Michael Youssef - Counting Stars Begins With One
Laughter does the heart good like a medicine, but a broken spirit makes the body sick. I think of all the people in the face of the earth that ought to be joyful all the time regardless of the circumstances are the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. And yet I think the reason why we are not joyful and we easily lose our joy is because we take ourselves too seriously. We really do. That's part of the problem. Now, if you read Psalm 126, it says that laughter is indeed a gift from God, and it is connected to the song of praise. There is no doubt in my mind that joy for the believer comes from living day in and day out with the eternal perspective. It really does, and I'm gonna tell you this world is filled with hatred and anger and bitterness and fear and worry and anxiety, and I refuse to be part of that, amen? If you ever want to lose your joy follow these ten things I'm gonna show you.
Okay, number one make little things bother you. Now, don't just let them. Make them. Secondly, lose your eternal perspective, and I'm not saying just for a few moments or a few hours when you're facing some problem. I'm talking about lose your eternal perspective and keep it lost. Third, get yourself a good worry. Now, what about with which you can do nothing except worry. That will help you. Be a perfectionist. I mean condemn yourself and everybody else who cannot attain perfection. Number five, be right, always right, all the time right. That will turn your home into...figure it out. Number six, don't trust or believe people or accept them at anything but their worst and their weaknesses. Number seven, always compare yourself unfavorably with others. This is sure will give you misery. Number eight, take personally everything that happens to you that you don't like. Take it all personally. Number nine, don't give yourself wholeheartedly to anyone or anything. Just close up. And here is the lulu of them all. Number ten, make happiness to be the aim of your life. Instead of being filled with joy of the Lord that comes from praise and thanksgiving, make happiness to be your goal.
If you want joy unspeakable and you want the joy to stay with you, I want you to turn with me, please, to Genesis 21. I'm gonna show it to you in those first seven verses, because here you're going to discover that counting stars when you see none, the count begin with what? We have been seeing this story of the life of Abraham. That Abraham was a man to whom God said, "Look up to the heavens, and you start counting stars". In the Middle East, where in the desert where you look up at night, you can see the stars with clarity not like in the cities here. And he said, "You start counting and that's how many descendants you'll have".
Now, of course, he was talking about spiritual descendants that comes through Jesus Christ, because Paul said the blessing of Abraham came through a seed. That is, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, Abraham looks up to heaven and starts counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1,000,000. 1,000,001, 1,000,002, and then he loses count. Go back and start counting again, and he was doing that between 25 to 30 years, and finally at this point of his life when he is a hundred and Sarah is 90 they get star number one, and they named him Isaac, which means laughter. But the one thing I couldn't get out of my head for over a week as I'm praying and thinking and reflecting on this passage: the graciousness of our God. It is absolutely mind boggling, because the Lord takes Sarah's laughter of disbelief, and he changes it and gives her a laughter of joy. He takes her laughter of being incredulous, and he turns it into the laughter of the indescribable. He takes her laughter of sarcasm, and he gives her the laughter of salvation.
What a God we worship. What a great God we have. After all of the waiting, finally a son of promise comes, has been born, and his name is Laughter. Sarah could have sung Psalm 126, verses 1 and 2, except it was not written yet. It was written 3,000 years later. "When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy". I think Sarah would have paraphrased that, and Sarah would have sang, "While the Lord brought back fertility to my old body, I was like one who's dreaming. My mouth was filled with laughter and my tongue with a song of joy". But that's what Sarah said. She said, "The Lord has brought me laughter," but there is something here I don't want you to miss.
Don't miss that. The reason for joyful laughter in Sarah and Abraham's life, sure the birth of Isaac. I wouldn't minimize that whatsoever, but I genuinely believe that the real joy that has come into their heart is their delight in the Lord. Question: what lessons did Abraham and Sarah learned through these 25, 30 years of waiting? What lessons can you and I learn from this? What God had done will cause generations to come to trust in the faithfulness of God and here we are 4,000 years later we are reading and we are encouraged about the faithfulness of God. Can I get a witness? We can read of how in spite of their doubt, in spite of their partial belief, in spite of their taking matters into their own hands, in spite of the fact that they thought they can help God out, only a year earlier they were distrusting in the promise, and yet they learned the important lessons, and they are three in number.
