Faithlife Sermons

The Arrival of Joy (Genesis 21:1-7)

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Big Idea: Find superior joy in waiting for the arrival of God's promise.

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Genesis 21:1–7 ESV
The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
So I want to propose to you today… that Amazon has killed my ability to wait.
OK… maybe Amazon is just the expression that my ability to wait has already long been dead.
But somehow it’s become my reality that I cannot wait two days for something that I ordered that used to take two weeks...
And don’t get me started about when they promise one-day shipping at checkout and then it gets delayed… really that seems to happen almost every time…
They also may or may not have killed the ability to wait until Christmas to find out what gifts we will receive...
I would imagine I’m not the only one who has gone to my Amazon wish list… clicked on the item to add it to my cart… just to see if it tells me that someone MAY have already purchased it…
I’m not saying I did that THIS year…
But we seem to have completely lost our ability to wait as a society. Which is why seasons like advent are so important.
Which is why seasons like advent are so important.
Advent is all about learning to do something most of us hate… but that God often makes us do: and that is to wait.

Series vision: Find the blessing in waiting on the arrival of Jesus Christ.

We are learning in this season that God has designed his blessings to come THROUGH waiting...
And we find that those blessings come… not just when the waiting is over… not JUST when Jesus physically returns… they come through his presence with us IN the waiting.
That his blessings of hope, peace, joy, and love… don’t just come when the waiting is over… they don’t just come when we get what we were waiting for… they come when the presence of Christ arrives and meets us IN our waiting.
That’s exactly what he did in that first Christmas…
He ENTERED INTO our waiting for the Lord… he became Emmanuel… God with us.
The Son of God took on flesh and entered a weary and longing world.
But the wait wasn’t over at that point… he would physically leave… only to return again… that’s our ultimate hope… that’s the ultimate time we are all waiting for…
And yet, even as he left physically, he would still be “Emmanuel, God with us” as he left us with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit…
with the Holy Spirit securing our hope and peace and joy and love until he comes again.
So during this season we are looking at 4 times in the Old Testament when people were WAITING for the arrival of God’s promise and blessing…
Specifically we are tracing the promise of the offspring who was promised in … the one who would conquer the serpent who tempted Eve in the Garden... and who tempts us still today...
Last week we looked at how when we REFUSE to wait… and we follow the impulses of our sinful flesh… we oppose the peace of God in our lives...
And we saw that WAITING on his arrival will BRING peace through worshiping him and living out his calling…
This week we are going to see how waiting upon his arrival brings us this NEXT blessing of joy.

Big Idea: Find superior joy in waiting for the arrival of God's promise.

Big Idea: Find superior joy in waiting for the arrival of God's promise.

