8. God Is Able
We live in an age of unprecedented power. Mighty engines power race cars hundreds of miles per hour, pull freight trains that are literally miles in length, lift mammoth airplanes off the ground carrying hundreds of passengers with all their cargo, and hurtle tons of sophisticated scientific equipment into space. By harnessing the power of the atom we have created enough energy to light entire cities and enough weaponry to annihilate them many times over. Power is something we are just beginning to understand.
Throughout human history mankind has stood in awe before the mighty power of the natural elements—light so powerful it can blind us, water so powerful it can wash away whole civilizations, wind so powerful it can topple brick and steel buildings, fire so powerful it can melt rock. We know what power is.
Athletes are power conscious. Baseball has its power hitters, football its power runners, basketball its power forwards. Weight lifters may be billed as the most powerful men in the world. Athletes in nearly every sport are striving for greater power to establish new world records. Power is something with which we are all familiar. We can grasp its significance.
At least we think we can, until we come to God. Then suddenly our minds are boggled. He claims to be all-powerful, and that defies our imagination. Add the power of the world’s greatest athletes to the power of the world’s natural elements to the incredible power man has developed through science and technology, and the total does not even begin to approach God’s power. In fact He himself is the source of all power, not only in the physical realm about which we have been talking, but in the spiritual realm as well, where the true nature and extent of power eludes our understanding. God is omnipotent! What does that mean? It means that God possesses infinite, complete, and perfect power. He can do anything He wants to do, absolutely anything. None of us can make that claim. Our capabilities are limited. But God is able to do everything He wills.
We sometimes use the term power to refer to God’s authority or His prerogative to do what He pleases. But that is more accurately His sovereignty. Power refers to His strength to act, His ability to perform, and that is the kind of power in God’s omnipotence. He is able to do anything He wants to do.
Meet the God Who Is Able
One of God’s names tells us that He is able to do whatever He pleases, a name He first revealed to Abraham. He had promised to make Abraham the father of a great nation, and naturally Abraham needed a son in order for that promise to come true. He thought Hagar’s child, Ishmael, was to be that son, but God told him that Sarah would bear a son named Isaac through whom the promise would be fulfilled. The whole idea was preposterous. Abraham was ninety nine years old and Sarah was ninety, and humanly speaking there was no possible way they could have a son. But God helped them to believe it by the way He introduced Himself that day. “Now when Abram was ninety nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless’” (Genesis 17:1).
El Shaddai is God Almighty, the God who can do anything He wants to do, even rejuvenate dead wombs and give babies to couples in their nineties! He is almighty, all-powerful. That name is used forty-seven more times in the Old Testament and never of anyone but God. It has a New Testament equivalent, used ten times, which means literally “to hold all things in one’s power.” Scripture is punctuated with references to God’s omnipotence from beginning to end. He is the Lord strong and mighty (Psalm 24:8). Power belongs to Him (Psalm 62:11). “Great is our Lord, and abundant in strength” (Psalm 147:5). He wants us to know Him as the God who is able to do anything.
It is interesting to watch Biblical characters discover Him in that light. Abraham was one of the first who did. Sometime after that initial revelation of Himself as the Almighty, God again promised Abraham a son, this time in Sarah’s hearing, and she laughed to herself (Genesis 18:12). “Why did Sarah laugh?” God asked with convicting insight. Then He added, “Is anything too difficult for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14) When Abraham and Sarah learned the answer to that question they would be able to believe that God would keep His Word. And they finally did, “being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform” (Romans 4:21). In other words, they grasped the truth of God’s omnipotence.
Most of us have had disillusioning experiences with people who have promised more than they have been able to deliver, and we have a tendency to transfer our skepticism to God. Does He really care? Is He really in control? Does He really have the power to bring good out of adversity? Our doubts do nothing but raise our anxiety level and cause us grief. Believe it, Christian, just as Abraham and Sarah finally believed it. God is able to do whatever needs to be done in your life. No other being is all-powerful. No problem is all-powerful. Only God is all powerful, and He is on our side. His omnipotence is pitted against our problem. The odds in our favor are infinite.
Jeremiah was another great saint who learned this lesson. God had been telling him that Judah would be invaded by the Babylonians and taken into captivity, but then He directed him to go out and buy his cousin’s field. That made no sense at all to Jeremiah. Why own a field if the Babylonians are going to destroy everything and take everybody into captivity? Could it be that God would bring them back from captivity? That was almost too good to believe. But he wanted to believe it and he was trying to believe it when he prayed, “Ah Lord GOD! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for Thee” (Jeremiah 32:17).
