#4 (THE "COURAGE" SERIES)
"THE COURAGE TO OBEY LIKE ABRAHAM!"
TEXT: Gen. 12:1-9ff Heb. 11:8-19
INTRO: What have you set your heart and sights on for your life? The direction you are looking in is where you are heading; and wherever your heart is set there you will find your commitments of time and resources.
ILLUS: A YOUNG MAN ONCE FOUND A $2 BILL IN THE ROAD. FROM THAT TIME ON HE NEVER LIFTED HIS EYES FROM THE GROUND WHEN WALKING. IN THE COURSE OF 40 YEARS HE ACCUMULATED 29,516 BUTTONS, 54,172 PINS, AND 7 CENTS IN PENNIES, A BENT BACK, AND A MISERABLE DISPOSITION! HE LOST THE GLORY OF THE SUNLIGHT, THE SMILES OF FRIENDS, THE SONGS OF THE BIRDS, THE BEAUTY OF THE FLOWERS, TREES, BLUE SKIES, AND ALL THERE IS IN LIFE WORTH LIVING FOR, THE OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE HIS FELLOWMAN AND SPREAD HAPPINESS. THIS MAN LOST ALL OF THIS SIMPLY BECAUSE HE WAS LOOKING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION FOR MATERIAL AND SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS! -- Source Unknown
While God's call is different for each one of us, the courage to obey is equally important to us all! God calls everyone of us to do something for His kingdom's sake, what we need is the courage to obey that call no matter what it is, no matter where it takes us, no matter what demand it makes on our life!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches that everyone has a call of God on their life and that each needs to courageously follow that call whether it is a call to be a godly parent or a call to be a world-wide evangelist like Billy Graham … or anything in between! It takes great courage to obey God’s call no matter what it is!
I. FORMATION STAGE Gen. 12:1-3; Heb. 11:8
A. Plans Gen. 12:1; Heb. 11:8
1. Abraham was very comfortable in UR of the Chaldeans, this was a huge city in northern Mesopotamia in the area today known as southern Iraq near the Euphrates River.
a. It was a very large city even by today’s standards, about 500,000 people!
b. It had a very sophisticated culture, i.e. extensive library, postal system, large factories, public school system, 2 story homes, well developed art, mathematics, and sciences, and one of the highest cultures of ancient times!
c. All the comforts and opportunities for wealth and happiness were to be found here. Here a man and his family could have everything they wanted or needed to be comfortable and happy for an entire lifetime.
2. BUT, God had other plans for a man named ABRAM and his wife SARAI.
3. God's plan for Abraham's life included a far different road than the one the world offered, and it would take him out of his comfortable surroundings to encounter a strange new land filled with many challenges!
a. God sometimes asks us to do things that we are not comfortable with or familiar with.
b. God's plans don't always follow what we anticipate.
4. God asks Abram to leave 3 things behind and blindly follow His plan for his life:
a. “Leave your own country.”
b. “Leave your people.”
c. “Leave your father's house.”
d. “And go to a land I will show you!” 12:1
B. Promises Gen. 12:2-3
1. God's plans are never without God's promises -- this is what gives us the courage to act on His will for our lives.
a. God never calls us to do something without promising to help us do what He calls us to do!
b. Sometimes those promises are the only things we have to stand on when things don’t go as we hoped or planned!
c. It is many times the promises of God that keep us going in the face of loss and confusion.
2. Sometimes God's promises are personal, even when THINGS don't go as we thought God had planned God could very well be using the circumstances to build our character, something that God is far more interested in than just what we DO for HIM!
a. God makes 7 wonderful promises to Abraham, promises that are inspiring and wonderful -- and promises that Abraham saw little to no fulfillment of in his lifetime!
b. Yet, Abraham held to those promises like they were his bread and water, even though he saw little of them fulfilled in his own lifetime, it was these 7 promises that kept him going when opposition and trouble came. It was these 7 promises that continued to give him courage to obey!
c. Obedience however was still a choice at every junction in his life, something that had to be made over and over again!
