All believers have a limited idea of what God is capable of doing. We may say He can do anything, but we still have unspoken reservations in some areas. Yes, God can heal the sick and raise the dead. He can part the seas and move mountains. He not only created the sun, which is incomparably more powerful than our biggest nuclear bomb, He filled the universe with hundreds of trillions of suns, all without breaking a sweat. His power is truly incomprehensible.
And yet, when it comes to His work in our lives, there are some things we think He must have a difficult time doing. His purpose is to transform us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ 1, but why does it seem such a struggle, and with so many setbacks?
The truth is that many of us unconsciously think God's power is limited by our limitations. Sure, God has had some success with a few "super saints," but, for the majority of us, bringing us closer to Christ must really tax God's strength and patience. After all, many of us have been believers for a long time, and yet that old sin nature keeps raising its ugly head and making its presence known.
But God is still able to do what you and I think is impossible, even transforming our lives from the inside out. The well-known story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:21-39 illustrates this point very well.
After the false prophets called upon Baal to send down fire on their sacrificial offering (…with no results, by the way), Elijah rebuilt his altar, dug a trench around it, and laid on the wood and sacrifice. Then he poured twelve barrels of water over everything until the trench remained full. He then called on God to glorify Himself:
"Hear me, Yahweh, hear me, that this people may know that you, Yahweh, are God, and that you have turned their heart back again." Then the fire of Yahweh fell, and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 2
God's power was strong enough to do what most thought was impossible, easily overcoming Elijah's apparent act of making it difficult for God to light the fire. This small but very impressive show of God's power has practical significance for you.
Think of that sacrifice as your life, and all the water poured on it as those sins and weaknesses you think prevents God from doing a great work in your life. You certainly can't light the fire… not at least until the wood dries out. And that's your problem: you've tried and tried, but you can't stop pouring water on the whole thing. Your sins and weaknesses are always manifesting themselves, constantly keeping the wood soaking wet. But what is a big problem in your eyes is nothing to God. You don't have to light the fire. That is God's job, and He can do it no matter how damp the wood.
If you're asking yourself why He hasn't done so, perhaps you need to examine your altar. What does God have to work with? What have you given Him? Is it only a portion of your life? Or perhaps there's nothing there at all. God is not going to send fire down on an empty altar.
For God to bless your whole life and to make your whole life a blessing to others, you need to offer your whole life to God. Biblical sacrifice is surrender. It is irrevocably giving your best over to God so you can no longer benefit by it, unless He gives it back. Whatever you hold back for yourself, whether it be material things, your finances, attitudes, relationships, desires, will, rights, time, or anything else, God is not going to bless, and this is going to end up holding you back spiritually. You need to give your all to God.
Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. 3
Thank God we're called to be living sacrifices, not crispy critters. But as Walter Martin used to say, the trouble with living sacrifices is that they keep trying to crawl off the altar. It requires conscious effort to stay on the altar daily.
Examine your life. What have you been holding back on? Has God asked you to do something that you are not willing to do? Are you seeking glory for yourself in some area? Is there some sin, habit or thought that you are not willing to give over to Him? It could be anything. If it is not on the altar, don't expect God's blessing.
But when your all is on the altar, expect great things from God. His power is infinitely greater than your sin nature. He is not limited by you, only by what you give Him to work with. The more areas of your life that you cease holding on to and give to God, the more Christ-like you will become, and the more God's glory will show through you. God is not limited by your limitations.