Read with me in .
I remember when all three of our baby boys were born… incredible joy...
A lot of fear… a lot of uncertainty… but also a ton of JOY.
I remember when many of YOUR kids were born too… and I remember feeling the joy along with many of YOU.
But I wonder what kind of joy comes after waiting until you are 90 years and 100 years old to give birth to your first son?
…a son who has been promised by God to you for a LONG time… a son who you wondered would ever come…
That’s the type of joy we are going to see in the life of Sarah and Abraham in today.
Read with me in .
There are few things in life more joyful than the arrival of a baby… I remember when all three of our baby boys were born… incredible joy...
I remember when all three of our baby boys were born… incredible joy...
I often say they looked like little aliens because they were born by C-section and looked all scrawny and purple at first… but they were fine…
And surrounding those moments, there is USUALLY a lot of uncertainty… sometimes even a lot of fear… but also a ton of JOY.
I remember when many of YOUR kids were born too… and I remember feeling the joy along with many of YOU.
But I wonder what kind of joy comes after waiting until you are 90 years and 100 years old to give birth to your first son?
…a son who has been promised by God to you for a LONG time… a son who you wondered if he would ever come…
That’s the type of joy we see in the life of Sarah and Abraham in today.
This story is the fulfillment of a long story of waiting for God’s promise.
Much like when you and I have to wait a long time for something, there were times when Abraham and Sarah waited very faithfully...
And there were times when they were.... well let’s just say… more fearful than faithful… and that’s true even after Isaac was born…
And yet we learn from their experience that when God makes a promise, it’s as good as done from the moment he speaks it.
That’s the emphasis of this text… look at verse 1 again: “The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him.” (, ESV)
So if you were reading this text on your own, I would hope you would notice the emphasis through repetition: as he had said… as he had promised… at the time God said it would happen…
I want you to understand that this isn’t about waiting on just any old thing… This is about waiting ONLY on what God has promised.
But this isn’t about waiting on just any old thing...
This is about ONLY waiting on what God has promised.
Sometimes that’s half our problem, isn’t it?
We’re waiting for things… longing for things… that God hasn’t promised us!
We’re focusing all of our attention… all of our energy… on something we want… something that we think will bring us joy and happiness… that isn’t really a part of the story God has for us....
and then we get angry at God because we think he held out on us when he never promised us that thing or experience or emotion in the first place.
Too often we wait and we long for the arrival of things that aren’t really God’s best for us… and then we get angry at God because he held out on us.
And if we WERE to receive it… or if we were to receive it at exactly the time WE want it… it WOULD not be the source of superior joy.
As we learn how to WAIT during this advent season… we need to learn to wait for the right thing.
Not the things that we THINK will bring us hope and joy and peace and love...
Not the picture perfect family gathering on Christmas eve… or just the right presents under the tree...
Not people acting just as we want them to… or having perfect financial security around the holidays…
The thing that will bring SUPERIOR hope and joy and peace and love… is the arrival of Jesus Christ into our waiting.
The right thing to wait for is the coming King and his Kingdom...
That’s why Jesus taught us to pray… “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven...”
The blessings of God come through the arrival of Jesus and his kingdom as we wait.
We are learning to long for his power and presence where we find fullness of joy.
We are learning to long for his power and presence where we find fullness of joy.
And as we wait for the right thing, the blessings of his kingdom will be ours in Christ.
Ultimately, during the advent season, we are learning to wait for the promise we studied on Dec. 2… when Jesus says in Revelation 22...
“Surely I am coming soon.” [and we are learning to say to that promise] Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! ( ESV)
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (ESV)
“We are waiting… we are longing… for your arrival!!!”
I’ll be the first to admit that I fail on that MANY MANY MANY days...
But we need to train ourselves to wait for the right thing.
Abraham and Sarah were waiting for the next step in God’s story to unfold… his PROMISE of the birth of their son Isaac…
Ultimately, the promise of Isaac’s birth is part of God’s promise to bring his Son Jesus Christ into the world so that all the nations of the earth might be blessed through him…
Abraham and Sarah and Isaac are Jesus’ direct ancestors…
So we can learn to wait WITH them this morning… and to see the joy that only waiting on the Lord and his promise can bring...
The rest of this passage can be broken down into Abraham’s response, Sarah’s response, and the watching world’s response.
And from each of those responses, I want us to see…

Three Ways to Find Joy in Waiting

1. Abraham’s Response:

V. 3 - Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.
And we learn this first principle of finding joy in the waiting from Abraham: Trade strategizing for submitting.

