Nothing Too Difficult

“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised
Genesis 21: 1 (NIV)

Last week, I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store with a week’s worth of food for my family all lined up on the conveyor belt.  I assured the cashier that I didn’t need my milk in a bag; it seemed like putting her through extra effort just to take the plastic bag home and recycle it.  “Not really,” she said, “What is a really big pain is people who bring 15 or more of those reusable bags and make me put cold stuff in one, cleaning stuff in another, bread and eggs separate.  Now, that takes forever.”

I nodded my head with understanding and sympathy.  Meanwhile, I was praying under my breath that she wouldn’t notice how my groceries were carefully categorized and organized as they headed to her scanner.

  • Heavy things first.
  • Nonperishables.
  • Cold items with meat and poultry separate.
  • Non-food items like cleaning supplies and personal care products.
  • Produce.
  • Bread and eggs.

What can I say?  I like my groceries bagged a certain way.  But, I don’t leave this to chance or pester the tired Wal-Mart cashier to organize my purchases for me.   No, I like to help things along.  Truly, I am trying to be considerate of the girl getting paid so little money to incessantly scan and bag during her entire work shift.  Organizing all my items saves her some time and effort.

But, there’s also something else.  I don’t believe that she would do it correctly if I didn’t categorize the items for her.  I don’t trust that she knows not to put my cereal with the yogurt or that my laundry detergent shouldn’t sit next to my chicken.

I don’t believe.  I don’t trust.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether I fully trust and believe in the professional skill of the girl checking out my groceries.  But, my unbelief and lack of trust seep into other areas of my life that should be in the hands of our thoroughly trustworthy God.  It’s a slow drip, drip, drip of anti-faith that I ignore until suddenly I’m drowning in a sea of uncertainty and gasping for air in a flood of my own making.

I pray for things and then make plans and decisions based on God NOT answering my prayers.

I lay at His feet my anxiety and concerns about situations and then snatch them back up later when His answer doesn’t come quickly enough.

I hover over His shoulder and share my opinion on the kind of job He is doing in my life.  Are you sure you want to put the pasta in that bag, God?  Don’t you think the cheese would be better next to the butter, God?   I think you could provide a bit better for me if you changed this about my job.  Don’t you think I’ve waited long enough, God?  Surely there’s a more efficient way of doing things.

I pester and nag and “help” and act like a know-it-all back seat driver.  Abraham’s wife, Sarah, had her moments of grasping for control just like I do.   She helped things along a little bit, made “suggestions” (demands), and pressed ahead with plans without considering consequences.

To be fair, Sarah waited years for God to fulfill His promises and patiently trusted that God would give Abraham a “son who is your own flesh and blood” (Genesis 16:16, NIV).  It may have even been thrilling and easy to believe at first.  A promise from God, a child, the deepest desire of her heart seen by Almighty God and assuredly in her future!  Surely she headed to the wilderness version of Babies ‘R Us and set up a registry just days after Abraham came home and told her what God had promised. Faith is easy when the promises are fresh.

But then nothing.  No pregnancy.  No baby.  Promises faded away.  Questions arose.  Cultural expectations weighed heavy on her.  Just about a decade after the original promise, Sarah’s faith finally buckled under the heavy weight of circumstantial evidence mounting up against God.  He hadn’t done what He had promised.  No baby was coming.  Sarah’s biological clock had ticked and tocked out and she clearly needed to step in and help God out a little bit.

And so the trouble begins.  A second wife for Abraham.  Conflict and abuse between Sarah and Hagar.  Runaway maidservant.  Ishmael born, son to Abraham, but not the child God had promised.

Thirteen years after Ishmael’s birth and about 24 years after the original promise, none of Sarah’s involvement, ideas, or attempts to help (or control) the situation had yielded results.

Yet, in all this time, God’s plans never changed.  His intent from the beginning was to birth an entire nation through Abraham and Sarah and He was willing to let Sarah reach the point of impossibility, of clear human failure, before fulfilling His promises.  She was past menopause, now 90 years old.  There was simply no possible earthly way for Sarah to bring forth the promised heir.

That’s what unbelief would say.  That’s what lack of trust would claim.

God is so gracious to us in our weakness, though.  He certainly was with Sarah.  He visited with Abraham again and reiterated the promise, this time with an added clarification—I believe it could only have been for Sarah’s benefit.  He told Abraham, “I will bless her (Sarah) and will surely give you a son by her.  I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her . . . your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.”

Did you notice that subtle new bit of information in the promise?  The first time, God said that Abraham would have a son and heir.  This time, He clearly said to Abraham, “You know Sarah, as in your wife Sarah?  She will have a son by you.  Together.  Nobody else needs to be involved in this.  Just you and her.  Got it?”

And there was a promise for Sarah in this, too, a special notice by God, who called a childless woman in her 90s to be the Mother of Nations.  As kids we sang the silly song, “Father Abraham, had many sons, and many sons had father Abraham.”  Why don’t we ever sing about Sarah?  After all, the poor woman had to give birth to the promised child at 90 years of age with no epidural.  I think she deserves her own song!

