When Your Faith Fails

3rd Session: When Our Faith Fails
For the women at Open Door Bible Baptist Church (NYC)who attended the seminar 9/8/12

Down through the years, there have been many women who have sacrificed everything to serve God in difficult places. Sarah was an example of one of the earliest pioneer women.  God told Abraham and Sarah to leave the wicked city of Ur. This city was located near the Euphrates River and about 150 miles southeast of Babylon. It was a city where priestesses and male worshipers practiced sex acts of sodomy and prostitution.

The challenges of making the unknown trip must have been difficult, but Hebrews 11 tells us Sarah accomplished it by faith. She is commended twice in the Bible, once for her faith (Heb. 11:11) and once for her submission to her husband (1 Pet. 3:5, 6).

Compare Genesis 11:4 with Genesis 12:1

Gen 11:4 the people’s faith was rooted in their human effort and desire. The people said, “Let us — make us.” It was man’s ingenuity.
Gen 12:1 Abraham’s faith was rooted in the Word of God. God spoke to him. God says,I will-I will-I will.” God took this pagan idolater and made him a man of faith. Abram was 74 years old when he got a Word from the Lord.

Genesis 12:1-3 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Abraham pulled up stakes, along with his father Terah, his nephew Lot, and his wife Sarah, and began the long journey. Along the journey, he had several lapses of faith.

His first lapse of faith was when Abraham took his father Terah and his nephew Lot with him. God told him to depart from his father’s house.  Abraham didn’t fully obey the Lord because he took his family with him. When they all reached Haran, Abraham’s father, Terah, refused to continue the journey. He was an idol worshiper, and Haran was a perfect place for him to practice his idolatry.

Although this stop delayed God’s purpose for Abraham, it did not destroy it. When Terah died, Abraham, now seventy-five years old, left Haran and set out for the Promised Land.  Although he stayed in Haran about five years, God showed him—this is not the place.  You must move on. (Gen. 12:5). The days ahead Sarah would see her faith tested and her submissiveness tested.

Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Although Sarah is not mentioned in that verse, her faith was every bit as steadfast as Abraham’s. She believed that God would sustain her through the arduous journey and show her husband the place he had chosen for them. Sarah was not a weak, spineless, overly dependent, empty-headed woman. Although Sarah was an intelligent and capable woman when she married Abraham, she made a decision to make it her fulltime job to help her husband fulfill God’s purposes in his life. Some wives try to sabotage God’s plan for their husband’s life. They are not willing to trust God’s wisdom to work through work through their husbands. They feel that they have to help God by dominating their husbands’ decisions.

Even though Abraham and Sarah are both praised for their great faith, God records their failures to give us instruction and encouragement. Our faith always grows best under attack.  Although our faith falters under stress, it grows during those times.

One day Winston Churchill was speaking to the House of Commons and he gave this advice, “We must always be ready to meet at our average moment, the thing that any possible enemy could hurl against us at his selected moment.”

Satan is a constant enemy who hurls deadly temptations at us at any given moment. The phone might ring today with terrible news about a close friend or relative. A police officer could knock on your door to inform you of a terrible tragedy in your family. Trials can come with such a force that they might cause us to have a lapse of faith. We must be ready at a moment’s notice to meet whatever Satan hurls at us or whatever God allows to come?

Second lapse of faith for Abraham and Sarah came when there was a famine in the land, and Abraham decided to flee into Egypt (Gen. 12:10-13).  Abraham put his confidence in Egypt and not in God’s promises. Egypt was a pagan place-Abraham was looking for worldly help—he trusted God to lead him, but he didn’t trust Him for material things.

Isaiah 31:1 Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!

When they arrived in Egypt, Abraham told Sarah to lie about being his wife.  Technically, Sarah was Abraham’s sister, his half-sister (Gen. 20:12). Although such marriages were not unusual in that day, Abraham told a half-truth—half-truths always equal to whole lies. The Egyptians did see that she was beautiful and praised her to Pharaoh. She was then taken into Pharaoh’s house” (Gen. 12:14, 15) Some might wonder why Sarah went along with her husband’s sinful scheme and did not obey God instead of her husband. (Acts 5:29)  She could have refused, but this shows how deep her faith and submission was to her husband. Maybe she thought that God would intervene and deliver her before she had to be immoral with the king. It’s hard to imagine that Abraham would sink to such a low level. Even the pagan king rebuked Abraham for what he did (Gen. 12:18-20). Although Abraham failed Sarah, God was faithful to her, and honored her faith and delivered her.

The journey into Egypt not only cost Abraham and Sarah time, but it proved to be a terrible testimony to Lot—Think of the choice Lot made later—I am sure he thought, “That land is just like Egypt—it is just like the place where Uncle Abraham took me.”

We must be careful to not allow ourselves or our families to go down into Egypt. We camp out in Egypt by allowing our family to watch worldly television programs; we allow them to listen to worldly music; we allow them to go to places where God would not be pleased.

Think of the things Abraham took with him when he left Egypt.  He took cattle, Hagar, and a bad testimony to Lot. Consider the reason for the conflict between Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen. Abraham had been a shepherd; now he had cattle from Egypt. Cattle graze, but sheep browse. Sheep have two sets of teeth which clip the grass. Sheep curl the grass around their tongues and cut it. This undoubtedly caused a conflict because the cattle were eating  much more grass than the sheep.

