Tony Evans - Sarah, The Power Of Faith
Far too many Christians are settling for the ordinary, when you were redeemed for the extraordinary. We're settling. And at the heart of this settling is the lack of faith. Today, I want to talk to you about the power of faith. And we're introduced to our First Lady. Her name is Sarah, the wife of Abraham. Hebrews chapter 11, verse 11, verses 11 and 12. "By faith, even Sarah herself received the ability to conceive even beyond the proper time of life". Said, "She considered him faithful who had promised; therefore, there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead, at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number and innumerable as the sand, which is by the seashore".
We're introduced to a lady named Sarah, the wife of Abraham. God had made a promise that he repeated five times in the book of Genesis, from chapters 12 through chapters 21, that Abraham and Sarah were going to have a baby that would lead to the birth of a nation. That's what God said. That was the word that came out of his mouth. That was the promise. But the promise had a problem. The problem was, number one, Sarah was barren. Her womb was not producing any eggs, and so she couldn't get pregnant. But the promise was, "You gonna have a baby". But the problem was the ability to have a baby she didn't have. So, the promise didn't match the problem, and the problem didn't match the promise. Not only are we told she was barren, she didn't have the capacity to conceive, we're told that she was old, 90 years old. So, she even if she had the power to conceive, had long passed the timing of being able to conceive. There is a promise, but there are problems that contradict the promise. I can't conceive. I'm too old. So, I have to question the promise.
Now, there are some folks here who are barren. Life's not working for you. What you thought life should produce, what you hoped life would produce is not being produced, and you're in a barren season of no life, and that's after Jesus promised, "I have come to give you life and to give it to you more abundantly". But right now, you're in a season of barrenness. You're not getting pregnant; that is, there is nothing being birthed in you. Your passion is gone. Your purpose is gone. Your destiny seems dim. Your get up and go, spiritually, has gotten up and gone, and you're barren. There are other people here who have been waiting for God to do something for a long time, and you're past the age. There's some ladies here who feel like, "I should've been married by now". There are some men here who are saying, "My career is not producing what it should be producing by now. I'm stuck in this same old job, and I thought God had something better for me". You're running out of time. That was her situation.
Don't ever let the facts cancel out the faith. But verse 11 says, by faith, she got the ability to conceive. So, even though the facts are not in your favor, the facts, in fact, look contradictory to the faith. The problem looks bigger than the promise. That's the reality. While not denying the fact, don't let the fact cancel the faith. She is caught in a situation of a major promise. "I'm going to build a whole nation from this one couple". So, she decides God has obviously made a mistake. So, in Genesis chapter 16, in order to help God out, chapter 16 said, "Now Sarai, Abraham's wife, had born him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid, whose name was Hagar. So, Sarai said to Abram, 'Now, behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go into my maid. Perhaps I will obtain children through her.' And Abraham listened to the voice of Sarai"...
Stay with me on that. I'm coming back to that. "And Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan. Abram's wife, Sarah, took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, gave her to her husband, Abram, as his wife. He went into Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes". The temptation, when you've been trusting God for something, and God hasn't come through, is to retreat to the flesh. The flesh is a human approach to solve a problem different than the way God wants it done. Sarah was trying to help God out. She says, "Perhaps God's promise is gonna come through me giving you to our maid". So, she goes to the flesh to accomplish a work of the Spirit.
So, Abraham goes in to Hagar. She has a baby named Ishmael, and them two brothers have been fighting ever since, because Ishmael is the father of the Arabs. Of course, Isaac is the father of the Jews. And everything you see in the Middle East that's going on today is because Sarah circumvented God. She did what the Bible says don't do, and that's be double-minded.
So, God had made a promise. This principle of flesh and Spirit, based on Hagar, is brought up in the New Testament, by the way, in the book of Galatians chapter 4, because in Galatians chapter 4, Paul the apostle writes in verse 21, "Tell me, you who are under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman, Hagar, and one by the free woman, Sarah. But the son of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, human approach, and the son of the free woman through the promise". He goes on to say, verse 27, "For it is written, 'Rejoice barren woman who doth not bear. Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor. For more numerous are the children of the desolate than the one who has a husband.' And you, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time, he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit. So, it now is also. But what does the Scripture say? 'Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir to the son of the free woman.' So, then, brethren, you are not the children of the bondwomen but of the free woman".
