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Genesis 18:1-16

Learning to Walk by Faith

  • Rich Jones
  • Weekend Messages
  • May 27, 2018

This is a story of Abraham and Sarah learning to walk by faith. Hearing God’s promises is one thing, but learning to walk by them is quite another. In the end, however, both Abraham and Sarah will be listed in Hebrews 11, that famous chapter which we call the hall of faith.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture
Learning to Walk by Faith

Genesis 18:1-16

In chapter 15 God promised Abram that God would bring forth a son for him out of his own body and that his descendants would inherit the land we know today as Israel.But in chapter 16, his wife, Sarai, took matters into her own hands and helped God out by suggesting that Abram produce a son through her handmaiden, Hagar.

Abram listened to his wife and went into Hagar and the result was Ishmael, a wild donkey of a man whose hand would be against everyone and everyone’s hand would be against him. We are seeing the consequences of that today as Ishmael became the father of the Arab nations and the conflicts in the Middle East can be traced back to Abram and Sarai taking matters into their own hands and coming up with their own solution rather than trusting God.

Then, after 13 long years of facing the consequences of not trusting God, with all the conflict, the drama, and chaos, God appeared to Abram, changed his name to Abraham, the father of a multitude, and said again that Abraham would have a son, but this time was very clear, “Your wife, Sarah, will bear a son.”When Abraham heard it, he fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man 100 years old?And will Sarah, who is 90 years old, bear a child?”He even brought up Ishmael to God, saying, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”God responded firmly, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son and My covenant will be with him.”

Chapter 18 takes place just a short time later.The Lord appears to Abraham and confirmed again that his wife, Sarah, would have a son.But this time Sarah herself hears this promise and she also laughed within her heart.

This is a story of Abraham and Sarah learning to walk by faith.Hearing God’s promises is one thing, but learning to walk by them is quite another.In the end, however, both Abraham and Sarah will be listed in Hebrews 11, that famous chapter which we call the hall of faith.

I. Nothing is too Difficult for the Lord

  • This is the great lesson of the chapter and it’s the substance of living by faith.
  • “Where is Sarah, your wife?” the Lord said to Abraham.Perhaps he said her name knowing that she would listen, or eavesdrop, more attentively.
  • Abraham and Sarah both laughed when they heard that Sarah would bear a son, but the Lord responded, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?”If we can grasp the greatness of that truth, we can understand what it means to walk by faith.

A. God brings you to the end of your strength 

  • They tried to fulfill God’s promises by their own efforts; they tried to help God and only created problems and difficulties.
  • God waited until they came to the end of their own efforts, the end of their own strength.Sarah was 90 years old and it would take a miracle for her to have a son.
  • The Lord wants you to recognize your weakness so you will trust His strength.Sometimes, however we need help recognizing our weakness and God has creative ways of helping us see.
Illus – That reminds me of the time a young preacher was invited to give a message on a special occasion and God richly blessed the message and it had a great impact. Afterwards, going home with his wife, evidently enjoying himself in his own heart, said, “I wonder how many great preachers there are in the world?” His wife replied dryly, “Probably one less than you think!” God knows how to keep us humble.
  • Many people struggle in their Christian walk because they don’t recognize their weakness and they trust in themselves rather than in the Lord.
  • It’s when we recognize our weakness that we trust in God’s help and God’s strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10, And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.Therefore I am well content with weaknesses… For when I am weak, then I am strong.

  • Paul wrote those words, saying, that because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations God had given, to keep him from exalting himself, there was given him a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan.Which reminds me of a funny story…

Illus - During the Great Depression there were two cabins next to each other some distance out of town. In one lived a crotchety old man who was an atheist. In the other was an old woman who was a devout Christian…

  • There’s an old saying that many think is in the Bible, but it isn’t, and it goes like this, “God helps those who help themselves.”God doesn’t help those who help themselves, He helps those who are helpless.
  • When Abraham and Sarah tried to help themselves, the result was Ishmael.When they were far beyond being able to help themselves, God gave them Isaac.

