Meet Sarah: The Mother of Believers (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 318

“Look to Abraham your father; and to Sarah who bore you; for I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him” (Isaiah 51:2, NKJV).

Due to Judah’s unfaithfulness, the kingdom experienced a spiritual crisis. Many went astray and followed other gods. As a whole, the nation saw a steady decline in religious fervor and prosperity. Hope for a restored Jerusalem dwindled. This caused the righteous in the land to wonder if the Lord still remembered His people. Not only that, they wondered if there ever would be a revival and restoration in Zion. Isaiah’s ministry to Judah was two-fold. His mission was to call the nation to repentance and trust, and to reassure them of a future filled with hope, prosperity and glory.

 In Isaiah 51, the Lord had a message for the righteous in the land who longed for Zion’s restoration. He urged them to look back at their roots: “Look to Abraham your father; and to Sarah who bore you; for I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him.” God knew that Abraham and Sarah were the father and mother of His chosen people. He called the people’s attention to them for a reason. Notice what He said in the second part of the passage. He called one man, Abraham, who had no child. Yet He blessed him and increased Him. The point God is making here is that He is a God of increase and of infinite possibilities. He is able to create a multitude out of one person. If He could do that with Abraham and Sarah, He could restore and increase Zion also.

Let us consider Sarah since she is the focus of this teaching. God said to His people, “look to Sarah who bore you.” It is as if God had said, “Look to Sarah, your mother. Consider her life of faith and the great things I did for her. If you believe in me, I can do for you what I did for her.” Sarah was barren. Moreover, age had caught up with her. The hope, if any, of bearing a child was gone. Despite these odds, the Lord promised that Sarah would be the mother of nations, and that kings of peoples would come from her.

The Letter to the Hebrews tells us how Sarah conceived: “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised” (11:11). Sarah was a believer. She held on to God’s promise, believing that the Lord was who He said He was. She believed that the Lord would deliver according to His solemn word. By faith, therefore, Sarah received strength to defy the laws of biology. Contrary to the dictates of scientific facts, she conceived and gave birth to Isaac when she was ninety years old. And through Isaac, the Lord increased Sarah so that she became the mother of multitudes of people who believe in the Lord.

When the Lord told His people (in Isaiah 51) to look to Sarah, their mother, He wanted them to learn from the faith of Sarah. He wanted them to have faith that if He could make a barren woman the mother of their nation, He could also restore and prosper Zion despite her seemingly hopeless condition. This message applies to Christians today. God wants us to remember that we are a nation of faith and that Sarah is our ‘mother-in-faith.’ 

We can face situations where the odds seem to be against us. In those moments, let us remember that we are from Sarah’s line: a line of people who defy the laws of nature, time and space. When they say there is no hope, we say, “Hope does not disappoint.” When they say there is no cure, we say, “With His stripes, we are healed.” When they say we can’t, we say, “We can do all things through Him who strengthens us.” And when they say it is impossible, we reply, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

To be continued . . .

For further studyGenesis 18:1-15

Meet Sarah: The Mother of Believers (Pt 1)

Daily Devotion | Day 317

“And God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her’” (Genesis 17:15-16, NKJV).

In the Bible you will find many women of exemplary faith, each special in her own right. To name a few: Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, Naomi, Esther, Abigail, Hannah, Anna, Mary, and Elizabeth. But of these great women, only one stands as the ‘mother’ of believers (Jews and Gentiles alike). Her name is Sarah. She was the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac.

In this teaching series, we will examine Sarah’s special place within the nation of believers and draw some lessons from her life. We will start by looking at God’s promises concerning Sarah which made her the mother of the believing nation. By “believing nation” I am referring to all of Israel, i.e. the community of all who believe in Christ whether Jew or Gentile.

Before we delve into today’s passage, let us first look at what God told Abraham in the opening verses of Genesis 17. We want to juxtapose that with today’s passage. This will enable us to observe more clearly what God is saying to us about Sarah. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and said to him, “I have made you a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5). In the next verse, God continued, “I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you” (v. 6).

Now let us see what God (addressing Abraham) said about Sarah. In verse 15, He changed Sarai’s name to Sarah. Then He added, “And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her” (v. 16).

Comparing what God said about Abraham with what He said about Sarah, you will notice that they are almost identical. Abraham would be the father of many nations and Sarah would be the mother of nations. Kings would come from Abraham and kings would come from Sarah as well. This makes sense.