1. Abraham’s Response: Trade strategizing for the joy of submission. (v. 3-4)

V. 3 - Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Explain: This morning, we are coming into the middle of a story that begins all the way back in .
Explain:
Abraham used to be called Abram before God changed his name… he lived in a land far away from where he is living now in Canaan… it was another land called Ur.
And in , God called Abram and made him a promise...
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”” (, ESV)
Through this promise, God is already preparing for the arrival of his Son Jesus Christ.
And so Abram uproots his family and arrives in the land of Canaan… and tells us...
Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” (, ESV)
God promises Abram blessing, a specific land... and an offspring through whom and to whom those things will come…
It seems like coming off that type of interaction and that type of promise, faith is at an all-time high...
But the longer he has to wait, the more Abram feels the need to strategize a solution to secure God’s promise instead of submitting to God’s own plan to fulfill his promise.
There is a famine in Canaan… and so they have to travel to Egypt.
And Abram gets afraid that the Egyptians are going to see his wife… see how beautiful she is… and take her to be his own by killing Abram...
So Abram STRATEGIZES this plan… I mean… God made him a promise of land, seed and blessing… and the promise wasn’t fulfilled yet… so the evident thing we MUST do is strategize to make sure the promise gets fulfilled, right???
So Abram’s like, “Let’s just skip the whole killing me part… I’ll say you are my SISTER… and he can just have you. And then your beauty can save my life instead of me dying.”
That’s messed up.
So Pharoah DOES think Sarai is beautiful… takes her into his harem… gives Abram all sorts of wealth…
But God afflicts Pharoah with great plagues until he realizes what’s going on, and Pharoah is like, “Why didn’t you just TELL ME she was your wife...”
And he sends him away.
And you’d think he’d learn his lesson… but the EXACT SAME THING happens with another king in chapter 20… just a chapter before where we are studying where Isaac is born…
Abram’s tendency is to think he needs to strategize a solution to secure God’s promise instead of surrendering to God’s plan to fulfill his promise.
One example is in the story of his other son, Ishmael.
If you look at , it is very specific in its wording: “Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.” [we needed to see the uniqueness of this…]
Why does the author go out of his way to emphasize that this was the one SARAH bore to him?
Well, because there was a major threat to this promise of an offspring… his wife Sarah was barren… she couldn’t have children. And she wasn’t getting any younger.
And God consistently promised Abram this offspring… and he promised it THROUGH Sarah...
But because of Sarah’s age and condition, they decided, “This just isn’t working. WE’VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING if we are ever going to see God’s promise!!!”
And Sarah was like, “I’ve got an idea, why don’t you have a child with my servant, Hagar.” [like THAT was going to go well…]
And what Abram SHOULD have done as the leader of his home was say, “No… we can trust the Lord. Let’s wait on him and see how he works.”
But instead, he says, “OK, let’s do this.”
And he has a child with Hagar… and we see him constantly asking the Lord to bless THAT child instead of giving him the child he promised through Sarah.
Abraham’s tendency… which is VERY common to humanity... is to think he needs to strategize a solution to secure God’s promise instead of submitting to GOD’S plan to fulfill his promise.
Abraham’s tendency… which is VERY common to humanity... is to think he needs to strategize a solution to secure God’s promise instead of submitting to God’s plan to fulfill his promise.
And this leads to hurting and bitterness in his wife...
And all kinds of relational consequences with Hagar and Ishmael…
And God MERCIFULLY protects everyone involved all throughout their lives… but what Abraham needed to do was trade all of his strategizing for the joy of submitting.
God had a plan of INCREDIBLE joy for Abraham… a son that only GOD could provide…
And God told Abraham to name that son Isaac, which means “He laughs.”
And that’s because Abraham LAUGHED at the thought of what God said he was going to do one year earlier when he said Sarah was going to bear him a son in his old age.
God KNOWS that his promises lead to superior joy.
God didn’t need Abraham’s strategies… he wanted his submission.
And sometimes even when he DIDN’T submit, God STILL blessed him, because God is a MERCIFUL God.
