Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’ Isaiah 6:8
At ten thousand feet the plane hits cruising altitude and the daredevil leans out of the plane. As she prepares to let go, she rehearses in her mind one more time all the safety checks.
“Okay I do have a parachute on my back? I can feel it and I saw the instructor pack it then put it on me. Here is the ripcord. I have it in my hand. Check my altimeter and at 6,000 feet pull it. It’s now or never. Yeeeeehaaaaaaa!!!!!” …Free fall at one hundred miles per hour hurdling toward Earth… The wind is deafening ripping by... (Panic!) Desperately want to pull the ripcord… “Too soon, only 8,000 feet… 7,000 feet, closer hold off not yet. O God, please let the parachute open. 6,000 feet! Now!!! I feel something releasing. Isn’t it going to catch?!!? Whewwww. Floating on air. Peace, quiet. It held!!!”
That is the leap of faith.
It must have felt like that for Sarah and Abraham. They took that leap out of their homes and waited for what must have seemed an interminable time until they felt the watchful caring arms of God hold them up. Until that moment, in between the leap and the parachute deploying, faith is a free fall of trust that God will catch you before you go splat. That time of free fall is when you truly learn what your faith is made of.
Faith, contrary to popular opinion, is not the certainty of the sun rising each day. Faith means taking that proverbial leap into the void of the unknown trusting, hoping, praying that the God you think you believe in is the one true God.
And because of courageous people of faith like Sarah and Abraham, the story of salvation moves forward. In these next weeks, we will be looking at key players in God’s plan. People filled with faults and fears but also willing to take a risk no matter when in their lives God reaches out.
But this call does more than move God’s plan forward and that is why this sermon series is key for each of us. It actually turns out this willingness to listen and to go is the key to a happier, more fulfilling life.
It is the story of people like those of Abraham and Sarah that remind us you are never too old to discover a powerful new purpose in life. Today’s world thinks that youth is the answer, younger and shinier, but scripture has a different point of view, Job 12:12 ESV says, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”
This quest for youth is at best misguided and at worst destructive. The Fountain of Youth is not a Christian yearning; it is not the source of happiness. It seems we actually get happier as we get older. According to research our 50s are rock bottom and from there we grow happier year by year!
My neighbor, Taylor Humphrey, is a professional pollster and has consulted for with several U.S. Presidents and his research concludes there are four things you and I need to be happy as we age.
Enough money in the bank – but he said it is not as much as you think. Good health, strong connections with a community of friends and family, and a sense of purpose.
Christianity speaks to all of these things but is especially speaks to purpose. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream...” What else besides a driving purpose could have spurred Abraham and Sarah to leap into the void of the unknown by packing up their bags and leaving their home at age 75!! Remember at that time it would have been a trek into the unfamiliar – no McDonald’s on the way. God promised them a gift, a child to be born that would lead to untold number of descendants. Furthermore, their progeny would bless the whole world! And because they leaped, this plan came to pass for them and for us all.
Perhaps it was because Sarah and Abraham were not spiritually mature enough for this call in their youth, so God reached out when Abraham was 75 years old. As Proverbs says in 16:31 “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.”
Because their call would not be easy.
From the beginning we see that Sarah was a person of exceptional courage. When Abraham hears God’s call to go from your country and your kindred to the land that I will show you, she goes! She does not insist upon remaining close to her kindred with all the safety and security it brings.
When Abraham acts like a spineless jellyfish not once but twice before two foreign kings she does not leave him! Sarah was a person of historic beauty, so much so that Abraham was afraid a king might be willing to kill him in order to take her as a wife. In fact, he encouraged her to play the role of his sister to save his own hide – knowing well that the king would take her for his harem and to his bedchambers. Fortunately, the Lord visits fear and wrath upon these kings so that she is released. Despite serving her up as bait to a king, Sarah continues to stand with Abraham.
And yet Sarah also has faults, and not just minor ones. Her trouble begins with a failure to trust. That not-so-heroic part of ourselves is the one that listens to the voice within rather than the voice above. The voice above told her she would bear a son. The voice within told her she was too old. The voice above reassured her and urged patience. The voice within told her that unless she acted it would never come to pass.
You remember the story. As a result of her lack of trust and patience she urged Abraham to lay with Hagar. She becomes jealous, probably beats her and then sends her into the wilderness to die.
Yes, despite her faults God remains steadfast to Sarah and Abraham. We normally think about our faith in God. But the Bible is really about God’s faith in us and misplaced as it is.
God believes in you.
In the midst of Sarai’s greatest failure God changed her name. According to some scholars her original name, Sarai, means “strength” or “power”. Her newly given name means “princess”or “royalty.”
God was making it unequivocally clear. She would be the mother of kings and nations. Sarah was 90 years old by that time!
Purpose brings us happiness because it keeps us close to God; for purpose is simply what God would have us to do. And by remaining close we discover as Paul did in Philippians 1:6, “For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Discovering purpose at whatever stage in life is tremendously rewarding. But you have to be willing to leap.
A friend of mine from Spartanburg had experienced a devastating loss of purpose. He was a businessman in his professional life. He never had a sense that his job was any more than putting food on his family’s table, which was fine with him. He had always liked working with his hands and over the years had done various projects around the house. So, when someone invited him to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity he said, “Yes”.
And, for the first time in his life, after seventy years, he experienced a sense of Holy Purpose in his actions through his gifts.
After a few months’ work, he attended the dedication when the house was given over to the proud new owner, and it profoundly touched him. She introduced her boys and explained how this house would be a safe place to call home. She was the first in her family to own a house, and her tears flowed freely, as she was filled with profound thanksgiving for all those who made it possible.
As he listened, he felt touched, not only by having a purpose but by being used as the hands of God to do sacred work in the world. The hands of God! What could be more energizing in all the world! Suddenly, his own tears were flowing as his heart sung praises to God for being used in such an awesome fashion.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.” Take the leap, and let us love all the way to the end. Amen.