Summary: Strengthen your faith by laughter and confidence that God has heard and will intervene in your situation.
Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches
June 29, 2003
“Strengthening Your Faith in Troubled Times--A Laughing Faith”
INTRODUCTION: If you were to measure your faith on a continuum from 1-10, one being “Faith? What faith?” and 10 being “Faith is my middle name,” where would you rate yourself? If we are honest with ourselves, we probably would have to say, “Oh, my, it’s not where I would like it to be.” Or “Oh, my, it’s lower than I thought it would be.”
The title of today’s message is “Strengthening Your Faith in Troubled times--a Laughing Faith.” Stressful life in the 21st century seems to be taking a toll on our faith. Things come at us from so many different directions that sometimes our doubt seems to be stronger than our faith.
Today’s scripture gives us an example of Abraham and Sarah who were considered to be people of faith, and yet at times they had less than perfect faith. They received the promises of God and started out on their life’s journey with a spring in their step with exuberant faith that God would unfold the promises without doubt. They were faithful in their journey, but now years later, the promise for a son had never come to pass. By this time they were both old. They tried to help God out a little bit, but Ishmael brought consequences and strife they regretted. How many of you have tried to help God out at times with unfavorable results? Where was their faith now? People may have added to their doubt that anything would ever come of the promise. People might have said, “if it hasn’t come true by now, it never will.” “You’re old now. I think you must have heard wrong.” From your own experiences, you can almost hear the “doubting Thomases” coming with their advice and remarks. How does this scripture apply to us today?
1. Abraham and Sarah Laugh in Doubt: Although at various times in their journey, God reaffirmed the promise to Abraham by a covenant and other conversation, yet Abraham ALSO laughed. Verse 17 of chapter 17 says, “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?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing.”
Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him” (v. 19).
At an earlier time in Chapter 15:6 it says, “Abraham believed the Lord and he credited it to him as righteousness,” but then he asked, “How can I KNOW that I will gain possession of it?”
The longer the time went by, there was a mixture of doubt beginning to crowd in on their faith. Maybe it won’t happen. What if we heard wrong? Maybe God has changed His plans. Maybe we better just give up on this dream. After all look at our age. Look at the way things REALLY are. Let’s be realistic.
In today’s scripture Sarah is eavesdropping when the reaffirmation of the covenant was once again made to Abraham. “Sarah laughed to herself as she thought how ridiculous it all sounded. When confronted about it, she denied having laughed. She said, “No, I didn’t.” Why do you think she responded as she did? Maybe it was fear or maybe she didn’t want to admit her innermost feelings. She might have felt embarrassment over her doubts. After all wasn’t she “supposed” to be a person of STRONG FAITH?
Sarah was afraid she would be DISCOVERED. She was afraid her inner thoughts would be discovered. But if God can’t be trusted with our innermost thoughts and fears, we are in greater trouble than we first imagined.
I think this is where we stand today so much of the time. Like Sarah, we often do not want to admit that we have doubts about things. Are you ever afraid to let God see your honest position before him especially when it is one of doubt? We feel we are “supposed to” be people of faith. Maybe we feel God will be disappointed in us. We don’t want to fail Him. We, like Sarah, often become weary over the years of praying about something. We are disappointed, lose hope, and give up on the dream altogether.
These days, what makes you laugh in doubt? It could be any number of things--family, employment, finances, health concerns or a complicated combination of several things. When asked, “Is anything too hard, we quickly answer, ‘No, nothing is too hard for God’”
2. The Heart of the Matter: Although we quickly answer, “No, nothing is too hard for God,” we don’t always think it applies to US. If you were to ask the question a different way, would you come up with the same answer?