04.26.2009 Never Waste A Good Crisis - Abraham
2nd May 2009
Katie Yackley – H2O Kent update. Trying to use relationships to build networks with people – we have 30-40 people coming every Sunday night. We had about 10 who went to Housing Greensboro – 4 of us are going to Va. Beach this summer for Leadership Training – we’ll have full time jobs and we’ll go to meetings twice a week and have service projects. I am excited about what God is doing – and I wanted to let you know so you could be excited too!
Katie is sending out letters - if you receive one and can support her it is a good thing.
It is always encouraging to see our kids growing and moving on to serve the Lord. For a small church, we see a large percentage of our teens go on to great things for the Lord.
Father, thank You for Your word. Thank You that You speak to us – touch our hearts – you are a faithful God. We ask for Katie, that You would bless her and provide support – use it in their lives that when they get back to school they would be effective in reaching and discipling students to reach many for Jesus Christ. As we continue this series – help our hearts to be open to hear what You would say.
We started a series – Never waste a good crisis. Every character of the Bible, at some point, goes through a good crisis. I was talking to Matt about this – he said – every crisis is a crisis of faith. Abraham is a great example of this. Everyone – every believer – will go through, if not one, many, significant crises of faith. There will be things that shake your faith and shake it to the core. So expect it! As we look at Abraham – I want to look at how you can survive – and thrive – through a crisis of faith.
Since I am only doing 1 week on Abraham, I am going to zip through the first 107 years of his life!
We are first introduced to Abraham (Abram) in Genesis 11:
Gen. 11: 31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there. 32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.
This map – this is the world after the tower of Babel. There was the flood – and the repopulation of the world – so God dispersed them and gave them different languages – right here is Ur – a great name, especially if you have to spell it. God comes – believe it or not – it is a little confusing here – while Abram is living in Ur – God first speaks to him there – not in Haran –
Acts 7: 2 And he said, "Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, 'Depart from your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.' 4 "Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans, and settled in Haran. And from there, after his father died, [God] removed him into this country in which you are now living.
To have a crisis of faith, one must first have faith – that is step one. In order to have faith – what must happen – faith always begins with God’s calling on our lives. Faith comes from hearing – and hearing by the word of Christ. It is not something you have of yourself – the only way you have faith in God is by God calling you. If you are a believer – you have faith because you first heard the message – and it is that message that stirs faith in you. He came to you – and at some point – you heard the message of the gospel – and THAT WORD is what ignited faith inside of you. God calls Abram – living in Ur – and it requires a response – an action.
REAL FAITH IS ALWAYS LINKED WITH GOD’S CALL IN OUR LIVES.
Gen. 12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." 4 So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.
Now, what we see – the response that God asks – first God asks Abram to leave something. To come to Christ in faith and to move on in faith – will always require us to forsake something. There must be a leaving behind of one thing to come to Christ. For Abram, it was his family and all he was comfortable with. He goes to a place where he has never been. This is what God wanted him to do. And God will call you to go where you don’t know. Abram needs to respond.
One other thing – Joshua 24:2 – the call of Abraham is explained again.
2 And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, [namely,] Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods. 3 'Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him through all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac
Not only did he have to leave his family – but Abram and his family worshiped other gods – and God called him out of that. You have to leave all that and believe in Me and serve Me only. That is what Abram begins to do in Ur. In Gen. 12 – we see that God promises that He will make him a great nation and bless him. God ties the call with a promise. They would multiply and be a blessing – a great nation. Abram was 75 years old – and his wife was about 65 – and it wasn’t in dog-years, either. God is saying – I will make you a great nation – you will have so many children they will fill a nation. For us – it is a call to salvation – a spiritual promise for our salvation. The blessing we receive – this newfound relationship with Christ. Our sins are forgiven and we can spend eternity with God without guilt. That is a great blessing for Abram, but our blessing is greater. Abram is shadowing the true blessing that we are to receive.
What we have in Abram’s life – a guy who takes one step forward and 2 steps back. That is pretty much what a life of faith is. Abram takes his nephew with him. That is how we are – I am going to serve God – BUT – I am going to do this – just in case this God-thing doesn’t work. Abram pays for taking Lot with him.
This always happens – we get this promise – we go out – take the step of faith – and everything starts to go wrong. Abram gets to Canaan – and there is drought, famine, and people are starving to death. Abram then does not consult God – and goes to Egypt. Not only does he go to Egypt – but the Pharaoh likes Abram’s wife – and so Abram says to his wife – Tell them you are my sister. He is falling back – and God gets him out of it – and he moves back to the land he is supposed to be in – and he and Lot decide to separate.
