“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 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. 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. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.” “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.”
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
Stop just waiting for something to happen, if you want it to happen then you need to go out and make it happen for you. We are, after all, the Captains of our Ships of Fate and Masters of our own Destinies, we are the Authors of our own Stories with blank pages just waiting for us to write. After all, as the song writer would pen, “Regrets, I’ve had a few but then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption, I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way”
That’s what we are taught at least, isn’t it? That it’s our responsibility to take control.
It’s not a new concept. Even as Abram and Sarai waited for the Lord to deliver on His promise of an heir it seemed impossible that they ever would see that child. Time continued to pass and, even if Sarai hadn’t been barren, the years passed meant that she had long since left her child bearing years. If Abram were to have that heir it stood to reason that it would not be an heir from her womb. If Abram were to have that child then it was up to them to help along God’s plan and take it into their own hands, making fate and destiny bend to their will. “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
It perhaps seemed reasonable to her, as it did to Abram who agreed. God has promised but He did not move, at least not that they had seen. What else was left to them? What else could they do?
Yet it’s not long after that we begin to see the ill effects of their attempts to take control of God’s plan. Even as the Hagar, the Egyptian slave, carries for Abram that child little value is given to her or the new life that she carries with her. There is pain, regret and hurt that easily comes as a time of joy seems so filled with resentment and sorrow, with struggles and anger. It becomes so bad that Sarai complains to Abram that Hagar has grown to despise her, and she would go about mistreating and abusing her. In the end Hagar would rather chance dying in the desert with her unborn child than live in the camp of Abram under Sarai.
So it is so often in our own lives when we decide to take it upon ourselves. Perhaps it’s not nearly as extreme as it is in the case of Sarai and Hagar, yet the simple truth is that when we begin to believe that we can take on the plans of our God ourselves, when we fool ourselves into believing that we need to create the way rather than letting the Spirit of the Lord lead us, when we try to take it all upon ourselves we are, ultimately crushed by the weight of our arrogance, our vanity and our pride. In the end we create for ourselves impossible situations and harsh circumstances that go beyond just having a few regrets along the way, so few that we might as well not even bother to mention them.
There is a reason that the Psalmist warns us, “This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning). Their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions.” (Psalm 49:13-14) When we trust in ourselves, even to bring about what we believe the plan of God is, using our worldly wisdom, using our worldly understanding, applying our knowledge and our problem solving capabilities, rather than relying on the power of the Lord, our God, we have the capacity to bring great hurt and pain to ourselves and to those around us. Remember, after all, “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness” and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.’” (1 Corinthians 3:18-20) When we act, trying to confine God to the ways and the workings of this world, with an incomplete understanding of His plan and His desires struggle is bound to follow as we twist God’s will to our own so that it can fit into what we believe our destiny is.
None of this is to mean that we shouldn’t strive, we shouldn’t work, we shouldn’t put ourselves out there. Ours isn’t meant to wait idly. As the Apostle reminds us in his letter to the Thessalonians, ours is to labor, to push forward, to give of ourselves and to do the works of the Lord through the power of the Spirit here on Earth. Those who are idle they are to be left to their own devices. (1 Thessalonians 3:6-15) Yet what the believer must discern is if they are following the will of the Lord, if they are being guided in the steps of His plan, remembering that our lives and actions must conform to Him. This means patience and prayer, seeking His leadership and His guidance. It means living according to His righteousness, rather than twisting our own unrighteousness so that we may be able to foist it on to God.
Here what we recognize then was that the failing of Abram and Sarai in trying to produce that heir wasn’t in the fact that they were willing to take action. It laid in their impatience, in their willingness to apply the unrighteousness of this world to the righteousness of God, of their faith in their own ability to act rather than waiting on the Lord, their God to act. Later, as we look to the life of Sarai, then Sarah, we see the skepticism that she has for God’s divine plan as she scoffs at the messengers of the Lord. Here, with Hagar, we see the manifestation of their lack of trust that the Lord will work His plan in their lives as their sin takes them, and her down a dark path.
We can, dear brothers and sisters, seek our own way, trying to make fit the plan of our God into our lives, trying to make it work how we think it should work according to our own worldly understanding as we pursue our own ways, our own knowledge and apply it to our Heavenly Father. Yet, when we do, we need to be prepared for the consequences of our actions, we need to be prepared to realize that things aren’t going to necessarily work out the way we had hoped they would. In the end it can take what God has intended for us, the blessings that He has offered and warp it into something that almost becomes unrecognizable to us.
God has better things planned for us than we can ever imagine and He can, in love, hope and mercy, work them even when we can’t necessarily see how it is going to happen or how it is that He is going to make it all work. We need only put our faith and our trust in Him knowing that He is making a way for us, that He will work His miracles in our lives according to His righteousness and His promises. Yes, that can be difficult for us sometimes. The idea that God is in control and that we may not necessarily see the path that He has intended for us can be scary, it can fill us with disbelief, it can make us believe that we need to act in ways that we believe are right but that abandon us to the sin of our own wisdom and knowledge. In those moments we need to take the time to take a deep breath, and to humble ourselves to the Lord, trusting that He will work, He will move, and that where it is too dark for us to see He will lead us through to the glorious peace of His unending, inalterable love for us.
It is only then that we are brought to where we need to be as His blessings come to encompass our lives, working through us and in us in the most amazing of ways, making the incomprehensible understandable as He disperses the night that clouds our vision to make His light shine in our lives. Through Christ Jesus He worked the grand plan of our ultimate salvation, redeeming us from the power of Sin, Death and the Devil. Now we must just let Him work His plan and His design through every other aspect of our lives as He takes on for us all things great and small in the love and hope He has for us.
Now may the peace of the Lord, that peace that transcends all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus even unto life everlasting. Amen.