Abraham and Sarah were nothing without God’s miraculous involvement in their lives.  “Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.  When I called him, he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many” (Isaiah 52:2, NIV).    Like Abraham, it is God’s blessing on us that multiples our lives into bounty and fulfillment.

Therefore our testimonies are not that we have accomplished much or attained great things in our own strength and ability. If Sarah had produced the promised heir through surrogate motherhood, fertility treatments or even naturally while her body was still ripe for childbearing, then there would have been no need for God’s personal touch.

As Beth Moore wrote, “If Isaac’s birth says anything at all, surely it says that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.”  That’s the question God asked Abraham while Sarah stood laughing in her tent over the promise of pregnancy in her old age.  “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14, NIV).  Isaac’s birth proves God’s possibilities even in impossible situations.

In Genesis 21:1, it beautifully says, “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised (NIV).  And so He will for you.  God will do what He has promised.  And when He does, when He so graciously delivers you, He will receive all the glory and give you a testimony of miraculous provision so that others may believe and trust in a God for whom nothing is too difficult.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Kaleidoscope Moment

“Surely, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation”
Isaiah 12:2-3, NIV

Imagine you’re on Jeopardy in a close match with your two co-contestants.  You choose your next category and see the Double Jeopardy sign.  This is your chance!  You can “risk it all, Alex” and go for a true Double Jeopardy, thereby leaving your opponents impossibly behind when you answer correctly.   Or, you can play it safe, and risk only a minor amount; you wouldn’t gain much, but you wouldn’t lose much either.

What would you do?  Are you a risk-taker or a play-it-safe kind of person?

I know what I would do.  I’d wager about $200 and pinch myself later if I knew the answer to the question.  That’s one reason you’ll never see me on Jeopardy.  That and the fact I know almost nothing about sports, pop culture,  geography and tons of other things.  Oh, and I freeze up under pressure.  I’m not really Jeopardy champion material.

Since I’m not a risk-taker, it frightens me when God asks me to take bold steps of faith and follow Him in obedience as we travel into the unknown.  It’s too . . . well, risky!  What if I get lost?  What if I don’t survive?  What if I heard God wrong?  What if I get embarrassed?  What if God doesn’t provide?  What if I’m not successful?

This is one of those “kaleidescope moments” in our faith walk.  These classic toys seem almost magical at times.  You hold a simple tube up to the light and the mosaic of colors inside shines and flashes in a beautiful pattern.  With one simple twist, the colors fall into a new pattern—still beautiful, but now so very different.

God sometimes needs to give our perspective a little twist, so that we see from His eyes.   The new pattern will be beautiful and oh so very different from what we’ve seen before.

Even when God calls us out into the unknown, even when He asks us to stop playing it safe, even when He asks us to follow obediently before the plan is revealed, even when He asks us to do something that sounds crazy, even when He asks us to do something different than everyone around us . . . even then, there really isn’t anything risky about following God.  That’s because no matter where God takes us, He walks by our side and His promises remain true.

We don’t have to take a risk.  Instead, we can enjoy what Kay Arthur calls “the rest of faith,” when we unite “the Word of God with faith for a particular situation.”   Psalm 91 promises us that “those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1, NIV).   That’s a shift in our perspective; a new way to look at God’s call on our lives.

Paul demonstrated this rest of faith while he was a prisoner on a ship at sea that was caught in a terrible storm.  “The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard.  The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone” (Acts 27:19-20, NIV).

Everyone had lost hope–except Paul.  He rested in faith.  God had told Paul previously that he would travel to Rome and preach Christ there.  No storm could prevent God from fulfilling His promise.  That night on the ship, God reconfirmed His plan by sending an angel who said “‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar!  What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.”  Paul announced to those on the ship, “So take courage!  For I believe God.  It will be just as he said” (Acts 27: 24-25, NIV).

Even with these assurances from Paul, the sailors were frightened and tried to abandon ship.  Wouldn’t you?

When Paul confronted them and said, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard,” they amazingly listened to his assurances and “cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away.”  Later, Paul told these men who had not eaten for two weeks, to eat and strengthen themselves.   Scripture tells us, “Everyone was encouraged and began to eat” and then, in a true display of faith, “the crew lightened the ship further by throwing the cargo of wheat overboard” (Acts 27:30-37).

Paul’s confident faith was infectious.  The sailors were now without a lifeboat as an escape plan and without any food provisions to count on for the future.   All they had was God’s promise that they would be okay.

The good news is that God’s promises are enough.  Everyone on that ship survived the storm and made it safely to land just as God had said.

Like Paul, we have promises that we can rest in even when life seems risky.  We don’t need lifeboats or cargo to guarantee our safety through a storm.  God promises that He will go with us and never abandon us.  He promises to shelter us and set us high above our enemies.  He promises to provide for our needs and to give us all-sufficient grace.  He promises to strengthen us and renew us day by day.

These promises mean that life for those with faith is never really risky.  Instead, with a simple shift in our kaleidoscope and change in our perspective, God can help us experience the rest of faith by connecting His promises with our situation.  Then, we will “trust and not be afraid” (Isaiah 12:2, NIV).

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King