Learning to Walk by Faith
May 27, 2018
All right, let's give a little bit of background to where we are. In Genesis 15, God promised Abram that God will bring forth a son to Abram, and says from his own body, and that his descendants would inherit the land that we know today is the land of Israel.
In chapter 16, Sarai, his wife, took matters into her own hands and thought that she should help God out; after all, they were old. She came up with a plan. She suggested that Abram produce a son through her handmaiden, Hagar. Abram listened to his wife, went into Hagar, and she became pregnant. The result was the boy, Ishmael, but God prophesied about this before that he would be a wild donkey the man, that his hand would be against everyone, and then everyone's hand would be against him.
We are right now seeing the consequences of that in the fact that Ishmael became the father of the Arab nations. Today, when we look at the conflicts that are happening in the Middle East, we can trace a lot of that back to Abram and Sarai taking matters into their own hands, coming up with their own solution rather than trusting God.
After 13 long years of facing the consequences of making their own way of not trusting God with all the conflict, the drama, the chaos as you can imagine, then God appeared to Abram, his name meaning a higher exalted father, and changed his name to Abraham which means the father of a multitude and said it again that Abraham would have a son. This time, he was very, very clear. No, your wife Sarah will bear a son.
Now, when Abraham heard this, he fell on his face and he laughed. He said in his heart, "Would a child be born to a man who's 100 years old, and would Sarah who's 99 years old bear a child?" Then he even brought up Ishmael and said, "Oh God, you know Ishmael might live before you." God responded so firmly to that, "No, but Sarah, your wife, shall bear a son and my covenant will be with him."
Chapter 18 then follows right on that. It takes place shortly thereafter, "And the Lord," it says, "appeared again to Abraham." Confirms again and very clearly, "Your wife Sarah will have a son." This time, Sarah herself hears this promise and she also laughs within her heart.
I. Nothing is too Difficult for the Lord
This is really a story of Abraham and Sarah learning to walk by faith. Frankly, we all need to learn to walk by faith because hearing God's promises is one thing but learning to walk by them is quite another thing.
In the end, we know that Abraham and Sarah both are included in that famous Hebrews 11 which we call the Hall of Faith that highlights all the men and women of the Old Testament that were great men of faith.
Let's read the story. Genesis 18 and we begin in verse 1. "The Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre." This is down by Hebron just South of Jerusalem in the Judean hills. In fact, from there you can actually look down into the valley and see the Dead Sea and all the surrounding cities, so they could have seen Sodom and Gomorrah from there, for example.
It says that, "The Lord appeared to him and that Abraham was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day." Okay, this is like it's hot, "And when he lifted up his eyes, he looked and behold, there were three men standing opposite him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth." Now, we don't know that he recognized right away that this was the Lord, or that he just recognized them as important, but he run to them showing them amazing hospitality.
He said, "My Lord," meaning sir, "if now I have found favor in your sight, please do not pass your servant by. Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet and rest yourselves under the tree. I'll bring a piece of bread that you may refresh yourselves and then after that, you may go on since you have visited your servant." In other words, since you have paid me this honor, let me also honor you.
They said, "So do as you have said." Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and he said, "Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes." Fresh bread, it's going to be so good. "Abraham also run to the herd, he took a tender and choice calf and he gave it to the servant and he hurried to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and he placed it before them and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate." He's not even sitting with them eating; he's like attending like a servant would almost. He's really humbled as he serves them.
Then they said to him, "Where is Sarah, your wife?" They know her name. Her name was just changed from Sarai, a contentious one, to Sarah, a princess. They know her name. "Where is Sarah, your wife?" He said, "Behold, she's in the tent."
By the way, it says, "The Lord appeared." Many believe now that this was called a theophany, an appearance of Christ in the Old Testament because it says, "The Lord appeared." He said, "I will surely return to you at this time next year and behold, Sarah, your wife, shall have a son."
Now, Sarah was listening at the tent door. In other words, she was eavesdropping. She was behind them, so Abraham didn't see her back there. "Abraham and Sarah," it makes careful note that we should know, "were old, advanced in the age and Sarah was past childbearing." Perhaps it suggests to us that she's past menopause. When Sarah hears this word, it says, verse 12, "Sarah laughed to herself and she said, 'After I have become old, shall I have pleasure and my lord being old also?' " which suggests to us that they're not having sex now. They're old. I didn't mean that the wrong way, but you know what I'm saying.
The Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying in her heart, 'Shall I bear a child when I'm old?' Why did she do that?" Then He adds this phrase, "Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time, I will return to you at this time next year and Sarah shall have a son." It tells us that, obviously, Sarah came out of the tent now. She hears this, and she comes out there and then she denies it. She said, "I did not laugh." She said that because she's afraid, but the Lord said, "No, but you did laugh."
Then the men rose up from there, looked down towards Sodom and Abraham was walking with them to send them off; Eastern hospitality. Now, the other verses, I looked at on Wednesday. If you missed it, make sure you get that because it's really very important what happens next. Let's go over these verses, particularly, looking at verse 14 where He makes the statement, "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?" Of course, in other words, no, nothing is too difficult for the Lord.
See, this is the great lesson of the chapter, and it's the substance of learning to walk by faith. "Where is Sarah, your wife?" Then the Lord said to Abraham- now perhaps He mentions her name like this, "Where is Sarah, your wife?" because He believed that Sarah, after hearing her name, would perk up and pays special close attention as she's eavesdropping because He wants her to hear.
A. God brings you to the end of your strength
Abraham, and as we know, Sarah, both laughed when they heard that Sarah would bear a son. The Lord responds with this wonder statement, "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?" I tell you, if we can grasp the greatness of that truth, we can understand what it means to walk by faith. Because here's what we're seeing what is happening in the story is that God brings you to the end of your strength.
See, they tried in their own efforts, their own solution; they try to fulfill God's promise by their own way. They tried to help God out, but they only created problems and more difficulties and troubles as we can imagine. God waited until they came to the end of their own efforts, the end of their own strength. Sarah is 90 years old now. It's going to take a miracle. She's past the time of childbearing. She's 90 years old. If God doesn't do it, it's not going to happen. It's going to take a miracle now.
See, the Lord wants us, the Lord wants you to recognize your weakness so that you'll trust in His strength. Sometimes, by the way, sometimes we need a little help recognizing our weakness. Sometimes, we think a little more of ourselves than we ought. Then God has very creative ways of showing us our weakness which reminds me of a funny story.
A young preacher was invited to give a message on this special occasion, and God richly blessed the message and it had a great impact. Afterward, going home with his wife in the car, evidently enjoying himself a little too much in his heart, he said to his wife, "I wonder how many great preachers there are in the world?" to which his wife replied quite dryly, "Well, probably one less than you think."
God has a way of humbling us. Don't you think? I'm so glad my wife said that to me. Okay. I'm just kidding. I'm just kidding. Okay. I'm just kidding.
Truly, many people struggle in their Christian walk, because they don't recognize their weakness. They trust in themselves rather than trusting in God. See, it's when we recognize our weakness that we trust in God's help, and God's strength. Let me give you a great verse that Paul writes. He writes these verses because he has an affliction, some affliction, bodily. He prayed that the Lord would remove this affliction. Three times he prayed that God would remove this affliction from him.
This is what he writes, 2 Corinthians 12. He said to me, the Lord said to me, my grace is sufficient. He prayed three times that the Lord would remove this affliction. The answer of the Lord, my grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Then he responds to this and he says, "Both gladly, therefore, I would rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore," he says, "I am well content with weakness. For when I am weak, then I am strong"
See, the reason Paul wrote those words, he said, because of the surpassing greatness, of the revelations that God had given to him. God had given to him some amazing revelations. He said, "To keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh" Is a messenger from Satan, he said, "Well, Satan" That's interesting, Satan's involved in the story.
It's interesting how even Satan can be used of God. It's very interesting which, reminds me of a story. This take place during the depression years, tough, difficult years, hard to even put food on the table. There were these two cabins next to each other some distance out of town. In one, lived an old crotchety old man, grumpy atheist, just a grump. The other was an old woman who was a devout Christian.
The old woman would come out on her porch every morning and call out, and pray out to God quite loudly and pray, "Oh God, be a great help, be our provision. Bring some food on the table. Lord help us." The old man across the way would hear that and he'd called out, "That's not going to do you any good. No one is listening to you. You're wasting your time praying like that." Every morning she'd come out on the pouch and she'd pray to God, "Oh God, be our great help. Be our big provision. Help us put food on the table."
