For hundreds of years before 1954, running a mile in under four minutes was deemed physically impossible. It didn’t just seem impossible; it was scientifically determined that humans were incapable of doing so. Then Roger Bannister did this on May 6, 1954 with a time of 3:59. Within a year, someone else ran a four-minute mile. Now, it’s almost routine.
No words in history have imposed more false limitations than the words "I can’t” and "impossible." The brain always moves in the direction of one’s dominant thoughts. Yet our lives are filled with those words. Trust me, I know. I can’t control my diet. I can’t lose weight. I can’t reduce my blood pressure. The words “I can’t” aren’t just words - they’re a crystal-clear set of instructions for your brain. They tell you that something is impossible, and your subconscious goes into autopilot.
In the Bible, Matthew Chapter 19 (NIV) talks about the impossible. The story in Matthew 19:16-28 talks about a wealthy, young man who was asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. After Jesus shares a few commandments, the man answers, in a way that suggests a bit of arrogance, that he’s met all of those conditions. Then Jesus replies in verse 21, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Jesus isn’t saying that selling all your possessions is a prerequisite for eternal life; He is simply making a point that we can never do enough to earn eternal life. His disciples then ask Jesus the obvious question, “Who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25). He replies in verse 26, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Jesus is reiterating the point that man cannot earn eternal life on His own. He needs God. He needs a Savior. That Savior is Jesus Christ.
When grounded in faith and connected to the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the power of God within us, and nothing is impossible.
Running a sub-4 mile was impossible, but Roger Bannister didn’t get that memo. In Matthew 19, we’re led down a path that suggests that earning or doing our way into Heaven is impossible, but with God anything is possible. I’ve had a few impossibles in my life.
- When I was over 250 pounds with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high sugar, and a high risk for cardiovascular disease, people told me getting healthy was impossible.
- When I severely tore my calf in 2010, I was told that it would be impossible to ever run again.
- When I joined a triathlon team in 2014, just four years after being told I’d never run again, not knowing how to swim, and not having ridden a bike since I was a kid, everyone told me a triathlon would be impossible.
- When I approached race day of my first Ironman triathlon, I was injured and was told by many people that it would be impossible to finish the race with my injury.
Being told it was impossible was all the motivation I needed. I leaned on experts to create action plans, and I relied on God as my source of inner strength. By the grace of God, each of these impossibles became possible. Next time someone says you can’t do something, take it as a challenge.
Impossible is usually just a self-imposed limitation. If babies behaved like adults, every single one of us would have stopped trying to stand and walk after our first several failed attempts. We would have failed a few times and said, "This is impossible." Fortunately, babies don’t know the word “impossible.”
Matthew 17:20 (NIV) says, “…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed ... nothing will be impossible for you.” Each and every day, miracles happen, and the impossible becomes possible.
What’s your impossible? Maybe it’s overcoming an obstacle at work or in your family. Maybe it’s dealing with an addiction or illness. Maybe it’s a far-reaching goal. Whatever it is, start by putting your finger on it and understanding why you believe it’s impossible.
Once you’ve identified your impossible, think about your approach. Do you have a plan? Are there experts you can lean on for help? Are there others who’ve done this before and can advise or coach you?