Don’t Jump From The Frying Pan Into The Fire

Sermon Titled “Faith and Patience Work Together – Don’t Rush To Failure” (Genesis 16) – June 30th 2013

In Genesis 16, the scriptures tell a story of what happens when we try to take things into our own hands and “speed up” the work of God. Sarai and Abraham, still without a child, resort to desperate measures and attempt to start a family through Sarai’s Egyptian handmaid, named Hagar.

  • Genesis 16:1-4 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

In these four verses we see that a) Sarai blamed God for her inability to conceive, b) she came up with a plan of her own, c) she convinced her husband to go along with her plan, and d) her scheme played out exactly how she intended it to.

So what’s wrong then, with this picture? There’s only one answer to this question: this was not God’s plan! And since it was not God’s plan but Sarai’s plan, a further string of events followed which demonstrate how quickly our plans can turn to mush.

Genesis 16:4 goes on to say that Hagar, after learning that she was pregnant, “began to despise her mistress.” Sarai reacts to her handmaid’s contempt for her by blaming Abraham, even though it was she who pushed Hagar into her husband’s bedroom. Abraham responds to his wife’s accusations by relinquishing his household authority and allowing Sarai to mistreat Hagar, and Hagar, in turn, runs away. What a mess!

Fortunately there is a happy ending in all of this, as God intervenes and gently steers  Hagar back to her mistress. Nevertheless, Sarai’s actions, which resulted in the birth of a son between Hagar and Abraham, would ultimately end with repercussions that neither she nor Abraham could ever have predicted (indefinite warring between the Arab and Jewish nations).

There are many more stories throughout the bible which teach us to wait on God, but I’ll be honest and admit that I can easily see myself doing what Sarai did. In her defence, it had been more than ten years since God had promised to bless Abraham with a multitude of descendants. In today’s “convenience” society, where most things are acquired at a relatively rapid pace, ten years would seem like an eternity. The truth though, whether I like it or not, is that anything I do outside of God’s will is a sure path to failure, or at best, forfeiture of God’s best plans for me.

There is a saying that I’m sure most of you know: “Happiness is found in the journey, not in the destination.” This reminds me of Paul’s words to us in Philippians 4:11-12:

  •  “……..for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

I believe the main lesson for all of us to learn from Genesis 16, is that we must learn not only to wait on God and trust that He will bless us in His own time, and in His own way, but that we must also learn to be content while we are waiting. Donald Grey Barnhouse sums it up nicely with the following quote:

  • “If we seek to change our circumstances, we will jump from the frying pan into the fire.  We must be triumphant exactly where we are.  It is not a change of climate we need, but a change of heart.”

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