One day, the old man came into some money, $15. He went into town and he bought two bags of groceries, for himself, and he bought one bag of grocery for the old woman. Then later that night after she had gone to bed, he came over and he snuck over there, and he put the bag of groceries on the porch.
Next morning, sure enough, she wakes up comes out of the porch, and there's a bag of groceries. She calls out in prayer. She says, "Oh God, thank you for your provision. Thank you for this groceries that you brought to me." The old man across the way, he's waiting. He said, "Aha. That wasn't God. God didn't bring that to you. That was me. I brought those groceries to you." The old woman looked at him and she didn't miss a beat. She just kept right up with her prayer, "God, thank you for bringing these groceries. Thank you, provided for me today. Thank you for making the devil pay for it" Amen.
B. Build a legacy of faith
There's an old saying that many people think in the Bible but it's not. That saying goes like this, "God helps those who help themselves." No, God doesn't help those who help themselves. God 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 and all the blessings that followed.
What's happening here is this; he's building a legacy, a foundation of faith. We need to grasp that for our own lives, to build a legacy, a foundation. Jesus said, "He who hears these words of mine and lives according to them is like the wise man who built his house on a rock" on the foundation. In other words, you build your life upon it, the foundation. God is building a legacy here in Genesis 18. He's building a foundation for Abraham and Sarah to build their lives upon.
God doesn't want to just give Abraham's descendants the land. Surely, He will. It's a covenant that He promised them. This land will be given to your descendants as an eternal possession. That's right, but He wants more than that. He also wants to give them faith to build a life upon that. That's also an inheritance.
See, verse 19. Look at Genesis 18:19 where it says, "I have chosen him," Abraham, God said, "In order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord." See, his descendants could look back and remember the day that God said to their father, Abraham, "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?" They could be reminded to trust God to do what may seem impossible, but with God all things are possible.
Otherwise, can you just imagine- I want you to imagine with me, just bear with me and imagine what if God had not done the miraculous by Sarah bearing Isaac in her old age? What if that would not have happened? Really? Really? Would God help fulfilled his promise by having Abraham bear a son through Hagar, a woman who's not his wife? Who's a handmaiden from Egypt? Really? What would have happened if that was so, what would have happened?
I suggest you were-- what would have happened is that the descendants that would came from that-- the descendants of Ishmael would have said, "Hey, make your own way in life. Bend the rules; our father Abraham did. Let me see what you can accomplish through manipulation and intrigue. Sarah did. Let me see what you can accomplish through your own cleverness. After all, God helps those who help themselves."
When Abraham brought Ishmael up to God in the conversation, "Oh, that Ishmael might live before you," God's answer was so direct, "No. No, I'm not going to fulfill my promise to you through you going into a woman who's not your wife and a handmaiden from Egypt. No, I'm not going to do that. No Sarah, your wife will bear your son and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him that they might always look back and know that nothing is too difficult for the Lord." God is building a foundation, wasn't he? He was building a legacy of faith for Abraham's descendants and for us.
See then all of his descendants could look back, look at what God did for our father Abraham, who gave him a son miraculously to Sarah his wife when she was 90 years old. This much is true, nothing is too difficult for the Lord. Would this not had been the legacy that is great-grandson Joseph would have held on to when his brothers betrayed him and sold him into slavery into Egypt? Nothing is too difficult for the Lord. Remember what God did for our father Abraham, and He will fulfill His promises to me. It's a legacy to hold onto.
Would not this had been the legacy when God told Jeremiah to purchase land in Jerusalem, even though it was being destroyed? God was making a promise that he would restore and he would rebuild Jerusalem and the fortunes thereof. In fact, let me read it to you. Jeremiah 32:17, great famous, famous verse. He says, "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" Same words, it's that legacy. It's that foundation, it's that which she's building upon.
Wouldn't this have been the legacy for David when he faced that giant of a man, Goliath? Nothing is too difficult for the Lord. Wouldn't this have been the legacy for Daniel when he was persecuted for his faith and sent into a pit of lions? Wouldn't this have been the legacy for Elijah when he when he challenged 400 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel?
Wouldn't this have been the foundation by which Mary would have believed that she would bear the Son of God who would sit on the throne of David, be the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world? "How can this be?" She said, “How can this be?” Luke 1:35 and 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. For that reason, the Holy Child should be called the Son of God for nothing will be impossible for God." Same words. It's a foundation on which to build, then we have to look at our own lives. We have to make it personal. What about those who will come after us, after you and me?
