Sarah’s Lesson: You will never experience rich blessing and lasting fulfillment in life and ministry if you are still seeking to get there by using or manipulating others.
Through her difficulties and barrenness, Sarah had likely become a discouraged and cynical person. Her problem was actually complex. Not only was she childless and unable to conceive but she was no doubt scorned, taunted, and made fun of by many in the community. “What’s wrong with you? Are you cursed? Is there secret sin in your life?”
To make matters worse her husband came in one day all “starry-eyed”. Abraham had been in God’s presence. He came home and said, “Sarah, the Lord appeared to me today! He says I’m going to have offspring as many as the stars in the sky.” She probably said, “Yeah, right.”
He was in the thrill of revelation: “Oh, Sarah, glory to God, He said He’s going to make me famous. He’s going to make me the father of nations. Sarah, He told me that every family in the world would be blessed because of me and my seed!”
No doubt Sarah was really feeling some pressure at this point! I can hear her saying, “Hello? Abraham? Aren’t you forgetting something here?” But he’s got a vision; he has heard from the Lord. Sarah hasn’t. Yes, Sarah had a call on her life too. No doubt about it. But she hadn’t heard from the Lord. And this adds an even bigger problem to her barrenness. The pressure “to perform” is now greater than ever. So many people were depending on her. Now God is depending on her too! Her sense of failure and futility was growing. If only she could have a child. That would fix everything, she thought. Then she would not have to worry about the opinions and comments of people anymore. Then perhaps this nagging sense of emptiness would be taken away.
Sarah, like all humans, was captured by the sense that she needed to do something before she could feel fulfilled. If she could produce a child then everything would be all right, she would feel good. All the people’s opinions and the pressure put on her wouldn’t affect her anymore. But, it doesn’t work. When you’re driven to find your personal worth and value through works or activities, you’ll never be lastingly happy. You will end up needing to “use” people for your own agenda.
Because of her bareness, Sarah wondered what she could do to feel better about herself. She came up with the idea to give her handmaiden, Hagar, to Abraham so that through her he could have a child. What’s she doing? She’s finding someone who has what it takes to do what she can’t do on her own. She’s using Hagar. She has a need, and she decides that she can use this person to fulfill her need and through her, she will find fulfillment. Do you see the picture of manipulating other people to serve our agenda, thinking that through or by that, we’ll be fulfilled? But it doesn’t really work.
Your self-serving agenda for those around you, even if successful, will not ultimately result in what you had hoped.
What you need and what you’re looking for aren’t the same thing. We think that if we can get this child or get this marriage or get this job or get this person to change their actions or behavior, then we’ll be okay. What we really need is a deep sense of peace and fulfillment in our heart that only comes from a love relationship with the Lord. But we don’t see that, and we think, “If I could just get other people to get on board with my plan, I’ll have it.” Well, it never works because what we really need is the Lord. What happens is that resentment and frustration grow inside of you as people do no act like you want them to. You will blame others for your lack of fulfillment, your emptiness, and your pain.
That’s what Sarah did. She concocted this thing to use Hagar. Hagar gets pregnant and now she feels she can capitalize on Sarah’s “weakness”. She looks down on Sarah. So the very thing that Sarah was trying to use to gain elevation or to increase her self-worth actually turned back like a snake to bite her. Then, she goes to Abraham, and she begins to blame Abraham for her pain. But Ishmael was all her idea!
Abraham said, “She’s your handmaiden. Do with her whatever you want.” So, Sarah began rejecting her and treating her harshly. What will happen if you’re in this cycle of trying to use other people to meet needs that only God in a love relationship can meet in your life? You’ll begin to abuse even those closest to you. Isn’t that human nature? This is the overflow of your spirit, the outward expression of the inner life. The harshness and the short temper are the overflow of who you are on the inside. You can’t be sweet unless you are flowing in a love relationship with Him. You can’t give away what you haven’t received. You don’t have anything to give except human energy and human emotion. But that comes to an end very fast and leaves you frustrated. Sarah had an agenda to use people to fulfill Abraham’s spiritual dream.
If you try to embrace Abraham’s call without Abram’s vision, you’ll have to manipulate people and will ultimately end in frustration and failure. This is Sarah’s lesson.
Before we look at Hagar’s lesson, we must first consider the Biblical Model of Ministry and Leadership. Stay tuned.