Sarah: A Spiritual Role Model

Dr. Brian Allison

Is there anyone after whom you model your life? Is there anyone after whom you would like to model your life or work? When I was in seminary, I had the opportunity and privilege to listen to various preachers from different parts of the world. On one occasion, I was listening to a preacher from the United States; and I was mesmerized; I was deeply impacted. As a result, for the following 4 or 5 years, I patterned my preaching after his. In fact, my wife became a little exasperated because of my persistent (often unconscious) imitating of him. He had made such an impression on me that if I was to preach, I wanted to preach just like him. He was a role model for me in my early years of the Christian ministry.

Following a good role model is not necessary for achieving high standards or a successful level of accomplishment, but it does facilitate one in reaching personal or career goals. The apostle Paul encouraged the legitimacy of role models. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 4:15, 16, he says, "For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me." Of course, the apostle was an imitator of Christ, and so we read his words in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ." Again, similar sentiments for the legitimacy of a role model are expressed in Philippians 3:17, "Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us." So, the apostle Paul set forth himself as a pattern, as a 'type,' of spiritual progress and growth to these early believers.

Role models provide the visible and concrete standards after which we may strive. They help us to understand the preferential or the desirable; what the particular desired goal 'looks like;' and as a result their very presence provides us with a powerful incentive for growth and for change, as we consider him or her whom we desire to emulate, realizing that a certain level of excellence is indeed attainable. For example, Wayne Gretzky, as a young lad, esteemed and respected the great Gordie Howe. Howe was a role model for Gretzky; and Gretzky, in emulating Howe, not only reached Howe's level of excellence, but exceeded it. The skill and talent of Howe provided Gretzky with incentive to pursue excellence; that is the power of a role model.

As I think about Mother's Day, I want to direct a particular word to mothers. I ask this question: Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, who is an appropriate role model after whom you would like to pattern your life? Can you think of anyone? Is there anyone you would like to emulate because he or she reflects some high standard of spirituality and Christian maturity; a person who presents an admirable goal, and can thus provide incentive to motivate you to change? I think the Biblical character of Sarah fits this bill. She, no doubt, had her shortcomings (as we all do), but the New Testament, nonetheless, presents some of her qualities as worthy of emulation. In some respects, she is an ideal role model for women in general, and for mothers in particular. The Scriptures read, "For in this way, in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children [her followers or imitators], if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear" (1 Pe. 3:5,6).

Sarah: a woman of hope

There are at least three qualities found in this passage that invite imitation, as we consider Sarah as a role model. First, Sarah was a woman of hope – "For in this way in former times the holy women also, hoped in God." We live in an age of despair and disillusionment. For instance, this past week, we witnessed the passage of Bill C-33, incorporating 'sexual orientation' into the Canadian Charter of Human Rights. The moral underpinnings and moorings of our society are eroding and disappearing. Such things as homosexuality and abortion are unfortunately becoming acceptable norms. And so it seems that history is repeating itself, similar to that which led to the fall of Rome and other past great empires.

Now, in this age of despair and disillusionment, God is calling for women, for mothers, to rise up and to carry on the spiritual heritage of the holy women of the past. In this age of despair and disillusionment, there are indeed women and mothers who are modeling themselves after Sarah and the former holy women. These ones do not easily yield to depression, discouragement, or defeat. These ones trust in God to work out things, and to right the wrongs. Such women are optimistic, recognizing that God is sovereign and faithful. Such women are positive and confident, knowing that God is powerful, ever present, and actively involved in the affairs of this world. These woman are those who rest in the love, goodness, and justice of God. They know that a brighter morning is going to dawn because God is on the throne. These are the women who hope in God.

