Is God Really Faithful?

The moment they had anticipated for 25 years had finally come. God “was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised” (Gen. 21:1; NIV).  Just as he said he would.

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 21:1-7
Key Verse: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” Deuteronomy 7:9

At the exact time appointed. At ninety years old – Sarah gave birth to Isaac. With her body as good as “dead”, far past the years of childbearing, God brought life out of death. A picture of the miraculous life God gives all who come to him through faith in Jesus Christ.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.” Eph. 2:4-5

Not because of anything we have done. Not because of who we are but in spite of who we are. He bestows his grace upon us, just as he did Sarah. Who did not deserve to be the focus of God’s loving affection. In fact neither Abraham nor Sarah are seen at their best in these passages. Yet God brought laughter into their home, literally in the form of a sweet baby whose name (Isaac) meant “Laughter.”

Because He who promised is faithful.

Even when hard, impossible, terrible things happen because of sin. God is still faithful. To be near those who seek him (James 4:8). To work all things together for good for those who love Him (Rom. 8;28). To comfort his children (2 Cor. 1:4). To sustain those who cast their burden upon him (Ps. 55:22). To guide those who trust him (Prov. 3:5-6).

In 2 Corinthians Paul wrote of his afflictions in Asia. “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

Hard, unthinkable things happened to Paul. Ultimately he was tortured and beheaded in Rome. Yet he preached God as faithful (1 Cor. 1:9). Because he experienced God as faithful.

Neither fate or fortune define God’s faithfulness.

It’s simply who He is – “the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9). Faithful to make us children of Abraham; heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:29). Faithful to set us free from our bondage to sin through faith in Jesus (Rom. 6:18). Faithful to give all who trust in Christ everlasting life (John 6:47). And protect us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 5:9).

But what about now you ask? What about the Pastor whose pregnant wife was murdered last week? What about the people in France? What about my precious friend who buried her husband next to her daughter? What about the hard things? Where is God’s faithfulness to those who suffer?

It’s there. It’s still there. My precious friend looked at me after her sweet baby girl went to be with Jesus and said “God is still the same good God today that he was yesterday.”

Yes. Yes he is. Because no matter what happens here and now all who come to God through faith in Jesus have an inheritance beyond any comparison (2 Cor. 4:17). A place in God’s eternal kingdom (Matt. 25:34). A living hope (2 Peter 1:3-4). Because God in his mercy has declared us his children. And if his children then heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:37).

And those moments. Those hard moments when life falls apart. When it shatters into a million tiny pieces. When it hurts too much. And seems unfair. Unthinkable. Impossible to move on. Those are the moments God gets to prove himself faithful to you and those watching. Those are the moments we get to say I can’t do this but God can.

And then we get to watch him do it. As we lean hard on him for strength to get up the next day. To persevere. To heal. To be our very present help in times of trouble (Ps. 46:1). Our shield. And our Savior.

Attaining a story of God’s faithfulness the world cannot deny. I don’t understand why things have to be the way they are. I don’t understand why some suffer and some don’t. But I know every trial and tribulation put in the path of a believer is an opportunity to prove God faithful to a hurting world.

So cling to Jesus. Hold tight and don’t let go. He will prove himself faithful because it’s who He is. And maybe you’ll even find that God brings laughter into your home. Just as he did for Sarah.

Because He who promised is faithful.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Do you believe God is faithful, even in the hard things?
How has God proven himself faithful to you? Are you seeking and trusting God to be faithful?


When God’s Not Doing Anything


Yes I’m wearing spandex. I was ready for some REFIT®. Let’s just all be happy I didn’t have to spend hours in my closet deciding what to wear.

Saturday morning I got to share with some lovely ladies that God is working…even when it doesn’t seem like it. Even when our prayers appear ineffective. Our efforts in vain. Our hardships unchanged. Because HE is faithful to all generations (Ps. 100:5).

I reminded them of Elizabeth – the mother of John the Baptist. How she longed for a child and prayed God would bless her with one (Luke 1:13). How she did all things right – living by the commandments to the best of her ability. Yet still no baby. No answer to prayer. Nothing.