When God chose Abraham, He chose his wife also, so that the two (as a couple) would be the father and mother of nations and kings. These “nations” and “kings” refer to multitudes of peoples from different nations who would have one thing in common: faith in Christ. This is why in heaven Jesus is praised for having redeemed us “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:8-10; see also 7:9-12). Because of their common faith in Christ, these redeemed peoples are the offspring both of Abraham and of Sarah.

God chose Abraham to be the father of believers (Romans 4:16). But for Abraham to be the legitimate father of believers, it was necessary that he become a believer himself. That is, it was imperative for him to have faith in Christ. To this end, God “preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand” (Galatians 3:8). We could, based on this text, say that Abraham was ‘the first Christian.’ He and his wife, Sarah, were the first believers. Therefore, subsequent believers would trace their line to Abraham (as their father in the faith) and to Sarah (as their mother in the faith).

We, believers, are a line of kings and priests. And Sarah is the mother of us all.

God willing, we will continue this message tomorrow. Till then, remain ‘in Sarah’: remain in faith. Amen.

For further study1 Peter 2:9-10 and Romans 4:9-25

Three Signs You Are Reigning in Christ (Pt 1)

Daily Devotion | Day 301

“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17, NKJV).

In Chapter 14 of the Book of Romans, Paul responded to questions about which foods to eat and which ones to avoid. Apparently, some in the community preferred to eat vegetables only (v. 2) for reasons of conscience. Paul referred to such people as “weak in faith” (v. 1). Others, however, had no scruples about food. This offended those who were weak in faith. To resolve the problem, Paul urged everyone to follow his conscience regarding this matter. Then, he appealed to those who were strong in faith to bear with those who were weak and not do anything that might jeopardize their fragile faith. This is the context within which Paul made the statement you find in today’s opening passage (Romans 14:17).

What Paul said, especially the second part of his statement, is true for all Christians of every epoch. Starting with this passage, we will talk about three signs which show that we are reigning in Christ: righteousnesspeace and joy. This will be a three-part series. Today, we will focus on righteousness and how it enables us to reign in Christ. 

The Bible calls Christians “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). God calls us so because He wants us to reign (as priests) in His kingdom. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness. Where you see the kingdom, you see righteousness.  The kingdom and righteousness are inseparable because righteousness is the primary defining characteristic of God’s kingdom. Therefore, without righteousness no one can reign with Christ.

It is with this understanding that Jesus urged us to prioritize righteousness: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Notice how Jesus tied righteousness to the kingdom. Righteousness gives you the keys to the kingdom. All blessings flow from this point. As the Book of Proverbs says, “blessings are on the head of the righteous” (10:6). This is how righteousness enables you to reign in Christ and appropriate the kingdom blessings.

To help us reign, the grace of Christ produces a two-fold (inseparable) action in the life of a Christian. First, it blesses you with the gift of righteousness: “For if by the one man’s [first Adam’s] offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17). Second, the grace of Christ empowers you to stop sinning: “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). You are reigning when you are not sinning. You are reigning when you are walking in righteousness.

Therefore, grace is about receiving righteousness and walking in the righteousness received.

As John rightly put it, “whoever says he abides in him [Christ] ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6, ESV). Righteousness is not just a concept. It is a lifestyle. It is the dynamic power of God which enables you to take your rightful place in the Father’s kingdom.

Be righteous. Stay righteous. Reign.

Blessing: May the Holy Spirit power destroy every plot of the enemy against you. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further studyRomans 6:5-23

Discover Your ‘Elijah Potential’

Daily Devotion | Day 300

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (James 5:17-18, NKJV).

Elijah is an interesting character in the Scriptures. As we noted in one of our earlier messages, Elijah is one of only two people in the Bible (the other being Enoch) who did not experience death. God took him to heaven alive (2 Kings 2:11). According to angel Gabriel’s prophecy, John the Baptist was to prepare the way of the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:13-17). When Jesus was transformed on the mountain, Elijah (and Moses) appeared and talked with Him (Matthew 17:1-3).

In today’s opening Bible passage, James presents Elijah to Christians as an example of effective prayer life. James had many options to choose from, but the Holy Spirit inspired him to focus on Elijah. Our purpose today is to understand that we all have been endowed by God with enormous potential, and that through a fervent prayer life, we can develop and unleash this potential for the glory of God and for the benefit of the Church, society and individuals (including ourselves).

