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As Good As Dead

Ask any successful restaurateur what his secret is, and he'll likely respond: “Start with the BEST ingredients!” A reputable building contractor desires the BEST materials to erect his structures. A small business entrepreneur, who desires to become a major corporation, will employ the BEST salesmen, the BEST application developers and the BEST inventory management personnel he can afford. On draft day, an NFL team may select the BEST player available in each round with a view to one day winning a Super Bowl Championship.

You might expect what we know about human endeavors to be true of divine initiatives as well. But you would be wrong. When God plans to build something big, he begins with something insignificant by human standards. He chooses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, weak things to confound the mighty, so that NO FLESH can glory in his presence (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). When the giant Goliath was threatening and intimidating Israel, the Lord raised up a young shepherd boy to win the day. When Jesus began assembling his inner circle as the foundation for his Kingdom, he bypassed the religious elites and hand-picked an assortment of nobody's. When the LORD God decided to build a nation through which to send the Promised Seed (Genesis 3:15), he started with an old childless couple, not exactly the kind of 'breeding stock' you'd expect as embryonic to a great nation. 

All God needs to accomplish his will on earth and turn a grain of sand into a mountain are men and women of faith—ones willing to embrace his promise and wait patiently for him to perform it. Abraham and Sara are set forth in scripture as examples. Our text is Hebrews 11:11-12:

“Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.”

In my mind, the First Family of Israel suffered from double jeopardy. Sara was incapable of conceiving during normal child-bearing years. That inability extended into her old age. Abraham, who was able to father children as evidenced by Hagar and Ishmael, became unable to procreate during the decade and a half that elapsed between Ishmael and Isaac. Abraham was “as good as dead” (literally, "one having been deadened"), which means he was either impotent or sterile. Combine that with Sara's infertility, and you have a couple in double jeopardy! Now that the task of nation building seemed utterly impossible, God had exactly the right circumstances through which his power could flourish to HIS glory. 

Sprang is γεννάω (gennaō), “to procreate, beget, father children.” The verb is past tense, as you'd expect, but passive voice. It signifies Abraham was MADE to procreate as a God-given ability. In other words, God restored to Abraham the procreative prowess old age had taken from him. After Sara's death, Abraham married Keturah, by whom he fathered six more sons (Genesis 17). In other words, Abraham became a baby-making machine. At this point, we must ask: “Is there anything life has taken from you that you would like God to restore?” The writer juxtaposes the word “one” with the words “multitude” (in terms of stars) and “innumerable” (in terms of sand) to magnify by contrast the potential results when an infinite God injects himself into the affairs of finite man. 

In this Laodicean Age, there are many so-called evangelical churches that are as good as dead. What would you say about any church that goes month-after-month, year-after-year without a single adult being “born again” in their midst and joining the fellowship? Can any church legitimately claim to be alive if no lost sinners are finding life in Christ by virtue of its existence? If you doubt this analysis, consider the words of Jesus to the church at Sardis:

“These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art [as good as] dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God” (Revelation 3:1-2).

The church at Sardis was not completely dead, as indicated by the phrase “things that are ready to die.” But for all intents and purposes, they were a spiritual morgue. While Jesus did not use the word “dead” in his message to the Laodicean church (3:14-22), concluding they were “as good as dead” is no stretch considering the Giver of Life was knocking on the church door, seeking for “any man” to hear his voice and open the door (3:20). The messages to Sardis and Laodicea are made the more alarming when you consider they were just two generations removed from Pentecost, a time at which the church was vibrant with the life of Christ and Holy Ghost power. Abraham was a man as good as dead in terms of his inability to reproduce physically. Some local churches are equally as good as dead in terms of their inability to reproduce spiritually. The church at Sardis had a name it was alive, but Jesus pronounced them as good as dead. 

Finally, scripture affirms a man can be dead and yet be as good as alive. Such a man was Abel, concerning whom it is said: “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he BEING DEAD YET SPEAKETH” (Hebrews 11:4). The second man to exit the womb was the first to die. His father Adam lived 930 years, died of natural causes. Abel was murdered at the hands of his brother Cain at a young age. But Abel has been preaching now for 6,000 years and is STILL speaking! His message is the theme of Hebrews: “Sinners can find acceptance with God and eternal redemption through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ!”


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