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Part 1 - CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?

As we begin another year, the A/G Week of Prayer theme is BELIEVE (3). Last week, while
many churches across the country had their week of prayer, we looked at the Alaska Ministry
Network initiative, to build a prayer bridge for future ministry in Alaska. We are also preparing
to celebrate the centennial of the A/G in Alaska, 100 years the Assemblies of God Movement
has grown in Alaska because believers exercised faith. Lets face it building a prayer bridge
without faith or without believing in God, or doing any of His work for that matter will be
futile. We may as well abandon the bridge building now. The Nizina Bridge in the middle of
nowhere (near McCarthy, Alaska) now stands as a witness to the fact that bridges can be
abandoned. It no longer serves any purpose, except as an obscure monument to a brief time in
history.
There are two kinds of belief. The first kind looks back on what God has done and affirms the
content and substance of our faith. For example, our A/G tenets of faith (16 fundamental
doctrines or truths) can be looked at in this way. Interesting, is it not, that each statement
specifically uses the word believe. Here is but a snapshot of those tenets:
We believe that the Bible is the inspired and only infallible and authoritative written Word of
God; that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and
God the Holy Spirit.
We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His
miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the
right hand of the Father, and in His personal future return to this earth in power and glory to rule
a thousand years.
We believe in the blessed hopethe rapture of the Church at Christs coming.
We believe the only means of being cleansed from sin is through repentance and faith in the
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precious blood of Christ.


We believe that rebirth and regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential for
personal salvation, and in water baptism by immersion as a public testimony to that fact.
We believe that the redemptive work of Christ on the cross provides healing of the human
body in answer to believing prayer.
We believe in the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and that they
are given to believers who ask for them.
We believe in the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, by whose indwelling believers are
enabled to live a holy life.
We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost, the one to everlasting life and
the other to everlasting damnation. These things the Bible asserts, and we believe in them all.
Why do we believe this? Because if the apostles and first believers, who were eyewitnesses to
the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, were physically here with me, and/or were sitting next
to you and dispersed among us now in this room, they would emphatically proclaim, Thats
indeed what we believed, and thats what we preached! This is what is referred to where we
read that the faith which was once delivered unto the saints is mentioned. (Jude 3, NKJV).
However, there is a second aspect of faith, and this faith catapults us into the future. Using the
analogy from last week, this faith provides a bridge into the future as long as we believe. Its
vital that we know what we believe, but its also vital that we know what we are believing God
for. What are you believing God for in your personal life? What are you believing God for in
your ministry? I am not speaking of titles or position here, because each of us is a minister.
To help answer these questions, lets look at the stories and belief of four women in the Bible
whose lives literally changed history. We will do this in a series of four messages throughout
January called Can You Believe It?. These women are irreplaceable links in the chain of
Gods redemptive history, as we will eventually see. As such, these four messages will link (or
bridge) together, and you will not (unnecessarily) want to miss any message.
The first of these women is Sarah, the woman who laughed when she overheard the three
angelic visitors tell her husband Abraham that she would bear a son. So Sarah laughed to
herself as she thought, After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?
(Genesis 18:12). If you were a woman eighty-nine years of age and were told you would
become pregnant by your ninety-nine-year-old husband, you would laugh, too! You would
probably lie to the angels, as well, and say that you didnt laugh at such a ridiculous sounding
promise, even though you had.
Twenty-five years after Abraham obeyed God and left Haran, he became the father of the
promised son in Genesis 15:4. God is with us even in the long years when nothing visible is
happening. Often before God does something spectacular, He asks us to do something
ridiculouslike when asking the 99 year-old Abraham to be circumcised (Genesis 17:11,24).
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Have you thought about just how ridiculous that is? Socially, physiologically (hygiene), etc.!
Clearly, Sarah did not believe at that moment when the promise was given. Thats quite a twist
to the story many of us know and love. Often the preaching and teaching on faith you may have
heard in the past placed all the burden on us to believe in order to receive. The truth is, God is
up to something whether we believe it or not! Yes, I admonish you to never stop believing, but
even if you do, God will still continue on with His plan.