So, he takes Abraham, and he talks to the Galatian Christians, you and me, and he says, don't be a bondwoman's baby. Don't operate according to the flesh, because the flesh and the Spirit can never operate together. One of those kids and their mama had to leave. Hagar was put out, and he uses that to talk about law and grace, and he uses that to talk about how we ought to live our Christian life according to the Spirit, God's point of view, God's promise, not according to the bondservant, the flesh approach. So, if you and I want to experience the promises of God, the decision you have to make in order to experience that power is to not go to the flesh to help out the Spirit, even when it looks like there's no way the Spirit approach can ever work. Because guess what? The problem is too big.
So, Sarah comes up with this brilliant idea to help God out, and all she did was create a bigger mess. Anybody can testify to that? You begin leaning to your own understanding. You try to do this thing your way, thinking you were gonna help answer God's prayer for God, even though you were doing it in a way unprescribed by God, and now, "Oh, my God, what did I do"? Okay? That was Sarah's situation. And now there's chaos in the house, chaos with the kids, chaos with the woman, chaos. Now we've got a single parent on our hands, who's out there trying to make it as a single mother. We've got blended family chaos that would become generational.
So, that's our situation. But in Genesis 17, God comes back to Sarah and Abraham and says, "I told y'all"... He didn't say "y'all," but you got it. He said, "I told you what we gonna do". Verse 15, "Then God said to Abraham," Genesis 15:17, "'As for Sarah, your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and you shall be a mother of nations. Kings of people will come from her.' Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed in his heart". So, "that's good news for folk who messed up yesterday, and you're still hearing God's Word today". But the problem is, even though they messed up, they had not grown up in faith. 'Cause when God repeats his word, Abraham says, "You've gotta be kidding me". He laughs. It's a joke. This is funny. She can't have a baby. She's old. And he laughs in God's face. "Will a child," verse 17, "be born to a man 100 years old? And will Sarah, who is 90 years old, bear a child? Oh, that Ishmael," he says, "might live before you". It's about Ishmael.
"Now, I just told you that this is going to happen through Sarah, and you keep going back to the flesh. You started with the flesh, and now you're staying with the flesh. And the reason why you started with the flesh and you're staying with the flesh is that the problem looks too big to be resolved". You say, "I'm 100 years old now. My wife is 90 years old. She's barren. She can't have a baby. What are you talking... God, this is a joke". Okay, but he's not the only one laughing. Chapter 18, verse 9, "Then they said to him, 'Where is Sarah, your wife?' And he said, 'She's in the tent.' He said, 'I will surely return to you this time next year. And behold, Sarah, your wife, will have a son. And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Now, Abraham and Sarah were old". We keep being told how old these people are. "Sarah and Abraham were old, advanced in years, and Sarah was past childbearing". So, they want to get this point over. The girl is old! "When she hears this," verse 12, "Sarah laughed to herself, saying, 'After I have become old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?'" She said, "It ain't just about me. There two folk with problems in this house". So, God tells her, "You're gonna have a baby". And she breaks out laughing.
This is the funniest thing she's ever heard in her life. She's laughing in the face of a promise. And the reason she's laughing is the problem looks too big. And so here we are. But when we started our sermon today, we started the sermon in verse 11 of the book of Hebrews, which says, "By faith Sarah gained the ability to conceive". Didn't we read that? But I don't think we've seen any faith, yet. We've seen the flesh. Okay? We've seen her laughing at God, not believing his Word, 'cause his Word sounds too ridiculous to come true. But in Hebrews 11, she gets pregnant by faith. That means something has happened between the time she's laughing and from the time Hagar has given birth to Ishmael, and the time Isaac is born in chapter 21. Something has happened in these chapters to spark faith in Sarah that she did not have.
Now watch this. The gap between God's Word and his promises, and its fulfillment in your life, is always tied to your development in faith. So, here we are. The question is what happened between chapters 16, 17, and 18, from Hagar to Ishmael, to him laughing, to her laughing, to all of a sudden, she getting faith to conceive? Something happened. The first event is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God rained down fire and brimstone from heaven, and Abraham and Sarah got to see heaven open up, and they got to see the power of God destroy two cities at one time. They looked up and went, "Whoa"! While saving his nephew Lot and his family, they saw the power of God manifested from heaven. That's the first thing that happened.
