FAITH LIFE SERIES: FAITH RECEIVES

SERMON – FAITH RECEIVES

Sunday 16 May 2021

Ps Ben Hooman

Please open your Bible at Hebrew’s 11, as we continue our Faith Life Series. Faith is like a living tree bursting with fruit and in this chapter, we see the fruit that faith brings in the life of a believer: Faith listens to God (Abel), Faith walks with God (Enoch), Faith fears God (Noah), Faith obeys God (Abraham). Today we come to something very wonderful: Faith receives from God. And we see this in the life of Sarah.

“By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11)

Notice the word “‘received.” That is the key word. By faith Sarah herself received. Faith receives from God. Faith brings into your possession what you did not have before.

Today, we are going to look at Sarah’s remarkable story. We are going to see how she received by faith from God, and then see how we can receive from the hand of God today. Then at the end we will ask this question: What do you need to receive from the hand of God today? The story begins with God giving a remarkable promise to Abraham,

“And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3).

Then God said to Abraham, “… your very own son shall be your heir” (Genesis 15:4). God then brought Abraham outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them,” Then He said to him, “So shalt your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5).

This was an extraordinary promise for two reasons: First, because Abraham and Sarah had no children and, secondly because Abraham was 75 years old at the time when he left Haran (Genesis 12:4), and Sarah was just a few years behind him. Years passed, and every month was marked by disappointment. God had given a promise, but its fulfilment was nowhere in view. Twenty-four years later, when Abraham was 99 years old, God appeared to him again,

“And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks (terebinth trees) of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him” (Genesis 18:1,2)

Two angels (19:1) and the LORD (18:13,17) appearing in a visible form. Sarah has gone into the tent to prepare a meal for these unexpected visitors and while she was working in the tent, we read The LORD said,

“I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son,” (Genesis 18:10)

Sarah heard what the Lord had said, and Scripture records,

“So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” (Genesis 18:12)

We then read that,

“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” (Genesis 18:13,14)

One year later, Sarah was laughing again, but in a very different way. Tears of joy streamed down her face as Isaac was born and God’s promise was fulfilled. That’s the story in the book of Genesis, and Hebrews gives us this God-breathed commentary:

 “By faith, Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past age, since she had considered Him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11)

Faith receives power from God

“By faith, Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past age…” (Hebrews 11:11)

God gave Sarah power to conceive a child in her old age. The Bible places special emphasis on the fact that this miracle took place in Sarah. It was “Sarah herself” who received this power.

Later in Genesis we are told that after Sarah died, Abraham married again. He had six other children with his second wife, Keturah. (Genesis 25:1,2). So, though Abraham was old, he was not beyond becoming a father.

The miracle of Isaac’s conception took place because power came to Sarah, and that is why the spotlight is on Sarah’s faith in this verse. Sarah herself believed and by faith she received power from God.

  • Sarah received power

By faith Sarah herself received power. Sarah received something that she did not have before. Power came to her. And this is how she was able to do what she could not otherwise have done.

God is able to give you the strength you need to meet the challenges that you face. This theme of receiving power runs right through the New Testament Scriptures. Remember Jesus commissioned eleven men to make disciples of all nations. That was clearly beyond them, but Jesus said,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” (Acts 1:8)

What does that mean? What did this look like in practice? Here are three examples or illustrations from the life of the apostle Paul:

  • Sustaining energy

The apostle Paul was sustained in ministry by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:28,29)

When you take on responsibility, there will be times when you wander, “How can I keep going? How am I going to be sustained?” Here is your answer: The energy of the Holy Spirit will work powerfully in you.

  • Enduring pain

Paul tells us about a painful affliction that he endured for a long time. And here is what he found: Christ worked through Him most powerfully when this thorn in his flesh was at its worst,

“Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

 When you face pain, a trial that sucks the life out of you, you may wonder, how can Christ possibly use me when I have to carry the weight of this burden? Here’s your answer: It is in your weakness that Christ’s power will most clearly rest on you.

