Christians have been referred to as “Children of Promise” in the New Testament. When someone receives Jesus Christ into their life, they receive a rich inheritance of promises from God. Here are a few of my favorites:
They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles . . . (Isaiah 40:31).
I am the resurrection and the life.
He who believes in me, though he may die,
yet shall he live (John 11:25).
Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
My list can go on and on. Maybe you have a few go-to verses of your own as well. God has given us some great promises to stand on and trust.
Sometimes, however, trusting in these verses is not such an easy thing to do. Our faith gets shaken. We find ourselves struggling over God’s promises and not trusting in His abilities. We can experience seasons of doubt, which bring questions demanding more than pat answers. We don’t feel close to God, and His promises sound empty. Many things can cause this doubting.
• Circumstances seem out of control.
• Trials, which never seem to end.
• Prayers, which seem to go unanswered.
• Impatience with God.
• Friends who question and even ridicule your beliefs.
If you have experienced doubt in your walk with the Lord, please know this: you are not alone. This is not unusual. Many of us go through periods of doubt and uncertainty when life throws us a curveball. I have had my own moments of crying out, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
During these times of weakness, I am especially grateful for the family album, that is, the Bible. It is where I receive encouragement and renewal of my faith in God’s faithfulness in His abilities. The biblical narrative shows me again and again that when my faith is small and I am filled with doubts, I am in very good company.
Our biblical ancestors were human beings just like you and me! They, too, faced many ups and downs in their faith life. They had days when they wondered if they could really trust God or if their problem was too big for Him to handle. Where is God? Does He see what’s going on down here? Can we really take Him at His word?
Such is the case in our reading from Genesis today. Abraham and Sarah struggled to believe in God’s promise given 24 years earlier to give them a son. He also promised them land and their descendants would become a great nation and a blessing to the nations of the world. Abraham and Sarah received the promise with joy and faith. When God told them to go, they moved to the Promised Land in Cana. They anxiously looked forward to having a son even though they were quite old and had given up on the idea of having children.
But as the years passed, they still had no child. And they weren’t getting any younger, either. Abraham was 75 and Sarah was 65 when they first received the promise. Now they were becoming more stooped over with age, losing some teeth and energy as well. Time passed by quickly, and they began to wonder if God perhaps had changed His mind. Maybe He couldn’t make this happen. So finally they took matters into their own hands. As was the custom of those days, they used one of their servant women named Hagar to bear Abraham’s child. This action on their part proved to be disastrous and caused conflict and heartache for all concerned.
Twenty-four years after God initially gave the promise, He once more said to Abraham, “You will have a son. You will have many descendants.” Abraham fell on his face and laughed – only this time it was a cynical laugh. Lord let’s be realistic, he said. I am almost 100 years old and Sarah is 90. I’m too tired to even keep trying to have this child. But God promised it would happen.
In today’s scriptural text, God visits Abraham and Sarah and gives them the same promise. I will come to you in the upcoming season, and Sarah shall have a son. This time Sarah, who was in a nearby tent listening in on the conversation between Abraham and the three angelic heavenly visitors, laughed. Her’s was a huge belly laugh – cynical and filled with disbelief. Outrageous! she thought. Now that I’m old and worn out, can I still enjoy pleasure? Can I still have sex? My husband is even older than me. This is impossible! It’s too late now. Lord, I doubt if even you can make this pregnancy happen!
It sounds like Sarah has given up on God’s promise. She felt God had let them down. Have you ever felt that way yourself? Abraham and Sarah struggled with doubts just like we do sometimes. But God responded to her laughter with a question of His own. Why did Sarah laugh and say she is too old? Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?
How would you answer the last question, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” It only seems right to look at the ending of this story, because this episode leaves us hanging. How did it all turn out? When we get to Genesis chapter 21, we’re told the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised. She conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age. They named him Isaac, which means “he laughs,” and Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me. Everyone who hears will laugh with me.”
Sarah’s laughter is different from before. It’s the laughter of wonderment and amazement in a God who keeps His promises and can do all things. It’s the laughter of one who has witnessed that nothing is too wonderful for the Lord. Abraham and Sarah laughed. But when you think about it, God had the last laugh.