II. Do All Things Through Christ who Strengthens
May it be said of us, may it be written of us, he or she, man or a woman of faith, he believed, she believed in God's promises, that nothing is too difficult for the Lord. He believed that, she believed that, and she lived according to that. You might say in response to that, "Oh, you don't know pastor. I've had many troubles in life." Exactly. That's my point. See, it's then that faith becomes meaningful because it's then that faith is proven when you live it in the midst of the difficulties of life. That's the very legacy he's building.
Let's make it personal. Let's apply it through our own lives this way. Do all things through Christ who strengthens you. That's the application for us today. In order to walk by faith, you got to have a foundation of faith. Abraham and Sarah are learning that God is able, that nothing is too difficult for the Lord. They have to acknowledge their weakness before they can be strengthened in faith.
In other words, let's say it this way, strength is made perfect in weakness. God waited until Abraham and Sarah come to the end of their ability to help themselves, for strength is made perfect in weakness. This is important for us because when it comes to the problems and the difficulties and the challenges of life we often at times we calculate from the human factor, from the human perspective and we leave God out of the equation when we're calculating.
Here's an example. When Jesus fed the 5,000, the great miracle as you know, before he did this, he asked Philip, one of the disciples, "Why don't we divide bread that these may eat?" What did Philip do in response? He calculated. He calculated by the human factor. Let's see now, there's groups of 50 and 100. Let's see, then. He said, "200 denarius wouldn't be enough." In other words, 200-days wage, two-thirds of a year's annual salary wouldn't be enough to provide bread for this crowd.
He calculated by the human factor and he left God out of the equation. Jesus was going to bring God back into the equation and the result, of course, was that one miracle that's mentioned in all four of the Gospels. What you see in Genesis 18 is that God is teaching Abraham and Sarah. This time, Sarah, is specifically brought into it to walk by faith that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.
When it comes to our relationship to the Lord, I suggest to you that faith is everything. It's everything. Hebrews 11:8-11 it tells us that, "By faith Abraham when he was called, he 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 because he was walking by faith."
By faith, Sarah herself received the ability to conceive even beyond the proper time of life since she considered him faithful who had promised. She learned to walk by faith and believed that nothing is too difficult for the Lord. Here's why this is so important. This is why this is so important because unbelief is, in fact, a sin. That's a magnanimous statement, but it's the truth and we need to grasp it.
Let me give you some verses for, Romans 14:23. "Whatever is not from faith is sin." It's very straightforward there, whatever is not from faith is sin. How about Hebrews 11:6? "Without faith, it is impossible to please Him" which is to say it is beyond the realm of possibility. For he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. They walk by their faith, they live by their faith. John 16:8-9, "When the Holy Spirit comes," Jesus is teaching, "He will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment."
Concerning sin because they don't believe in me. The greatest sin of the world, unbelief. Many people when they think of sin, they think of sin as a list of do's and don'ts. That's what sin is. Here's the list of do's and here's the list of don'ts, make sure that you go right on that list. The course of your life is set by what you believe, or by what you don't believe. That's the most important aspect of a person's life because it will direct the course.
Proverbs 4:23, "Keep your heart with all diligence for from it flows the springs of life." It's like a great picture we can grasp. Your life is like a stream that flows, but it flows from your heart. Therefore, be very careful. With all diligence keep your heart for from it flow the springs of life. If that stream that flows in your life doesn't spring forth from faith, it doesn't matter where flows, it's headed in the wrong direction for whatever is not from faith is, in fact, a sin.
A. Strength is made perfect in weakness
Let's say it this way; let's conclude with this, be content in your weakness. Very important point when it comes to walking by faith. 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 that weakness, so I guess I have to learn to be content with it." No, I'm not referring to that. I'm referring to the weaknesses over which we have no control.
Abraham and Sarah were old. Sarah was far beyond childbearing. Oftentimes it's the attitude that people have about the difficulties, the troubles that get in the way of walking by faith. It's their attitude about those troubles because there are many people who give up at the first sign of distress and they're discouraged, they're disheartened, and so they're defeated.