Third lapse of faith came 20 years later. Abraham didn’t learn his lesson. He did the same thing with Abimelech (Gen. 20:1-8). We think that after we have failed the Lord and sinned, that we will never commit the same sin again, but we must continually be on the lookout. Satan looks for any place he sees we are weak. The amazing thing is that Sarah submitted again to the same sin.

Fourth lapse of faith came when Sarai didn’t bear Abraham any children (Gen. 16:1).  It was Sarah’s turn to devise a clever human scheme. She offered her Egyptian slave girl, Hagar, so that Abraham might have a son by her. Her plan revealed her belief that God would keep His Word and give Abraham a son, but it was obviously motivated by her love for Abraham and her desire for him to have that son. Although sharing her husband with another woman might have been one of the most sacrificial things that she could have done, it was not God’s way.

There might be times in our lives when we resent God for taking too long to answer our prayers, and we decide to take matters into our own hands. We must learn to trust God even when our situations look the worst

Sarah’s impulsive sin had its effect on her relationship with Abraham. Hagar got pregnant and eventually became proud and unmanageable. Sarah blamed Abraham for the whole problem when it was actually her own idea. Abraham told Sarah to deal with the situation. She exposed her own bitterness by the way she dealt with Hagar.

Fifth lapse of faith came when Abraham and Sarah both laughed at God.

Genesis 17:17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? God told Abraham he would bless Sarah and make her a mother of nations. Kings of peoples would come from her. Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

Genesis 18:12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, after I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?

Aren’t there times in our lives when we laugh at God?  Satan throws darts of doubt at us, and he tempts us to snicker skeptically at the very thought that God could solve our terrible problems.

Gen 18:13, 14 we see the turning point in their lapses of faith.  The Lord said, “Why did Sarah laugh?” God quickly asked, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” That challenge from God pierced their hearts and rekindled their faith.

Paul wrote years later Romans 4:19-21 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform

The writer to the Hebrews declared, “Hebrews 11:11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

Abraham and Sarah’s faith was rewarded. Sarah had a son, and they called his name Isaac, which means “laughter.” Sarah shares the reason they call his name Isaac. “God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.” (Gen. 21:6) Her laugh of doubt had turned to a laugh of joy.

There would still be obstacles to Abraham and Sarah’s faith. Hagar and Ishmael were still around to mock Isaac. One day when Sarah saw Ishmael mocking her little Isaac, she lost control of her emotions. She demanded that Abraham drive out Hagar and Ishmael. (Gen. 21:10).

Could this be the same woman the Bible praises for her submission and obedience? Even though she was completely submitted, she still had strong opinions. Sarah said what was on her mind, and she was right! , Ishmael was not to be heir with Isaac, and God wanted him to leave the household. God told Abraham to listen to Sarah and to do what she said (Gen. 21:12). Imagine that—even though Sarah got emotional, God wanted Abraham to listen to her and heed her advice. Sometimes God uses wives to correct their husbands, to advise them, to mature them, to help them solve their problems and give them insight. Hagar and Ishmael were finally sent away. Ishmael was old enough at this time to provide for his mother. (Gen. 21:20). The irritation was removed and this happy little family of three enjoyed a time of unhindered faith and fellowship.

The most severe trial to their faith was yet to come. Genesis 22:1-14  Although we seldom mention Sarah in the sacrifice of Isaac, she certainly knew what Abraham was about to do. She probably helped him prepare for the trip.  She watched them disappear over the horizon, and though her  heart was breaking, she did not utter a word of protest. It was probably her greatest display of faith in God and submission to her husband’s will and purpose.

What do we do when we have lapses of faith?

  1. Realize that God has a plan for our lives. In Mark 4:37-41, the disciples didn’t know that God wouldn’t allow them to perish in the storm.  They didn’t understand God’s plan, and their hearts were full of fear.  Jesus knew that He didn’t come into this world to drown in the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus was following God’s plan, and death by drowning definitely wasn’t in the plan.  Jesus had such close fellowship with God that He knew God’s plan by heart from start to finish.  Jesus knew he had nothing to fear from a storm at sea.  The same thing can happen to us. Without a close personal relationship with God, we will not understand His plan for our lives, and we become fearful.
  2. Obey, even when we don’t understand. Faith is not believing in spite of evidence, but it is obeying God in spite of circumstances.
  3. Separate from sin. God told Abram, “Get out of this land-Be separated from sin and idolatry” Faith brings us out. Many times we want to live in land of faith and land of idolatry at the same time. We won’t have faith until we separate ourselves from sin.  Heb12:1-2—lay aside every weight—if we want faith, we must lay aside sin.
  4. Understand that God will reward our faith. God rewarded Abraham’s faith—I will bless thee-I will make your name great. Abram became a blessing to the Jewish nation and to us today. God will do the same for us–our faith will be a blessing to others. Our faith  gives us assurance of God’s presence, and it shows to others that we have full confidence in God and His plan for our lives.

One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, “Jump! I’ll catch you.” He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: “Jump! I will catch you.” But the boy protested, “Daddy, I can’t see you.” The father replied, “But I can see you and that’s all that matters.”