James starts by telling us that Elijah was a man like us. This point is crucial. James is aware that Elijah was noted for astonishing miraculous deeds. James knows that people can easily distance themselves from Elijah with the objection, “Well, that was Elijah. He was special, but I am not. God gave him great power, but I don’t have that kind of power. So, don’t expect me to do anything close to what Elijah did.” To dispel this (false) belief, James puts it on the record that Elijah was a man like us.

After getting rid of this mental obstacle, he says that Elijah prayed fervently that there would be no rain in Israel and he prevailed. For three and a half years there was no rain in Israel. To put things in context, let’s hear from Elijah himself: “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1). When the three and half years were over, Elijah prayed again and the heavens gave rain (1 Kings 18:41-45).

James’ point is that God has blessed each one of us with enormous potential to accomplish marvelous deeds. Elijah knew his potential and put it to work. His secret was fervent prayer. Through prayer we too can tap into our God-given potential and unleash it for His glory. What often gets in our way is that we’re happy to place others on a pedestal while we underestimate our own greatness. In most cases, it’s been drilled into our consciousness that we’re a bunch of miserable sinners and weaklings incapable of great feat.

From our mother’s womb we’re labeled as corrupt sinners who are under condemnation by default. Even when we grow up to believe in Christ,  it doesn’t stop. We’re taught prayers, songs and rituals which reinforce the idea that we’re fundamentally weak and corrupt.

Consequently, we’ve come to believe (falsely) that extraordinary/miraculous deeds are  beyond our reach. Where they occur, they’re reserved for a select few who are the exception to the norm. In so doing, we have unconsciously buried our potential to rise beyond the limitations of the flesh and enjoy what our good Father has graciously given us. If we’re going to walk with God, we need to adopt a worldview that is consistent with the Bible. 

Elijah was a man like you. The Lord has endowed you with the ability to make the seemingly impossible, possible (Matthew 17:20). Believe God’s word and discover what can happen when you pray fervently. 

Grace and peace be yours in Christ Jesus. Amen. 

For further study:  1 Kings 18:20-40 and Acts 4:23-31

Take Your ‘Receipt’ When You Pray

Daily Devotion | Day 299

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, KJV). 

When you purchase an item online and the transaction is successful, you see a confirmation receipt printed on the screen. They’ll usually tell you to print and keep a copy of your receipt. At times they’ll email your receipt. The receipt is evidence of successful transaction. The rest is just a question of delivery.

In the meantime, because you have the receipt you feel assured. You’re even excited. You can imagine the package being dropped at your door. You can almost smell the freshness of the item you ordered. You can see and feel the item in your hands. The receipt you obtained gives you assurance that the thing you ordered shall be delivered according to your wishes. And indeed, hours or days later there’s the package at your door with your name on it.

We will use the above analogy to illustrate the main point of today’s message:

The Bible says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The past few days, we’ve talked about the effect faith has on our prayer. Today, we’ll delve deeper into the following words of Jesus: “whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24, ESV). When Jesus says, “believe that you have received it,” He means have faith that you already possess it. In other words, when you pray for something, it is like making an order. You need to take your receipt with you. 

Faith acts like a receipt.

If you’re in possession of the receipt, it means you have evidence that what you requested shall be done according to the details on the receipt. This is why faith is the substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Think of the “substance” and the “evidence” as a spiritual/invisible receipt. It is an image or visual in your heart and mind which shows you the result of what you requested.

This receipt assures you that you will have what is indicated on the receipt. Without the receipt/substance/evidence, you’re groping in the dark, simply hoping to get lucky – like in a lottery.

Faith is not blind as some suppose.

Faith has its own pair of eyes. They are the (spiritual) eyes of faith. With these eyes you can see the result of your prayer. And Jesus says, believe that you have received it and you will have it. It means when you pray (and believe) for something, you should ‘see’ yourself in possession of it. This step represents the substance of the thing you hope for and evidence of what is not seen.

Let’s conclude today’s message by looking at the example of the woman who was miraculously healed of 12 years of hemorrhage (Mark 5:21-34). She said to herself, “If I touch even his [Jesus’] garments, I will be made well” (v.28). Notice what happened here. The woman ‘saw’ an image of herself made well before she even touched Jesus. In her spirit, she saw an image of herself healed before it became a physical reality. In other words, she possessed faith: the substance and evidence of what she hope for, and evidence of what she did not see (physically).

Next time you pray for something, take your ‘receipt’ with you and hold on to it. And may the Lord’s word be fulfilled in your life, in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further studyHebrews 11:1-30