Believe the Impossible . . .Or Impossible to Believe?
2nd Sunday of Easter
Believe the Impossible . . . Or Impossible to Believe?
Text: Genesis 15:1-6
It happens all the time. Something good happens, maybe even something great. A great success. A great victory. A great blessing. You are soaring as high as can be. Your heart is beating with a vibrant faith and trust in God. God is good. Your faith is good. Life is good. You are filled with joy and peace.
But what almost always seems to come next? Something bad. Something disappointing. Something frightening. Suddenly the heartbeat of your faith is nearly flat-lining. The once vibrant faith and trust turns into doubts and worries. Is God really good? Life doesn’t seem very good. Now you are filled with anger, frustration, and those powerful doubts and worries.
It happens to us all the time. Why?
When things are going well, when your faith in God seems to be strongest, Satan knows that is the ideal time to tempt you. When better to tempt than when our guard might be down? When better to tempt than when we might be a little overconfident? When better to tempt than when Satan can make us fall the farthest? And like a fish gobbling up a sparkling lure, our sinful selves love to chomp down on doubts of God’s promises.
Abram, later known as Abraham, experienced this many times in his life. In Genesis 12 God came to Abram and told him to get up, leave all his family, and go to a land he would show him. Then God promised that he would make his name and family great, that many nations would come from him, and that all people of the world would be blessed through him. (That was the promise that the Savior would come through his family line.)
Amazingly, and by faith, Abram got up and left. No questions asked. No fears stated. He simply trusted, believed the Lord, and obeyed.
But what is the very next story in the Bible? Abram and his family went to Egypt. He was afraid that he would be killed because of his beautiful wife—which was doubting that God would keep his promises—and so he lied and said that Sarai was his sister and not his wife. Afraid that God wouldn’t do what he promised, Abram took it upon himself to find the solution.
Then in the next two chapters of Genesis we hear of an incredible story of God’s power and Abram’s faith once again. His nephew Lot had been captured by enemy kings in the land. So Abram took only 318 working men and servants from his household and routed this cohort of kings and their armies and rescued his nephew Lot. Following this victory Abram gave all praise, thanks, and glory to God alone for this great show of power and love.
What is the very next thing that we hear in Scripture about Abram after that great moment of faith? Did he go on living in thanks? Did he rededicate himself to living for the Lord? Did he never doubt God again? Nope. Here are the next words of Scripture, the first lesson for this morning: “After this,—that incredible victory over the kings—the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’”
Do not be afraid? Why would Abram be afraid? God had given him astounding promises about blessing him and his family. God had given him an astonishing victory over his enemies. What was there to be afraid about?
The next two verses are a clue: “But Abram said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’”
Abram’s fear seems to revolve around God’s promises. God promised Abram a large and blessed family. He even made that promise of that special Messiah-descendant from his family line. But how was this going to happen? Abram didn’t have any children. What is more, he was getting to be too old and his wife was barren, or unable to have children. The heir to his house was his head servant. If God was his shield and his great reward, what kind of blessings was he going to receive if he had no children?
God patiently responded with a continuation and confirmation of his promises. Verse 4: “Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’”
Yes, Abram was living in a land that was foreign to his family. Yes, Abram was surrounded by heathen kings and nations. Yes, Abram had no children at all. Yes, Abram was past his prime for being a father. Yes, his wife was barren. But God promised that he would have a son to be his heir and that his family would one day be as numerous as the stars in the sky.
Here now is the crux for Christians. This is the bottom line for believers, the main point for God’s people. What do you do when God promises? Do you Believe the Impossible? Or Is It Impossible to Believe?
What would you do if you were Abram? You are old. You have no children. Your wife can’t have children. But God comes to you and tells you to look up at the stars because you will have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky. And by the way, the Savior of the world is coming from your family. Would you Believe the Impossible? Or Is It Impossible to Believe?
Well what have you done in the past with God’s promises? When something terrible happens in life—when you lose your job or a loved one gets cancer or some other traumatic life event—what do you usually say first? Often we tell ourselves or other people: “Everything happens for a reason,” or, “God works all things for good.” Or another response to troubles that we hear or use almost every day is: “I’ll keep you in my prayers. I’ll be praying for you.”
But . . . do you really believe everything happens for a reason? Do you really believe God works all things for good? When you are sitting in the doctor’s office and it isn’t good news, do you truly believe God will work that for your good? When you lose your job and you aren’t really sure how to provide for your family, do you really believe God has your best interest in mind?
And when you tell someone, “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” how often do you really pray about it? How often do you pray about your troubles? Or more to the point, how often do you trust that God will listen to those prayers and do something about it?