B. Build a legacy of faith

  • Jesus said, “He who hears these words of mine and lives according to them is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”In other words, it’s a foundation you can build on.
  • God is building a legacy, God is building a foundation for Abraham and Sarah to build their lives upon.God doesn’t want to just give Abraham’s descendants the land as an inheritance, He wants to give them faith to build their life upon; that’s also their inheritance.
  • Verse 19 - “I have chosen him,” God said, “in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord…”
  • His descendants could look back and remember the day that God said, “Is anything too difficult for God?” and he reminded to trust God to do what may seem impossible, but with God all things are possible. 
  • Otherwise, can you imagine, what if God had not done the miraculous by Sarah bearing Isaac in her old age?Would God have fulfilled His promise by having Abram bear a son through Hagar, a woman who was not his wife, but a handmaiden from Egypt?
  • Wouldn’t the descendants that came after him look back and use that as an example?“Make your own way, bend the rules, see what you can accomplish through manipulation and intrigue; trusting your own cleverness? After all, God helps those who help themselves.
  • When Abram brought Ishmael up in the conversation, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you.”God’s answer was direct, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”
  • God was building a foundation, a legacy of faith for Abraham’s descendants and for us.
  • Then all his descendants could look back and remember, “Nothing is too difficult for God.”Look what he did for our father Abraham who gave him a son through Sarah when she was 90 years old.
  • Would this not of been the legacy that his great-grandson, Joseph, would hold on to when his brothers betrayed him and he was sold into slavery in Egypt.“Nothing is too difficult for God,” he could remind himself.God will fulfill His promises to me.
  • This was the legacy when God told Jeremiah to purchase land in Jerusalem even as it was being destroyed; for God told him that he would restore and rebuild the fortunes of Jerusalem…

Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah Lord God!You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm!Nothing is too difficult for You.”

  • Wouldn’t this have been the legacy for David when he faced that giant of a man, Goliath, or for Daniel when he was persecuted for his faith and set into a pit of lions, or of Elijah when he challenged 400 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel?
  • And wouldn’t this be the foundation of faith by which Mary would believe that she would bear the Son of God, who would sit on the throne of David, the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world?

Luke 1:35, 37, The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God… For nothing will be impossible with God.”

  • What about those who will come after you and me?Let it be said, and let it be written, “He, or she, was a man or woman of faith.He believed in God’s promises that nothing is impossible with God.”You might say, but I’ve had many troubles in life.Exactly right.And that’s when faith shines the brightest.

II. Do All Things Through Christ who Strengthens

  • In order to walk by faith, you must have a foundation of faith. Abraham and Sarah are learning that God is able to fulfill His promises.
  • They had to acknowledge their weakness before they could be strengthened in faith. In other words…

A. Strength is made perfect in weakness 

  • God has waited until Abraham and Sarah have come to the end of their ability to help themselves; for strength is made perfect in weakness
  • We so often calculate from the human perspective and leave God out of the equation.
  • Before Jesus fed the 5000, He asked Philip, “Where are we to buy bread that these may eat?”What did Philip do in response?He started calculating the human factor, “Two hundred denarii would not be sufficient to buy bread for so many.”He left God out of the equation, but Jesus was going to bring God back into the equation and the result was the one miracle that is included in all four of the Gospels.
  • God is teaching Abraham and Sarah, both of them, to walk by faith, that “Nothing is too difficult for the Lord.”When it comes to our relationship to the Lord, faith is everything.

Hebrews 11: 8, 11, By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going… By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.

  • In fact, unbelief is a sin.

Romans 14:23, Whatever is not from faith is sin.

Hebrews 11:6, Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

John 16:8-9, When the Holy Spirit comes, He will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me…

  • Many people think of sin as a list of do’s and don’ts, but the course of your life is set by what you believe or don’t believe…

Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life.”

  • If the stream that flows in your life doesn’t spring forth from faith, it doesn’t matter where it flows, it’s headed in the wrong direction.“Whatever is not from faith is sin.”
B. Be content in your weakness
  • By that I’m not referring to a sinful weakness.We can’t say, “I have a weakness for chocolate and God hasn’t removed this weakness, so I must learn to be content with it.
  • No, I’m referring to the weaknesses over which we have no control.Abraham and Sarah were old, Sarah was far beyond childbearing.
  • Often times it’s the attitude people have about these difficulties and troubles that get in the way.There are many people who give up at the first sign of distress; they’re discouraged and disheartened, and yet God can use such difficulties to shape your life and to manifest His power.

Philippians 4:11-13, I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going the hungry, of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 

Illus - One of the most powerful illustrations I have ever known is that of Nic Vuijicic. Born without arms or legs, he struggled with depression and loneliness, questioning the purpose of life or if he even had a purpose. It was his faith in God that gave him purpose in life. Nick says, “If God can use a man without arms and legs to be His hands and feet, then He will certainly use any willing heart!” Millions have heard the gospel.

Psalm 73:26, 28, My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. As for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.

Genesis 18:1-16                 NASB

1 Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. 2 When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, 3 and said, "My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. 4 Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; 5 and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant." And they said, "So do, as you have said." 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes." 7 Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. 8 He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate.

9 Then they said to him, "Where is Sarah your wife?" And he said, "There, in the tent." 10 He said, "I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. 12 Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?" 13 And the Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?' 14 Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son." 15 Sarah denied it however, saying, "I did not laugh"; for she was afraid. And He said, "No, but you did laugh." 16 Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off.

 

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