I wanna share them with you. First of all, they learned that God always keeps his Word. Can you say, "Keeps his Word"? Always keeps his Word. Secondly, Abraham and Sarah learned that God is a powerful God. God is a mighty God. He's El Shaddai. Nothing is impossible with God. Can you say that with me? "Nothing is impossible with God". For emphasis at the supernatural power of God that worked and brought about star number one, for emphasis it is repeated three times in seven verses. Three times, verse 2, verse 5, and verse 7, but some of you probably will say, "Well, Michael, I understand that. It's in the Bible, and I believe the Bible, but you don't understand, Michael, my situation is different.
You don't understand my problem is huge. You don't understand my opposition is so strong. You don't understand it is too late for me. I'm too old, or I'm too young, and I'm too this, and I'm too the other thing". Our God is a God of the impossible. Sarah not only given the strength to conceive a baby. This is the amazing part. She was given the strength to nurse the baby. And not only that, she was given the supernatural strength to nurse the baby. Abraham, his body was so rejuvenated, so renewed by the power of El Shaddai that he fathered six more children after Sarah died and he married Keturah.
Now, when God miraculously heal, listen to me, when God miraculously heal it is not a partial healing. When God miraculously heal it is complete. It's instant restoration. When God calls you to a task, he will equip you to the task to perform it. The third lesson Abraham and Sarah have learned and we should learn is that God in no hurry to carry out his promise. Now, this is a bugaboo to a lot of Christians. Hello? Am I right? Yep, I know it is, 'cause I know it is my life. He rather, as the Bible said, makes all things beautiful in his time. I know and you know that one of the hardest things we face in life is what seems to be God's delay. God's delay does not mean denial.
The Word of God is true whether you experience it or not. The Word of God is true whether you believe it or not, but I think most of us can testify to the difficulty of dealing with God's delays, but there is a far bigger picture here than even those magnificent lessons that they learned, and we are learning, and there is a far greater picture that I don't want you to miss in this chapter. Isaac's birth, to Abraham and Sarah, brought them delight, taught them three things about God, but there is even more what the kids would call humongous picture beyond that. This is far bigger and far greater and is beyond the birth of Isaac the son of promise. There is even greater joy in understanding what I'm gonna tell you.
Listen carefully. The birth of Isaac is a foreshadowing of another supernatural birth, the birth that will take place 2,000 years after Isaac. This is a foreshadowing of Jesus's birth. You see, when God saved Isaac from sacrifice, and Abraham said, "Yahweh Yireh," Jehovah-Jireh, God will provide, he was saying that God will provide himself the sacrifice. Indeed, he was prophesying of the coming of Jesus, and that is why Jesus said to those hardheaded Pharisees, he said, "Abraham saw my day and rejoiced," and they wanna kill him. "What do you mean? You're not even 50 years old. Can you say Abraham saw your day"? If you look closely at Isaac, you will find him prefiguring of Jesus in many points, and I wanna just share seven of them. First, Isaac and Jesus were sons of promise.
In Genesis 3:15 God said to Adam and Eve that he's gonna send his son, and he's going come, and he's gonna crush the serpent's head. That was the first promise about the coming of Jesus, and God affirmed it again and again and again in the pages of the Scripture, until you come to Isaiah 7:14, 700 years before the birth of Jesus, and here is what God said. "The virgin will be with child and call his name Immanuel". This promise from God of the birth of the coming Son, Jesus, was affirmed hundreds of times, as I said, throughout the pages of the Old Testament.
The second commonality between Isaac and Jesus is the period of delay between the time they were promised and the time actually took place. Now, in the case of Isaac it was 25, 30 years. In the case of Jesus the delay was thousands of years.
The third commonality between Isaac and Jesus is that when Sarah asked in chapter 18, verse 13, "Will I really have a child at my old age"? verse 14 answers it. God said, "Is anything impossible for God"? At the birth of Jesus, Mary, who had far greater faith than that of Sarah, when she asked in Luke 1:34, "How can that be? I'm a virgin. I've never been with a man," verse 37 of Luke 1 the angel said, "Nothing is impossible with God". Let's say that again. "Nothing is impossible with God".
And the fourth similarity is this: the names of both Isaac and Jesus were symbolic. They were symbolic. They were given these names by God himself. He's the one who named them before either were born. God told Abraham, "You shall call his name Isaac". In Matthew 1:21 God said to Joseph that "Mary will give birth to a son, and you shall call his name as Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sin".
