“By faith even Sarah received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised,” (Hebrews 11:11)
If we read Sarah’s reaction to God’s promise in Genesis Chapter 18 and stop there we only have part of the story and are left with an impression of not only her unbelief, but also of her denying her unbelief. However, when we come to Hebrews 11:11 we see that Sarah “by faith” conceived Isaac because she considered God faithful – Sarah had faith in a faithful God.
Too often Christians portray faith as something that occurs in the absence of doubt, unbelief, and struggle. There are those who insist that we must deny doubt and unbelief and go to any length not to acknowledge their presence. This thinking creates hypocrites, in that it teaches people to act in a way that denies who they really are (people in process), and it truncates spiritual formation in that it does not allow faith to develop a deep root system in the hearts and souls of men and women because such thinking is shallow and is only concerned with the visible and short-term, not the invisible and long-term.
We are not privy to the growth of Sarah’s faith. Certainly Sarah had been living a life of faith at the time God announced that she would bear a son – after all, she had spent a lifetime of marriage with Abraham, the father of faith. Yet, the outrageous promise of God that Sarah would conceive and have a child was outside of the realm of possibility for Sarah – just as perhaps the idea that Jesus would be crucified and rise from the dead was outside the realm of possibility for His disciples. No matter what our faith is today, there likely remains that which is outside the realm of what we think possible. It’s okay to acknowledge that – in fact, if we don’t acknowledge that it may be unlikely that we’ll grow in our trust in God for we may think we’ve come as far as possible in faith in God.
Sarah’s laugh, I think, was the laugh of incredulity – “how could this possibly be?” Perhaps she had yearned for a child for so long that she just couldn’t believe it, especially since she was then far beyond her child-bearing years. Her reaction to God, her denial that she laughed…perhaps it was the denial of embarrassment, perhaps it was denial that she lacked faith…we are all capable of reacting when “caught in the moment”, when we are knocked off our equilibrium. When these things happen the quicker we look to God for our recovery the better off we are – our Father can return life and faith to its proper balance and place.
Sarah’s growth in faith teaches us that when the object of our faith is God and His Word that we can trust God to work with us through the processes of life to fulfill His will in our lives. Too often the object of our faith is our own faith – we get caught up in measuring our faith and we think that having faith in our faith is the determining factor in life. Better to have faith in God the size of a mustard seed than faith in our faith the size of a mountain.
Paul wrote that God counted him faithful, putting him into the ministry of the Word. God must have also counted Abraham and Sarah faithful to give them such an outrageous promise. Sarah’s reaction was understandable…if we will be honest about it, if we will acknowledge our own struggles, our own unbelief, our own need for the grace and mercy and patience of God as we grow in Him. Having faith and trust that we can acknowledge our doubt may be just as vital as having sure and certain faith in the promises of God – it may even free us to have sure and certain faith in Him…because we don’t have to pretend to be something we are not. We don’t need plastic Christians, we don’t need Christians who are formulaic to the point of denying flesh and blood struggles and who distain those who admit wrestling with unbelief.
If God has made outrageous promises to you, trust Him to bring you to them and through them – trust Him to fulfill them in you and through you. You may be past the season of natural life and ability, you may think time has passed you by, you may have despaired of ever seeing your hopes and dreams fulfilled…but perhaps that’s just the place you need to be to see God work.
Let us “consider Him faithful”.