Why do you suppose this story was kept in the Bible? To entertain us? No. Even though it is rather delightful, this story has a much deeper purpose than that. It was kept for people like you and me who have our own seasons of doubt and cynicism, who wonder about the faithfulness and the abilities of our God when life doesn’t seem to be adding up like we thought it would or should. It reminds us once again that God is faithful. He is all-powerful, and we can count on His promises. This story is meant to build and renew confidence in us as children of promise – confidence in our great and faithful God. It’s meant to strengthen the weary who are ready to give up on believing.
Maybe you are wrestling with doubts at this time. You believe in Jesus Christ, but you struggle with your faith. God’s word to you is simply this: Child of Promise – and you are my child in Christ – remember, I always have the last laugh. You can count on my word.
God’s people continue to learn this truth. For instance, when Moses’ and the Israelites’ backs were against the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army coming for them and it looked like God’s promise of freedom was going down the tube, the sea suddenly opened up and they crossed on dry land. God had the last laugh.
When thousands of Midianites were lined up to slaughter Gideon’s army, it appeared this little band of soldiers was as good as dead and the promise of God to set His people free was doomed. But Gideon attacked the Midianites with torches and jars at night in obedience to God’s instructions. The Midianites were so panicked, they were killing themselves as they ran. Gideon won the battle, and God had the last laugh.
When the giant Goliath threatened the troops of Israel and all were so afraid, David – armed with five stones and a slingshot – took him on in the name and power of the Lord of hosts. Goliath fell and the Lord had the last laugh.
When Jesus died on the cross as He said He would, He was laid to rest in a rich man’s tomb, it appeared that death had won. But up from the grave, He arose just as He had promised! He conquered sin, death, and the devil, and God had the last laugh.
Everyone who trusts in Christ shares in the victory and can count on eternal life.
Because I live, you shall live also (John 14:19).
God keeps His promises! He never makes a promise that is too good to be true. Trusting in those promises is your choice.
After God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah, they had a choice: They could give up, or they could keep on trying in faith for their baby boy. I’m sure they had some inner doubts and tough days, but they kept on trying. Finally, just as God promised, His word was fulfilled. The boy was born! Afterward, they laughed with God, not at God.
The big idea in this text is basically this: Children of promise, trust Him. Take Him at His word. He always does what He says He will do.
You might wonder if He still keeps His promises today. My response is yes. Even today.
Michael Ramsden from Ravi Zacharias ministries (an apologetics global ministry) shared this true story about a minister of the gospel in Iran.
As the minister and his wife were driving, they stopped in a small Iranian village to purchase some water. Before entering, the minister noticed a man holding a machine gun and leaning against the wall outside the store. The minister’s wife looked at the man’s face and the gun, then put a Bible in her husband’s hand and said, “Give that man this Bible.”
Her husband looked at the man, his menacing beard and his machine gun and replied, “I don’t think so.” But she persisted. “I’m serious. Give it to him. Please. Give him the Bible.”
Trying to avoid the issue, the husband said, “Okay, I’ll pray about it.” He went into the shop, purchased the water, climbed back into the car, and started to drive away. His wife looked at him and said, “I guess you didn’t give him the Bible, did you?” Looking straight ahead, he replied, “No, I prayed about it and decided it wasn’t the right thing to do.”
“You should have given it to him,” she quietly said and then bowed her head and started to pray. At that point, he turned around and told his wife, “Fine! If you want me to die, I will.”
When the minister returned to the store, the man with the machine gun was still standing against the wall. The minister approached him and placed the Bible in his hand. When the man saw it was a Bible he started of all things to cry. “I don’t live here,” he explained. “I had to walk for three days in order to get to this village. An angel had appeared to me and told me to walk to this village and wait until someone had given me the book of life. Thank you for giving me this book!”
The God who commissioned the disciples to make go and make disciples of all nations and promised, “Lo, I am with you always,” must’ve had Himself a good chuckle that day.
By the way, this minister became a courageous witness for Christ. Eventually, along with many other workers in the Iranian church, he was martyred for his faith, but not until he had led many people to Jesus Christ.
I want to conclude our service today with an old hymn, which declares we are going to stand on the promises of God. I encourage you to join me in the chorus as your personal commitment to trust in the promises of God because you really can take Him at His word. This is the good news. Amen.