Jeremiah was acknowledging that God’s power is displayed nowhere more dramatically than in creation. Everything we make requires existing materials but God made the worlds out of nothing. He merely spoke and it was done (Psalm 33:6, 9). That is power! The writer to the Hebrews assures us that He continues to sustain all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). A God who is able to create everything out of nothing by a word, then continues to hold it all together by a word, is certainly able to do anything else He wants to do, including restore the nation Israel to her land. As if to strengthen Jeremiah’s struggling faith God Himself speaks: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27) No, Lord. Absolutely nothing! Jeremiah saw it. God is able to do anything.
The virgin Mary questioned God’s spectacular revelation to her. How could she possibly bear a son when she had never had relations with a man? It would be by the very same means her elderly cousin Elizabeth would bear a son when she was past the age of child-bearing, by the supernatural power of God. “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). That verse literally says, “For no word from God shall be without power.” That puts the whole matter right where it belongs, in the realm of God’s omnipotence. He has the power to do whatever He says He is going to do. If He wants to plant a child in the womb of a virgin He can do it. And He did do it, giving the world a divine Saviour.
The disciples were disturbed when Jesus told them how difficult it would be for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. “Then who can be saved?” they asked rather hopelessly. That was when they got a decisive lesson on God’s omnipotence. Looking upon them, Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). He is able to do anything He pleases, and He longs for us to know Him as the omnipotent God.
Know What He Is Able To Do
If we really want to know the omnipotent God intimately and experientially, we ought to think through some of the things He is able to do. The New Testament word “to be able” means essentially “to have power” (dunamai the verb form of that familiar Greek noun, dunamis). When we read that God is able to do something it means He has the power to do it. It is a concept related to His omnipotence. The Old Testament word has somewhat the same connotation. While we know God can do anything He wants to do, look at a few of the specific things the Bible says He is able to do.
He Is Able to Save Us Completely. “Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). The writer to the Hebrews is assuring us that God is able to save us perfectly for all time and eternity. Once we have trusted Christ as Saviour from sin and been born again, we never need to fear for our eternal destiny. Our omnipotent God has the power to keep us. Peter put it in those very words. He said we are “kept by the power of God” (1 Peter 1:5 KJV). And it is a good thing that we are. None of us would feel very secure if our salvation depended on our power.
He Is Able to Keep Us from Sin. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24). That great benediction assures us that God has the power to keep us from falling into sin. We know how He does it: “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). Our omnipotent Saviour has conquered temptation Himself, and now He is right there for us to lean on when we are tempted. When we learn to lay hold of His power we will conquer those stubborn sins that disrupt our lives.
He Is Able to Supply Our Needs. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8). That promise was addressed to faithful and cheerful givers. They can count on God to take care of everything they need, in every circumstance of life, all the time. Only an omnipotent God could make a promise like that. My wife and I have experienced that power. There were days, early in our marriage, when we acted as though God could not really take care of our needs, as though providing for a seminary student with a wife and child were more than He could handle. Sometimes we got anxious and irritable over finances. But we tried to be faithful in sharing our meager resources with Him, and He kept showing us, sometimes in miraculous ways, that He was able to supply our needs.
He Is Able to Heal Our Diseases. Jesus taught this lesson to two blind men right after He emerged from the house where He had raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead, the supreme demonstration of His power. The two men cried out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” (Matthew 9:27) Jesus turned and asked, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28) When they answered, “Yes, Lord,” Jesus touched their eyes and made them to see. He may be asking you the same question: “Do you believe I have the power to heal you?” He does not always heal, because He knows that sickness is sometimes the best way to accomplish His perfect purposes in our lives. But He is able, and He wants us to believe that. Believing it could be the very thing that starts us on the road to recovery.
He Is Able to Deliver Us from Death. Daniel’s three friends taught us this lesson when they were standing beside the door of a blazing fiery furnace heated seven times hotter than normal. They boldly declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire” (Daniel 3:17). He does not always deliver us from death. Many have laid down their lives for their faith through the centuries. But He is able to deliver us if He so chooses.
Jesus knew that. The writer to the Hebrews said, “He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death” (Hebrews 5:7). As He prayed in the garden to His Father, He said, “All things are possible for Thee; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt” (Mark 14:36). While all things were possible, He submitted to His Father’s will and trusted Him to do what was best. That is exactly what He wants us to do. It has been said that we are invincible and immortal until God’s time to take us home. There is no reason for the child of God ever to fear, for God is able to deliver him from any danger.
