Text: Genesis 21.8-21
Ice-breaker: When was the last time you made a promise to someone? Was it a promise that could be fulfilled quickly or is it something that you will have to work on for a long time? Today we are thinking about living the promises that God makes for our lives, in God’s way!
God promised Abram that he would bear much fruit – that he would have as many descendants as there were stars in the sky. God promised that this would happen through a child born to Abram and his wife, Sarai. As they were both old, unfortunately, the weight of the promise got too heavy for Abram and Sarai, and so, instead of waiting for God to act, they tried to help fulfil the promise by acting on their own, through an idea that Sarai had. Abram slept with one of Sarai’s slaves, Hagar, and their plan worked, a son, Ishmael, was born. But this was not how God had planned it, and it meant that things became very messy when Sarah’s son Isaac, who was the child of God’s promise, was born. This all happened because neither Abraham or Sarah lived God’s promise for their lives, in God’s way.
We can learn from their situation and actions; whilst we all have promises from the Lord for our lives, we don’t need to help the Lord fulfil them, we just need to be faithful and obedient, and prepared to wait on God’s timing.
Hagar knew that the Lord had promised her that through Ishmael, she would have many descendants. However, when Abraham asked them to leave their home, because Sarah was upset, Hagar found herself surrounded by the desert and thinking that they would both die. In that moment she totally forgot the promise that God had made to her about Ishmael. She sat with the boy and cried without hope, thinking that they would die of thirst.
Like Hagar, people surrounded by a desert will be tempted to quit, but if we want to live God’s promises in God’s way, we need to listen to the following guidance from the Lord:
1) Don’t quit
The temptation to give up, to quit, is real and it can have a big influence in many moments of our lives. According to a poll, 40% of the pastors in America think about giving up their ministry at least once a month. If that is true for you, and you want to quit at this moment, God is saying to you “Don’t Give Up”.
It can help us to understand that we are more vulnerable to the temptation to quit:
a) when we are sad. If we dwell on this, we start to think things like “nobody calls me” or “no-one invites me to anything” and we get in a downwards spiral.
b) when we are sad because of money, relationships, frustrations and lack of joy; all these things make us more vulnerable to these feelings of wanting to give up.
c) when things are hard; doing what God wants doesn’t mean that everything will be well and perfect or that everything will be growing as we planned. If something is from the Lord it can still be a hard thing to do. All the apostles had difficult deaths; Jesus had to die to enable the victory that followed. The truth is that the level of difficulty of life will increase as we increase in the abundant life that Jesus leads us to. However, don’t be afraid because this is a good thing; behind it all is the promise of God, behind it all is what God says is best for our lives, and in that truth is strength, encouragement and unending hope. We need to remember that whatever we are facing, without God it would be far worse.
2) Renew your vision
When Hagar was sitting in the desert, she cried out to God, and we hear that the Angel of God called to her, and told her not to be afraid. At this moment Hagar opened her eyes and saw a well of water that was right by her. It’s important to pay attention to the fact that the text doesn’t say that God created the well for Hagar and Ismael, it was there all along, but her eyes were closed and she just couldn’t see it. When fear and anguish controlled Hagar she lost the capability to see the resource and blessing that God had provided, even though it was right in front of her eyes.
When we get desperate, we become blind to the promises and faithfulness of God. Remember that God has already provided everything that we need on the cross, and if we can’t see it today, then we need to renew our vision and see the greatness of his grace and mercy for the new day we are facing.
3) Seek God until nothing else matters
We need to seek God until nothing else matters. The problem is that in our time people want the best outcome, with the minimum of effort. People want to know what is the least amount of exercise that they need to do in order to be fit, or the maximum that they can eat and not get out of shape; or even the minimum that they can save and that will allow a comfortable retirement. More and more, people are settling for mediocrity! I don’t mean that disrespectfully, but in total honesty, it means that people are only willing to do just enough to get by.
Hagar’s problem was that she looked to everything else but God. And what about us, what is the new thing that the Lord is doing in our lives? The testimony of last month is good, but His mercies are renewed every day. So, what is God doing today? Can you see it? Can you see the well of provision that is right in front of you? Are your eyes open?
Sometimes we conform to the pattern of the world, but we need to obey God, renew our mind and seek Him until nothing else matters. Would you like to have an encounter with God this week? Something that would leave you in awe? So let’s pray and be vigilant, because I know that God wants to do it!