Sarah is perhaps the most surprising Bible character to be found in this Hall of Faith called Hebrews 11. It doesn’t take much to clearly see the reality of the faith of all the rest, but when you think of Sarah, faith isn’t what pops into your head. In fact apart from this one verse of Scripture, Hebrews 11:11, we see a woman who mostly lacked faith – who was incredulous and doubtful at the proclamation of God that she would bear a son in her old age. Nowhere in the Bible except in Hebrews 11:11 do we find Sarah’s faith specifically stated.
So how come she is granted a spot in this Hall of Faith? I believe there a couple reasons. The first is that God wants us to know that ordinary people with faults can still be approved of by God. Sarah was not perfect in her faith. In Genesis 16, she doubted God’s plan of using her to bear a son. She makes a terrible mess by giving her servant Hagar to Abraham to wife. She tries to talk God into accepting Hagar’s son, Ishmael instead. Her faith faltered in a big way. In Genesis 18, God appeared to Abraham and told him that Sarah will have a son in her old age. Sarah overheard this conversation inside her tent, and laughed at the thought of bearing a son at her age. When God asks her why she laughed, she denies it saying, “I laughed not.” Her faith had faltered again.
I’m glad that you don’t have to be a spiritual giant with super-duper faith that is always steady and never faltering to be counted faithful by God. We look at Noah whose faith as far as we know remained unwavering for 120 years and perhaps think, “Wow, I don’t know if I could have done that. I don’t know if I have faith that strong,” and you know what? That’s ok. You’re in good company. In fact as we mentioned last week, Abraham, who is often called the Father of Faith, faltered a couple times. Gideon’s faith faltered at least four times and he’s found later on in this chapter. Sarah is a great comfort to us ordinary folk that you can have faith that looks rather unremarkable in men’s eyes and still be found faithful in God’s eyes. Yes, we should strive for unwavering faith, but it’s not the end of the world just because our faith falters. We shouldn’t make excuses for a lack of faith or failures, but we can take heart that we’re human and that’s par for the course – and God knows that we are but clay and still wants to use us. Don’t think because your faith has faltered in the past that God is done with you.
Though she faltered, Sarah believed God’s Promise Despite her doubts. Let me be careful how I say this: having some uncertainty or questions about how things are going to work out isn’t a sin. It was only natural for Sarah to have some questions. Sarah was 64 when God came to her and said she would have a son. 64 year old ladies don’t have babies. I did some research to see what the oldest woman to give birth was. The Guinness Book of World Records has the record at 46 years old for a natural conception and birth without any fertility treatments or in vitro laboratory stuff involved. Sarah was already 64 years old and they didn’t have fertility treatments and such back then. And it would be another 25 years before God would fulfill his promise. She would be 90 years old when Isaac was born. So let’s not be too hard on Sarah for having some doubts. Sometimes God makes the tests in our life hard tests to determine the level of our faith. Initially Sarah didn’t fare so well in the test. But as God tested her again and again, her faith grew and she believed God. Though it was a hard thing to believe God’s Word and though she faltered a time or two, Sarah believed in the reliability of God who keeps His promises. Yes she faltered and certainly God desires that we have unwavering faith, but He is gracious and forgiving to let us take the test as often as we need until by faith we grow to trust Him. Aren’t you glad that Sarah was a regular person? And yet she submitted herself to the testing of God and in time her faith grew and God approved of her life.
Once Sarah believed by faith and submitted herself to God’s plan for her life, notice what she discovered about real faith. Real faith finds strength in God. Sarah found strength waiting on God. Whatever testing, calling, or trial God places in your life, God has strength to see you through. If Sarah were up here today testifying about God, she would tell us all with great confidence that God is able to give strength. Sarah’s body was tired and her womb was barren, but God gave her strength to conceive. There is no task God calls you to for which He will not enable you also. Sarah spent 25 years waiting for God to fulfill His promise. Her waiting reminded me of the verse Isaiah 40:31, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Sometimes faith calls us to wait upon God, but when we wait upon Him, we find strength for the journey and the testings of life. Let’s not forget though that Sarah wasn’t just physically tired by age, but that she was both now and always unable to have children. Genesis 11:30 says that “Sarah was barren and had no child.” I don’t know how old she was when she married Abraham, but she was childless at 90 because she was unable to have children in the first place. And now even if that had not been the case she was far beyond child-bearing years. Genesis 18:11 says that Sarah was “old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.” When she laughed at God the reason she gave was, “I am waxed old.” She wasn’t one of these ladies playing the “thirty-and-holding” game. She knew she was old.
But she learned something else about faith in God – not just that patient faith discovers God’s strength but that faith discovers that God can do the impossible. Sarah discovered the full power of faith. Here is a case where all human possibilities were against what was predicted. All physical probability was against the supposition that, at her time of life, she would be a mother. Sarah was old – 90 in fact when she bore Isaac. Even if she were afforded all the costly advancements of today’s modern science and medicine, this was impossible. I said earlier that the oldest woman to give birth completely naturally was 46. Yet even with fertility treatments and other medical marvels, the oldest woman to give birth is 70 and the list of women over 50 to give birth under any circumstances is a very short list. For Sarah to give birth was completely impossible. And Sarah discovered that by faith nothing is impossible. After she laughed, God asked, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” And so Sarah put God to the test. She found that by faith God is able to move even the mountain of age. All through God’s Word are stories of God making a possibility out of an impossibility. What did Sarah learn about the power of faith? That it is limitless. That by trusting God to do what humanly cannot be done we may see God work a miracle. I think sometimes we have a very small a view of God. Sometimes we let our limited human reasoning put God in a man-sized box when the universe cannot contain Him. Let’s not forget the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18, “All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth.” That means even the power to do what is impossible with men. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” The answer is a resounding “No.”