Now, the question is this: Why did these holy women hope in God? Why did Sarah hope in God? How is it even possible to have hope? Well, considering Sarah in particular, she rested on the Word and promises of God. Sarah knew that God's Word was true and infallible, and that He would bring it to pass. She knew that God would certainly fulfil His promises. When God, in disguise, came to Abraham, whose tent was pitched by the oaks of Mamre, He said to Abraham, "Sarah your wife shall have a son" (Gn. 18:10). Now, the amazing thing was that Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah was 89 years old; she was beyond the age of child-bearing. Sarah, at that time, was inside the tent, listening to the conversation between the Lord and Abraham; and she laughed within herself because the Lord's words seemed so ridiculous (in light of her age). Yet, one year later, Sarah bore a son. Now, initially Sarah did not believe the Lord's words; she did not hope in God; she did not rest on His promise. And yet, sometime after the uttering of that promise and before her conception, Sarah believed and hoped in God; and that belief and hope were instrumental in God fulfilling His promise. So, we read, "By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered God faithful who had promised" (Hb. 11:11). So, Sarah was a woman of hope.

Are you a woman of hope? Regardless of life's circumstances, regardless of the pressures of life, do you rise above those circumstances and pressures and hope in God? Do you have the confidence that God will 'come through' for you; having made promises through His holy Word to look after you, to protect you, and to lead you? My mother is an eternal optimist. About 6 years ago, she decided to run for office in the municipal government. I don't think that she even placed; it did not go well for her, but she would not be deterred nor become defeated. Consequently, in the last Federal election, she ran for office with the Reformed Party in her riding, and she placed second. I recall her saying before the election, "I am going to win." She had confidence. She had committed her cause to the Lord, and trusted in Him. She was propelled by hope. And though she did not win, she believed that God was with her and used her.

God calls Christian women to be people of hope; to be assured that tomorrow will be a better day, knowing that God is on the throne, and that He is the sovereign Lord of glory, and that He hears you when you pray to Him.

Sarah: a woman of moral integrity

Sarah was also a woman of moral integrity – "Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling Him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right." We also live in an age of moral corruption; in an age which lacks ethical propriety. We have been vividly reminded of this fact in recent days as we have witnessed politicians who did not immediately make good on their promises, but rather tried to finagle and go back on their word. There is a crisis of moral integrity in the leadership of this land.

Women, mothers, who model themselves after Sarah and the former holy women are those who evidence proper and irreproachable conduct. They evidence uprightness; they conform to God's will. Now, this phrase "do what is right" implies a respect for, and submission to, authority. The apostle Peter uses this phrase a number of times in this passage. So, we read, "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evil doers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right, youmay silence the ignorance of foolish men" (1 Pe. 2:13-15); again, we read, "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is rightand suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God" (1 Pe. 2:18-20). And such was the case with Sarah. When they came out of the land of Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham requested of Sarah that she say that she was his sister when they mingled amongst the foreign peoples, for the people were not God-fearing. Sarah complied without reaction or resistance. She "obeyed Abraham, calling him lord." This kind of behaviour is a great challenge for women of today, especially those living in an age steeped in feminism and anti-authority. Yet, God calls Christian women to show a genteel spirit. Thus, we read, "And let not your adornment be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God" (1 Pe. 3:3,4).

Is Sarah your spiritual role model? You need to be women of moral integrity, doing what is right, regardless of how you feel, and regardless of the sentiments and opinions of modern society. You should live in such a way that you conform to God's will, even if that means that you must stand alone. All your actions and behaviour must demonstrate that Christ is Lord.

Sarah: a woman of courage

Sarah was also a woman of courage – "without being frightened by any fear." We also live in a society characterized by fear. This dynamic of fear is incredibly pervasive, even in the lives of God's people. Many of God's people are in bondage, strapped with anxiety and trepidation, being products of this stress-packed and pressure-packed age. Now, fear, of course, is the result of perceiving either an uncertain future or the possibility of personal injury or harm. Often fear is coupled with suspicion and mistrust. For instance, a few weeks ago, I sent out questionnaire packets to 125 Christian counselling clinics and organizations in Canada in order to gather needed data in order to complete a major writing project. I received one of the packets back this past week, accompanied with a letter of regret. This counseling clinic would not accommodate my request, and it was obvious that they were somewhat fearful about what I would do with the secured information. It was also obvious that they were suspect of me and of what I may be up to. Fearful people are suspicious people. They mistrust you; they think that you are 'up to something.' They do not realize that they are prisoners of their own imagination, and in bondage to their own insecurities.

