Genesis Series # 5 CHCC: February 11, 2007
The God of the Impossible
Genesis 17: 15-17; 18:9-15, 21:1-7
I heard it told that one day Abraham was trying to update his computer to the new Microsoft Windows Vista. Isaac said, "Father, you can’t do that. Your computer doesn’t have enough memory."
But Abraham told him, "Don’t worry about that, son. God will provide the ram."
When was the last time you had a good laugh? What makes you laugh? Do you like a good joke? This past week, I spent 3 days at The National Pastor’s Convention in San Diego. They evidently know how much Preachers like to laugh. With all the Inspirational Speakers they brought in --- they also brought no less than 5 Christian Comedians. I felt it was my “pastoral duty” to attend some of those sessions … and I have to admit, I laughed till I cried.
People love to laugh so much that there are actually Industries built around laughter. Jokes, sitcoms and comedy routines are all designed to get us laughing --- because laughing feels good. That’s why we’ve all heard the saying, "Laughter is the best medicine."
The definition of Laughter is “…to express certain emotions, especially mirth or delight, by a series of spontaneous, usually unarticulated sounds often accompanied by corresponding facial and bodily movements.” The definition itself makes me want to laugh.
Scientists have a variety of theories about why people laugh. One theory is that laughter is related to surprise. A baby is startled and starts to cry, but instantly realizes there is no danger, so the cry turns to a laugh. Another similar theory is that we laugh when something is incongruous. In other words, we are confronted with two things that don’t fit together. That may be what caused Abraham to laugh in Genesis chapter 17.
1. Laughing in Surprise Genesis 17:17
You see, Abraham was 100 years old when God told him that he and his wife, Sarah, were going to have a baby. Look at his reaction in Genesis 17: 17: Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, "Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?"
This was not the first time God had made this promise to Abraham. Looking back to Genesis chapter 12 we remember God’s first promise to create a great Nation from Abraham’s descendants and to give Abraham a land that his descendants would inherit for their own. Now, Abraham must have been amazed to hear that because he had no children at all. But then again, he was still a spry young man in his mid-seventies… Years came and went, and eventually, Abraham had a son, Ishmael, by Hagar, the “surrogate” mother that Sarah had chosen.
By the age of 100, Abraham had given up all hope of having a child with his wife Sarah. When God unexpectedly renewed that promise, he laughed. I think it’s likely he burst out with a spontaneous laugh for the same reason we burst out laughing sometimes. He was caught off guard and startled by a sudden burst of hope. Could it be possible? Could his wife, Sarah have a child after all these years? Abraham knew it was impossible, … but on the other hand, Abraham believed God. The surprise of hearing what God planned to do caused him to literally fall down laughing.
Soon after this, God repeated this Promise again. This time it would be Sarah’s turn to laugh. Abraham had laughed in pure surprise. But Sarah would laugh in utter disbelief.
2. Laughing in Disbelief Genesis 18:12
One day Abraham saw three visitors coming his way. I don’t know how he was able to see their importance just by looking at them, but somehow, Abraham knew these were messengers of the Lord. He urged them to stay and dine with him. He asked Sarah to make some good home-made bread. He found a young calf and had one of his servants prepare some veal cutlets (so to speak).
It was not the custom back then for women to join groups of men in conversation, but Sarah was curious about these visitors. So, she eaves-dropped from behind the door of the tent while Abraham visited with them. She must have been surprised when she heard one of these Strangers ask, "Where is your wife Sarah?"
The fact that they knew her name was especially amazing because God had just recently CHANGED her name … from Sarai to Sarah. How could they possibly know to use that new name … unless they had some special knowledge from God Himself?
Then Sarah overheard something even more incredible. Genesis 18:10 says that one of these visitors told Abraham, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son."
And verse 12 says, So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?" This says that Sarah laughed to herself. I picture her putting her hand over her mouth and stifling the sound. But the visitor not only heard her, he knew her thoughts… and he knew her doubts.