God comes to Abram and reiterates the promise – I am still going to bless you and make you a great nation.
Chapter 14 – there is a war – Lot is taken captive – Abraham finds out and rescues Lot. Lot is causing him problems once again. Then God, in Chapter 15 reiterates the promise. This shows us that God will be faithful to what He has promised even when we are unfaithful to Him. It may take a long, long, long time to see God’s promises fulfilled. With Abraham, it took 30-40 years – actually, 100! But what is happening, through all this failure – one step forward, two steps back – Abraham’s faith is growing. We think we are not making progress – but you are. As you continue to follow the Lord through your difficulty, you are growing in faith. Each time you get up – you are growing.
Gen. 15:1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great." 2 And Abram said, "O Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"
Abram looks at the reality of the situation – hey! I don’t have any kids! He had a slave – these other workers – and he was going to take one of the workers’ kids – and make him his heir.
3 And Abram said, "Since Thou hast given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir." 4 Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "This man will not be your heir; but one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir." 5 And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." 6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
So after going through all this maybe 17 years have passed since he left Ur – God brings him to a stronger point of faith – and God reckons it as righteousness. It is okay to question – as our faith grows, there will be times of doubt – but if we don’t deal with it honestly, faith won’t grow. Now in 16:15 – we are given his age again.
He and Sarai came up with this plot – take my slave Hagar – and you and her can have a baby.
15 So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 And Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him.
God is not happy with this – so, 13 years later:
17:1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. 2 "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly." 3 And Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, 4 "As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 "No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 "And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you.
7 "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. 8 "And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."
He completely reiterates the promise again. I am still going to do this – but He calls him to be blameless. God is working with Abraham – I want you to stop all of this – get yourself together – walk before Me and be blameless. That is just part of God’s working in our lives. We fall back and God re-affirms. But eventually God says, it is time for you to grow up – to walk before me and be blameless. After hearing this, God gives him circumcision – and they do that. And God comes again – and tells them that they will have a child. Abraham is 99, Sarah, 89 – Sarah laughs – like, yeah, right. And God says, why did you laugh? I didn’t laugh! Yes you did! And then Abraham gets in trouble again – he goes to another king – and says – she is my sister. He didn’t learn from the first time.
21:1 Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised.
Then comes the biggest test
22:1 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am.
This is anywhere from 8 to 18 years later – I don’t know that it makes a difference –
2 And He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you."
For us, we think, WHOA! But for Abraham – when he heard this – this was the practice – that is how they worshiped – they took children and offered them as sacrifices on altars. Look at Abraham’s response: 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5 And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you." 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 And Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" 8 And Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together.
9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there, and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
Can you imagine this? Abraham’s whole life was about this son – and God is saying – give him up – sacrifice him! This is the guy – She is not my wife! He took Lot! Hagar! – and all of these things have produced a faith that would help him pass the greatest test.
There are three lessons –
1) when it comes to surviving and thriving through a crisis of faith – you must expect your faith to be tested. God will always test you. This promise is almost never fulfilled in the way or time we think it should be. We think – anything you pray, you will receive – so we expect it right away – but at times, it is years, decades – and for Abraham – a century. We think – great faith –
Heb. 11: 13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
Hebrews is the Hall of Fame of Faith – but all of these died without receiving the promise. Faith is about faithfulness through the long-haul, whether the promise comes or not.
2) We must understand that when God tests us, He does it so we will succeed. We think God tests us to show how lousy we are – but God expects us to pass the test. Job – think of Job – and God and Satan – God: He’ll pass it – knowing Job would succeed. He tests Abraham – knowing he will succeed. Some of the biggest tests we get are when we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. Everything falls in us – God tests us when we are going to succeed.
3) God will test our affections. This test is basically saying – Abraham – Whom do you love most? The blessing or the One who gives the blessing. We start by loving God but we end by loving what God gives. What God is saying to Abraham – I don’t want you to love what I give – but love Me first. We all have these things that try to take God’s place.
Gen. 22: 15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, "By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 "And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."
Abraham passes the test – God then is able to bring in the true, ultimate blessing.
Heb. 11: 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that [country] from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better [country], that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them
What God is saying- He wants us to desire Him – He is the reward – He is the blessing – it is about receiving Him and having Him for eternity – God is trying to get us all to that point. Sometimes He has to test the blessing in order to move us to the Blesser. Let’s pray.