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Worship Theme: Focus on the One Thing Needed

Sermon Theme: The Lord’s Love Leaves Us with Lasting Laughter

God makes promises to us that are far easier to accept than the words he spoke to Sarah in Genesis 18:1-14. What comfort, what hope, what joy is ours to know that “The Lord’s Love Leaves Us with Lasting Laughter!” July 17, 2022.

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It was a night he would not soon forget. Normally the special time they spent together was during the day but this time the Lord appeared to Abraham at night! (The Lord) took (Abraham) outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5).

Abraham believed the promise. But it was taking a long time to come to fulfillment. Abraham was 75 years old when God first promised to make him a great nation. God had promised him many descendants, but he was still waiting for the first one.

Abraham waited for God to make good on his promise. He waited and he wondered, “Maybe I’m not the one that’s waiting, maybe God is waiting…waiting for me to figure this out! Just like the local custom, if there is no heir, then the main servant inherits the estate. Perhaps it’s through Eliezer of Damascus that God intends to keep his word to me!” But God said “No! The child of the promise will come through you!”

After 10 years of waiting, Sarah said to Abraham, “I must be the problem – take my servant Hagar and build your family through her!” But God had something to say about that – “Sarah, the child is to be born through you as well! Abraham and Sarah – together you will conceive and give birth to a son!” “OK, Lord,” they replied, “but the clock is ticking!” And tick, tick, tick went the clocks in their minds and in their hearts. Another 14 years – tick, tick, tick, wait, wait, wait!

When the LORD and his two angel friends came knocking on Abraham’s tent in the words before us today, Abraham was 99 and Sarah was 89. Twenty-five years had elapsed between the first speaking of the promise and the birth of their son Isaac. Twenty-five years!!! That’s a pretty long time to keep a promise!

Do you need some help in picturing what 25 years feels like? Some of you need a lot of help with that, because you don’t have 25 years’ worth of life to refer back to. For others, it’s just been a long time! Twenty-five years ago, the year was 1997! I know that in your minds some of pretend that 1997 was 10 years ago…but in fact it was 25 years ago! It was in 1997 that Princess Diana died in a car crash speeding away from harassing paparazzi. That was 25 years ago! In 1997 Brett Favre led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl Championship defeating the New England Patriots! 25 years ago, Bill Clinton and Al Gore began their second term in office as President and Vice President of the United States. 25 years ago, a small start-up tech company registered a domain name to protect it for their own use. They’d have exclusive rights to use the webpage “google.com”.

Twenty-five years is a long time, isn’t it? And it’s made to seem even longer if you spend that time waiting for something! I live with some people who can’t wait 25 seconds for a promise to be fulfilled! 25 years would be quite the test!

So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” God makes promises to us that are far easier to accept than the words he spoke to Sarah. He doesn’t make us wait 25 years to see the fulfillment. Yet, still, more often than we would like to admit, we join Sarah and laugh in the face of God.

God gives us his law and he promises us blessing in keeping his commands. Yet we laugh and live our own way feeling that God’s laws are too restrictive and burdensome. When God promises us joy in following him, we end up longing for the world’s version of happiness. We laugh at God and chase, with the pagans, after worldly pleasures. God tells us that he is always with us, but at the times when we can’t see him, we laugh and ask “Where were you on that one, God?” God promises to be our sure defender, yet it’s frustration and fear that turn into lament and laughter – “Lord, are you strong enough to help me? Do you even care?” God promises us that his will is always best, yet it’s in anger that we laugh at those words – “How can this pain, this loss, this tragedy be what’s best?!?”

The reality is that God gives us far easier promises to believe and we laugh louder and longer than Sarah did! We have the same skeptic in our hearts that she did and we deserve the same consequences! For all the times that Abraham and Sarah didn’t believe but tried to help God keep his promises…for all the times that we do the same, letting doubt, and fear and unbelief linger in our hearts, we deserve to have God laugh in our face! “You think this is for you! You think you know better than I do? “You think I should accept you?” “Ha!” We deserve to be thrown into the prison cell of hell and have God laughing as he throws away the key!

But instead, our God does for us what he did for Abraham and Sarah. He comes knocking. God appeared to Abraham and Sarah that day for a simple reason – to repeat for them a promise. He knew how they had received the promise thus far. He knew that Sarah would laugh again, but still he came. He came into their lives to speak to them his words of love.

God came into our lives as he took on human flesh. He knew Joseph would laugh at the report of a child conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit. He knew that the very people Jesus came to save would scoff and jeer and hate him, yet he came. He came to a world of sinners to save them…to save us! He came to face those who would laugh at him, including you and me. He came to repeat the promises, and to fulfil the promises. Jesus was the one who was laughing. Jesus was the one who skipped his way to the place that would change the world…and would change our lives forever! The writer to the Hebrews tells us of our Savior’s delight when he says: For the joy set before him, (Jesus) endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).

On the cross, it looked like Jesus had been defeated, but Jesus had the last laugh. On the third day he rose from the grave. He laughed his way through the streets of hell to announce that the devil had been defeated! Sin can’t harm us any longer! Life is ours in his name. And because Jesus has the last laugh, he shares that laughter with us as well. We can laugh in a victory won by Jesus. We can revel in our release from sin and death. We can giggle with glee to see the devil defeated! We can joke and be jolly knowing that no matter what this world might throw at us, in Jesus we are victorious!

The question that the Lord asked Sarah is a question to which we know the answer. And that answer changes everything! Is anything too hard for the Lord? We can laugh our way through life, even through the sad times…even when tragedy strikes…even when life gets really hard. When life is more than what we can handle, my friends, laugh and rejoice! Is anything too hard for the Lord? No matter what trials are in our way, no matter what hardships are in our life, no matter what burdens we are carrying, take it to the Lord in prayer. We have God on our side! And as Paul encourages the Romans: if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).

What are the fears that you hold in your heart? What are the worries that keep you up at night? What are the pains that so deeply pierce your soul? List them in your mind. Write them down if you must. And then title your list with God’s question for Sarah...with his question for you - Is anything too hard for the Lord? Trust in the Lord! Take your troubles to him! Consider his compassion. Call to memory his might. Don’t forget his faithfulness!! Laugh in the love of the Lord!

We have to keep reading a few chapters further into Genesis, to chapter 21, to hear the conclusion of this portion of Sarah’s story. Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac (which means “he laughs”) to the son Sarah bore him. Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”

We laugh with Sarah because God is faithful. He kept his promise to give her a son. He kept his promise to make Abraham a blessing to all. And that promise came true in Jesus. God makes us laugh as he keeps his promises to us as well. Heaven is our eternal home because of what Jesus has done for us. The pains of this world will be a thing of the past, because Jesus has carried them for us and has paid the full price of our salvation. Our laughter will never end, because life everlasting is ours. King David’s words in Psalm 16 come true for us today and forever: Lord…you make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16:11).

What comfort, what hope, what joy is ours to know that The Lord’s Love Leaves Us with Lasting Laughter! Amen.

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