God uses difficulties to shape your life and to manifest His power to show you, to convince you that nothing is too difficult for the Lord. That's what walking by faith is. It believes that and it takes hold of that for your life. Let me give you a tremendous verse. Philippians 4, and Paul is giving us here an amazing lesson about faith and our relationship to the Lord. Listen to what he says.
He says, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." You know why that's so important? Because many people are not content. They are not, there's something missing. There's always something missing. If they just had this, if they just had that, if they just had more money or they just had this position or they just had this right relationship, then everything would be fine. Always, so they're not content. There's always something missing, but there's a great spiritual truth that Paul captures in Philippines 4, "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. This is like a spiritual secret. I have learned the secret of being filled and of going hungry, of having abundance and suffering need. It's this, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. It's the spiritual secret, it's what makes Paul content in life. No matter what the circumstances, I'm content in Christ.
One of the most powerful illustrations I have ever known that reveals that great point of the life of Nick Vujicic. some of you know his story. Born without arms, born without legs and he struggled. You can imagine, he struggled with depression with loneliness. I don't think anybody would fall through. The internal struggle, the internal battle he was conflicted inside, "Why God, why would you have even allowed me to be born? If you knew that I was going to be born without arms, born without legs, why did you let me be born?
That's a question that many people ask in their life. I cannot tell you how many times I've answered that question. Our granddaughter, when her mother, our daughter was murdered and we took her into our home, she asked me that question over and over and over, "Why?"
If God knew that this man was going to be evil, why did He even allow him to be born?
You can imagine the anguish that's behind that question. You can imagine the anguish behind Nick Vujicic as he asked that question. Why? What is the purpose, God, that you even let me be born? But God showed him. He opened his heart. He brought a light to him to reveal to him the meaning and the purpose that God can use him for a greater purpose.
What happened then, is that Nick Vujicic found revival and he became content. He became content in Christ, and God opened doors for him. God opened doors for him. He spoke. He speaks all over the world and millions have heard the Gospel. Many thousands have come to faith in Jesus Christ, and God has brought purpose and meaning far beyond his ability to even imagine it. We need to understand that because we can relate to that.
B. Be content in your weakness
Many people, they complain in life. All the disadvantages that I have. We can relate to that. I can relate to that personally. I remember very, very well my 21st birthday. My birthday, 21, and I was angry. I was angry at God because it seems like to me, from my perspective, that everybody had every other advantage and I didn't. I realized that's a selfish myopic view. That's how I saw it, though, on my 21st birthday. God, everybody else has every advantage that I don't have.
My father- many of you know my story. He was alcoholic, abusive to our family, our mother, yelling and screaming in the house, dysfunction. I remember I was like, "God, everybody--" Everybody else had a good father. At least that's what I thought. Everybody else has a good father who loved them and supported them, provided for them, instructed them, and gave them. I didn't have any of that. Poverty; we were the poorest people that I knew. My earliest memory- now I'm going to be very vulnerable. The earliest memories that I have in life were living in a migrant camp.
Here I am, just angry, and then, a lightning bolt. Ever had just a lightning bolt where God just speaks to your heart? Lightning bolt. I remember it very clearly, 21st birthday just like "God, why does everybody else have an advantage and all my circumstances are wrong?" I heard this Word of the Lord, "Stop it. Stop this. Stop this complaining because I will be your Father now. I will be a Father like no father on earth could ever be. I'll never leave you. I'll never forsake you. I'll be with you to the end of your life. I'll bless you. I'll pour my favor out on you. Stop this and believe."
It's a lightning bolt because I did believe. Something happened. A spiritual moment. I just believed that God meant what He said. I tell you what happened. For me, it was like I was free. It just took the whole burden and He who has sets us free is free indeed.
This is important because so many people, they are so distraught about their circumstance. "This is wrong and that is wrong. I have this disadvantage and that disadvantage," to which God would say, "Stop that and believe that I am with you, that I'll bless you."
Psalms 73:26-28. "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and God is my portion forever." As for me- now, whatever happens to the rest of them, I don't know, but as for me, I know this; the nearness of God is my good. I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.
Now, that's a great verse right there. All the disadvantages, all the things that are wrong in life, God says, "Would you believe that I am able? Would you believe that I'm not through with you yet? I am not finished with you. I have meaning and purpose to accomplish in your life. Stop this. Stop this and believe that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.