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Entries in Impossibility (1)


Believe for Greater Things - Sarah

Genesis 18:1-15.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 27, 2015.  This series is an adaptation of a sermon preached by Dr. George O. Wood at the General Council of the Assemblies of God in Orlando, Florida on August 6, 2013.  He deserves full credit for the framework and many points of this sermon.

The theme for our week of prayer next week is “Believe for Greater Things!”  As such we will spend the following weeks looking at 4 different women who were instrumental in God’s plan of salvation.  Each of them had similar experiences and yet with interesting and challenging differences.  They all were challenged to trust and believe God for the things that were being promised to them and to Israel.

When we look at faith it should be recognized that there are several aspects to it.  First there is the past aspect, in which faith looks back to what God has done.  It is that which informs the content of our faith and affirms its existence.  We believe what we do because of what God has said and done in the past.  Another aspect of faith is how it looks forward to the thing or things for which we believe.  Thus when we put our faith in Jesus we do so not just because of what happened 2,000 years ago, but also because of what is promised in our future.  Lastly there is the present aspect of faith that lives within moment by moment tension of the other two aspects.  How we live our life today has everything to do with the strength of our faith regarding the past and the future.  We must know what we believe, but we also must know the thing for which we believe, whether that is in our personal life, our family, ministry, and even our nation.

These four women: Sarah, Naomi, Hannah, and Mary helped change history.  We want to see how their faith in God was not easy and was not what most had who were around them.  However, we will also see how God used their faith to bring forth His plan of salvation to mankind.

The Faith of Sarah

Now God had already promised Abraham that He would make him a great nation in Genesis 12:2.  Later God added to this revelation that it would be done through one who came from his own body and his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of the sky, and sands of the seashore (Genesis 15:4, 5).  These promises began when Abraham was 75 and Sarah was 65 as best we can tell.  It is important to recognize the tension that exists between what God promises and what we experience day by day.  Thus God promises children to a couple who had been physically unable to have children.  On top of this He waits until she is past the age of child bearing to give the promise.  For you see, up until Genesis 18, God has not revealed that the children would also come from the body of Sarah.  Thus our story of three strangers visiting Abraham and promising that Sarah will have a child within the next year is a revelation that catches her off-guard.

Thus we are told Sarah laughs when she first hears God’s promise.  Clearly she had come to accept her lot in life.  She would never have children.  Without a word from heaven, God had made it abundantly clear to her that she would never be pregnant and give birth.  She has also had to come to terms with the reality that the great promises to Abraham would clearly not happen through her.  Most likely she struggled with guilt for not giving Abraham children, and self-esteem for being a hindrance to such great promises.  Her love for Abraham is such that she had given her servant Hagar to Abraham as a wife to raise up a child in her stead.  Thus Sarah is in the odd position of one who believes that God’s promise is true, but that His plan does not have much of a part for her.  Perhaps she sometimes thought, “Yes, God loves some people, but not me.”  I say that not because we might know how Sarah felt.  But we can know how we might have felt.  Such situations can be very trying for a woman and for a man.  Yet, here in the last years of her life she is told that she is going to give birth.  You would laugh too if promised such a ridiculous sounding thing.

Yes, Sarah was not quick to believe this new development to the promise.  Yet, God knows our frailty.  Faith is not just about an exchange of information.  It is an experience of walking day by day with a God who is far greater than we can imagine.  At scales far beyond, we are children walking with an amazing Father who does things hard for us to believe and imagine.  Thus faith is not about instantaneously believing and never having a doubt.  It is about learning to trust God as we walk with Him. 

Do you believe that God loves you and has a portion for you in the midst of what He is doing?  Don’t let the sin of bitterness and self-hatred eat you up from the inside.   Continually lay these things on God’s altar and wait upon Him.  Let Him reveal to you what He is doing.  Also, don’t let your lack of ability become the reason why you don’t trust God.  If He promises something it will not depend upon our ability to do anything but trust Him.

Another thing we see here is that God is with us when it looks like nothing is happening.   After the promise of Genesis 12, Sarah waited 10 years and yet she still couldn’t have children.  It was at that time she offered Hagar to Abraham.  Yet when Hagar had a child, God made it clear that Ishmael would not be the promised child.  Now we are 24 years after the initial promise and still nothing is happening.  It often appears in life like nothing is happening and that God’s promise was just an imagination.  Most of this is because we do not see what we expect to see, when we expect to see it.  God’s way and timing is different than ours.  Why would he wait until Sarah is 89 to give her a child?  In the walk of faith with God we may be asked to do ridiculous things, like having Abraham be circumcised at 99 years of age. 

Times of waiting are an important part of what God is doing in your life.  It may look like He is doing nothing.  But it is precisely the wait that is shaping us into the image of our Lord Jesus.

This leads to the next thing.  God is always up to something regardless of how well we believe in the moment.  Over the years a teaching has developed that promotes a kind of faith in our own ability to believe.  It simply states that if you believe enough and have no doubt, you will get what you ask for.  The problem is that God should always be the object of our faith.  His plan is not dependent upon us to the degree that it cannot happen without us.  However, our place within His plan can be impacted by our ability to learn to trust Him.  Thus we sometimes cause people to feel like the burden is on them to conjure up a mystical ability that will make something happen.  Whereas the truth is that faith grows and deepens in that moment of brokenness when we throw ourselves upon the Lord and say, “Lord, I can’t do it.  Help me!”  Yes, you are going to have to believe God.  But, it is not all dependent upon you.  God is aware of your frailties and weakness.  He is the one who is teaching you to trust Him.  He will carry you through if you will cast yourself upon Him over and over again.  Even in your times of doubt, God is bringing things to the exact place that He said He would.  Will you trust Him?

Lastly, the amazing story of Abraham and Sarah teaches us that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.  I have dealt more with the situation than I have with the story.  However, the Bible tells us that the Lord asks Abraham, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?”  That is a question that tests us all.  Throughout His ministry, Jesus answered this over and over again.  In Matthew 19:26 he said, “… with God all things are possible.”  We have to stop looking at ourselves and our inabilities and start looking to the Lord.  Whether God is going to make an 89 year old, barren woman conceive, or simply change the hard heart of a wayward loved-one, nothing is too difficult for God.

What are you believing for?  God has given us general promises that are amazing and impossible.  If we remain in Him to the end we will have a part in the Glory of Jesus, resurrection of our mortal bodies into immortal ones, and a restoration of the heavens and the earth.  These things do not look probable, but we must learn to trust the Lord for them.  Yet, God has a particular plan for you as well.  Take time over these next weeks to pray for your life, your work, your relationships, and ministry.  Ask God to fill your mind and heart with the plans that He has for you.  I guarantee you it is greater than you think that you do.  And, you would be right.  It is not what God wants you to do, but what God is going to do in you and through you.  Let’s believe for greater things this year.

Believe-Sarah Audio