This is the crux of Christianity. What do you do? Do you believe God’s promises? Do you believe that he will never leave you or forsake you? Do you believe that he will work all things for your good? Do you believe that he loves you and forgives you and that you are his child? Even when it’s cancer, or death, or the worst sin you could ever commit—Do you Believe the Impossible? Or Is It Impossible to Believe?
I will be the first to admit that more often than not I’m like Thomas in the gospel today. Jesus had promised that he would die and promised that he would rise on the third day. Jesus had promised—and proved—that he was the Son of God and the Savior, so those promises should have been enough for Thomas. Then, all the other disciples excitedly assured Thomas that Jesus did rise and that they did see him with their own eyes. But God’s promises weren’t enough. Not even the eyewitnesses were enough. It seemed impossible to Thomas. So he didn’t believe.
But what about Abram? What would he do? It seemed impossible that he would have millions of descendants, let alone even one son. And humanly and physically speaking, it was impossible. His wife was barren. But God promised to do the impossible. So what would Abram do with that promise?
Verse 6: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” The word for believed here is the same root for the English word Amen. Abram was saying, “Amen!” to God’s promises. He believed and trusted what God promised. And God credited righteousness—right-ness and perfection before him—to Abram’s account.
Abram didn’t do anything special. He didn’t earn God’s blessings. He didn’t deserve God’s blessings. He was a fearful, frequent sinner. But he trusted God’s promises and believed God would do what seemed impossible. So through that faith alone, and by God’s grace alone, Abram was credited with righteousness by God.
We are very much the same as Abram. We haven’t done anything special. We haven’t earned any blessings from God. We don’t deserve any blessings from God. We are fearful, frequent sinners. But here is how we are also like Abram—we believe God’s promises, no matter how impossible they may seem.
Look at God’s track record. He hasn’t broken a promise yet! That impossible promise that old Abram and old, barren Sarai would have a son? Not long after they were holding baby Isaac in their arms. That impossible promise that childless Abram would have countless descendants? Some 500 plus years later there were more than two million Israelites that left Egypt to return to the promised homeland of their forefather Abraham. What about the most impossible promise of all, that one of Abram’s descendants would be the promised Messiah and would save the world? Some 2,000 years later a manger in Bethlehem, a cross on Calvary, and a tomb in Jerusalem remind us that God kept that promise, too. He did the impossible. He sent his Son and saved us from our sins, yes even from our frequent doubts.
We don’t need proof like Thomas. We don’t need to touch Jesus’ hands and side to believe. The eyewitness accounts of the disciples in God’s Word are more than enough. God’s promises are more than enough. Like Abram, we simply say, “Amen!” to God’s promises. We believe and trust by faith.
Indeed, as Jesus said, how blessed we are that though we have not seen (like Thomas) we still believe. Like Abram, we believe and trust God’s promises, and then he credits us with righteousness. We haven’t done anything special. We haven’t earned it. We are fragile and frail sinners. Yet through our faith alone, and by God’s grace alone, we are credited with righteousness. Our spiritual bank account was completely empty, yet through faith God has deposited into our account perfection and eternal life. God is indeed our shield and our very great reward. That seems impossible. But it became possible through our risen Savior Jesus.
Last week we triumphantly and joyously celebrated our victory through Jesus Christ our Lord because of his resurrection from the dead. We are soaring high from Easter Sunday. Our hearts are beating with a vibrant faith and trust in God. God is good. Our faith is good. Life is good. We are filled with joy and peace.
So what is going to happen next? It is inevitable and unavoidable. Something bad is going to happen. It always does. We live in a sinful, imperfect world. Satan is primed and pumped, eager to destroy our Easter joy. As long as we are on this side of heaven, because of sin and Satan something bad will always happen next.
The key is—what will we do next? Will we run and hide in fear like those disciples locked in a room? Will we doubt God’s promises and power like Thomas?
No way! Look at God’s track record! Look at all the impossible promises he has kept in the past for all of his people, including Abraham! Look at the hundreds of promises he fulfilled in Jesus Christ our Savior alone! God makes the impossible possible. God always keeps his promises.
We will always face something bad next—some other sin or sickness or sorrow. And God will always continue to promise. He promises that he will never leave us. He promises that he will work all things for our good. He promises that he will take us out of these troubles and to heaven.
So what will we do? Bad will happen. God will promise. What will we do? Like Abraham, we will believe God and trust him. We will hear God’s impossible promises and by faith we simply say: AMEN
Posted on April 8, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged Abraham, Abram, Amen, Believe, Church, Didymus, Doubt, Doubting Thomas, Doubts, Faith, Genesis, Genesis 15, Impossible, Possible, Promise, Promises, Sarah, Sarai, Satan, Sermons, Thomas, Trust. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.