Yet God was working, even when it didn’t seem like it. Little did Elizabeth know she would give birth to the greatest man who ever lived (Matt. 11:11). The last of the prophets; the one to prepare the way for the LORD. Little did she know it just wasn’t time yet. It. just. wasn’t. time.

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Ps 27:14 Because God is working – all things in his perfect timing. It’s not that he doesn’t care. It’s not that he doesn’t hear your prayers. It just may not be time.

I reminded them of Sarah – the wife of Abraham. How she willingly followed her husband to a foreign land on the promise God would make a nation of them. How month after month turned into year after year of Sarah waiting for God to fulfill his promise. How she lost hope, took matters into her own hands, and gave her servant Hagar to Abraham as a wife.

I asked them to consider how Sarah must have felt when Hagar returned awestruck and elated with God’s appearance to her and assurance. Yet God had never appeared to Sarah; never spoken to Sarah; never assured Sarah. O the heartbreak, the confusion, the rejection Sarah must have felt. “Why not me LORD? Why her and not me? Why do you do nothing for me.”

Have you been there. I have.

Yet God was working. Just not as Sarah expected. He was working…in her heart. Doing a work IN her before he could do a work THROUGH her. He had not forgotten Sarah. He was simply preparing Sarah. To be the mother Isaac needed. A mother able to speak of God’s faithfulness. Able to confidently say the words “Nothing is impossible for God” (Gen. 18:14). Able to give her son the godly foundation necessary to be a founding father of Israel.

So take heart weary soul. If it seems as though God is doing nothing around you, maybe it’s because he’s doing something within you. Preparing you. For the wonderful plans he has for you. “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Phil 2:13, NLT).

Thirdly, I reminded them of Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob. Forced to share her husband with her sister. Forced to watch her sister give birth to one precious boy after another; while her arms remained empty.

To Rachel it likely seemed as though God had forgotten her or hated her or cared nothing for her. Leah’s servant bore children for Jacob; her own servant bore children for Jacob; yet she could not. Why God? Why. not. me?

Have you been there? Waiting in the shadows as others receive what you’ve been asking for?

Yet God was working; masterfully weaving his purpose and plan. Little did Rachel know the boys in that household would grow to be the twelve tribes of Israel.  Little did she know it was necessary for her son to be the youngest (except for Benjamin), so his brothers would sell him. Little did she know he’d rise above them all and be placed second in command of Egypt. We know the end of the story. But she did not. All she knew was it hurt. Every day it hurt. To wait. To watch. To wonder why God cared little for her. But rest assured…

Our present circumstances do not indicate God’s presence.

Though there may be times we distance ourselves from God because of sin. He never leaves us. He never forsakes us. He’s always working – all things in HIS perfect timing and according to HIS plans and purposes. Not to mention, molding and shaping our hearts along the way.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” James 4:8. And have faith because even when it doesn’t seem like it – God is working.   image

The Danger of Thinking

It was after six. Why hadn’t he called? He always calls. I texted at 3:00 but nothing. Then again at 4:00 yet still nothing. Don’t panic. He’s fine. Maybe his phone died. Surely it’s his phone. But what if it isn’t. What if something happened? What if he’s stuck in a grain bin and no one knows it? He can hear his phone but can’t reach it. And he knows it’s me. It’s probably breaking his heart. Stop it. I can’t think like that. Stop. He’s fine. Come on just text me please. I can’t raise four kids by myself. Ok that’s it. I’m giving you ten more minutes before I assume something terrible happened.

Devo Scripture: Genesis 20
Key Verse: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

Assumptions. We do it all the time. Perceiving something as truth without any proof. Causing us to worry for no reason. Or be anxious, upset, or defensive. Based solely on what we think and not what we know – we speculate. He’s mad; she hates me; they think I’m a terrible parent. All because of a look, misunderstanding, harmless comment, or lack thereof. Then we fester in it. Certain of our ability to render a correct interpretation we get mad or sad or hurt or bitter at a person who did absolutely nothing!