Now, those who pattern themselves after Sarah and the former holy women will be people of courage; people who are dauntless; people who stand firm in a world of uncertainty and constant threat. They will not cower or flee. They will stand strong and bold, trusting in God. They will not focus on themselves, nor on their limited resources, but they will focus on God and His unlimited resources, believing in Him to make Himself known and His glory revealed. These ones will be confident that God will help them and deliver them. They will not buckle under the pressure, but will be fearless.

God came to Abraham and Sarah and called them out of the land of Ur of the Chaldeans. God wanted them to leave their homeland and to go to a foreign land which was unfamiliar to them, probably a land that they had never seen before. Now, it is difficult to leave your homeland, to leave behind your family and your friends; to leave behind security and stability; and yet Sarah, along with Abraham, did just that. Sarah was a woman of courage. Her courage was also seen in her confrontation with her servant Hagar. She spoke to her with conviction and resolve (cf. Gn. 16:5ff; 21:9ff.).

Are you a woman of courage? Are you fearless because you know Him who sits on the throne? Are you bold because you know who holds the future; because you know Him who sees the end from the beginning, and so you need not worry; because you know that God will work things out; and all you need to do is walk by faith? Again, I think of my mother (and forgive me for referring to my mother, but I am very proud of her. I love my mother very much and naturally I am thinking about my mother on this day). My mother is a woman of courage. For instance, my father left my mother for another woman, shortly after I was born. When I was six months of age, my mother had to go out and work in order to provide for my older brother and me. As a single-mother, she endeavoured to eke out a living for us, and, at times, that was very hard. She persevered; and she consequently worked her way right up the business ladder so that my brother and I would not be in want. She meets the challenges of life dauntlessly. She is a woman of courage; and that is what God calls you, as a woman and mother, to be. Do not cower or shrink. Do not succumb to worry and fretting; but through the eye of faith, look beyond your circumstances and realize that there is a great God, a God who loves you, a God whose Son went to the cross and died for you. And if God has performed this great act of love for you, will He not, through His Son and by His Son, freely give you all things? Most certainly, He will! We serve a great God. Hallelujah!

Mothers, God calls you to be women of hope; He calls you to be women of moral integrity; and He calls you to be women of courage. Are you going to rise to the challenge and respond to the call? I trust so. Women, and mothers in particular, I want to encourage you to press on, knowing assuredly whom you have believed, being 'persuaded that He is able to keep that which you have committed unto Him until that day.'

Do you feel like fainting? Do you feel weak, and are you wondering how you are going to manage, or whether you are going to even survive in this 'rat race'? Remember, God is able. Trust in Him, and He will bring it to pass. He will not disappoint you. He will surprise you with His goodness and love. Press on; and He will 'do exceedingly, abundantly above all that you may ask or think.' He is a great God, and He is your God; and I commend Him to you again.

But maybe your are reading this message, and you really do not know this merciful and gracious God. You know about this God, but you do not personally know Him. You may have heard about this God, and you may have even concluded that He is a very interesting God, but you do not know this God. You may pride yourself on being religious, but you know that you are not a Christian. I invite you to come to know this God personally through His Son, the Lord Jesus. Jesus Christ died, according to the Scriptures; He was buried and He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and now He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high; and He invites you to come to Him and to love Him so that He may love you in return. Won't you come and confess your sins, pouring contempt on all your pride. You come, and He will reveal Himself to you in ways unimaginable and full of great glory; and He will love you; and through that love you will love Him; and you will know all those spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Him; and you will praise Him. You come!