Michael Youssef - Counting The Wrong Stars Causes You Trouble
I want you to imagine with me a baseball team that has found themselves a super-duper pitcher. I mean, he's a wonderboy. He can throw it 120 miles, he can throw every kind of conceivable ball: fast ball, knuckle ball, spinning ball. I mean, he can do it all. He has only one problem. He refuses to watch the catcher's signals. And so, when the catcher would signal him for a low fastball, he sends an inside curveball. And it goes on and on and on. You have to agree with me that is not a pretty picture.
I'm gonna submit to you this morning that this is a picture of an average Christian today. They are busy doing things, they are busy going through the motions. They are busy being Christians and being church people. And yet, they refuse to get their cues from the catcher, that is the Word of God. They will get their advice from everyone else. They will get their signal from everyone else, except where they should be getting it, and that is the Word of God. And that is why you see so many of them when they hit the wall, they fold, they collapse. They become easily discouraged. They become easily frustrated. They become easily disappointed. They begin to play the blame game: "Well, if he didn't do this," or, "If she didn't do this," or "If he didn't say that," and "If he didn't the other thing, this would not have happened," but that's always the blame game.
Instead of regrouping, instead of retracing our steps and figuring out what got us here, instead of facing the reality of our ignoring of the signals from the Word of God, they become disappointed, they become discouraged, and they become complacent. You often hear me say that a test always nips at the heels of a blessing. So, if you are blessed right now, heads up, test is around the corner. Beloved, I know that biblically, and I know that experientially. And I want to show it to you from here, from the Word of God, right here, because if Genesis chapter 15 can be called the chapter of faith, Genesis 16 can be called the chapter of failure.
If in chapter 15 Abraham walked by faith, in chapter 16, he walked by the flesh. If in Genesis 15 Abraham listened to God, in chapter 16 he listens to his wife. Just before the elbows start flying, just let me stop and remind you that it was Abraham who asked Sarah to lie for him when they were in Egypt, all right? The ground is level here. I know I speak for many men when I say that I get wise counsel from my wife. I get very good advice from my wife, godly counsel. Furthermore, I'm gonna show you this morning, you might not have heard it before and it may be the first time you heard this, but I wanna show you today something about Sarah's counsel to Abraham.
Now I wanna show it to you as a selfless act. I wanna prove it to you in a minute. But to do that, I have to transport you 4000 years back in history, not only in history, but culturally so you understand what was going on. You hear me often say, "Make sure you put the text in its context, and context doesn't only mean the verse before and the verse after, but you have to understand to whom it was written, who are the recipients, what it intended to say, and what was the culture like at that time because that is very important, in faithfulness to the Scripture". Bible always relevant to the people they're speaking to. So, we learn from it and we take lessons from it.
You see, men in those days, particularly at that time, their standing in society, it was dependent on how many children they have. Abraham, importance in his society, in fact, his manhood is at the stake here, and Sarah felt deeply for what is perceived to be her husband's disgrace in society. In fact, I wanna submit to you that Sarah wanted the world to know that the reason they're not able to have children was her fault and not her husband's fault. That's something I wanted you to really take a grasp and understand. She was absolutely sure that if she followed the cultural norms and, make no mistake about it, it was the cultural norms, everybody was doing it. When you can't have children, you give him your slave, your servant, and when your slave becomes pregnant, ready to deliver a baby, she would sit on her mistress's lap and deliver the baby as if it's her own.
That was the done thing. It was everybody doing it. But here's the kicker, here's the kicker. Regardless of how selfless Sarah tried to be, regardless of how much she wanted to take the blame for not having children, regardless of how she wanted to vindicate her husband, it was the wrong course of action. And I'm convinced that if it's anybody else suggested that other than Sarah, Abraham would not have gone through with it. And so, Sarah suggested to Abraham that he could have children through her Egyptian maid, Hagar. Go home and read Galatians chapter 4, and read it very carefully because Paul argues that we, the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, are the spiritual descendants of Abraham because it is the seed, not seeds, and he's talking about Jesus.
