That is a phrase from the Bible which almost nobody remembers reading. You will find those words in Hebrews 11:12. It speaks of Abraham and Sarah being past childbearing years; they were “as good as dead.” But I find the application to be far beyond that narrow meaning; it relates to the possibility of the impossible for us today!
God is the God who specializes in the impossible and the miraculous. The Lord gave Abraham a promise and it would be fulfilled. He said he would, for sure, have a son as an heir. Sarah was considered too old, and Abraham too, but even though they were “as good as dead,” Isaac would nevertheless be born! By all logic and appearance it just could not happen, but it would and did! What is the great lesson for us all? We should be moved by bold faith to claim the promises of God regardless of how depressing the situation and how late the hour.
It means, if there is a promise, it is never too late and the situation is not beyond its occurring as promised. This applies to any situation in ourselves. And if we look at church history, there are many situations that are “as good as dead.” Long ago, Moody came to Scotland. The Church of Scotland had just split and there were deep divisions—the possibility of spiritual harvest was “as good as dead.” But it happened miraculously!
Isaiah’s words stir me, “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, As when the melting fire burneth …” (Isaiah 64:1-2) The prophet saw the great problem, “… there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee …” (verse 7) In other words, even the people of faith had no living confidence that God could do it at that time. And we find even Abraham and Sarah reacting at the far-fetched idea that a son could be born when they were as old as they were; the idea itself was “as good as dead.”
And now even God’s people find it a challenge to believe that even today history’s greatest spiritual awakening is possible. A spiritual awakening sweeping the world at this time in history? Yet, like with Abraham, God has promised that very thing!
There is a prophecy given to us from the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32) which Peter quoted on Pentecost. “… in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh …” (Acts 2:17), and that prophecy began to be fulfilled, and yet, it’s not fully fulfilled. Joel said that “The Lord also shall roar out of Zion … the heavens and the earth shall shake …” (Joel 3:16), and He shall “… be the hope of his people …” So, the greatest revival, the sweeping worldwide awakening, is yet to come. — That’s the sure promise of God.
Again Joel said, “… the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain …” (chapter 2:23) And the prophet said that the latter rain will cause “the floors [to] be full … and the vats shall overflow … And ye shall … praise the name of the Lord your God, [for he] hath dealt wondrously with you …” (vss. 24, 26)
We have His promise and we have His Holy Spirit with us which means we have Him. So that, we are never to surrender to what some call inevitable. We must live with a focus on His eternal promises, not our evident problems. We are to live on that! Because of who He is and what He is able to do, there is, without any evidence of it, a hope for revival, renewal, and restoration. We never surrender to the conditions we see and are to live on the promise God made.
For our age is what the Bible calls “the latter days …” which means all the ancient promises apply to us. Listen, we are to seek His face “… till he come and rain righteousness upon [us].” (Hosea 10:12) We are told, “Ask you of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; so the Lord shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain …” (Zechariah 10:1) We are being told by God to dare to ask for a mighty movement from heaven, a glorious spiritual awakening; God tells us to boldly ask for it! Let us be people who do that!
While reading Leonard Ravenhill, I recall a statement he made like this, “God can undo in one hour of revival what it took Satan a hundred years to do.” God loves to surprise people. The birth of Jesus came as a complete surprise to everyone—no one expected it to happen at that moment in time. The Reformation under Luther took the world by surprise—the likelihood of it happening was “as good as dead.” The Welch Revival in 1903-04 took the world by surprise—no one would have predicted anything like that. The chances were “as good as dead.” The list goes on and on!
Yet, Abraham, even at one-hundred years old, had a right to have hope for one supreme reason: God had made a promise he would have an heir. And we have a promise of God moving in such power that, as Jesus said, “… this gospel … shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations …” (Matthew 24:14) God still has glorious plans for the human race, big plans for the worldwide spiritual harvest that is yet to come. Therefore, just as Abraham should have never given into hopelessness—so we must go on faithfully claiming the promises. Let us all “being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” (Romans 4:21)
And the natural question that seems to emerge is this one: “When will it happen?” We find the answer in Genesis 21:2, “… at the set time of which God had spoken to him.” We might say, “when God was ready for Isaac to be born.” The Living Bible makes it clear to us, “Then God did as he had promised, and Sarah became pregnant and gave Abraham a baby son in his old age, at the time God had chosen.”
James A. Stewart was correct in saying, “As long as the blessed Holy Spirit, Himself the great standing miracle, abides and works on the earth, the church’s potential is the same as it was in the apostolic days.” The saintly Robert McQuilkin said almost seventy-five years ago, “Let us not limit God in His working, and let us not fail to be ready for new and great outpourings of the Holy Spirit in the closing days of this age. For the days are upon us when nothing will avail to break through the overwhelming power of the enemy, except supernatural power beyond what most Christians have known anything about. If the church was supernaturally blessed of God at its birth, who will say that, in the closing days of its witness here on earth before its translation, it will not be blessed in even a mightier way?”
Admittedly there are some men who are to be respected who maintain that the idea of Old Testament promises have nothing to do with a mighty spiritual awakening in these days. Some maintain these verses have nothing to do with reality. But please notice exactly what Peter said on the day of Pentecost. First, in order to make it clear, notice what he did not say. He didn’t say, “This is the complete fulfillment of what Joel said.” No! He said, “this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” He was saying, “This is only a foretaste, but the greatest fulfillment is still to come. This is the first wave of showers, but the great outpouring, the abundant rain, is still to come!”
Back to Abraham; with him here is our striking illustration of a faith that continues to claim the promise of God in an impossible situation, when he and his wife were “as good as dead.” Admittedly, this promise that came directly from God about having a son seemed more and more impossible with the passing of time. Yet, see it, under hopeless circumstances, he believed God. Though he was nearly one hundred and was far after childbearing years, there was no wavering, he showed no hesitation nor questioning doubt at believing God’s promise.
Let me quote at length from Romans, “So, when God told Abraham that he would give him a son who would have many descendants and become a great nation, Abraham believed God even though such a promise just couldn’t come to pass! And because his faith was strong, he didn’t worry about the fact that he was too old to be a father at the age of one hundred, and that Sarah his wife, at ninety, was also much too old to have a baby. But Abraham never doubted. He believed God, for his faith and trust grew ever stronger, and he praised God for this blessing even before it happened. He was completely sure that God was well able to do anything he promised.” (Romans 4:18-21, Living Bible)
And we must believe God even in utterly hopeless times as these, being absolutely certain that God keeps His promises. And note, he gave glory to God before the great promise was fulfilled. And added to it, there is another example: before the walls of Jericho fell flat, the people of Israel gave a triumphant shout of faith to announce the fall before it happened.
Here is the statement clear and convincing. God would have never moved Paul to mention this incident in the life of Abraham if He had not wanted it repeated in our life and our time. Allow me to remind you that “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4, NIV)
So, at a moment in time when there is very little reason for a great deal of hope—we must dare, remembering “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27) What are we to do? Paul answers the question, “let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6)
And Charles Spurgeon, in a sermon from Hebrews reminds us also, we are to come, “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) Spurgeon reminds us with simple but truthful words, “God never out-promised Himself!”