I think of Joseph at the time of the first Chistmas… He had the same temptation to strategize when he heard about Mary’s pregnancy…
He had the same temptation to strategize when he heard about Mary’s pregnancy… he didn’t want to harm her… but he couldn’t see a way forward… so he thought to divorce her quietly. And then and angel of the Lord came and said, “No, I want you to stay in this… I’m working out my promise here.
he didn’t want to harm her… but he couldn’t see a way forward…
so he resolved to divorce her quietly.
And then an angel came and said, “No, God wants you to stay in this… God is working out his promise here.”
And Joseph submitted to God and became the adoptive father of the Son of God.
And it was just as true for Joseph as it was for Abraham: God doesn’t need our strategies… he wants our submission.
God wanted the type of submission that brought Abraham out of the land of Ur and into the land of Canaan.
He wanted the submission that brought him out of the land of Ur and into the land of Canaan.
God wanted the submission that cause Abraham to immediately circumcise all his household when the Lord said, “This is going to be the sign of my covenant with you.”
God wanted the submission that said, “I’m trusting YOU as I wait on your promise.”
And as God delivers on his promise… we see Abraham follow through on that submission… He names his son Isaac… which was God’s idea… and then v. 4 says he circumcised his son just like God commanded.
That’s the definition of submission: Just like God commanded.
Later God would ask Abraham to take that son and sacrifice him on an altar...
And Abraham by that point had learned to SUBMIT… and to trust that God would provide another Sacrifice because Isaac was the son of his promise.
“I’m not sure what you’re working out here God, but I’m waiting on you… I’m trusting your promise for superior joy!”
And that’s exactly what God did. As Abraham got to the altar and tied up his son and lifted the knife… at that last moment God provided a substitute in a ram caught in a thicket.
And oh the joy Abraham must have felt!
Here’s what fueled Abraham’s submission: God is better at fulfilling his promise than we are at strategizing a way to obtain it.
Abraham had seen it! God had proven it again and again!
God had proven it again and again!
So let me ask you.. when you have to wait a long time to see God work, do you ever feel the need to strategize a plan based on what you can see right now?
I know that’s MY tendency.
“How is this going to work??? God must need me to do something… here’s my best stab at it!!!”
And I get all anxious and stressed out… and joy is lost because I think securing God’s promise rests on my shoulders.
But who is the one who promised??? [God] And who has the power to accomplish his promise? [God!]
Sometimes we can even enter into sinful behavior to get the thing we are waiting for because it seems like the only way of securing it.
Maybe it’s dating an ungodly person because we are afraid no one godly will come along.
Listen… learn to wait on the Lord and find superior joy in his presence with you.
Maybe it’s finding sexual intimacy outside of marriage because marriage doesn’t seem to be satisfying that longing.
Listen… that is destructive to your soul and it is NOT the way to superior joy.
Maybe it’s cutting corners or lying in order to secure more money because I am afraid I won’t have what I need in the end.
God is better at providing for your needs than you are… and he is not limited in his resources to do so.
Maybe it’s just strategizing a way to get through my to-do list today without taking any time to seek the Lord in prayer for what HE wants to do...
And listen… it’s not wrong to plan… it’s not wrong to wisely look down the road and make decisions that we think are best based on God’s word...
Maybe it’s even ministry… and trying to strategize a way to see more people come to know Christ and to get the word out about our church… and God is saying, “Just focus on praying and proclaiming the gospel and strengthening disciples and appointing leaders… and I’ll take care of the rest.”
But here’s the only strategy we need: see what God has revealed… and do that.
That’s why we are in a season of prayer about this facility thing… because instead of strategizing a way to find a facility that we want, we want to put ourselves in a place of submission to see what God wants… and then go there.
Here’s a fact of life: The longer we have to wait for something to happen, the greater the temptation is to strategize. And the more we strategize, the more we are robbed of the joy of simple submission.
In all of our strategizing, God is saying, “Trust me, I’ve got this. Just submit.
I’ve made precious promises to you that are for MY purposes. I’ve secured them by sending my son in the flesh to you…