And that is why Jesus, the Messiah, was born from the free woman, Sarah, not the slave woman, Hagar. Read it when you go home. But you remember back a couple of messages ago, I showed you how Abraham tried to kind of do a run-in on God's promise. He did it before and he did his estate planning and he said to God, he said, "Now I'm working my estate here and I'm doing my estate planning here. And now my chief of staff, Eliezer the Damascus, will be my heir". You know what God said to him? Here's a Youssef translation: "Read my lips. You're gonna have a child by Sarah". But somehow, somehow, this time, waiting for Abraham and Sarah become hard, waiting became difficult. I would be the last person on the face of the earth to tell you that waiting is easy.
I would never do that because I know it is not easy. And Sarah and Abraham felt that they had to do something to help God out. When we stop trusting God to fulfill his promise, no matter how rational, no matter how reasonable, no matter how good it sounds, we are actually blaming God for our difficulties. Look at verse 2 with me please. "Sarah said, 'The Lord has kept me from having children.'" Well, as a statement of fact, that is true. That is true. But there's more to this verse and to what she just said than meets the eye. I want you to listen carefully. As if Sarah was saying, "I know we should trust God, I know that we should take him at his word, I know that we should trust in his promise, I know we should wait, I know we should be counting stars and getting ready, but look at us. We are ready for the nursing home, not building a nursery".
Hello, beloved, I know and you know that sometimes we do the wrong thing with good motives. And we say, "My motive was good". Question: who's at fault here, Sarah or Abraham? Both. Both of them. The only person involved here who's not at fault was Hagar. She was a servant, she was a slave girl. I mean, she got to do what she was told to do. She had no authority. Now, let me give you a counsel that I give myself, and trust me, I give myself a whole lot and very often. It's a counsel I give myself, and it is this. When I'm waiting for God to do the supernatural, I am very careful not try to do the natural. When you're waiting for God to do the supernatural, be very careful not to go for the natural. But you know what?
I often show you the problem, I show you the sin, I show you the mistake, but then I want to lift up your eyes from Abraham, lift up your eyes from Sarah, from Hagar, from all of the mess that we are looking at right now. I want to lift up your eyes to the Lord Jesus. I want to lift up your eyes to our God and show you how gracious he is, how incredible our God is. Here, he supernaturally specializes in picking up the threads of our disobedience and our distrust of him and he weaves 'em into a beautiful, beautiful tapestry. God is renowned for pasting together the fragments of our fractured lives into a beautiful picture. God is famous for picking up all the throwaway material and he produces a magnificent tapestry.
That's the God I want you to look at. That's the God I want you to encounter today. Sarah and Abraham came with their plan to help God out. I help you perform miracle, God, and it backfired. Only God can bring the miracle, and all he's asking you and me to do is to have faith, to trust in him, to wait upon him, and to believe that sooner or later he will do it. Sadly, when Hagar fell pregnant and Sarah's scheme succeeded, Sarah resented her. And the only thing that Hagar could do at the time is run away. That's the only thing she could do. What happened when she ran away? Look at verse 7. "The angel of the Lord appeared," to this fatigued slave woman now pregnant with a boy.
By the way, in verse 7 of chapter 16 of Genesis, it's the first time you see the term, "the angel of the Lord". And this is no ordinary angel. This is no other than the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. Theologians call that theophany because he appeared. Don't ever forget that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, co-existed with the Father before all worlds. In fact, Paul said, "It is for whom and through whom the world was created". You see it clearly here in verse 13. Hagar calls him, "the Lord", and then she goes on to say, "He is the God who sees me".
If, whenever you are tempted to think that God has forgotten you, whenever you're tempted to think that God had forsaken you, whenever you're tempted to think that God does not see or care about what's going on in your life, whenever you are tempted to think that he is not aware of your difficulties, he's not aware of your problems, he's not aware of your pain, he is not aware of what's going on, I want you to remember Hagar here. Remember what she said: "He is the God who sees me". He's the God who sees you. He doesn't only see you, he sees all of the details in your life. He sees all of what's concerning you. He's concerned about what concerns you. All the minutest details in your life is before him. He is watching over all things in your life, all the surrounding things, things that you can't even see or know.