After Daniel had spent an entire night in a den of lions, King Darius hurried to the den in the morning and called out to him, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?” (Daniel 6:20) That kind of question would be asked only by someone who does not know God. He most certainly was able to deliver him. Hungry lions are no more of a problem to an omnipotent God than fiery furnaces, or terminal illnesses, or scary noises in the dark, or barking dogs, or poisonous snakes, or earthquakes, or floods, or anything else. He has power over creation, power over nature, power over animals, power over the nations, power over rulers, and power over demons. And He is able to deliver us.
There are other references in Scripture to what God is able to do, but none more exciting than the one in Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” That is real power, the very same power that raised Christ from the dead and is operating in us right now (Ephesians 1:19-21). The Holy Spirit of God, the Omnipotent One Himself, actually lives in us and makes His power available to us. He is willing to give strength to all (1 Chronicles 29:12). Whoever you are and whatever your need, God’s strength is available to help you. From the little crisis, like a stubborn jar lid you cannot unscrew when there is no one there to help, to the major crisis like an extended illness of a loved one that has put superhuman demands on you physically, God’s strength is available to help.
With the promise of that kind of power at our disposal why do we feel so weak, fearful, and powerless so much of the time? Maybe we have not yet learned to appropriate God’s power.
Learn How To Enjoy His Power
The secret of releasing God’s power lies in three basic principles. The first was revealed to King Asa of Judah during a time when he was displeasing the Lord by relying on human treaties rather than on the power of the living God. A prophet said to him, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9 KJV). God is actually looking for people He can help, people for whom and through whom He can release His power. But there is a condition: He wants our hearts to be wholly His, our allegiance to Him to be undivided. In other words, He wants us to be yielded to Him, to desire His will more than our own will. If he is going to supply us with His power, He wants to be sure we will use it for His glory. Some of us may be so weak and fearful and powerless because God cannot trust us with His power. We would take the credit for ourselves. When we yield our wills to Him we are ready to experience His power.
The second key to enjoying God’s power was revealed by the prophet Isaiah to a nation that desperately needed it. Israel was a midget surrounded by giants who were ready to pounce on her. Isaiah sought to encourage the nation by devoting an entire chapter of his book to the greatness of God in contrast to the weakness of men (Isaiah 40). But the nation was saying, just as we often say, “If God is so great and powerful, why doesn’t He help us?” That is exactly what He wants to do.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power (Isaiah 40:28-29).
Well then, how can we get His power? Isaiah is careful to tell us.
Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary (Isaiah 40:30-31).
To wait for God is to keep on prayerfully and patiently looking to Him. Some of us may be so weak and fearful and powerless because we are not consistently looking to God for His power. We connive, scheme, pull strings, and manipulate people to work out our problems and meet our needs rather than look to the Lord. He says, “I want to use my omnipotence on your behalf. Just ask Me, just look to Me rather than to yourself or to others.” When we focus our attention on the Lord, rather than on our circumstances or on human solutions, we are ready to experience His power.
But there is a third key. God’s power is always released on our behalf through faith, an unmistakable principle found throughout Scripture. There is little hope of enjoying God’s power when we do not expect Him to release it, or if we are not sure that He can or will release it, or if we are not trusting Him to release it.
A needy man in Jesus’ day had to learn that lesson. His son was hopelessly possessed by a vile demon which had nearly destroyed him. He brought the boy to Jesus’ disciples to be delivered, but it turned out to be another frustrating dead-end for him. He was about to give up when Jesus arrived on the scene. This was his last ray of hope. He pleaded, “But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” Listen to Jesus’ answer; it is the pivotal issue to enjoying God’s power: “If You can? All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). The man cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (verse 24). It was an honest admission that his faith was weak but a sincere request for the Saviour to strengthen it. That was all Christ asked. He spoke a word and the omnipotence of God was released, delivering the boy from demonic power.
God is able! There is no deficiency in His power. The deficiency may be in our faith. Believe that He can do what needs to be done in your life. Expect Him to answer, then watch for Him to do it. He may work in totally unexpected ways, but He will work with supernatural power. At this very moment He is looking for people through whom He can demonstrate that power. Why not let it be you?
Action To Take
List some problems in your life that seem to be impossible to solve. Now meet the conditions for enjoying God’s power: Yield your will fully to Him; Commit the problems to Him in prayer regularly; Believe that He will solve them in His own perfect way.
Related Topics: Theology Proper (God)