Our culture despises those two little words. Hatred for weakness and inadequacy is why we tell our kids never to say, “I can’t.” It’s why we love the inspiring words of Thomas the Tank Engine: “Yes, you can!” The belief that we’re capable of anything, if we set our minds to it, pervades our worldview.
This “I-can” mentality also colors our reading of Scripture, specifically how we understand and respond to God’s commands. If we aren’t careful, we’ll be deceived into thinking we’ve “got this” apart from the power of the gospel motivating and empowering us.
When God’s Will Is Impossible
Consider a familiar passage. Many of us can recite it from memory. It’s one of the few answers we give to the common question, “What is God’s will for my life?” We affirm it—
But struggle to apply it:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
God couldn’t be clearer: His will for his people is a life steeped in rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving! We never have to wonder if we’re on the right and godly path with these actions. They are God’s will for us. Yet—
They’re some of the most difficult commands to obey.
Think about it:
- Why does God command us to “rejoice always”? Because it’s more natural for us to grumble and complain about our circumstances than to see God’s character and purposes at work in them.
- Why does he tell us to “pray without ceasing”? Because, in an age of distraction and entertainment, it’s easier to give our focus and time to nothingness, wasting it on self-centered, temporary pleasures, than to give ourselves to eternal, Kingdom matters.
- And what about his command to “give thanks”? We usually forget or refuse to because, somewhere deep within our hearts, we fail to remember that everything is a gift from God. We think we’re entitled to what we want and deserve an easy life.
Friends, I’m preaching to myself here. I often fail to fulfill God’s will in these particular commands. I’d rather complain about what he hasn’t given me than praise him for what he has; and I’d more quickly scroll social media for the umpteenth time than set aside what feeds my pride for the prayerfulness that will expose it. Turns out these basic commands to do God’s will are much harder to obey than they seem.
Yes, on our own, obedience to God is impossible. We need his help and power, secured for us through our union with Christ, to do his will.