Psalm 139:9-10 said: "If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost depths of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me". Have you ever tried to run away from the place of obedience? I mean, when the Lord wants you to be patient and wait, but you run. I know, I've tried a couple of times in my life. It's miserable. I discovered that the place of blessing is in the place of obedience. The place of blessing is where he wanted me to be, not where I wanna go. Today, the motto in our culture is when things get tough, the tough gets going, out the door.
You see, most would rather run away than stay and deal with the issues. That's the problem with our culture today. We quit jobs and we quit schools and we quit churches and we quit marriages and we do it with dizzying speed. What we don't realize is that when people quit whatever it is, thinking they can run away, they're running away with their problems and they're just gonna repeat it and they're gonna repeat it until they stop and deal with the core issue. For Hagar, she probably was going back to Egypt. Ha, there's not much call for unwed mothers in Egypt. She'd only be in misery. Look at verse 4. See, Hagar began to despise Sarah and Sarah returned the favor.
Verse 5: "Sarah said to Abraham, 'May the wrong you have done to me be on you! May the Lord judge between you and me!'" She has forgotten that was her idea, amazing, even though it was well-intended. It was well-intended. In my flesh I try to imagine Abraham reacting to this. The Bible doesn't say, so don't go and look for it. But I try to imagine poor old guy is dazed and confused and looking at Sarah and said, "But, sugar pumpkin, that was your idea". She'd say, "What do you mean, it was my idea? Don't pin that on me. You could have said no". And the more Hagar's figure blossomed, the more cantankerous Sarah got. I think you have to agree with me that up to this point, up to this point of Hagar's life, she experienced undeserved troubles, right? You agree?
But here's what I wanna show you, more importantly, that she received unexpected blessings. Don't ever underestimate God to give you unexpected blessing when you're going through undeserved trouble. I know people say, "Oh, life is not fair," and all this. I understand, but God also is the God of justice and he sees what's going on. But before she receives that blessing, that unexpected blessings, she had to go back. She had to go back into the path of blessing. Look, let me tell you something. There is a path of blessing and there's a path of no blessing. Bible makes it clear. There's just no third way.
And in order to receive the blessing, you're gonna have to stand in the path of blessing. Running away from the place of obedience is not gonna bless you. Running away from the place where God wants you to be will not bring about the blessing and you can fight it all you want, and for as long as you want. You can take this to the bank. Only where he wants you to be is the place of blessing. In my early years in my walking with the Lord, like many people, I would cry to God in a situation and I would say, "God, please change my circumstances, please change my circumstances". And I know you read my bio, and you know some of the stuff I've been through, and I would cry to God and God lets me cry for a little while, for a little while, for a little while, for a little while, and then, in his sweet, quiet voice he would say, "Michael, I wanna change you. I wanna change you before I can change your circumstances, before I will change your circumstances".
Here, God said to Hagar, he said, "I'll bless you, and when you go back to the place of obedience, I will bless you. You will have a son and you shall call his name, Ishma, Shama, God who hears, El, the name of God. Ishma-El, God hears". He heard you. And as God's saying to Hagar, and he's saying to so many of you who are listening to me right now, whether it'll be in this place or around the world, he is saying, "I hear the cry of your affliction. I hear the cry of the one who's been wronged. I hear the cry of the inner pain of those who have been deceived. I hear the cry of injustice. I hear the cry of a true victim of unfaithfulness. I hear your cry". And that is why, when God asked Hagar, "Where did you come from, and where are you going"?
It's not because God did not know where she's coming from, where she's going. He's omnipresent, omniscient. But because he wanted her to verbalize her pain. He wanted her to verbalize her pain. Beloved, I'm convinced that when Hagar returned back, she returned back a changed woman, but that's not all. God also changed the heart of Abraham and the heart of Sarah and went on for 13 years. Sometimes, in our eagerness to change our circumstances and we wanna change 'em our way, we wanna change 'em in our time, and in our eagerness we don't see how God works and how that he's working in so many fronts all at the same time. He is preparing so many hearts all at the same time. How he's setting up all the events, how he is lining up all of the circumstances so that the blessing can be revealed and his purpose be fulfilled.