We have just this past week “celebrated” the 50th anniversary of “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”!
Not too long before Neil Armstrong uttered those words and he and Buzz Aldrin hopped around on the moon for the first time, the very idea of anyone walking on the surface of the moon was something akin to a Jules Verne novel.
Have you ever thought about all the “impossible” things in our lives that we now practically take for granted their presence? We think nothing of watching professional racing drivers take their automobiles to speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour. The idea of NOT flying non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean is something that we would think to be an impossible feat, yet not too many years ago, Charles Lindbergh, when he concocted the idea of flying non-stop from New York to Paris, was thought to be a crazy man.
I just spoke with a friend who had returned from a 10-day trip to Eastern Europe, and he was telling me that he spoke almost every day with his wife on their cell phones.
Think of that – halfway around the world and taking to one another as though standing next to each other in the very same room! Impossible? Not any more!
Well, some years ago, the University of California at Berkley took on an impossible assignment. It agreed to coordinate an international effort to locate extra-terrestrial life.
That is a daunting project. We live in a large galaxy, and the multi-million dollar radio telescopes looking at it suck in a lot of data.
In fact, so much data is collected and forwarded to Berkley that no computer on earth is powerful enough to process it all.
To accomplish this impossible task Berkley asked home computer users around the world to contact them over the Internet and download a program called “SETI @ Home.” The SETI software makes a connection over the Internet to a computer in California and downloads a “work unit” — that is, a set of measurements from a particular part of the sky.
When the work is done, the computer makes another Internet call to Berkeley, uploads its results, and downloads a new work unit. What today’s largest supercomputer could never do alone, at latest count, almost two million ordinary home computers do easily.
In the words of Kent Edwards, the Boston Globe columnist who originally reported on this project, “Sometimes the best way to accomplish the impossible is to harness the help of the ordinary.”
I cannot help but think that statement describes the way the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to work.
The Great Commission (“Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations…” – Matthew 28:19-20) is the unabashed assignment for every individual who claims to be a follower of Jesus.
If each of us would take that assignment seriously, it could very well be the task that puts each of us into our “early” graves – simply because it seems on the surface to be “impossible.” But probably the greater difficulty is getting people to understand that the task should not be that overwhelming.
God didn’t intend any one person to do all the work. No one can do it alone, but if we all do what we can, the unattainable becomes attainable; the church can be all that God intended it to be.
That’s what the Bible means when it says, “Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16).
He calls each of us who claim to follow Jesus to do our own special work to help the whole body – the church — grow to be stable and healthy and Christ-like.
That is a lesson that is hard to learn. We live in such an individualistic society and culture that the idea of thinking about anyone other than myself is almost like a foreign language to me.
But it is a lesson that I must learn if the Church is to function as God intended it to function. I don’t have to do it all.
Indeed, I cannot do it all. In fact, over and over again the Scriptures seem to teach that the essence of Christ-likeness, of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ in our lives, is others-centered living. It is living as though YOU matters more than ME.
As J.B. Priestley said, “We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish.”
God has gifted each of His followers with gifts and abilities that His Church needs in order to work as God intended it to work, and He simply is in the business of “harnessing the help of the ordinary!”
His call to each of us is to serve Him where we are needed in His Church, and allow Him to get the glory for it all! And He promises if we do that, that the whole body will be “healthy and growing and full of love.”
You talk about the impossible! We cannot do it, but God can! Why don’t we let Him do it?
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.