Delivered By
C.C. Risenhoover
Delivered On
January 17, 2016
Central Passage
Genesis 18:7-15
Subject
Promises of God
Description

January 17, 2016

NO LAUGHING MATTER

Genesis 18:7-15

When a person makes a promise…whether the promiser is a preacher, politician or a spouse…there are a couple of things you need to consider.  First, does the promiser have the ability and resources to keep the promise?  And, second, is the promiser trustworthy?

I’ve made my share of well-intentioned promises…then discovered I didn’t have the ability or resources to carry them out.  And, of course, when you fail to keep a promise it compromises your credibility and trustworthiness.  When you fail to keep a promise…people tend to think you’re just blowing smoke in an attempt to get something from them…or to get them to do something.

I think we can all agree that God has the ability and resources to keep His promises…and that He’s faithful to do so.  The scriptures tell us about a loving heavenly Father who has made many precious promises to His people.  He has promised that their needs will be met…that their sins have been forgiven…that they will never be overwhelmed beyond what they can endure…and that they have everlasting life.

God has both the power and the integrity to fulfill each and every promise He has ever made.  He has proven His power and His faithfulness time and time again.  And, like a loving Father, God cares for each and every one of His people.  And, He has promised that whatever happens…He will always be there for His people.

We shouldn’t have to be told this. We should know it…and truly believe it.  But, there are times when we find it difficult to believe all that God has promised.  On occasion…whether because of circumstances or because of our inability to see the promise being fulfilled…we doubt God.  That’s because at times God’s promises go against everything we see and feel as being normal…and on the surface His promises may appear to be too outlandish to believe.

Sarah must have felt that way when she heard what was promised to her…a baby when she was 90 years of age.  When I think of Sarah…I think of my paternal grandmother when she was Sarah’s age.  My grandmother always wore a plain long dress and black lace-up shoes…and when her hair wasn’t up in a bun it was longer than she was.  In her entire lifetime she never cut her hair…thinking to do so would be a sin.

My grandmother was a Bible-believing Christian…but she would probably have laughed, too, if God had told her that she would become pregnant at 90 years of age.  And, of course, my grandad would probably have had a heart attack.

Have you ever laughed at one of God’s promises to you?  Offhand I can’t remember ever laughing at one of His promises to me…possibly because I don’t want to remember…but I’ve certainly doubted some of His promises.

Today we’re going to look at the promise God made to Sarah…why she laughed at it…how God responded to her laughter…and the assurance that we have when it comes to the promises of God.

The first reason Sarah laughed was because the promise did seem absurd.  Even in ancient days 90-year-old women didn’t have children…and it wasn’t because of age discrimination.  Imagine in today’s world trying to get Obamacare to pay for the birth of a child to a 90-year-old woman.  In today’s world Sarah would have to pay her pediatrician out of her Social Security check.

But, before we dismiss this promise of God as being absurd…let’s look at some of the other stuff in the Bible that also seems absurd to the alleged logical mind…which, of course, isn’t logical at all.  For example, as Christians we profess a Savior of the world who was born of a virgin…who walked on water…who healed people with His spit…who died a death that had meaning enough to defeat sin and death in all the universe…who rose from the dead…and who promised a future physical return and a remade heaven and earth.

Christians, obviously, have many beliefs and practices that are peculiar to the world as a whole.  The truth is that Christians actually believe some pretty amazing things.  In fact, someone once called the Christian faith the “Kingdom of the Absurd.”  And, he was right.  It’s only by faith that Christians can believe as they do and bask in the wonderful absurdity of Christianity.

The absurd promise made to Sarah was made it even more laughable because it was the one dream she had always had.  The name Sarai means “Barren One.”  It must have been awful for her to live in a time when a woman’s worth was determined by how many sons she could give her husband.  And, to make it worse she knew how much Abraham wanted a son.  In fact, all of God’s promises to Abraham were dependent upon her having a child…something she had been unable to do during her child-bearing years.

Sometimes the more you want something…and the more you dream about it…the more unlikely you are to think it will ever come true.  Maybe you have a dream…something that you want to do for God’s kingdom.  Maybe it’s your dream to see a person you love brought to Christ…but after a while you think it will never happen because they’re too far gone.