By faith Sarah learned that God gives strength and that there is nothing too hard for the limitless power of God, but what was it that convinced her after all her doubts to put her faith in God? Why should we put our faith in God? Sarah’s story teaches us that we can trust God because He is faithful – He always keeps His word. Real faith always sees God come through. Sarah believed that God is faithful. The verse actually says that Sarah “judged Him faithful.” The word judged means to weigh all the evidence and reach a verdict. That’s exactly what a judge does: he considers all the evidence presented at a trial and reaches a verdict. I’m sure you’ve seen someone make a list with two columns one titled, “Why I should” and the other titled “Why I shouldn’t” or a “Pros” column and a “Cons” column. And then you right down on one side all the reasons for doing something and all the reasons against doing it. And then you make a decision based upon the Pros and the Cons. So let’s make an imaginary list here this morning with one column called “Why I should trust God” and the other titled “Why I should not trust God.” In the “Why I should trust God” column we put things like: God is good; God is loving; God has my best interest in mind; God has never failed; God always keeps His Word; the promises of God are sure; He never fails; God is all-powerful; nothing is too hard for God. – the list is a pretty long one of “Why I should trust God.” Now the column of “Why I shouldn’t trust God.” For Sarah’s situation she might have put things like: I’m too old; no woman has given birth at ninety, ever – before this or since this. But the “Why I shouldn’t trust God” list is a very short list. In fact Sarah’s two objections boil down to “it’s impossible.” But that one objection gets wiped away by things on the other list like, “God is all powerful” and “Nothing is too hard for God.” And so Sarah weighed the evidence; she compared her two lists and reached the verdict: God is faithful; I can trust God. And she did. She believed God.
And besides all the evidence in God’s character that says, “You can trust Me,” she had God’s unbreakable promise! So Sarah believed the promise. On Sarah’s “Why I should trust God” list was “God always keeps His word” and “The promises of God are sure.” So Sarah believed that because God said it, it would happen. Perhaps you’ve heard the old saying, “God said, I believe it, and that settles it.” That’s all true. Doubting God makes no sense because God always keeps His word. If God says something you can take it to the bank. He will always come through; He will never fail. Perhaps so much of our faltering faith and doubting of God comes because we simply have not weighed all the evidence. The list of why we should trust God is full of reasons and the why we should not list simply is not. Really the list of excuses for doubting God boils down to our human inabilities and God is bigger than our weaknesses. God has no weaknesses. He has nothing but power and strength. Sarah judged God faithful and we should as well.
Lastly notice that God rewards our faith. God gave Sarah a son. In doing so, God took away her reproach. A Jewish woman was an outcast if she had no children. People would whisper behind her back and cast scornful glances in her direction. “What’s wrong with Sarah? I wonder what she did to make God close up her womb.” It was a great reproach to Sarah to be barren and God took that stigma away. God kept his promise and gave her the desire of her heart. I can’t even imagine the joy Sarah must have felt when she first discovered she was with child. I know it’s an exciting thing for a young new mother, but Sarah had dreamed of this baby for decades – in fact nearly a century. And God gave her a son. Imagine the joy of that first fluttering kick and then a few months later her holding her son, Isaac. God rewarded her faith by giving her a son. Faith also multiplied her blessing. A people as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sands of the sea is a reference to a physical nation, but also to a spiritual one. Isaac was the first son of Abraham which began the Jewish nation. But also through Isaac’s seed would come the Savior. God rewarded Sarah’s faith with a son to hold, but he also rewarded her faith by giving her the seed of the Messiah. God’s promise was “In thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” and today God is indeed fulfilling that as the Gospel goes to every nation and tongue on earth and as men call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. Sarah’s faith rewarded and multiplied.
So why is Sarah included in this list of Heroes of the Faith? To comfort us who don’t feel like super-Christians, and because she did finally trust God. It’s suggested that she didn’t finally trust God until the 24th year of the 25 years of waiting. It’s possible that she doubted the promise of God for 20+ years and only in the end trusted God. But the important thing is that she did trust God. Would it have been better for her to have trusted in the beginning instead of in the end? Of course, but God is full of grace and patience. And even though Sarah didn’t put her faith in God until the final year, God still fulfilled His Word and never treated her as a sub-par believer. God doesn’t hold grudges. Yes you should strive for early faith, but if your faith comes a little later down the road, don’t beat yourself up. Know that your faith has grown and strive for earlier faith in the next test. And let’s learn from Sarah’s faith to wait on God. Waiting faith brings strength from God for the tasks of life. Never forget though, that God is able to do the impossible. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. In those moments of life that seem beyond our ability, remember that God is able. God always comes through; sometimes He’s just waiting for us to trust Him. And our faith is never foolishly placed in God because He is faithful. And when we trust Him, God rewards our faith with His blessings and provision.
Perhaps this morning you can identify with Sarah – I think we all can from time to time. Our faith often seems less than extraordinary. If you’ve faltered or doubted God in the past and you feel like a failure, do this instead: consider the mountain of evidence for trusting God and put aside the 1 or 2 tiny excuses to doubt Him and have faith in God. If you’ve never accepted Christ as your Savior, it only takes a little faith – Jesus called it child-like faith – to be saved. Put your doubts aside and believe the promise of God that “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” And Christian, whatever it is that you’re facing, find strength through faith. Believe that God is able to do the impossible and trust Him. Trust him enough to say yes to whatever it is He would have you to do.