In short it’s the silent enemy of relationships. Similar to an atomic bomb, one seemingly tiny assumption can lead to widespread devastating destruction. In families, friendships, communities, and cultures. Not to mention our relationship with God. One seemingly innocent assumption such as “God wants me to be happy” has the power to disarm our faith in moments. Leaving us confused and abandoned when life doesn’t go as planned. Because it’s not our happiness God’s concerned with, but our holiness. As holiness is the forerunner of happiness (Ps. 1).

Based solely on feelings, fears, or familiarity, when we act upon an assumption, it often leads to sin. As it did in Genesis 19 and again in Genesis 20. Assuming there was no fear of God in Gerar (Just as Lot’s daughters assumed there were no men anywhere.) Abraham says of Sarah “She is my sister” (v.2) and Sarah per Abraham’s request assured “He is my brother” (v. 5). So Abimelech, king of Gerar, having no reason not to, sent and took Sarah into his harem.

This just weeks after God promises “I will surely return to you about this time next year and Sarah your wife shall have a son” (Gen. 18:10). Yikes! This was no small problem! Sarah soon to be pregnant by God’s own decree was in the home of another man! Taken into the king’s harem at almost 90 years old – this lady must have been one hot mama (no pun intended). Her timeless beauty causing Abimelech to make his own wrong assumption; believing Sarah to be much younger than she was.

The reality of the situation put the entire nation of Israel in jeopardy. All because of one little theory Abraham had held to for 25 years. One minor distrust (if there is such a thing). Even after God promised years before “You shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age” (Gen. 15:15). Abraham still assumed he might be killed for the prize of his gorgeous woman.

Poor Sarah! I can’t help but wonder what she was thinking. “Seriously…do I really have to go through this again! Did he learn nothing from Egypt?” I would’ve been livid. Certain my husband had just ruined my chance at having a child. Yet she knew God’s promise. Did she hold to it with undeterred certainty? Rehearsing in her mind the very words God spoke outside her tent, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14) Or did she figure everything was ruined. God’s promise negated by her husband’s sin and her willingness to follow along.

Because isn’t that what we often think? Well I blew it. So much for me. Better luck next time Stacey. God’s through with you (whispers the evil one to my breaking heart). Oh that this story might seep into the battered and bruised recesses of my heart. Penetrating yours as well.

Nothing can thwart the unconditional promises of God. Nothing! In spite of Abraham’s distrust. God interceded. Coming to Abimelech in a dream (God’s chosen form of communication in many Old Testament stories). Making it clear to the king “it was I who kept you from sinning” (v. 6). Giving him instruction to return Sarah and have Abraham, God’s prophet, pray over him.

I would have been embarrassed to claim Abraham as my own. Maybe even ashamed. Certainly disappointed. And probably tempted to flee the other direction. But God wasn’t. “This man that lied to you, fooled you, and almost cost you your life – yea he’s my man, my prophet, covered in my righteousness. Go to him and have him pray and you’ll live.” (my paraphrase)

What a beautiful picture of grace! Once we’re His – God never lets go. Even when we make big giant messes. Even when we struggle for years with the same issue. Even when we lack integrity – God won’t let go. But neither will he let us stay that way.

Because God doesn’t want us abiding in assumptions. He wants us anchored in assurances.

With our eyes fixed on him. Certain we can trust and depend on the God we’ve believed in. A God who never operates on assumptions and doesn’t want us to either. Because inevitably it will lead down a path we didn’t want to go. And didn’t need to go. If only we’d trusted in what we knew instead of believing in what we think we know.

Let’s leave behind the assumptions and hold tightly to the assurances. Confident He is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

Contemplate and Evaluate:
When have you made a mess of things based on a wrong assumption? Or been hurt by a wrong assumption made about you?
Have you made assumptions about God that have hindered and been harmful to your relationship with Him? What insecurities might be feeding those assumptions?image

Is Anything too Hard

He sat on the other side of her tent door. The Creator of the universe. Did she know it? Did Sarah have any idea whom it was that ate her freshly baked cakes? Do we? Do we have any idea whose majesty is all around us? Any idea whom it is that stands at the door and knocks (Rev. 3:20)? If we really did maybe we’d be a bit more eager to open the door. And a weee bit more content to stay for a while.

