Faith Heroes -“Super to us is faithful to God”
Isaac – Blessed by faith!
Thousands are coming to hear him preach. His ministry has gone global. He wrote a book. That's quite a résumé for a boy without any arms or legs!
Meet Nick Vujicic, a 25-year-old Australian, born without limbs. Vujicic's parents, devout Christians who planted a church in Australia 11 months before Nick was born, found it hard to understand how God could use their son's loss for good. But he has.
Reading in Sunday school about being made in the image of God seemed like a cruel joke to Nick. He seesawed between despair and begging God to grow arms and legs for him. He contemplated suicide the year he turned 8. When he was 15, though, one story in the Bible answered one of his toughest questions. "When I read the story of the blind man … Jesus said he was born so that the work of God could be revealed through him," Vujicic said. "That gave me peace. I said, 'Lord, here I am. Use me. Mold me. Make me the man you want me to be.'"
Vujicic learned to write using the two toes on a partial foot that protrudes from his body. He also learned how to throw tennis balls, answer the phone, walk, and swim. He invented new ways to shave and brush his own teeth. He even earned double degrees in accounting and financial planning by age 21. He has since become a motivational speaker to churches in over 12 countries, and he has ministered to over two million people face to face. He also oversees Life Without Limbs, an organization for the physically disabled. His first book, No Arms, No Legs, No Worries, was released last year.
I’m not sure what to make of that story. Oh, don’t get me wrong it’s inspirational without a doubt, but did anyone feel that way the day Nick was born? No, his parents were devastated and his church mourned his birth. When a child is born parents often think, “the sky’s the limit, but not Nick’s parents. They’re thinking there will only be limits.” What do you think most parents want the future to hold for their children? Open your Bibles this morning to Hebrews 11:20. The past four weeks we’ve looked at the lives of four faith heroes - Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham. Today we look at the life of Isaac. Do you need a Bible? Find Hebrews 11:20. Right now I feel the need for a scorecard. Just who are all these people? Isaac is the miracle child born to Abraham and Sarah. (Go back to verse 11 in Hebrews 11) Isaac is that first grain of sand. Now Isaac’s story first appears in the Bible in Genesis 21. Turn again to the Old Testament book of Genesis. Twenty five years pass by from Genesis 12 to Genesis 21. Twenty five years Abraham has been contemplating God’s promise to him. “I will make you - the “exalted father” into the “exalted father of many nations.” But 25 years come and go and there’s still no baby. You can’t be the father of many nations without being the father of one! Doubt on Abraham’s part sets in. Is God going to keep his promise or not. Find verse 2 in Genesis 15. (Read 2-6) Again what is faith? It’s taking God at his word even when his word seems crazy – so far fetched! Sarah is also having some trouble keeping the faith so she devises in her mind an awesome plan. Go to Genesis 16:1. (Read 1-2b) Ladies, you might be thinking, Is this lady dumber than a box of rocks? Well no, she’s not dumb, she’s just desperate. And desperate women do desperate things. It has been 11 years since Abraham and Sarah received the promise of having a son. Look at Genesis 16:16 and then 17:1. (Read) Another 13 years will go by but finally the big day arrives. Turn to Genesis 21. (Read 1-5)
Do you know the meaning of your name? Take Mark for instance. Mark means “defender, hammer, warlike.” Mark comes from Marcus which is Roman and means one dedicated to Mars the Roman god of war. In Hebrew Mark means polite or shining.[i] Let’s take another name like Peyton for instance. Hmm, why did Peyton come to my mind on this day of all days. Did you know that Peyton means “classic pocket passer” and Drew means “cannon arm” OK, that’s not true. I’m just jerking your chain, but Mark does mean defender and Isaac means “he laughs.”
Some people just put a smile on your face. Mine is Dave Mason. Dave sings some wild songs. Songs like “The Lanyard Song, A Yak is not a Llama, The Mattress police and Rock on Pluto. Well, one little boy put a smile on Sarah’s face. Look at what Sarah says in Genesis 21:6. Every time she called Isaac he had to put a smile on her face. God keeps his promises. My husband was as good as dead – I was only 55 years past the child bearing age and yet here I am holding a boy in my arms. And that boy grows up! Just as all parents hope Isaac grows up and through an arranged marriage marries a woman named Rebekah. They have twin sons named Esau and Jacob. Let’s read again Hebrews 11:20.
