Genesis 20 17; Romans 4: 18-22; Hebrews 11: 11.
We have here, from the old story of Genesis, three cases of divine healing, Abimelech, Abraham and Sarah. Abraham in a fit of unbelief consented to tell a half lie. Sarah was his half-sister, and he introduced her to Abimelech as his sister and left the way clear for him to take her as one of his many wives. God arrested Abimelech before he had done wrong.
THE FIRST HEALING
God healed Abimelech through Abraham's prayer. No doubt they both made humble confession and together believed for God's deliverance, and God emphasized the answer by a distinct physical blessing. This is the earliest instance we have of faith and prayer for healing. It teaches us that sickness often comes as a divine chastening, and when the sin is laid aside, God takes away the chastening rod and heals the disease.
Alongside of this it is very natural for us to associate Abraham's and Sarah's faith for their physical quickening and the renewing of their youth and strength. It would seem as though Abraham's lesson with Abimelech strengthened his faith and threw him more directly upon God, for his own personal need and blessing. We find in this transaction that both of them believed, and Sarah's faith is more emphatic even that Abraham's.
The construction of the eleventh of Hebrews is very strong, and suggests that Sarah had made a bad failure at first and met the promise that she should be a mother with keen scorn and laughter at the very idea of such a thing; so it added that Sarah, "even Sarah," as it is in the original, poor Sarah, who had so failed, received supernatural strength to become the mother of Isaac. It shows that even if you did break down the first time you may still pick yourself up and overcome even if you have doubted, and surely there are none of us who have not had our doubts and fears and we know how patient and faithful God has been in restoring us and then teaching us through suffering the better way.
If you have been among the doubting ones, listen to God and let Him teach you. You may yet be among the princes of faith as Abraham and Sarah were.
A HIGHER KIND OF STRENGTH
Divine healing is getting a new kind of life, and God values it more than He does natural strength. He did not want Isaac born through natural, but supernatural strength. He gave divine strength to Abraham and Sarah, something that was a part of God Himself, because He wanted it to be of a higher order. Divine health is a better kind of health than the natural and it will accomplish a better kind of service for Christ. It is not the health that takes us to the ball game, the dance and theater, but the health that takes us to the slums, the alleys, and garret; the message not only divine, but the messenger endued with divine strength and power.
So we have here the rudimentary principle, the very elementary and essential nature of divine healing. It is a higher sort of life. We believe for it, then we get it and it leads to results more lasting and fruitful than the strength that we get from natural sources.
In the fourth chapter of Romans, this very emphatic chapter on faith, Abraham alone is mentioned. In the first place he believed against hope. It was something that was not easy, not possible. Now this is essentially miraculous, and there is no doubt that God does sometimes override natural law in healing. I see no place in the Bible where we are taught that the miraculous is to cease with the ascension of the Lord, but we are told that the resurrection and ascension of Christ was the pattern according to which God was going to continue to work. We may know the "exceeding greatness of His power" today. Do not be discouraged if God tells you to trust if everything is against it, even natural possibilities.
Again, we are told, and I like to read it both ways, each version gives a fine sense, that when he believed for this impossible thing "he considered not his own body"; he took his eyes and his attention off himself. If he had looked at it perhaps it would have destroyed faith. There are times when we must take our eyes off ourselves. We cannot stand while looking on the dark side. It is the devil that always says, "Pity thyself." He said it to Jesus Christ through Peter, and Jesus said to him, "Get thee behind Me, Satan."
AS GOOD AS DEAD
The Revised Version is still better and it gives a distinct thought: "Without being discouraged he considered his own body as good as dead." That is, he put an estimate on it at the lowest value and then over against it he put the almightiness of God and said, "But God," doubting nothing. When God created the world He started with nothing, and there are times when He must smash us to pieces, for as long as there is the slightest ray of human hope we cling to it, and do not get hold of God.
I have been very much afraid since my healing to count upon my strength. I do not consider myself strong-I do not care whether I am or not, but I found after the Lord had given me supernatural strength the enemy was getting me to trust in it, and then it left me and I had to very quickly get back to the old-fashioned way of depending upon Christ for my physical life and strength. It is counting yourself as good as dead, living each day as though it were a supernatural gift, by the moment taking His life. Do not be afraid to find yourself out in midair with nothing under you but the everlasting arms. Just look at the darkest and worst side of it and then look at God and say, "does it matter?" It is just as easy or even a little easier for God to do a big thing as a little thing. He has His almightiness at His disposal and it is not for Him to use it, and indeed He wants to do so.
DO NOT STAGGER
Again, he "wavered not," "staggered not." Do not have a "perhaps," an "if," or a "but," about it. Do not allow anyone to sympathize with you. Many go through life wavering and staggering all the time. Abraham did not flinch, stagger or waver, but was "fully persuaded" that He that had promised was not only able, but, in the Greek, "abundantly able to perform," more than able, superfluously able to perform. His conception of God made it seem just like child's play for Him to do a great thing. Again, there is fine expression here-he not only did not stagger, but he "waxed strong in faith." The more he looked at the difficulties, and the more he looked at God, the stronger his faith waxed-growing all the time. The more he felt himself cut off from everything else the more he felt that God must help him. Are you waxing strong in faith?
Faith does not show what a man you are, but it shows what a God you have. The more we get from God the bigger beggars we are and the grander Father is He. That is, He puts us in a position where we must take a great deal, and He is diappointed when we fail to do so.
FAITH GLORIFIES GOD
I have read somewhere of a little street boy who was taken up out of a cellar by the Fresh Air Fund sent to a farmer's house in Westchester. He had a great big room all to himself, and when he was shown into it at night and a little candle placed on the table, it was a perfect world of bewilderment to him and he thought he was in heaven. Finally he got tired and sleepy and looked at the snowy-white bed. Why, he had never been in a bed in his life! So he slowly crept up to it, and after a while he just laid his little cheek against the soft pillow. He could not believe it was for him, there was some mistake. He began to feel so guilty after a while. The idea that he should lie down on a white, snowy bed like that-it was presumption or intrusion. But he just went far enough to let his head poke into heaven for a moment, and then he got down on the floor under the bed and said: 'This is the place for me," and curled himself up and was soon fast asleep. Early in the morning the landlady came in and saw him, and she cried, "Oh, dear me, what does the boy mean!" And she picked him up and put him in the bed and tried to explain that the bed was for him, but she had the hardest time to make him understand and to induce him to get under the nice clean sheets. How many of God's dear children there are who are sleeping under the bed instead of resting in the bosom of His love. We are so slow to believe all that He has for us and to take what we are entitled to. Oh, some day when whiter than the snow and higher than the angels, and when all the magnificence of the ages is at our feet, how ashamed we will be to think how hard it was for us to take a little crumb from our Father's table. God is looking for princely hearts, who, like Abraham, are willing to believe that He is the God that He says He is.
We cannot quite understand it, but it is so. Get it into your heart if you do not quite get it into your intellect and be strong in faith, giving glory to God. He has let that trouble come to you, beloved, just for an opportunity to get you out of it, that it may be a stepping-stone to Himself.