Maybe you want to be more of a force in prayer…worship…or some particular ministry…but the days slip by and you feel that the time is past…that you’re too old to realize that dream.  Well, when God’s involved you’re never too old.  Moses was 80 when God called him to lead His people out of Egypt.  And, Caleb was 80 when he took a land inhabited by giant people.  If God gives you a dream…He will make that dream come true.

If your dream is to do something for God’s kingdom…I believe that God put that dream in your mind and heart…and that no matter how absurd it may seem to other people…it’s your duty to live out that dream.  But, let’s face it…dreams don’t come true while you’re sitting in a pew or hanging on to a chair in a church sanctuary.  They come true when you step out on faith and begin to live them out.

Sarah didn’t doubt that God could give someone a child…just not her.  She thought she was too old…too past the age of child birthing.  Like so many of us…she doubted God’s ability to do what seemed impossible to her.  But, the impossible is just a normal day at the office for God.  That’s something we tend to forget.  We believe miracles from God…just not in and through us.

 It’s not a matter of doubting that God can do something…rather it’s a matter of doubting that God can do something for us or through us.  For example, most of us believe that God can forgive…but do we believe that He can forgive us.  We believe that God can meet the needs of people…but do we believe that He can meet our needs?  We believe that God pours out His Spirit on people and that they then do amazing things…but do we really believe that He will pour out His Spirit on us?

Writing about God in Ephesians 3:20, Paul said, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…”  That’s a lot to wrap your mind around, but listen to the remainder of that verse which says, “…according to his power that is at work within us.”

God can do much more than we think by the power that He is working within us.  Philippians 4:13 tells us, “…for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.”

Another reason Sarah may have laughed at God’s promise of a child was because that promise had initially been made 24 years earlier.  That’s when Abraham first heard the promise from God that he was going to be a father.  Even then Sarah was a bit old for child bearing, but having a baby at 66 wasn’t quite as difficult to comprehend as having a baby at 90.

Long delays in a promise from God often lead to a weakened faith.  You begin to think that the promise will never happen…that God has forgotten.  Some people feel that way about the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ…that because neither haven’t happened they’re not going to happen.

Some of the promises from God that I heard in my 20-somethings are just now happening.  More of them will happen after I’m gone.  God operates on a heavenly timetable…not on an earthly clock.

For example, God answers every prayer…just not on our schedule.  It doesn’t matter whether you have a Rolex or a Timex…answers to our prayers and fulfillment of God’s promises will be on His timetable…not ours.

As to how God dealt with Sarah’s laughter…well, He knew immediately that she was laughing and why.  Her mistake wasn’t that she doubted, but that she tried to hide it.  One of the biggest mistakes we can make in dealing with God is to try to hide our doubts and fears and pretend they’re not there.  He knows our minds and hearts.

When we’re honest with God, He’s able to work in us.  He didn’t scold Sarah because of her laughter…and He didn’t say that the deal was off.  He let her know that He knew about her laughter and asked her why she laughed.

You see, doubt is a lack of faith.  Some people think it’s spiritual to question everything about God.  It’s not.  God, in fact, wants us to have that childlike trust in Him.  But, if you do doubt, at least be honest about it and investigate your doubt.

There are things you can be assured of when dealing with the promises of God.  First, know that God is faithful and able to fulfill every promise He has ever made.  In fact, 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.”

Romans 4:18-21 tells this about Abraham: “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.’  Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.  Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”

Second, know that God is not limited by your limitations or mine.  No matter how young you are…no matter how old you are…God can still use you for His glory.  Nothing is impossible for God.  He can do anything…even if that anything is through you or me.

You may think you’re in an impossible situation right now with no hope of it getting better.  But, what we consider impossible is just as easy as the possible is for God.

So while it may sound absurd for a 90-year-old woman to give birth to a bouncing baby boy…isn’t it just as impossible sounding that God would give His only Son as a sacrifice for humankind’s sin…that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life?

Let’s face facts.  We don’t have the capability to think as God does.  We’re limited by all sorts of biases that are based on human knowledge…whereas God has infinite knowledge and his mind has no boundaries or limits.  We’re confined to certain thoughts by small finite minds…but the mind of God can’t even be confined within an entire universe.  He made this universe and everything in it…and He has the power to expand it and create anything that He wants.

So if He wants 90-year-old women to have babies…90-year-old women will have babies.  God’s promises are not limited by our ability…but they are assured by His power and faithfulness.  Let’s thank Him for every promise we have in Jesus Christ.

 

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