Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sarah - jumping ahead of God

We learned yesterday that we should expect the waiting on God to be difficult. We are, after all, human, and we "want what we want, when we want it!"  So it's only natural to chafe a little, and get impatient . . . but it can be easier, if we remember the possible reasons for God's silence, and if we pray for wisdom as He works to accomplish His purpose in our lives.

Another thing we can learn from Sarah is that when God is silent, we should NOT jump ahead of Him! Getting ahead of God, and jumping in front of His perfect plans for our lives can be nothing short of disastrous.
Sarah decided to do things her way, and in her own timing. She ended up creating a conflict that exists in our modern world, with the friction and hatred between the Arabic and the Jewish peoples. She thought up her own plan to replace God's plan -- that didn't work out too well. Many of us are guilty of doing this; we make plans and arrangements before we check with our Father.

                    Woe to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an
                    alliance, but not by My Spirit, heaping sin upon sin. (Isaiah 30:1)

Ouch. God was speaking there to the Israelites, but He could just as easily have directed it at us today. He's saying that we are making plans without even consulting Him. We're figuring out ways to get things done that are not His ways; we are using sinful means to accomplish what we want, and we console ourselves by saying that the end results are good, so it's OK.  (It's a sad fact that spiritual results are not achieved through sinful means.)

So what are we to do? If we don't want to jump ahead of God, what is our strategy?
Sometimes the best way to determine His will for our lives is to simply wait. It's hard. But it's wiser than jumping.

                   LORD, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God. (Psalm 38:15)

                   I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put 
                   my hope.
                   (Psalm 130:5)

There is one very effective way to make sure we don't get ahead of God: prayer. It's not only a sweet communion with our Father; it's not just a way to receive comfort and strength; it's also a key discipline in the life of Christians. We can communicate with God and acknowledge (both to Him and to ourselves) that we are striving to follow Him.

                   .... in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths
                   straight. (Proverbs 3:6)

(Raising hand)  Too many of us would have to raise our hands and admit, if asked, that we have directed our paths and then asked God to walk along with us! Hey, God, I think I will go this're coming along, right? That's not how it works! We never saw in the scripture that Sarah prayed about her barrenness . . . maybe she did, and it just wasn't recorded. But maybe she got tired of praying about it -- and that might be why she got ahead of God.

Lastly, when God appears to be silent, we need to remember that we can't always understand Him. Sarah assumed that she understood God, and that His silence meant He had changed His mind, perhaps. That she was not going to have a child. But she was wrong in her understanding! Look back at that verse: "The Lord has prevented me from having children." She made the wrong conclusion. I guess it's important for us to realize that we may never fully understand His ways. Sometimes His heavenly plans make no sense to us earthly creatures.

                      For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways
                      my ways, declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

                      For now we see through a glass darkly . . . (I Corinthinans 13:12a)

His ways may be completely beyond our comprehension. We may never truly understand His plans for us completely. Maybe we won't understand His plan until we see Him in heaven. God never promises that we will fully understand what He's up to. He just asks us to trust. And surely we have less reason to distrust than did Paul . . .

             all things God works for the good of those who love Him.
                      (Romans 8:28)

Paul was imprisoned. Tortured. Hated. Stoned. Rejected. Ill. Alone. But somehow he was able to trust and to write that verse that so many of us cling to, in our times of difficulty.

I found this illustration that really brought this concept home:

                    In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom wrote about an
                    incident in World War II that taught her to trust that God knows
                    what he is doing. She and her sister, Betsy, had been sent to the
                    Ravensbruck concentration camp by the Nazis. The barracks they
                    were assigned were not only over-crowded, but flea- infested. As
                    Corrie lay in the dry straw she had made for a bed, not only was she
                    suffocated by human bodies, but fleas bit away at her skin and she
                    got so frustrated and complained to God. “God why these fleas?
                    Haven’t I gone through enough God!I can take anything but fleas.
                    You’ve got to be joking God.”

                    It was there in Ravensbruck that Corrie and her sister Betsy started a
                    Bible Study in their barracks for Jewish women. It was illegal to study
                    the Bible in those prison camps and if the guards came into the barracks
                    and found them, death was certain. But to Corrie’s surprise the Bible
                    Studies grew and grew and no guard ever interrupted, never came into
                    the barracks. After weeks and weeks of the Bible Studies, Corrie and
                    her sister finally found out why the guards never came into their barracks.
                   One of them overheard a guard say, “We don’t go in there because of the
                    fleas.” She could not understand the reason for the fleas at first but it all
                    made sense to her now. God had worked it all out for good.

We may never know the full extent of how God is orchestrating His plans and His will in our lives. He is "behind the scenes" making everything work out for good. We simply have to grow our faith, and trust that He knows what is best for us, even when He is silent.

After that horrific world war that we mentioned above was over, these words were found on a wall in Cologne, Germany, where Jews had been hiding from the Nazis:

                    I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even
                    when I don't feel it. And I believe in God even when he is silent.

What happened to our barren princess, Sarah? God worked it out for her good, and she gave birth to a son; Isaac would be a focal character and so important in the Bible, and in the lineage of Christ. See, Sarah, God did have a plan for you, and He was keeping watch over you the whole time. He promised. And His promises are true.

Just as He had a plan for Sarah, so, too, God has a plan for each of us. He loves us. Do we love Him? Do we trust Him?
Thanks for joining us in our study this week.


Austin Towers said...

"We simply have to grow our faith, and trust that He knows what is best for us, even when He is silent." So simple and yet so hard to do! But with His help, we can! Such a helpful study, Jacque. thank you. Hugs, Caro xx

Belinda said...

I've often heard the saying, " We make our own plans and then ask God to bless them." How often am I guilty of doing just that!?! Waiting on God is one of the biggest challenges we face, and one we often fail. Or at least I do.

Iknow it was a different time, with a different mindset, but I'll never understand Sarah's actions with Hagar and Abraham. There was no way it wouldn't cause problems.

Great study!