ILLUS: SHE HAD EVERY REASON TO BE BITTER. THOUGH VERY TALENTED, SHE WENT UNRECOGNIZED FOR YEARS. PRESTIGIOUS OPERA CIRCLES CLOSED THEIR RANKS WHEN SHE TRIED TO ENTER. AMERICAN CRITICS IGNORED HER COMPELLING VOICE. SHE WAS REPEATEDLY REJECTED FOR PARTS FOR WHICH SHE EASILY QUALIFIED. IT WAS ONLY AFTER SHE WENT TO EUROPE AND WON THE HEARTS OF THE TOUGH-TO-PLEASE EUROPEAN AUDIENCES THAT STATESIDE OPINION LEADERS ACKNOWLEDGED HER TALENT. NOT ONLY HAS HER PROFESSIONAL LIFE BEEN A BATTLE, HER PERSONAL LIFE HAS BEEN MARKED BY CHALLENGE. SHE IS THE MOTHER OF TWO HANDICAPPED CHILDREN, ONE OF WHOM IS SEVERELY RETARDED. YEARS AGO, IN ORDER TO ESCAPE THE PACE OF NEW YORK CITY, SHE PURCHASED A HOME ON MARTHA'S VINEYARD. IT BURNED TO THE GROUND 2 DAYS BEFORE SHE WAS TO MOVE IN. PROFESSIONAL REJECTION, PERSONAL SETBACKS, PERFECT SOIL FOR BITTERNESS, A RECEPTIVE FIELD FOR THE ROOTS OF RESENTMENT. BUT IN THIS CASE, ANGER FOUND NO HOME. HER FRIENDS DON'T CALL HER BITTER, THEY CALL HER BUBBLES! BEVERLY SILLS, INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED OPERA SINGER, RETIRED DIRECTOR OF THE NEW YORK CITY OPERA. HER PHRASES ARE SUGARED WITH LAUGHTER; HER FACE IS SOFTENED WITH SERENITY. UPON INTERVIEWING HER, MIKE WALLACE STATED THAT, "SHE IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPRESSIVE -- IF NOT THE MOST IMPRESSIVE LADIES I'VE EVER INTERVIEWED!" HOW DID SHE DO IT? SHE SAID SHE CHOSE TO BE CHEERFUL, SHE HAD A PLAN FOR HER LIFE ... AND THE PROMISES OF THAT TALENT KEPT HER GOING. SHE STUCK WITH THE PLAN! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. It is important to know God's promises in His Word, sometimes they are the only things that can give you courage to obey and keep going!
a. There were times when all Abraham had were God’s promises to fall back on.
b. But this was always enough for him, and it will be for us also.
II. FAULTS AND FAITH STAGE! Gen. 12:4-9ff. Heb. 11:17-19
A. Problems Gen. 12:4-9ff
1. What was life like for Abraham when he chose to have the courage to obey?
a. Well, he got bogged down for a while in Haran, he didn't leave here until his father Terah passed away, he was delayed for a while (interestingly enough his father’s name “Terah” in Hebrew means, “DELAY”), and this happens sometimes in our life!
b. Though he was told to leave his family he finds himself stuck with Lot until things separated them later, Lot going along wasn't in the original plan!
c. Things were not easy in the desert areas with all his flocks and servants.
d. Not long into the journey a horrible famine hit, so bad that it forced Abraham and Sarah to travel to Egypt where he nearly got himself killed because he told a half lie about his wife and his relationship to her!
e. He found himself having to go to war over freeing his nephew Lot, not something that fit into those promises too well!
f. He never did have deed to the property God told him would be his and his descendants, the most he actually owned in his lifetime was a burial plot near the Hittites, a cave called Machpelah.
g. A second time Abraham lies about his wife and almost messes up God's plan for his life, he makes this same mistake twice! Fortunately God warned king Abimelech before any damage was done! (Gen. 20)
h. Also, we know that Abraham and Sarah both attempted to help God with one of His promises ... that of a son, they tried to adopt Eliezer of Damascus -- but God said that wasn't the answer so then they used Hagar to give birth to Ishmael, but that wasn't the answer either -- not until Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 did they find God’s promise coming true!
i. They made numerous mistakes and faltered several times but they kept coming back to God's promises and found faith again to keep the courage to obey!
