In all of the many Star Wars films (and there are too many now), one of my favorite segments is where Yoda is training the young Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back.
After Luke fails to lift his X-wing fighter out of the swamp by using the Force, he complains to Yoda, “You want the impossible.” Then he walks off into the woods to pout.
Of course, Yoda then proceeds to lift the X-wing fighter out of the swamp himself and sets it on dry land. Luke stares in amazement, “I don’t believe it.”
Yoda’s reply is classic, “That is why you fail.”
While the quasi-Gnostic, New Age worldview of the Star Wars saga makes me hesitant to use it as an example, I have to say that a good lesson can be learned in this instance.
In short, the “impossible” can only be accomplished by faith.
Indeed, God has a habit of asking his people to do “impossible” things. Unthinkable things. Nonsensical things. He asked Noah to build a 400 foot ark in the middle of dry land. He asked Gideon to send 32,000 troops home before the battle with the Midianites, leaving him only 300 men. And he asked Hosea to marry an unfaithful woman—a prostitute.
In all such instances, God calls his people to radical obedience. He calls us to trust Him.
But do we? The issue isn’t just whether we obey. The issue is how we obey. Do we do the impossible thing God is calling us to do with hope and confidence that all things works for good? Or do we obey God with a sense of resignation and despair?
Put differently, do we obey according to faith, or do we obey out of sheer duty?
I fear the latter is all too often the case. Sure, we may do the unthinkable thing God is asking us to do. But, we have already determined ahead of time that all hope is lost. No good can come from this, we think.
But there is a better way. And Abraham models it for us. Perhaps no one was tested more deeply and profoundly than Abraham when he was asked to sacrifice his one and only son (Gen 22:1).
Not only was this the beloved boy that he and Sarah had waited and longed for, but all the promises of God converged upon him. Abraham had been told that all nations would be blessed through his offspring—blessings that included the coming of the promised Messiah. And Isaac was the key to all of these promises.
While this scenario would certainly constitute a good basis for wallowing in despair, Abraham does not take this path. Instead, he does something radical.
We see this amazing faith at a point in the story that is often overlooked. After reaching Mt. Moriah, Abraham tells his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
Notice that Abraham expressly states that both he and the boy will return from the mountain. This is not just Abraham putting on a good face for his servants. Abraham really believed that somehow, someway God would keep his promises regarding Isaac.
In fact, Hebrews 11:19 tells us why Abraham was so confident, “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead.”
In other words, Abraham didn’t just obey God. He obeyed with hopefulness. He obeyed with a godly optimism. And that is the only way we can obey God in the midst of unthinkable trials. And it is the only way we can obey God over the long term.
Our obedience, like Abraham’s, must flow from belief that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom 8:28).