In the presence of He who made us. He who loves us. He who pursues us…As he did Sarah.

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 18:9-15
Key Verse: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27

This entire episode puzzled me for a bit. It appears as though God reveals his plan of Isaac to Abraham in chapter 17 and then a few days later to Sarah in chapter 18. But how could Abraham have kept such news from Sarah? I mean this is unbelievably exciting stuff! Wouldn’t Abraham have been bursting at the seems to tell his wife? This is what she had dreamed of her entire life. A baby! And now it was to happen at 90 years old. Incredible!

Not to mention kings were to come from them! By the way honey, God changed your name to Sarah today. (meaning princess.) Royalty Sarah! You’re royalty! And my new name… Abraham, that’s right my love “father of a multitude.” Oh and our son’s name is to be Isaac and he’ll be born about this time next year. Can you believe it??

Excuse me Abram or Abraham whatever your name is…what did you just say? Personally I think Abraham told her every word. How could he not? But Sarah just couldn’t believe it. Call it a lack of faith or maybe even a safeguard against disappointment. The fact of the matter is I can’t fault her for it. My own lack of faith won’t let me.

How often do I limit God? How often do I think “impossible.” It’s simply impossible. Not gonna happen. No way. How often do I take matters into my own hands because I’m just not sure if God will really take care of it? How often do I whine and complain disbelieving this is really the best path for me? Really God? This is the road you want me to walk? Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll take it from here.

But God doesn’t give up on me. And he didn’t give up on Sarah. He asked Abraham “Where is Sarah your wife?” God knew where she was. But he was drawing her – closer to himself. “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son” (v. 10). He lovingly allowed her to hear the words from his own lips.

He didn’t just pop in for some good eats. He came for a purpose. To reveal himself to Sarah as the God for whom nothing is impossible. Nothing! Has it sunk in yet? God’s power has no bounds. His plans never fail. Job learned it. “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Jeremiah lived it. “Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego held on to it. “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:17). The disciples were taught it “But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). Mary had to come to grips with it. “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Gabriel’s response: “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

But what about you? Has the revelation of God’s ceaseless power seized your heart? Embracing you with peace and composure? Stilling your restlessness. Calming your anxiety. “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). Have you come to grips with it? Learned it? Lived it? Proclaimed it?

I’d say Sarah certainly did. On her journey to motherhood. Beginning that day in her tent. When she laughed to herself at the implausible idea of a baby at ninety – her body no longer what it needed to be. To her utter dismay she heard the King of Kings ask Abraham “Why did Sarah laugh…?” I can’t help but wonder at her surprise. Her bewilderment. How did he know I laughed? I didn’t laugh (not out loud at least). Yet the God in whom nothing is impossible knew what was in her heart. And simply responded “No, but you did laugh.”

Oh how I wish we could have stayed in the tent with Sarah a few more verses. Because a heart which comes to realize nothing is impossible for God is a heart that rejoices in the unimaginable possibilities of life. Living amidst hope even in the most dire and devastating circumstances. Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt he CAN make all things work together for my good and his glory (Rom. 8:28). He CAN reach my lost loved ones. He CAN make me more like Christ. He CAN heal (though he may choose not to for the sake of eternal purposes). He CAN save us. He CAN in fact do more than I could ever ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20).

So how bout it believer? Is anything too hard for the LORD? Anything too wonderful? May the revelation of God’s ceaseless power seize your heart today.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What situation or area of your life have you viewed as too hard for the LORD?
Does your faith have limits because your “God” has limits? What do you need to trust God with today? Remember…nothing is too hard for the LORD.image

In the Face of Doubt

Ten years had passed since they had started their new life in Canaan. Was it what Sarai expected? I doubt it. Is it ever as we expect it? She had followed her husband willfully on this journey in hopes of a family – a child of her very own. The word of the LORD to Abram had been “Go…and I will make of you a great nation.” Surely music to her battered and broken heart. With such a promise I imagine her response something along the lines of “Yes! Yes I’ll go Abram! An entire nation from me!” Certainly hope soared within her as they entered the land of promise.