My promises are as good as done. You don’t need a strategy to obtain them.
Your only job is to submit. Do what I’ve clearly told you to do… and ONLY what I’ve clearly told you to do, and then watch me work WONDERS to use you in my story.”
I’m telling you… there is JOY in submission.
There is JOY in being able to say, “God, I believe that you are going to work out your promise as I submit to what you have already revealed and I don’t have to figure it all out.”
says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
I have this flashlight… and if I’m outside at night, walking down a path, for sure this will help me see.
But it’s not going to help me see the whole path… it’s not going help me see five miles down the path...
Isn’t that so freeing?
Just the next step… and that’s all I need.
God doesn’t reveal the whole path… he simply says, “Take the next step I have revealed… and then take the next step… and the next step.”
And listen… I’m not saying that it’s wrong to plan…
It’s not wrong to take inventory of our lives and establish healthy rhythms and make sure we are living wisely… and stewarding all that God has given us…
But here’s the only plan… the only real strategy we need: see what God is doing and then go do that...
See what has clearly revealed in his word and submit to it in whatever situation of life we find ourselves.
Does God have you in a relationship that is hard and you are waiting for him to change that?
His will is clearly for you to love that person and share Christ with them… and to forgive and to forbear… and to gently call out sin…
And he will work out his good purposes for you as you submit to him… even when it doesn’t make sense to you.
to work hard at what he has placed before you…
to contribute to society by contributing to the health of your family...
Has God given you a job that you don’t really care for and you’re waiting for that situation to change?
His will is clearly for you is to do that job to the best of your ability…
to serve your customers or other employees well…
If you have a boss, to submit to them as a way of submitting to Christ...
to use your job as a way to love your neighbor... as a way to display and declare your faith in the gospel…
Do that… and he will fulfill his promise in and through you… and if he wants to move your job situation around, he will make that clear… and he’s going to provide for you…
But ultimately his promise is not that you would have an awesome job...
But that he would use you in his kingdom…
And he also promised that he would use trials to purify your heart... and strengthen your faith… and get you ready to be with Jesus forever.
Again… we have to be waiting for the right thing… the thing God has really promised…
I said this last week, “Waiting is doing what God has called you to do right now until he reveals what’s next.”
God graciously doesn’t give us his whole story all at once.
Instead he calls us to wait and trust and submit our delusions of our control to his greater plan.
And we do that by submitting to what he has CLEARLY revealed in the scriptures… in the place he has us right now…
And he will reveal what needs to happen next in his own timing.
He doesn’t need your strategies… he wants your submission.
says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
I have this flashlight… and if I’m outside at night, walking down a path, for sure this will help me see.
But it’s not going to help me see the whole path… it’s not going help me see five miles down the path...
Just the next step… and that’s all I need.
God doesn’t reveal the whole path… he simply says, “Take the next step I have revealed… and then take the next step… and the next step.”
Is there any situation in your life in which you are trying strategize the plan… and God is calling you to simply surrender to what he has revealed right now?
It’s in that submission that the joy of the Lord comes.
That’s what he did for Abraham… tells us...
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (, ESV)
-Constantly back and forth between submission and taking matters into his own hands.
-We strategize ways to obtain the blessing, protect the blessing
-“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (, ESV)
It was in those moments when Abraham acted out of faith that his heart was set on the ultimate promise of God’s unfolding story.
He had VERY limited knowledge of all that was to come.
But he had enough… he had what God had revealed to him… that was enough to surrender.
Now not only was God working in Abraham’s life to bring joy through submission… he was also working in Sarah’s life to bring joy in the midst of her doubt.
Look at v. 5 again - Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me...
Stop there for now…
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

