In our last study we looked at the pilgrimage of faith and the patience of faith. We learned that those who come to Christ begin a new life which is going a new direction and has a new destiny. As children of faith we can now pass on a heritage of faith in God to future generations.
We also learned the need to be patient in our faith knowing that God fulfills His promises in His time and in His way.
Now we are looking at an amazing story which illustrates the power of faith in an Almighty God in spite of circumstances and the process by which the fulfillment of faith is realized.
READ: HEBREWS 11:11-12 K.J. & AMP.
K.J. - "Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised."
"Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable."
AMP. - "Because of faith also Sarah herself received physical power to conceive a child, even when she was long past the age for it, because she considered God who had given her the promise, reliable and trustworthy and true to His Word."
"So from one man, though he was physically as good as dead, there have sprung descendants whose number is as the stars of heaven, and as countless as the innumerable sands on the seashore."
READ: GENESIS 15:3-6; 17:1-5, 15-22; 18:1-15
What an amazing story! I did not say an unbelievable story...but an amazing story. A story of God's grace, power, and intervention in a humanly impossible circumstance. An amazing story of faith in the power of God to do the impossible.
For those who believe that a virgin can conceive and bear a son who became our Savior...it is not hard to believe that a man and woman past the age of fertility can also conceive and bear a son.
Both of these miracles of conception and birth are the result of God doing the humanly impossible.
From the Genesis story we observe that when God first promised Abraham a son, he did not tell Abraham HOW the promise would be fulfilled. Nor did He tell Abraham WHEN the promise would be fulfilled. He just made gave the promise stating it as a fact. This is what faith in God is based upon. Faith in God must always have a foundation. The Bible does not teach faith in faith. Faith in faith is no different than faith in your higher power...whatever power you happen to choose. The one and only living God does not even have to be a part of such humanistic faith.
Biblical faith is based in God's Word. Faith in itself does not have power to create anything. It becomes powerful when it is based upon the Person of God and a specific promise from the Word of God.
When Abraham and Sarah practiced faith in faith, they came up with a solution which was a compromise of God's plan. Sarah said: "Take Hagar and have a child by her." The results then and now were disastrous, for Israel and the world still deal with the hatred of Ishmael's offspring. Genesis 16 tells the story.
However, God was at work then and now redeeming the choices made when we walk in our ways...and He was patiently teaching His ways.
Abraham was 75 years old and Sarah was 65 years old at the time of the promise. They had no children for the scriptures tell us that Sarah was barren.
Almost 25 years later the Lord gives Abraham and Sarah more information regarding His promise. He tells them the HOW and the WHEN.
HOW? You will have a son by your wife Sarah.
WHEN? By this time next year.
Imagine Abraham's thoughts: "So now you tell me! If you had told me the plan 25 years ago, Sarah and I could have at least tried harder!"
Do you see that at this point in time knowing the how and when seemed futile because the situation was humanly hopeless?
Isn't that often the position in which God places us as His children? As long as we have plan A and plan B, we will keep on trying to make things work our way.
It would be difficult enough for any man of 75 and any woman of 65 to have a child. But a man of 100 and a woman of 90? Hopeless! Humanly impossible!
The scriptures tell us in Romans 4:18 that, "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.'"
Most of life's trials are not hopeless.
What do I mean?
EXAMPLES - Most people without jobs eventually find a job again. Most sick people get better. In most cases the statistical odds are in your favor.
But what do you hope in when all the odds are against you? When the situation is truly hopeless? Some of us know what that feels like.
What answers are we given in Abraham's story?
"Against all hope..." Against all the circumstantial evidence...the physical evidence... which said there was no rational foundation for hope.
"Abraham in hope, believed..." What did he believe that gave him hope. He believed the promise of God. This was the foundation for his faith and hope. He believed that God would keep His Word. He believed that God is a man of His word. Even Sarah came to the place of reverence and belief.
Abraham believed what God had said to him: "You shall be the father of many nations".
There was no human solution to their childlessness. Too many years had gone by. Abraham and Sarah could no longer say to each other: "Let's keep trying to have a baby. Who knows, maybe something will change."
At this age most of us men would be rapping our cane on the rocking chair to wake up our "Sarah" saying, "Come on sweetheart, let's try one more time." And sweetheart would be saying, "Go away old man and leave me alone."
So what is left for Abraham and Sarah? Only the promise. Only God's Word. And the promise is the foundation of faith. Faith believes that the promise of God cannot fail, no matter what the circumstances.
This is not the power of positive thinking, nor is it the power of possibility thinking. How do we know that? Well, what did both Abraham and Sarah do when God tells them the how and when of His promise?
READ: Genesis 17:17 and 18:11-12
They both looked at their impossible circumstances and they laughed. Some things are not a laughing matter, but to Abraham and Sarah this is laughable. Obviously God was not aware that Abraham and Sarah were well beyond the age of conception and the birthing of a child. Obviously God did not know that Sarah was well beyond menopause. What a laughable and preposterous idea! Humanly, this is a joke!
Do you see that real faith is not a denial of present circumstances?
Some people believe that faith works by constantly denying that there is a problem. Thus they act in presumption instead of in faith.
Listen to the words of the One who has the last word and who has power over the facts of our circumstances:
READ: ROMANS 4:17-22
What did we read here about God? We read that God calls things which are not as though they were.
