When I learned of the death of famous boxer Muhammad Ali, my mind immediately began to recall some of his most famous words and victories. Though Ali was not a Christian, one of his quotes helped me both in and beyond my academic pursuits.
In my college dorm, it seemed that half of the rooms had a picture on the wall of Ali standing victorious over a defeated foe, accompanied by a quotation. When asked about doing the impossible, Ali said, “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
“Impossible is nothing.” This quote even helped in my relationship with God, as it made me think of two scriptures. Jesus Christ famously told His disciples that “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). The Apostle Paul put it slightly differently when he declared, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Though Ali surely did not have those scriptures in mind, his quote nevertheless pointed my mind to them and helped me understand that impossible truly is nothing if a person relies on God!
And yet, if we simply look at the flesh, we can say some things are impossible. Can you travel to Pluto? Can you earn a doctorate in every possible field? Can you become an Olympic athlete in any and every sport? Can you save every person who is dying of cancer? Again and again, the answer is “no”—these things are impossible for us. Does this mean that Ali—and, more importantly, the Holy Scripture—was wrong in the assertion that impossible is nothing? No! If we let the Bible answer the Bible, we see that all things truly will be possible for Christians if they draw close to God over their lives to seek after the true reward God offers His servants.
Interestingly, the Bible even uses boxing to deliver one of its very important lessons. The Apostle Paul, though not condoning violence, uses the sport as an example of how a Christian should draw close to God by living with purpose: “So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing [wasting punches]. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should” (1 Corinthians 9:26–27, NLT). If we, as God’s servants, imitate athletes (even boxers) in this way, God promises to reward us during the resurrection. Later, Paul tells us that the reward of the saints will be their resurrection to eternal, spiritual life—which is characterized by glory, power, and incorruption (1 Corinthians 15:42–53).
For those of us who accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and pursue our walk with God with greater determination than boxers—and other athletes—pursue their prize, will come the reward of eventually becoming God’s kings and priests at the resurrection, tasked with healing the world (Revelation 5:10)! What will happen to the “impossible”? It will all change in the twinkling of an eye! Yes, you will be able to travel to Pluto, master any subject and save those who are suffering from any ailment! You will even have a chance to teach all of mankind about true biblical Christianity.
Although it can be easy to focus on what is impossible for the flesh to do, if we truly draw close to God and have faith in the promises He makes in the Bible, there is a day coming when we can truly say “Impossible is nothing.”