It’s interesting to notice that one of the Visitors is called “the LORD” in these verses. Some think the Visitor was not merely an Angel … but that He was actually a pre-incarnation appearance of Jesus Himself. Whether that is the case or not, the visitor certainly spoke on behalf of God.
He said, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ’Can I really have a baby when I’m old?’ Is anything impossible for the LORD? At the appointed time I will come back to you, and in about a year she will have a son."
When I read that verse, getting ready for this sermon, I had a feeling of Deja-vous. A few weeks back I received an e-mail from a lady who had read one of my Sermons on Sermon Central.com. She asked me if one of God’s titles was “the God of the impossible.”
We ended up discussing this scripture where the Angel asked, Is anything impossible for the Lord. And now, here I am dealing with the same passage we had discussed by e-mail, and preaching a sermon about “the God of the impossible.”
When Sarah heard the IMPOSSIBLE prediction that she would have a baby, her response was to laugh in disbelief. There she was, hiding behind the door of the tent, laughing to herself. Then she found out the Visitors not only knew she was LISTENING … somehow they know she is LAUGHING. Look at how Sarah reacted when the Visitor asked, “Why did Sarah laugh?” Genesis 18:15 says, Sarah denied it. "I did not laugh," she said, because she was afraid. But He replied, "No, you did laugh." Genesis 18:14-15 (HCSB)
Sarah denied laughing because she didn’t want to admit her doubt. If we’re honest, ALL of us have our times when we doubt God. There’s no point denying it. If you have doubts, take them to God. Your doubts are not too big for God to overcome. God certainly did away with Sarah’s doubts.
That’s something we need to learn. God can do ANYTHING. Nothing is too difficult for Him. He can heal any sickness. He can solve any problem. He can move any mountain. God can transform any life. Whatever God promises, he WILL bring to pass.
Abraham and Sarah learned the truth of that statement. Just about 9 months after Abraham laughed in Surprise and Sarah laughed in Disbelief, they BOTH laughed in pure Astonishment. Their miracle baby was born.
3. Laughing in Astonishment Genesis 21:3-6
Genesis 21:3 says, Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. That’s significant because the name Isaac means Laughter. Sarah explained it this way in Genesis 21:6: Sarah said, "God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me."
Abraham and Sarah now had a Laughing Faith. Do you want to have a Laughing Faith? Let’s look at some practical ways to develop that kind of faith.
• If you want a Laughing Faith, practice Speaking your Faith. Don’t let yourself get in the habit of negative talk.
Listen to these words from Jeremiah 15:18-19 Jeremiah is often called the Weeping Prophet because his life was so full of trials. In the middle of his misery, he asked God, “Why does my suffering continue? Why is my wound so incurable? Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook, like a spring that has gone dry.” This is how the Lord responds: “If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. If you speak good words rather than worthless ones, you will be my spokesman. You must influence them … (NLT)
This is what Gary Russell did today. He spoke words of faith … not just that God can heal, but that no matter what, God can be trusted with our lives. God can do the impossible.
• Another practical step we can take is to Sing words of Faith – It doesn’t matter if you have a great voice. Psalm 59:16 says, As for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. (NLT) One of my fondest memories of my Grandma, Mary Skidmore is how she sang hymns every day as she worked around the house. Her singing faith was a real testimony to me and I never forgot it.
• We also need to Share our Faith with other Believers. Psalm 106:5 says, Let me share in the prosperity of your chosen ones. Let me rejoice in the joy of your people; let me praise you with those who are your heritage. (NLT) That’s why we’re here together today. We want to encourage each other to stay strong in the faith. When we get together, we SPEAK and SING words of faith. It’s in coming together that we can develop the kind of faith that stands firm even in the hardest of times.
Job 8:21 makes this prediction about our God: He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.
Has God brought you laughter? If you will give your life to Him, you will find yourself laughing in amazement at the things God will do in your life.
He is a God of surprises. He is the God of the Impossible.
He will do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to make your life abundant here on earth. But even more than that, He has promised you an eternity with Him. I believe that in Heaven joy and gladness will be the predominant emotions. I can’t wait for that day --- when we will laugh together for pure joy.