Devotional: Genesis 16:1-6
Key Verse:  “Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” Ps. 27:14; NKJV

But then…nothing. For ten long years. Ever been there? By her estimation she was running out of time. Little did she know that’s exactly what God wanted…her body “dead.” So he could be the God who brings life out of death. So he could showcase his marvelous power.

But she couldn’t see the big picture. She didn’t know the big picture. Most of the time we don’t. That’s why it’s called faith. So as time passed and hope drained, Sarai began to doubt. Because isn’t that what happens when prayers go presumably unanswered? Our minds fill with doubt. Maybe…I misunderstood. Maybe that promise wasn’t meant for me.

And Satan gets us right where he wants us. A place of uncertainty. “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her” (Gen. 16:2). 〰 “Abram I know God said you would have a child but maybe it’s not through me. Maybe the promise wasn’t meant for me.” Oh how quickly the seed of doubt can grow. As she considered her options, Sarai became more and more convinced Hagar had to be the solution.

Now before we harp too much on Sarai and the fact she encouraged her husband to have sex with another woman, let’s consider the culture. I’m certainly not excusing her. What she suggested was wrong and God did not honor it but culturally in the world she grew up in it was not an uncommon practice. It was the woman’s responsibility to produce an heir for her husband. If she couldn’t do it a servant could act as a surrogate mother to provide a child.

I think it’s also worth noting that Abram and Sarai had the same father but different mothers (Gen. 20:12). Their background likely included polygamy. That being said I think Sarai had good intentions. Certainly I could be wrong but she is praised in Hebrews 11 as a woman of faith. And again in 1 Peter 3 as a woman to be modeled after. But after years of waiting; years of hoping; she found herself in a place of uncertainty. A very dangerous place. For it’s often from a state of uncertainty we act apart from God.

And end up with an “Ishmael” in our lives. With a mess we didn’t foresee. Heartache we didn’t expect. All because of a little uncertainty. A little harmless uncertainty in the faithfulness of God.

But is it ever harmless? Doubt is the devil’s playground. I cannot imagine the heartache Sarai experienced the night she knew her husband was intimately in the arms of another. And the rejection she must have felt to realize God had blessed Hagar so quickly with child but not her. However the consequences didn’t end there. Sarai had no idea the conflict that would exist between her offspring and that of Hagar. No idea it would go on for thousands of years. No idea it would be the cause of such terrible turmoil. No idea it would last until Christ’s final return (smoldering still today).

Is it any wonder God told us to take every thought captive for Christ? (2 Cor. 10:5) Every doubt. Every fear. Is it any wonder God told us to pray without ceasing? (1 Thess. 5:17) Is it any wonder God said to cast our anxieties on him? (1 Peter 5:7) Any wonder God said to trust him wholeheartedly and lean not on our own understanding? (Prov. 3:5-6) Oh the messes we make when we act apart from God because of doubt or fear or uncertainty.

Oh restless heart be still. Remember God’s faithfulness. Don’t doubt. No don’t doubt. It will only lead to trouble. “Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Ps. 27:14; NKJV)

He has a plan. A good and wonderful plan. Be still restless heart. Please don’t move ahead of God. Trust him. His ways are not your ways. His thoughts are not your thoughts. (Is. 55:8-9) Just because he doesn’t work in the timing you had hoped doesn’t mean he’s forgotten or changed his mind or found a loophole. It means he’s still working. He’s still preparing. Trust the God who made you. Trust the God who died for you. He has not forsaken you.

Restless heart pray. Just think how different life might have been if Abram and Sarai had prayed – in the face of uncertainty. Trust God for something better. Why is it when life doesn’t go our way we often assume the worst? What if instead we trusted God for something amazing! For something far more wonderful than we could have ever imagined! Instead of rationalizing; instead of doubting; instead of taking matters into our own hands – what if we believed God was still working? For his glory and for our good…trust him restless heart…trust him.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Eph. 3:20-21

Contemplate and Evaluate:
1. In what area of your life do you need to trust God for something better or bigger or far more wonderful than you could have ever imagined?
2. When have you acted apart from God because of doubt or fear or uncertainty? How can you use that experience to encourage another in their struggle to trust God?image