2. Sarah’s Response: Trade doubting for the joy of dependence. (v. 5-6a)

Explain: We know from chapter 17 that not only was Abraham 100 when the child was born… but Sarah was 90.
You have to admit… a guy having a kid at 100 years old… when his wife is 90… is a pretty funny mental picture.
You sort of can’t help but sort of chuckle a little bit about taking care of a brand new baby of your own at the age most of us are in nursing care.
Changing diapers at an age many of us will have to have others change our own diapers.
That mental picture naturally brings about laughter.
A year earlier, Sarah was in their tent when Abraham burst open the flaps and said, “QUICK, make 3 cakes out of our best flour… there are 3 visitors here and we need to give them something to eat! These guys seem PRETTY important.”
So she starts cooking… and she’s overhearing their conversation…
And it becomes clear that one of these men is the Lord himself… making a promise to Abraham...
“The LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” ( ESV)
So Sarah did what was natural for a 90 year old woman to do when she hears she’s going to have a baby… she LAUGHED. says,
The LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. (ESV)
“So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” ( ESV)
So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” (ESV)
Like… we aren’t even DOING that stuff anymore… shall I have pleasure?!?!? Let alone a baby!
Now it’s clear that this is a laugh of DOUBT, because the Lord responds,
“Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.” ( ESV)
Sarah was called out for her doubting laughter…
But can you really blame her? She had waited SO LONG for this promise… she had left her home… her family… her friends...
The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.” (ESV)
She had been given up by her husband to be taken into the harem of a foreign ruler… not once, but twice!
She had allowed her servant to have a child with her husband…
And it just looked doubtful that ANYTHING was going to come through all this waiting.
And NOW… NOW that she’s WAY past her prime… NOW she’s going to have a child of promise?
You can’t really blame her for doubting… except that nothing is impossible with God…
…because Hebrews tells us...
And when God makes a promise, it’s as good as done.
and I believe in that moment of God holding her accountable, the laughter of doubt began turning into the joy of dependence…because Hebrews tells us...
By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.” (, ESV)
She didn’t receive power AFTER the baby was conceived or was born… it was BEFORE he was conceived she considered the one who promised FAITHFUL… and that she put herself in the position of dependence through faith.
Nothing was impossible with God… he was going to do what ONLY he could do… and she had to come to him in faith because she was utterly dependent upon him to work.
And when the baby was born, that dependence erupted into even MORE laughter now that she laid eyes on the object of God’s promise.
Do you feel the joy in this moment… when the child she had waited for finally arrived??? And the only reasonable explanation was God’s power at work in her as she expressed her faith in him?
But the child wasn’t the end goal of the promise… don’t make that mistake...
The child was NOT the end goal of the promise. The child was the proof of the promise-giver.
Here’s what we learn: We can delight in the promise itself because we know that the promise-giver is faithful.
We don’t have to wait until the promise is obtained to receive the joy of the promise.
We can consider him faithful who had promised and know that the joy is already ours in his power.
We can know that weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Joy is sure to come at the arrival of Christ… and that is the foundation of any superior joy right now.
Not in the whole plan being seen… not in all of our doubts being answered right now… but in knowing that someday they all WILL be answered… definitively… because NOTHING is impossible with God.
And right now, God has given us the promise of his presence with us, securing our joy… when we turn to Jesus Christ through faith.
He did the humanly impossible work of saving us from our sins by taking on human flesh… and dying in our place on a cross… and rising again from the grave.
He did the humanly impossible thing of making your heart a dwelling place for the glory of God.
And he’s coming again to do the humanly impossible thing of making you live forever in the presence of God.
Nothing is impossible when we place all of our dependence upon that promise.
And so I wonder… what doubts do you have about God’s promise right now? [show chart]
Do you doubt God’s willingness to save you when your sin is so grievous?
Listen to this promise: For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (ESV)
Listen to this promise:
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (ESV)
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (ESV)
God made the promise to save all those who put their faith in Jesus.
He already did the work to pay the penalty for your sin and to rise again from the grave so that when you turn from your sin and trust in HIS saving work, you can KNOW that he has saved you.
Do you doubt his ability to overcome that nagging sin in your life?
But here is his promise:
And here is his promise: - No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (ESV)
- No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (ESV)
And here is his promise: - No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (ESV)
Jesus already endured every temptation and conquered the tempter… and HE IS the way of escape as you renew your faith in him and seek him and cry out to him in that moment.
And you can look through that chart at all those doubts and all those promises… and that’s just a small sampling, but the point is this.
Listen to his promise:
- And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)
He makes that promise to us as we submit ourselves to HIS mission of making disciples of all nations.
Do you doubt his love for you?
- Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Do you doubt his ability or willingness to overcome a joy-defeating obstacle?
Do you doubt his ability or willingness to overcome a joy-defeating obstacle?
- For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)
Trade your doubt for
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)
Trade your doubt for the joy of dependence.
Identify your doubt. Identify what God has actually promised. And then depend upon that promise.
Trade your doubt for
Choose to believe it when it makes absolutely no sense and when it would be impossible for you to accomplish on your own.
Too often we depend on our doubts and doubt his promise. Learn to doubt your doubts and depend on his promise.
You may never see how your doubtful situation is all going to work out. It may look dark for a long time.
It may look dark for a long time.
But God promises: - For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (ESV)
and his favor is for a lifetime.
God is working for your ultimate joy in his presence.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. (ESV)
Abraham found joy when he traded strategizing for submitting...
Sarah found joy when she traded doubting for dependence.
And as the rest of the watching world observes this all play out, they learn to...

