LIVING BY FAITH
"Faith Believes The Impossible"
Jerry A. Collins
What would you consider an impossibility in your life today? So impossible that not even God is capable of doing something about it?
The situation seems so hopeless or overwhelming that not even God is capable of making a difference. Yet we are going to learn that God is capable of doing that which is marvelous. It may look impossible but looks can be deceiving if we forget that our God is all-powerful. Abraham and Sarah wrestled with Gods ability to keep His promises to them in spite of apparent difficulties and barriers. You can have the hope that God can keep His Word to you and me in spite of how impossible things look to us. How does the Lord assure us that he can do the impossible?
1. The Lord Fellowships With His People 18:1-8
Here we have a visitation by the Lord before He announces the marvelous work He is going to do for Abraham and Sarah.
A. The Lord visits His people 1-2
The whole story opens with the report that ‘the Lord appeared to him’. The ‘him’ here refers to Abram even though his name is not mentioned and suggests that this account builds on the previous one in Chapter 17 (17:1) where Abram was the subject. In that appearance the Lord was alone but here more complicated because three visitors arrive to eat with Abram. The point is that the Lord visited Abram and this visitation is part of the blessing he will receive from the Lord.
It is interesting that these visitors came from another world to bring a message to Abram. These visitors could have been the Lord and two angels with him. Hebrews 13:2 advises us to show kindness to strangers because some have thereby entertained angels. The Lord does visit His people.
B. Believers respond graciously to God's visits 3-8
At the outset it appears that Abram may not have known who his visitors were but sensed that they were worthy of honorable treatment. The dialogue later would certainly clear up the matter if he did not suspect that these were messengers from the Lord. Now why did these pay a visit and eat with Abram? Why all the details about eating here? The idea was to convey intimate fellowship and on the basis of such close fellowship, the Lord would guarantee the imminent birth of their child of promise. For instance, covenants in the ancient world were often arranged with meals.
So there is great significance in the Lord making a special visit to Abrams tent to announce the birth. The significance is that Abram was the friend of God, the very recipient of the covenant. So when the time was at hand the Lord came personally and ate in Abrams presence. Nothing could more effectively communicate the close relationship upon which the promises were based. It is on the basis of this intimate relationship and fellowship that the promise would be fulfilled even though it seemed impossible to do so at this time.
The Lord wants to unite with us in fellowship today too so that we can have an intimate relationship with Him. Today that fellowship is established spiritually as we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 says "And do not get drunk with wine for that is excess but be filled with the Spirit". This is a command for us to be filled constantly with the Holy Spirit. Each believer has all of the Spirit but the command here is that the Spirit have all of him. To have intimate fellowship with the Lord means that I am living under the dominance and control of the Holy Spirit. To do this I have to obey at least two other commands. First, I must not grieve the Holy Spirit Ephesians 4:30. This has to do with the sin of commission where I am doing what I should not be doing. I will ‘wound’ or ‘insult’ the Holy Spirit in my life. Second, I must not quench the Holy Spirit 1 Thess. 5:19. This has to do with the sin of omission where I am not doing what I should be doing. I will ‘suppress’ ‘restrain’ and ‘stifle’ the Holy Spirit in my life. Since the Holy Spirit is a person my actions can hurt the relationship. Since the Holy Spirit is God I must obey Him so that I am under His control. This then is the basis of my daily and growing intimacy with the Lord.
2. God Promises That Which Seems Humanly Impossible 9-15
A. Gods promises can seem incredible 9-12
The question about Sarah served to focus attention on the point of this visit--it concerned Sarah whose new name spoke of the promise (17:15-16). In verse 10 the promise is worded emphatically and specifically. So this exchange signifies that the birth will be a divine provision to them. Sarah had been listening and she laughed within herself after hearing this vs. 12. Verse 11 offers us an explanation of the situation that made the visitors words seem absurd. They were old and Sarah was well beyond childbearing. So we see Sarah’s thinking on the matter ‘after I have grown old shall I have pleasure my lord also being old?’ Her reaction would be expected given the circumstances. She looked at the promise from her side and laughed. Compare this with Mary's response to the announcement of Christ’s birth also humanly impossible.
When something similarly extraordinary is announced our response is consistent with Sarah’s. We are taken off guard, we wonder how these things can be. We look at it from the human side and laugh. Cast my debt on God? Cast my marriage on God? Cast my career on God? Gods promise to us is "to cast all of our anxiety on him because he cares for us" 1 Peter 5:7. Our problem is that we find it too incredible that God will do just that for us. We do not believe anything can or will happen. The problem is never with God. His promises are sure and true and backed up by His character and ability. The problem is with us because we cannot believe that he will do what He says he will do. So we are just like Sarah and we laugh inside.
B. The Lords ability is beyond human comprehension 13-15
We see that the Lord immediately rebuked Sarah’s doubt with a rhetorical question. What made the laughter amazing to the visitor was the ability of the one making the promise to her. Vs 14 the rhetorical question means to convey that for the Lord nothing is too extraordinary. He delights in doing that which is impossible, marvelous, incredible to us. God specializes in the impossible. That is his specialty. With this point forcefully made the Lord repeats the promise with the appointed time. The birth of Isaac was already a scheduled event from Gods point of view. In stark contrast to Sarah’s laughter about what seemed incredible. Her denial in vs. 15 came after realizing the source of the announcement and her hasty response. The Lord knew she had laughed and those parting words would be remind them of their response to the promise until Isaac was born--they laughed! The Lord chose to do the impossible because the promised seed was to be known as the Lords provision alone. God knows if we stagger over what he said he was about to do. The people in intimate fellowship with God must fully believe what he said he would do and not doubt.
1. Gods Word is based upon His nature. He makes promises that he is fully able to keep. No contradiction between what he says he will do and what he can do.
2. The Lord expects us to respond by faith and not doubt him. We disobey God because we do not believe Him. Today its faith always faith.