Can you determine the future for your children? You can’t. I can’t and neither could Isaac. Did you notice in what order Isaac’s sons are listed in Hebrews 11? Jacob is listed first even though Esau was born first. There’s no other way to say it, but that’s out of order. And life is often out of order and certainly out of our control. That’s not what Isaac wanted, but this is reality. Nick Vujicic’s parents were not expecting their son to be born without limbs, but this too is reality. And they were devastated at first. Does something seem out of order in your life? You thought life would be – THIS – but in reality it’s so that!
Are you familiar with cartoonist Jeff Stahler? Jeff has a syndicated carton called “Moderately Confused.” Every few months he draws a cartoon and holds a caption contest. Here’s the cartoon he drew for Caption Contest #25. You have two boys going sledding and one boy has an ordinary sled and another boy has a humongous sled. Here are a few caption contest finalists: “We live next door to the Joneses. “I can see Russia from up here.” “Flexible Flyer got a government bailout.” “Do you like my Slummer?” The winner was Keith Slone of West Jefferson, Ohio who wrote, /“God told me to build it. There’s a great snow a-coming!”[ii]/
Now who’s Keith referring to? Noah! Noah in faith spent 100 years building this cargo ship. There’s no way Lamech, Noah’s father, could have known – “my son will one day build an incredible ark and ultimately save the human race.”
We don’t know what the future holds, we just know the one who holds the future. You thought you’d be married by now, but you’re not! You thought you’d have a baby by now, but you don’t. You thought your kids would grow up and go to college, but they didn’t. You thought that once you got married that person would love you forever, but they left instead. You’ve always been healthy, but now your diagnosis isn’t looking so good. How can anyone be confident of the future? Hebrews 11 gives us the answer. I know we’re talking about Isaac this morning, but Hebrews 11: 20-23 was meant to be read together. So let’s do that! (Old and his eyes were weak)[iii]) Now what do all three of these verses have in common? Death! Isaac, Jacob and Joseph are all facing death! That is so sobering, but its reality. Before he dies – Isaac blesses his two sons. Before Jacob dies, he blesses his grandsons and before Joseph dies he blesses us all with these words – Egypt is not my home. My home is in the Promised Land. My hope is in Jehovah God because he is mighty to save and always keeps his promises. Death is not the end. Do you want to be confident of the future? Then put death in its rightful place. DEFEATED! And how was death defeated? Jesus rose from the grave. And again what is faith? Faith is taking God at his word. Jesus rose from the dead and so will anyone who puts their faith in God’s only Son!
Hopefully you’ve noticed that Hebrews 11 is simply one “by faith” story after another. By faith Abel did not go through the motions - he gave God his best. By faith Enoch chose to stand out. He did that by choosing to please God and one day God just took him away. By faith and in holy fear Noah built one big boat. By faith Abraham left what was good to experience what was better even though he had no idea where he was going! And in faith Isaac, Jacob and Joseph blessed those around them.
I want to challenge you to be a blessing to those around you! How? It’s really not as hard as it sounds. Gary Thomas wrote a book last year called Holy Available. He said one day he was flying alone and was seated by the window of a plane.[iv] I little boy sat down next to him and then his Mom sat in the aisle seat. The little boy started to fidget and so Gary asks him, Would you like to sit next to the window and his eyes lit up. So Gary gets up, the little boy slides to the window seat, his Mom moves to the middle and Gary takes the aisle seat. He then looks at the Mom and asks, “Do you have any other children?” Thinking she would say no. But she doesn’t say no. Instead she says, “I have an 11 year old daughter who had to sit by herself in the back of the plane.” And Gary knows what he needs to do. There’s no fanfare, no bells and whistles – just the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit – go find that girl. Which he does – and now Mom, son and daughter are all sitting in the same row while Gary is stuck between two grown men in the back of the plane. What’s your by faith story? How can we bless someone else in faith? It’s possible it could be something huge, like Nick Vujicic, but most times it’s just doing something simple – like giving up your seat in faith!
[iii] Genesis 27:1 (NIV)