Sometimes we read comments that God recorded in His Word that move in and out of our mind relatively unnoticed. They might be tucked into passages we’ve read hundreds, even thousands, of times but never really thought about. We see them with our eyes, but in our minds, they sort of get lost in the flow of words as we read the text. They were always a part of the story, but we just didn’t see them as particularly significant. But occasionally we run across one of them on one of our routine excursions through the Bible and something different happens. A comment we’ve read again and again without a second thought, grabs our attention like it leaped off the page and smacked us up-side the head. Suddenly we feel the astonishment begin to grasp what it reveals about the living God – and about us. I had one of those moments recently and felt compelled not to keep it to myself.
Easy to Miss the Point ~
As most followers of Jesus know, the eleventh chapter of Hebrews is often referred to as the New Testament’s Hall of Faith. It unfolds an extensive list of Biblical characters whose faith led to some of the most amazing demonstrations of God’s power ever witnessed. As I read about Abraham, I thought about a comment made by one of the Bible expositors leading our group. He said that when we explore the amazing things that God’s people have done throughout their history, it’s easy to get so impressed with the people that we miss the main point. The one we’re supposed to be most impressed with is not the people, but the living God we serve. That was highlighted with blazing clarity in a phrase I had never really considered.
After pointing out Abraham’s faithful response in leaving his homeland, a much more challenging thing in that culture than it is in our own, God turned to Sarah. When she was far too old for such a thing to even be considered, she bore Abraham a son, just as God had promised. Then the writer goes on to mention that not only would God’s promise of a son be fulfilled, so also would be His promise to make him the progenitor of a great nation. Those events were beyond amazing, and people have been telling the stories and talking about them for thousands of years. Abraham and Sarah were remarkable servants of God indeed. But Abraham is not the impressive one in this story, and neither is Sarah. The God who made the promise is the One who deserves our attention. Suppose, for instance, that we asked what might be a reasonable question . . . “How much help were they able to provide God? To what extent did He depend on their contributions?” God answered that with a simple comment He made about Abraham:
By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. (Hebrews 11:11–12 NKJV)
Wow… What a shot to the ego! God said that Abraham was as good as dead. What that means, of course, is that in regard to the birthing process, Abraham had nothing to offer before God stepped in, but it encapsulates more than that. It’s also true regarding the multitude of other obstacles standing between God and the fulfillment of His promises. If God’s promises had any hope of fulfillment, He would have to do it all by Himself. Not only could Abraham not provide any assistance, but neither did anyone else in the world have anything to offer that could help Him get it done.
An Additional Affirmation ~
The Apostle Paul addressed that same event involving Abraham and Sarah in his inspired letter to the Romans. Regarding Abraham, he said:
And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. (Romans 4:19–22 NKJV).
Death is not a pleasant subject. To have our abilities compared to those of a corpse isn’t the most uplifting thing we can imagine, but there’s something beautiful here. Abraham’s total lack of any ability to assist God left him with only one option. He could admit his own helplessness and simply trust that the God who loved him enough to make His covenant promise also had the power to do what He said – and that unleashed incredible possibilities.
He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness. (Romans 4:20–22 NKJV).
No Help Needed ~
In response to Abraham’s simple act of “believing”, God got to work by Himself and did some amazing things. He took what was dead in Abraham and brought it back to life. He took Sarah’s dead womb and brought it back to life. Then He took their combined deadness and filled it with a life that would become the first star in the divinely ordained galaxy that continues to increase even today. Bringing life out of dead things is what God does, and He doesn’t need our help to do it.
There’s one more thing Paul reminds us about in Abraham’s story. It wasn’t just about God’s work through Abraham and Sarah. It was about you and me as well:
Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4:23–25 NKJV)
Something in the Way ~
The Gospel has never been just a story about Heaven vs. hell. It’s a story about life vs. death. Every one of us born on this earth, other than Jesus of Nazareth, came into the world cursed with a nature to rebel against God. We come with a tendency to seek our own way – and our own will in defiance of rules, boundaries, and consequences is a natural inclination. God’s desire from the beginning has been for us to have an intimate and eternal relationship with Him in an endless state of love, peace, joy, and security, but our sins stand in the way.
When we think about the total transformation and the eternal life that Jesus offers, we might feel a bit like a 100-year-old guy being told he’s going to be a father. It’s overwhelming. Like Abraham, we might look and feel as good as dead. But if we respond like he did and just believe that what Jesus promised, He’s able to deliver, then He will take care of the rest on His own. He doesn’t need any help, and we have none to offer. If you haven’t chosen that option yet, may God help you to do that now. He can take what is as good as dead and put His life in it – life that will go on “forever”.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “When we explore the amazing things God’s people have done throughout history, it’s easy to get so impressed with the people that we miss that the one we’re supposed to be most impressed with isn’t the people, but the living God we serve.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Abraham admitted his own helplessness to assist God and simply trusted that the God who loved him enough to make His covenant promise also had the power to do what He said – and that unleashed incredible possibilities.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “God took what was dead in Abraham and Sarah and brought it back to life. Then He took their combined deadness and filled it with a life that would become the first star in the divinely-ordained galaxy that continues to increase even today.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “God’s desire from the beginning has been for us to have an intimate and eternal relationship with Him in an endless state of love, peace, joy, and security, but our sins stand in the way.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “If we respond like Abraham and just believe that what Jesus promised, He’s able to deliver, then He will take care of the rest on His own. He doesn’t need any help, and we have none to offer.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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Wow! How few of us would ever stop to consider God’s role in each of these miraculous feats of faith. Our exploits are only the result of God’s movement upon our lives; and that can only happen when we faithfully believe He will. So loved this article Mr. Ron. Will be looking at God’s word with a different perspective to consider as a result. Thank you sir! God’s blessings to you and your Ms. Diane.
God bless you, again, for the encouragement, J.D. The more I realize how much God has done for my family and me to which I contributed nothing, the more amazed I become at the multitude of ways He demonstrates His love for us. Once when I was about 15, I saw my uncle working on his cantankerous old Farmall Cub tractor and I offered to help. He looked up at me for a second or two and then said, “Well, I appreciate the offer, but I’ve got enough of a mess already and if you help, it’s only gonna make it worse.” It wounded my ego a bit back then, but whenever I start thinking that God might need a little help from me, I can hear Him saying something along those lines. Sarah tried helping God out with that promise to give them children and we’re still dealing with the downside of that whole arrangement with Hagar As always, your gracious comments and insights are a treasure to us, and we pray for God’s continued blessing on the ministry He conducts through you and the Cross-Dubya family.