Number five, the fifth similarity, both occurred at the appointed time, at the appointed time. This probably is the most stunning similarity of all. Like the birth of Isaac, Jesus's birth was exactly on God's schedule. Not too early and not too late.
Sixth similarity between Isaac and Jesus is that both were regarded as miraculous birth. Now, of course, the miracle of Jesus's birth is far greater because it did not require a man at all, but that is expected because the shadow is not greater than the real. The real person is greater than a shadow, and therefore Isaac was a shadow, but the greater is the real thing, and that's Jesus. Finally, the seventh is the matter of joy. To be sure, the birth of any child, they bring joy to the family. They bring joy to the community, bring joy to the relatives, but the joy of Abraham and Sarah continued from generation to generation to generation. In Mary's case, her unspeakable joy is your joy. It's my joy. It's the joy of millions of people around the world who come to put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Luke 1:46 Mary said, "My soul glorifies the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior". Here is that rejoicing again, but think with me. Think with me just for a minute, okay? The birth of Jesus and the joy of Mary and Joseph had nothing to do with the surrounding circumstances. In fact, if they were dependent on the surrounding circumstances they would have been miserable, not rejoicing. Oh, you know the story as well as I do. Pregnant. No father. Oh, my goodness. Back then that was, I mean, she will get stoned. Outward circumstances are miserable. Pregnant in a strange part of the country. No place to have the baby, going from door to door looking for a place. All of these difficult outward circumstances could have stolen their joy. Oh, by they didn't. They didn't. Beloved, listen to me.
In the same way, for all of us who are saved, only through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. It only saves through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We have inner joy regardless of our circumstances. We have inner peace regardless of our surroundings. We have inner contentment regardless of the events in life. Can I get a witness? The question is, do you have joy? Have you lost your joy? Have you ever found joy? If there are seven similarities between the birth of Isaac and the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, I believe there are four similarities between Isaac's birth and our rebirth, our being born again, our spiritual birth.
I pray to God if there is one single soul here who has not been born again, today will be the day, but I don't want you to miss a far greater birth than a childbirth, the birth that every human being that is ever born of a woman needs to experience, and that's a spiritual birth. Rebirth. Born again. Take time to sit quietly and read Romans chapter 4, verses 8 to 23. Just read them carefully, read them thoughtfully, and underline 'em, because there you're gonna find what I'm gonna tell you. It's a rich passage in actually comparing the birth of Isaac with our spiritual birth. Here they are, the similarities. Four in number.
Number one, the birth of Isaac was humanly impossible. The bodies of Abraham and Sarah, for all intents and purposes, were dead. Though they're living, but their bodies were dead, and that's precisely what we were before our hearts were invigorated, regenerated, and the Holy Spirit awakened us to the desperate need for salvation. Ephesians 2:1 says that we were dead in our sin, not in a coma. Dead, and it had to take a supernatural intervention of God to wake us up. We could no more rise ourselves to rebirth and to a new life and be saved than Sarah could have naturally born Isaac. Both needed supernatural intervention, and that is why Jesus said to Nicodemus, "You must be born again".
Unless you're born again, you will not see heaven. That's the bottom line. You could be in church all of your life, yet if you're not born again you will not go to heaven, but if you are born of the Spirit of God it is supernatural. Secondly, the second similarity between Isaac miraculous birth and our supernatural spiritual birth is faith. The Bible said Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him righteousness, and when you and I are raised spiritually to life we placed our whole trust, we placed our faith in Jesus as our Lord and as our Savior. We were spiritually reborn.
And the third similarity. Here we see again clearly in Romans chapter 4 between Isaac's birth and our spiritual birth it was so that God may get all of the glory, all of the glory. In our spiritual rebirth it is not of good works, good as that may be. Why? Lest we get the glory. Lest we boast. Through faith alone we're saved, lest anyone take the credit. 1 Corinthians 1:28 and 29. Paul said, "God chose the lowly things of this world, the despised the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast".
Fourth and the final similarity between Isaac's birth and our spiritual rebirth. You see it again in Romans 4. That even the events of the life of Abraham were not written for him alone. They were written for us so that we may come to believe and receive the righteousness of God, just as he believed and received the righteousness of God. Abraham received a miracle, and it's only a miracle that will bring about a spiritual birth, but that miracle also is God offering to some of you today who have never received it. God is saying, "I brought you to this Church of the Apostles for a reason, because I want you to be born again. I want you to be saved. I want you to put your whole trust in me". You cannot save yourself if you work for good for a million years.