Abraham was not yet a father, but God called him a father...because God saw the future fulfillment.
Sometimes people get into trouble and presumption because they reverse this truth and assume that to have faith you must "call those things which are, as if they are not...or ain't."
They think that faith operates by denying that there is a problem. So if I am limping around because I have hurt my leg and you ask me what is wrong with my leg, I say: "there's nothing wrong with my leg."
My favorite story regarding this is about a father and son who were walking across a meadow. The were members of the cultic group known as Christian Scientists (which is not Christian or science) who deny the reality of the material world.
As they crossed the field the son noticed a bull pawing the ground as it watched them from the far end of the meadow. Concerned, the son said, "Father there's a mean bull over there watching us." The father said, "Now son, you and I are Christian Scientists and we know that that bull doesn't exist." Just then the bull charged. Excitedly the son replied, "Father you may know that that bull doesn't exist and I may know that that bull doesn't exist, but that bull doesn't know that he doesn't exist!"
Faith is not a denial of circumstances. God did not create light by saying: "It's not dark." He calls those things that are not as though they were.
But, what does it mean when Romans 4:19 says that Abraham did not consider the condition of his own body or of Sarah's womb. Romans 4:19 says that Abraham faced the fact. It doesn't mean that he denied the condition. It means that these conditions were not the factors which determined his faith. It was God's promise that determined his faith.
We do not live in denial nor do we look at our circumstances as the means of determining what to believe. Considering circumstances will always rob you of faith. Waiting for circumstances to change before you will act in faith and obedience will rob you of faith and rob you of the reward of obedience.
On the one hand, denying the facts leads a person into presumption and a sort of mind over matter...mind control kind of system of faith. On the other hand, dwelling on the facts in your thought life robs you of true faith by taking your focus off of God's promise to you.
Abraham did not deny the facts...neither did he dwell on the facts. He looked to the promise and to the God who had made the promise.
What did we read in Hebrews 11:11 "she considered God who had given her the promise, reliable and trustworthy and true to His Word."
Folks that is what faith is based on...never on feelings, never on circumstances, never on denial,...but always on God and His Word.
So Abraham and Sarah acknowledge that their circumstances are hopeless. However that does not mean that they are personally hopeless. Their faith rests on the promise which God gave and their hope is in His promise.
During all the years of waiting, God is at work removing from Abraham his dependency upon his own plans...removing all hope in the natural... leaving him only with God's plan and only with hope in the supernatural.
This is part of the process of faith. Faith does not complete its work in a second or a minute. The process is a combination of the pilgrimage and the patience of faith.
You see Biblical faith is much more than an activity of the mind. To the Hebrew person, faith meant confidence. It was the capacity to live life with a courageous expectation that God is God and He will not fail. This is living by faith!
Thus the person of faith did more than believe in their hearts or give mental assent. Biblical faith is not some wimpy, weak, lackluster kind of living that says, "Well sure I believe there is a God". Well, so what! What difference does it make in how you live your life? How does believing change your living?
Biblical faith causes a person to step out into life and begin acting on what they believe. Confidence in God is transformed into action! Like Abraham, a person of faith ventures forth into the future not knowing what tomorrow holds, but knowing Who holds tomorrow and knowing that God will meet us there. Biblical faith is not so much a leap of thought as it is a leap of action!
We see this action in Abraham's life. First in moving from Ur, and then in waiting for God's promised son. However, while waiting, note the power of faith at work in Abraham's practical obedience. God had told him to change his name to Abraham, "father of many nations" and to change his wife's name to Sarah. In faith, Abraham obeyed. He agreed with God and did what God requested while holding on to the promise.
This combination of faith and obedience is a reminder of the teaching of Hebrews 3 and 4: "Do not harden your hearts as your fathers did and disobeyed by lack of belief."
It's a crossroads in your walk with God when the going gets impossible. You have to choose at such times who you will believe. Will you believe God or your circumstances, His Word or your feelings? And what will happen to your heart as a result?
What are the results of a faith that rests in the power of God? Look at verse 11 again. By faith Sarah received what she did not have, which was strength to conceive or physical power to conceive. By faith, Abraham had children upon children, the whole of the people of Israel. Every Jew that has ever been born and ever will be born is a result of Abraham's faith.
Abraham's faith was in God. God's promise of a son and of descendants was the basis or the foundation upon which Abraham's faith rested.
That the promises claimed in faith seemed impossible has no bearing on the matter. The only hindrance to fulfillment is a lack of obedient and trusting faith.
As the Lord asked Abraham in Genesis 18:14, "Is anything to hard for the Lord."
As the angel Gabriel answered the questioning heart of Mary the mother to be of Jesus in Luke 1:37, "For nothing is impossible with God."
And as Jesus our Savior, conceived by the Holy Spirit and birthed by a virgin... answered in Matthew 18:27, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."
Now the Lord asks of you, "Is anything to hard for me?" Is there a promise at which you have laughed at the odds? Is God working the process of faith in you? Is God bringing you to a total brokenness; to a realization of your inability and weakness so that now you can hope only in the Lord and His promises?
If so, God is birthing in you a great faith. I encourage you to "LET IT BE BORN!"
Other sermons by Pastor John.