  • Facing loneliness

There was a time when Paul was put on trial in a court of law for preaching the gospel. He was on his own. There were no other believers there to support him. But this was his testimony,

“But the LORD stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles may hear it. (2 Timothy 4:17)

When you find yourself alone, you will find yourself asking, “How can I get through this?” And here’s your answer: The Lord will stand with you and give you strength.

  • Sarah received power by faith

“‘By faith Sarah received power…” (Hebrews 11:11)

God is able to give you the strength you need to meet the challenges you face, but you must receive this power by faith. Faith is the means by which we receive from the hand of God,

 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God … But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:5-7)

In order to receive you must ask, but when you ask, you must ask with faith. Without faith you will not receive. Jesus said,

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)

When I read a verse like this, my first instinct is to want to try and qualify it. Here’s why: These words of Jesus have been horribly abused by preachers who promise universal health and prosperity and encourage their hearers to name what they want and claim it from God.

It is really important to interpret Scripture in the light of Scripture. God does not contradict Himself. He is not in confusion. So, we need to ask what else Scripture says that bears on this subject of asking and receiving. And we will come to that in just a moment.

But here’s the problem: If our first response to a verse of Scripture is to qualify it, we may miss the thing we most near to hear. For example, when the Bible says, “‘God so loved the world.” There are people who want immediately to say, “Yes, but we must remember that the world is also under the judgment of God.” That is true. But if you jump to the truth that the world is under the judgment of God, you miss this great truth that God really does love the whole world.

The first thing we must do with any verse of Scripture, is not to qualify it, but to hear it. So, if when you read a verse of Scripture, you find yourself saying, ‘Yes, but,”. Stop yourself right there and ask what you might be missing. Jesus said,

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24)

By faith Sarah received. What can we take from this today? How much more might we receive from the Lord if we ask more, and we believe more? The Bible tells us that we do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2). That if we want to receive from the Lord we must ask with faith! (James 1:6). And that if we ask with faith we will receive! (Mark 11:24).

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek you will find, knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

If we ask more and believe more, we will receive more. It is by faith that Sarah received power. And by faith, we too can receive from the gracious hand of God.

  • There is peace that you could enjoy
  • There is strength that you could receive
  • There is comfort that you could feel
  • There is grace that you could savour
  • There are victories that could be yours

Imagine arriving in heaven and seeing a door with a sign that says, “Unsought Gifts.” You ask an angel., “What’s behind the door?” The angel leads you into a vast room piled high with boxes, stacked from floor to ceiling, row after row. Each box has someone’s name on the front. As you walk between the rows of boxes you come to one that has your name on it. You open the box and it is full. “What is this?” you ask. “These are the gifts that might have been yours on earth”, the angel says. “But because you did not ask, they remained up here”.

We clearly see this from the life of Sarah; Faith receives power from God and secondly,

Faith rests on the promise of God

“By faith Sarah received power… since she considered Him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11)

There are two things here: we told by faith Sarah received power how did this happen? Since she considered him faithful who had promised. So she received power on account of the promise and then on account of the one who gave the promise. Firstly,

  • Faith rests on the promise

“By faith Sarah received power…since she considered him faithful who had promised” {Hebrews11:11)

You may have met people who say, “With God all things are possible. Jesus says if you ask anything in His name, He will do it. So, what do you want? Name it and claim it! Nothing is impossible with God. The only limitation is your faith.”

But Sarah’s faith rested on God’s promise. God had promised a child to Sarah, but that promise is not given to every person. God has not promised that every woman will have a child. God has not promised that every sickness will be healed. So, it would be very cruel to say to a couple who long for a child, “Sarah believed and if you have enough faith, you can have children too!”

 Faith in the Bible is not wish-fulfilment. Faith is not a creative act by which we bring what we want into being. But faith is the means by which we received what God has promised to give.

Thomas Manton says, “‘Wherever we put forth faith we must have a promise, otherwise it is but fancy, not faith”. What he is saying is that faith rests on the promise of God. Faith is not trusting God to fulfil your dream. Faith is trusting God to fulfil His promise. Faith is tied to the promise.

