Don’t settle for Ishmael when you’ve got an Isaac coming.

WARNING: I’m about to get my Bible on, so if that isn’t your thing, it’s cool. Come back tomorrow. But I suggest reading this anyway.

Abraham Holding Baby Isaac - Matt McWilliams
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Have you ever fallen short of a goal? Perhaps you’re tempted to give up. Some of the goals you’ve set seem impossible, distant, and completely out of reach.

I’m telling you to keep reaching. Do not give up. Not now. Not ever. If you’ve dreamed about it, it’s time to go get it. Don’t settle for Ishmael when you’ve got an Isaac coming.

What does that mean you ask? It’s a reference to the life of Abraham in the book of Genesis chapters 15-18, and 21. I told you I was about to get my Bible on.

Abraham was childless and he and his wife easily qualified for the senior discount at every known restaurant in the world. The hope of a legacy had long faded.

To put it into perspective, my father was a miracle baby and his mother was half of Sarah’s age (my grandmother was 45 when my father was born). Sarah was slightly past her prime. But God said:

…a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir. Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be.

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That was a promise from God. It was a covenant. God wasn’t pulling Abraham’s chain here. He just told him that He was going to give him children. So his wife did what any woman would do (or not…), she told him to sleep with her servant. Oops.

That’s where the story gets kind of messy. The servant had a son named Ishmael. It doesn’t say in the Bible, but I’m pretty sure that God did a facepalm, but He again told Abraham:

I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers. I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.

God was sticking to His end of the bargain no matter how hard Abraham tried to settle. That’s how He works. Abraham laughed and questioned God (mental note: God is OK with that. Questioning is perfectly acceptable, doubting, not so much). Would God really give a nearly 100 year old man with a 90 year old wife a child? Come on, really? Abraham had to be thinking, “God, just let Ishmael have the blessing. Let him be the one from whom nations would be born.”

But Ishmael was not the one. Abraham laughed. Sarah laughed. God did not give up.

At some point, I believe Abraham and Sarah bought in. They believed in God’s promise. They stopped settling for less than the best. The promised child was born. His name was Isaac and he was the miracle child that God had promised all along. But he was almost never conceived because Abraham and Sarah wanted to settle.

But not you. You will not settle. If you have it in your heart to do something great, you can and will do it if you just keep going. All God required of Abraham and Sarah was faithfulness and belief. Stay faithful to your goals. Do not settle. Do not compromise. Do not quit.

In what ways have you settled for an Ishmael when you had an Isaac on the way? What were the results?

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10 thoughts on “Mid-Week Motivation: Don’t Settle for Ishmael, Wait for Your Isaac

  1. Jon Stolpe says:

    Great reminder, Matt. We have a son named Isaac (little blog community fact).

    Saving for retirement is a great example of this. It would be easy to go out and spend everything we’ve got now leaving nothing for retirement. Savings is a way of stewarding what God has given us and saving it for the future (needs and generosity).

    Happy Thank You Thursday!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Good one Jon.

      I never thought of it like this but for some people, the new Ferrari is their Ishmael. When what God has for them is so much better whether it be to be able to build a school in East Africa or to go on a month long ’round the world trip.

      Happy TYT back at ya!

  2. Jeremy Carver says:

    Nailed it, Matt! Thursday, December 6, 2012. The Mayan calendar looms in the background… Yet a lone voice cries out in from the dark saying FINISH STRONG brothers & sisters, don’t settle, have faith! Oh, wait… we;re not talking about the Mayan prediction of the end of the world & overcoming the desire to sell all our stuff and lay down waiting for it? … (awkward) Well, great inspiration anyways. We’ve got 3 more weeks in this year. Let’s bust it, give it our all!

    We’ve all settled. Most (including myself here) have settled for life less abundant because we didn’t practice that faithfulness or exercise our belief in God holding up His end of the bargain. He does, you know.

    FYI : The only joke I get to tell on my wife is that we named our son Isaac because Sarah was an old woman when she had her son too. I know she laughs on the inside when I tell that joke.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      No. No she doesn’t 🙂

      Three more weeks (plus a few days) is a LONG time left in the month! Go get it!

  3. Dan Erickson says:

    I like your point that it’s okay to question, but not so much to doubt. I get frustrated with those who think everything about God and the Bible is neat and tidy and that we should never question. In fact, I probably go to the opposite extreme and question everything, not out of doubt or disrespect, but out of a sincere heart that wants to understand more deeply.

  4. Todd Liles says:

    I have done this on occasion. It has sometimes been the product of not defining what Isaac looks like.

    IE: What does the excellent client look like. What does the excellent productive day look like?

    When you can define what the excellent client looks like, you will get closer to your Isaac (I don’t believe their is a perfect client. I’m not a perfect person. I’m pretty excellent though!)

  5. Impatience – it dooms so many enterprises. Instead of waiting on God and His timing we jump in, “problem solve”, get at it and take matters into our own hands. We tell ourselves that God can’t steer a parked car. Wrong. God can part a wet sea and make dry land. He can send wild ravens to feed a hungry man. He can bring life to a barren womb. We are not willing to wait to see what God will do. I have often failed, feeling I must do for God – when often He wants me to do nothing. In doing nothing His glory shines. Waiting for God’s direction in a parked car is not the worse scenario, especially if He is driving.
    The beauty we often overlook is God is still willing to bless our mess. Just like he did bless Ishmael. Oh how wonderful when God’s time and our watch are in sync – how fruitful we shall be.

  6. Lily Kreitinger says:

    I guess I’m coming late to this party. GREAT post! As usual. Being an “old mom” myself I can completely relate to this passage. What I see in this story is that God can not be outdone in generosity. Abraham wanted a son and he got two. God transforms the impossible into a reality every day before our eyes. If He is not willing to settle with one gift, we shouldn’t either.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Great point Lily. I never thought of it like that, but well said!

  7. Abraham like all of us sinned by the act of conceiving Ishmael. It showed a lack of faith & arrogance that he did not wait upon the Lord. As a consequence there is now the arabs that are trying to do away with Israel. Abraham did not get 2 blessings … he got a blessing & a curse that is still being felt today.

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