“And he believed the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness.” Genesis 15:6
The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed to be coming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements and in which to store his few possessions.
But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stunned with grief and anger. “God, how could you do this to me!” he cried. Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. The weary man asked his rescuers: “How did you know I was here?” They replied: “We saw your smoke signal.”
How simple a thing it a little faith should be, yet the task comes so difficult for us. When things are going wrong, we complain. When our world is closing in around us, we fuss and gripe. When God doesn’t answer our pleas as quickly as we would like him to, we ask why; where are you God? It is easy to get discouraged when things are going bad. But we shouldn’t lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering.
Abraham was 75 years old when God first told him that He would make him the father of many nations. Abraham’s wife Sarah was 66 at the time. Now, that’s not too farfetched. There are people in their 60’s and 70’s having babies today, no big thing, right? I imagine that Abraham was pretty excited. He was going to be a father. He was going to have an heir to his property. He probably thought within the year he would be hearing the scampering of little feet in the tent, the smell of dirty diapers, and the five AM feedings. Now imagine ten then twenty years down the road and still no baby. Sahara’s not even pregnant yet. God, what’s going on? You told me twenty years ago that I would be a father. You said that my wife Sarah would give birth to a son. God…you promised. So, where is he?
But, God had a plan. He always does. He always intended to bless Abraham with his own son from Sarah, but in His time and by His standards. Could God have given Abraham and Sarah a son when he was 75 and she was 66? Sure, but what glory could God have received from that. God is a miracle worker. He’s a God of the impossible.
Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 91 when God finally fulfilled the promise. Abraham was made the father of many nations. Do you know how many children Abraham had when God told him this? None! This was told him before he had any children, while Sarah was yet barren.
You can find a lot of hope in this promise to Abraham. If God said He would make him the father of many nations, a family had to start somehow. Abraham, though an old man with no children, could encourage himself and believe God would fulfil His promise.
We look back at Abraham, and we see this: God spoke these great things to him, giving him hope. God put this promise before him, bringing him into the place of having believing faith. He would get up and start walking with God in faith, taking hold of all of the promises that God had made to him.
Yes, God made exceeding great promises to Abraham. These promises would have their power and their effect. But Abraham was called upon to prove himself, standing with God in faithfulness. As you read the story of Abraham, you can see how God led him down this road of faith for twenty-five years and he believed the promise all that time, holding to it, and holding fast.
This ought to be a lesson to each of us. God has made us some exceeding, great promises. We would do well if we, like Abraham, would take those promises and hold on to them no matter how long we have to wait for them to be fulfilled. If we have to wait, let us wait patiently, believing God. Remember, the next time your little hut is burning to the ground it just may be the smoke signal that summons the grace of God.