How did Sarah come to believe this promise? She had not always believed it. The first time she heard it, she laughed. How was it that she came to believe? Well, we are told here,

  • Faith rests on the promise of God

“By faith Sarah received power… since she considered Him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11)

The strength of any promise depends entirely on the person who gives it. Someone says, “I give you my word”. How valuable is that? It all depends on the person. If the person is known to be a liar his or her word is not worth much, but if a person is known to be true, their word means a great deal.

God is always true to His word and Sarah believed God’s promise because she learned about God. That is how we come to belief the promises that God gives to us. We come to belief His promises as we learn more who He is.

When God appeared to Abraham and gave him the promise that Sarah would bear a son, Sarah was inside the tent, hidden from view. Genesis tells us that when God gave the promise, Sarah laughed “to herself” (Genesis 18:12). No sound was heard. No smirk was seen. But the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?’ {Genesis 18:13). And Sarah realized, “the Person who made this promise knows everything about me, even my private unbelieving thoughts”.

Robert Bruce says, “It was not a mere man who was dealing with her… neither was it an angel, for angels cannot see into our innermost thoughts. Therefore, at once it dawned on her that this man speaking to her was the living God; it was at this point she knew that nothing was impossible for such a God!”

There is something very beautiful here. God knew that for twenty-four years Sarah found the promise hard to believe. He knew that years of disappointment have made her afraid of being disappointed again. So, what did God do? God appeared in a visible form to bring Sarah to faith! This appearance was not so much for Abraham than it was for Sarah. God bring this woman to faith.

That is a perfect picture of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. The God who appeared to Sarah in the form of a man actually became a man in Christ Jesus. Why did He come into this world? He came so that we might know the Father. He came to lead us to faith. He came so that by faith, we might receive all that God has promised.

Faith receives power from God, Faith rests on the promise of God, and thirdly,

Faith advances the purpose of God

“Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” (Hebrews 11:12)

“Therefore” refers backwards and it refers to Sarah. Think about what came from Sarah’s faith: “By faith Sarah received power to conceive”. Sarah’s faith led to the birth of Isaac. From Isaac came Jacob, from Jacob came Joseph and his brothers. From Sarah came the line of descent that God had promised to bless all. The line into which Jesus Christ was born. And Jesus Christ will gather a great company of redeemed people from every tribe and nation, who will glorify God and enjoy Him forever in a new creation that will be the home of righteousness. They will be as many as the stars of heaven. As many as the innumerable grains of sand on the seashore.

Faith advances the purpose of God. He moves His sovereign purpose forward by means of people who receive from His hand because they believe His promise. By faith Sarah received.

Conclusion

Here’s what we are taking to heart from the word of God today: If we ask more, and believe more, we will receive more.

  • I need to ask more from God
  • I need to give greater weight to His promises in my life
  • I need to receive what I do not have from His hand

If we ask more and believe more! So here is the question,

What then do you need to receive from the hand of God today?

  • Are you facing an overwhelming challenge? Here is a promise for you: Christ says,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

God has what you need today. Ask with faith and receive.

  • Do you need renewed strength? Here is a promise for you:

“Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles,” (Isaiah 40:31)

There is strength that God can give you today: Ask with faith and receive.

  • Do you need material provision? Here is a promise for you,

“My God shall supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory.” (Philippians 4:19)

God is able to provide for you today: Ask with faith and receive.

  • Do you need to find peace? Here is a promise for you,

“You keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You” (Isaiah 26:3)

There is a peace that God can give you today: Ask with faith and receive.

  • Do you need to find hope? Here is a promise for you,

“After you have suffered a little while, the God of grace, who has coiled you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)

God has a future for you: Ask with faith and receive.

  • Do you need to receive forgiveness? Here is God’s promise to you in Jesus Christ:

“Your sins and your iniquities I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17)

Jesus Christ stands ready to forgive you today: Ask with faith and receive.

  • Do you reed to be made right with God? Here is God’s promise for you:

“God made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

You can be right with God today: Ask with faith and receive!

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