extraordinary and not have critics? Here enters loneliness in the life of the leader.
One who has stepped beyond the realm of the ordinary can expect to be misunderstood. Those who have never walked where he walks, and have not seen what he sees, can never truly understand what he understands, what he or she IS. At one point during Jesus’ ministry the people said, “We have seen strange things today.” Why? …Because Jesus was doing the impossible! (Luke 5:26). Some translations read “We have seen extraordinary things today.” When ordinary people encounter the extraordinary, the natural reaction is to dismiss it as strange, weird, fanatical, something to be avoided; or worse, to disdain it, or maliciously attempt to pull it down from its incomprehensible heights to the familiarity of their own low-level existence where they can understand it, manage it, moderate it…control it.
This occurs with JLS at the “Council Gathering,” being called to stand front and center before the elders, who were not there to honor his zeal and extraordinary achievements, but to reprove him for his audacity, for thinking he can become something more. In biblical times, we see this occurring in the life of Jesus as he is called before the High Priest and elders, not to receive praise for his wonderful works, nor thanks for healing multitudes, but rather to slander him with accusation, mockery, disdain, chastisement, rebuke—with the hopeful intent that Jesus would lower himself and succumb to their rigidly fixed frames of existence.
This pattern is repeated with all of Jesus’ disciples, especially leaders. Upon believing and experiencing the eternal life that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, individuals peer into the realm of limitless possibilities, the supernatural, the extraordinary—these individuals are transformed by their experience. Just as their Lord, disciples will be misunderstood.
“The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household” (Matt 10:24-25).
Two Worlds Collide
Those determined to remain in lower dimensions of thought and life feel the reality of higher-dimensional vision and passion pressing in on them and it causes conviction. “The kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” Many will recognize a difference in their lives compared with those who are reaching beyond and actualizing the potential in them. Whoever has received the Spirit of God according to the Scriptures has touched the divine sensations of the world to come. They have been “enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.” They have begun the process of BECOMING, and others see the difference it is making. The difference being “that they have begun to understand what they really are and have begun to practice it.” [ii] At this point, there is a schism between those going forward in faith, seeing what God intends—i.e. what they can and ought to become—versus those fearful, unbelieving ones, determined to stay behind and cling to the familiarity of this world and their old, manageable paradigms.
The Leader Must Go On
Leaders lead from the front. The front can be a lonely place. Leaders will be scrutinized and falsely scandalized, critiqued and often criticized, misunderstood and surely mistreated; but these are not what create a state of loneliness and solitude for the leader. Loneliness occurs because he or she has found transformational truth—revelatory knowledge—so amazing it must be shared. But when shared with others, most will refuse to accept and believe the very truth that can set them free. “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow” (Eccl 1:18). The sorrow for JLS was not that he was rejected, not that he was unfairly chastised and dis-fellowshipped, but rather that seagulls—his own “kind”—refused to believe the “glory of flight that awaited them; they refused to open their eyes and see.” [iii] Nevertheless, true leaders must go on.
The day you stop pursuing the next thing God has for you is the day you start sliding backwards.
Those living the faith-life must continuously peer into the realm of the “already, not yet.” Christians live “in-between,” that is, in between the knowledge of what we are and what God has revealed we can become. We already have “tasted” what we can become, though it is still ‘not yet.’ Until the ‘not yet’ becomes a resounding ‘is’ we press toward the mark of the high calling that is in Him. We must live life leaning forward, tilted towards the next “God-venture.”
What and who we become depends very much on two factors: desire and a willingness to follow after that which has laid hold upon us. Without desire, the latter is meaningless. Without willingness, desire is no more than wishful thinking. But when we have inner desire and a God-sent leader to show us the Way—and the willingness to follow!—the process of becoming something greater is a certainty.
[i] Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull (New York: Scribner, 1970), 17.
[iii] Ibid., 25.