3. The Watching World’s Response: Trade shaming for the joy of seeing. (v. 6b-7)

And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”” (, ESV)
Explain: Who would have thought? Answer: No One.
No one looks at an 89 year old lady and says, “Yep… she’s going to have a baby next year.”
And in that culture, the shame around that fact was unbearable.
It was an inaccurate view, but if you weren’t able to have kids, people thought it meant that God’s blessing wasn’t upon you… that God was judging you...
Btw… if you deal with infertility ever in your past, present or future… it is NOT a sign of God’s judgment on you personally...
It is simply a painful reality in a fallen world.
And we can walk with people… not shaming them… but supporting them and waiting to see what God wants to do in their lives.
But in Sarah’s day, there was deep shame associated with barrenness.
We see that when Abraham has the child with Sarah’s servant, Hagar, in … in the midst of Sarah’s waiting...
- And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!” (ESV)
Sarah had experienced her share of shame.
The longer Sarah waited, the deeper that shame was engraved.
But this was also true: The longer Sarah waited, the greater the opportunity became to show God's power in her weakness.
You see, NOW… at the age of 90... anyone who had put Sarah to shame had to admit that they were dead wrong.
But NOW… NOW
They got to see the power of God in Sarah’s absolute inability and weakness.
And I love Sarah’s attitude… at least for now…
She’s like, “I hope they laugh. I hope they get JOY out of seeing what God can do. You know what… I doubted it too… I felt shame too… but my laughter of doubt turned into laughter of delight… and my shame has turned into seeing the power of God.
and I hope EVERYONE gets to experience that joy!”
When I read this, I think of the virgin mother Mary… bearing up under the shame of a pregnancy out of wedlock… but in the midst of what LOOKS like shame to everyone else, SHE and Joseph have the opportunity to SEE the power of the Most High in her life.
She sang this - He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. (ESV)
Mary is rejoicing in this fact that she was of LOWLY estate… and God showed up in his power on her behalf.
You can choose to look at your weakness and hide it and be ashamed of it and receive the shame of others as true...
Or you can see your weakness as God sees it… an opportunity to show HIS power.
Joy comes when we view our shame as an opportunity for seeing the power of God.
We live in a culture, much like Sarah’s, that loves to hide the things that cause us shame.
She sang this - He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. (ESV)
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty. (ESV)
Mary is rejoicing in this fact that she was of LOWLY estate… and God showed up in his power on her behalf.
You can choose to look at your weakness and hide it and be ashamed of it and receive the shame of others as true...
But the culture of the gospel and the culture of the church is supposed to turn that on its head because we know the power and the grace of God.
Or you can see your weakness as God sees it… an opportunity to show HIS power.
The Apostle Paul said this:
- Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (ESV)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (ESV)
Paul says that we SEE his power when we learn to BOAST in the things that used to bring us SHAME in the eyes of the world...
-The longer Sarah waited, the greater the opportunity to show God's power in her weakness.
It’s not just that we become OK with our weaknesses… or come to terms with the fact that we HAVE weaknesses… but rather that we learn to BOAST in them...
That we wear weakness on our sleeve in such a way that shows off God’s glory.
We have a testimony service at the end of this month… and that’s really what a testimony service should be...
People BOASTING… not in themselves… but in the things that make US look naturally weak and help us see GOD’S supernatural power.
We REALLY need to learn how to do this because it brings GREAT JOY to experience God’s power and presence.
What is something in your life that would look weak in the eyes of the world… but God has shown his power in it again and again?
Maybe it’s a physical limitation you have… but God has been faithful… he’s provided what you need… he’s given you opportunity to speak into the lives of others through that weakness… and you can BOAST in that rather than be ashamed.
Maybe it’s a mental illness… or depression...
Maybe it’s an experience you’ve had that has a stigma in the eyes of the world… but not in the eyes of God...
Infertility or miscarriage...
Mental illness or depression…
Going to prison… or being in physical poverty…
Maybe it’s a sin struggle that in your flesh, you couldn’t overcome it… but when you truly surrendered to God… he did his work and gave you freedom!
But God has shown up and provided for you and fulfilled his promise IN your weakness… and you can now BOAST in HIS power.
Maybe it’s a sin struggle that in your flesh, you couldn’t overcome it… but when you truly surrendered to God… he did his work and gave you freedom!
Maybe it’s a sin struggle that in your flesh, you couldn’t overcome it… but when you truly surrendered to God… he did his work and gave you freedom!
Maybe it’s a fear that you consistently face… but you are seeing God conquer that fear.
I want to challenge you… first YOU need to see how God wants to use your weakness to show his power...
I want you to know that just last night I was feeling weak… I was feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things I had to do and the expectations that I was feeling… and I wasn’t too happy about that.
So first you need to learn to see weakness as an opportunity for God’s power.
Then you need to BOAST in that weakness in such a way that helps others SEE the power of God.
In your Gospel Community this week, your leader is going to ask you to share a story of how God has taken something that would be shameful… and turned it into an opportunity for his power.
Don’t let there be crickets when he asks that question.
There is an inconquerable joy that comes over us when the things that would cause us shame become an opportunity to see the glory of God instead.
I know that is INSANELY scary. But God is INSANELY powerful.
I was talking to Dwight this week, and we were discussing the fact that the choice to share about our weaknesses and struggles is less about the trustworthiness of the people we are sharing with… and more about the trustworthiness of God.
Abraham and Sarah learned to TRUST GOD in his promise… and the joy that they found was evident to all.
Will it be evident to all who look at you life?
Will you allow them to SEE your joy in God’s power?
Let’s pray.
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