Just as God promised, Sarah became pregnant, and this is what the Scripture says: Abraham
was a hundred years old . . . Lets stop there for just a moment. The Assemblies of God in
Alaska will also soon be one hundred years old. Will we, like Abraham, continue to birth the
next generation in the faith? Or tragically, will we go the way of many churches, movements,
and/or denominations that started out blessed of God, but became impotent and faithless in their
old age? They may have once provided a bridge to the future, but like Nizina, no longer do so.
Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, God
has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me. And she
added, Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have
borne him a son in his old age (Genesis 21:57).
The first time Sarah laughed was over the absurdity of the promise. Here her second seizure of
laughing came through the absoluteness of the answer; when she held the baby in her arms.
So, how do you (we) apply this story from Sarah to your (our) life? There are some things God
wants to do for you and through you, for us and through us, that are so ridiculous, that your
(our) first reaction will be to laugh. As was with her, you will not laugh alone, nor rejoice alone.
We sometimes forget that entry into new territory can be messy. From a natural viewpoint, the
first sets of AG missionary families into Alaska had no rational basis to resolve to do the extent
of evangelism this part of the world had ever seen. Like so often is the case, they too were small
in number, lacking in finances, and without worldly influence.
Had you been an outside observer, even perhaps as a believer, you would have laughed at their
resolve to come to Alaska. How could that small body of people, lacking in a strategic plan of
evangelization in a territory of such vast magnitude and unforgiving obstacles, with very little
human and financial resourceseven if they had a strategic plan how could they accomplish
much? Humanly speaking, it was laughable that they would resolve to do such a looming work of
evangelism in our part of the world. Such has been the case in other parts of the world too.
But, like Sarah, on the verge of this centennial in our state, we have the second laugh. Just look
what the Lord has done in Alaska over these 100 years! What those believers resolved to do is
coming true! Much of what was laughed at, either silently or out loud, has happened. Villages of
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extreme remoteness, thought forsaken by most of the world, now have mature believers and
many have churches they call their own, and pastors called out from among their own people.
And, we again resolve this week, and this year, that we must finish the task of taking the gospel
to people in our generation. Let us therefore not be distracted by the small things. We have a
world to reach. More to the point, we have a neighborhood, village and island to reach! Can we
laugh at the promises God has given to various believers already, but believe at the same time?
Lets bring this thought home to you personally. Would you take a moment to listen to God here
and now? Is there a dream in your heart the Holy Spirit has given you for something that seems
so outlandish, so absurd, so insurmountable, that you laugh inside? Perhaps the promise was
given to someone else you know, alive or not, and you have laughed at the absurdities of their
promise. As is always the case, God will have the final say the final laugh. Bill Stewart
For some of you who are old enough, like Abraham, has it been ten years, or even twenty-five
years, more or less, of waiting for the promise? Instead of burying that dream, that word from
the Spirit you heard long ago, would you reach out now to believe that God is able to do
immeasurably more than all we (you) ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work
within us (you) (Ephesians 3:20)? And will you trust God that the time will come when, like
Sarah, you will have the second laugh when the outlandish promise of God actually becomes
tangible in your hands?
As you pray this week, and all through the year for that matter, Im asking the Holy Spirit to
remind you of promises yet unfulfilled, but to also encourage you in continually believing.
There is so much at stake if we do or do not believe. Our doubting may cause others to doubt.
Our believing may encourage others to believe. Im asking that He remind you of just how
important the Word is in your life and in believing. Said another way, our believing should be
our way of life. Consequently, so should the Word the Word of life! Remember, Faith comes
by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
But these are written that you may believe (or may continue to believe) that Jesus is the
Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)
Its quite possible that recently you or someone you know made the statement mirrored by our
series - can you believe it? They may have said it as a clich or simply as a matter of speech. It
may have been caused by special awe or as a result of something astounding happening. It may
have been because of extremely good news, or perhaps it was not good news at all.
Like our theme states, let us believe for greater things this year specifically, greater things as a
result of believing in God. Will you join me in believing for more people professing their faith
in Christ for the first time than any of us have ever seen in this area? We all have our
preconceived notions, but will you join me in asking God just exactly what the greater things
should be, and then believing He will tell us or show us what they are? Through the remainder
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of this week, this year, and beyond, may our choice be to continue to believe.