But then there's a second thing that happened, and it's even deeper. Abraham is a fairly weak man. He goes to Abimelech, and he tells Abimelech Sarah is his sister, 'cause he's scared. He figured they're gonna hurt him, 'cause even at 90 years old, Sarah was a very beautiful woman. And he's so terrified of Abimelech that he says, "She's my sister". So, Abimelech, thinking that Sarah is single, takes Sarah into his harem. And he's gonna make her either his wife or his concubine, because he thinks Sarah is single, because Abraham has said, "She's my sister, not my wife". While he's sleeping, he has a dream. Verse 3 of chapter 20, "God came to Abimelech in a dream that night and said, 'Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman which you have taken, for she is married.'" You're a dead man.
To make a long story short, Abimelech said, "I didn't know! He didn't tell me that. He told me she was his sister. You can't blame me". He said, "I know, but I want to let you know how serious this is". So, don't put your hands on her. Okay? Okay, "Don't touch her". And he says, "I will deliver you, if you keep my word and don't mess with Abraham's wife, who I know he told you is his sister". But now, what's all this got to do with Sarah getting pregnant? Verses 17 and 18 of chapter 20. "Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maids, so that they bore children". Now, what's Sarah's problem? She can't have children. "For the Lord had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife".
Okay, watch this now. See, one of the things you have to learn to make is spiritual connections. You have to see how one thing connects with another. When Abimelech took Sarah, God closed all the wombs of Abimelech's house and all the wombs of Abimelech's kingdom. Nobody getting' pregnant until Sarah is out of here. When Sarah is out of there, everybody getting' pregnant. Why is God including this story? To let Sarah know, "I control who gets pregnant and who doesn't get pregnant. I control that". So, he let Abraham and Sarah see his power in Sodom and Gomorrah, in the opening and closing of wombs in Abimelech's kingdom, to increase their faith. And the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised, 'cause his promises are good. So, Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son, who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac.
Guess what Isaac means? Isaac means, "He laughs". Sarah couldn't have children, and it says Abraham couldn't have children, because he had even gotten too old. Both of them laughed at the face of God, so both of them needed to see God's power, so that both of them could come together and have a baby. Okay, watch this now. The reason why Hebrews 11, and 11 and 12 are put together is because it would take the two of them having faith, in order to produce the baby, because the baby is dependent upon the two of them coming together.
You say, "Well, that's Old Testament". Well, no, Hebrews 11 is New Testament, and he's writing to New Testament Christians. But something else is New Testament. Stay with me here. The Bible says that Sarah called Abraham, "lord," 1 Peter 5:6. She got a miracle, the birth of Isaac, when she called Abraham lord. And it says to the ladies, "And you are her daughters if you do likewise". Now, I know what you're saying. "I ain't trying to have no more babies". That's not the point. The point is she got a miracle. She got a miracle. When did she get the miracle? When was the miracle beginning to be put in motion? It says when she called Abraham lord. What was it about calling him lord that would trigger this thing beginning to move?
Okay, remember, remember how Ishmael came on the scene? Ishmael came on the scene because she took charge. She had become lord of the house, just like Eve had become lord in the garden of Eden and flipped the order. But that doesn't get the men off the hook, because Abraham went along with her lordship. So, she took over the role as lord. He went along with her lordship. All hell broke out in their family. 1 Peter 3:6 says, "Like Sarah, who called Abraham lord". The question is when did she call Abraham lord? She called Abraham lord in chapter 18. We just read it. She said, "Shall I have pleasure again from my lord"?
That's when she called him lord. When she took the position that recognized his position and therefore their family got back in divine order, God was ready to reveal a miracle. I know some of you have been waiting for God for a long time. You've been trusting God for a while. God is still developing your faith. The problem was bigger than the promise. But the reason God gives us her age is to let us know or let you and I know that when God finally comes through in giving his promise, he gave her time to enjoy it. He made her wait 90 years, but he kept sister girl rolling for 37 more years. So, even though the wait was long, she had 34 years with her baby boy. So, once you get this faith thing right, and once you act in faith, and once God comes through, if it's a promise for you, he'll give you enough time to maximize your enjoyment and participation in it, but he won't do it as long as you keep going through the flesh.
There is power embedded in faith. When you and I learn to live and act and walk and talk and move by faith, we can see God go beyond the ordinary and introduce us to the extraordinary. We can see the natural transform into the supernatural, because faith brings power alongside of it, divine power, God's power, that is not limited to what your five senses are aware of. Don't cut short the power of God operating in your life, because you refuse to live by faith.