2. You can't just sit still and hope for God to give you courage, you have to act to experience it!
ILLUS: 33 YEAR OLD LARRY WALTERS RECENTLY DECIDED TO SEE HIS NEIGHBORHOOD FROM A NEW PERSPECTIVE, AND HE HAD A GREAT PLAN. HE WENT TO THE ARMY SURPLUS STORE ONE MORNING AND BOUGHT 45 USED WEATHER BALLOONS. THAT AFTERNOON HE STRAPPED HIMSELF INTO A LAWN CHAIR TO WHICH SEVERAL FRIENDS TIED THE NOW FILLED HELIUM BALLOONS. HE TOOK ALONG A PEANUT-BUTTER-AND-JELLY SANDWICH AND A BB GUN, FIGURING HE COULD SHOOT THE BALLOONS ONE AT A TIME WHEN HE WAS READY TO LAND. WALTERS, WHO ASSUMED THE BALLOONS WOULD LIFT HIM ABOUT 100 FEET IN THE AIR WAS CAUGHT OFF GUARD WHEN THE CHAIR SOARED MORE THAN 11,000 FEET INTO THE SKY ... SMACK INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE TRAFFIC PATTERN AT LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT. TOO FRIGHTENED TO SHOOT ANY OF THE BALLOONS; HE STAYED AIRBORNE FOR MORE THAN 2 HOURS, FORCING THE AIRPORT TO SHUT DOWN ITS RUNWAYS FOR MUCH OF THE AFTERNOON. SOON AFTER HE WAS SAFELY GROUNDED AND CITED BY THE POLICE, REPORTERS ASKED HIM, "WHY DID YOU DO IT?" HE SAID, “BECAUSE YOU CAN'T JUST SIT THERE!” -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. Abraham's life journey was full of setbacks and faults, but he didn't just sit there ... he kept going with the courage to obey.
B. Perseverance Heb. 11:17-19
1. There were also times of victory and great courage as he clung to those promises of God.
a. When God asked Abraham to offer up his only son Isaac he took great courage and obeyed even though it made little sense, Abraham considered God capable of raising him from the dead if necessary, he knew God's promise on this issue and he stood upon it unwaveringly!
b. He considered God as good as His Word!
2. These times of courage to obey is what set Abraham apart from others of his day and of our day as well!
3. Abraham's life was one of perseverance, of trusting God to keep His promises if he simply obeyed, even when he didn't understand!
4. Sometimes it is hard to obey God's Word and His principles, especially when they make our life harder at times. Like tithing ... it doesn’t make sense but it either works or it doesn't -- and if they are God's plans and promises they always work!
a. We simply must learn to trust and obey!
b. Obedience to God driven by faith was what made Abraham a righteous man in God's eyes; it was his faith that moved him to obedience that God counted as righteousness!
5. This is why we remember Abraham so well, he was not a quitter and his name still stands today as a testimony for all those who have the courage to obey!
ILLUS: A TEENAGER HAD DECIDED TO QUIT HIGH SCHOOL, SAYING HE WAS JUST FED UP WITH IT ALL. HIS FATHER WAS TRYING TO CONVINCE HIM TO STAY WITH IT, HE SAID TO HIM: “SON, YOU JUST CAN'T QUIT. ALL THE PEOPLE WHO ARE REMEMBERED IN HISTORY DIDN'T QUIT! ABE LINCOLN – HE DIDN’T QUIT! DOUGLAS MACARTHUR, HE DIDN'T QUIT. ELMO MCCRINGLE …" HIS SON BURST IN AT THIS POINT, "WHO? WHO IS ELMO MCCRINGLE?" HIS FATHER ANSWERED, "SEE ... YOU DON'T REMEMBER HIM, HE QUIT!" – SOURCE UNKNOWN
III. FRUITFUL STAGE Heb. 11:11-13, 16
A. Partial Heb. 11:11-13
1. Abraham's life wasn't completely absent of the fulfillment of God's promises ... though he never saw most of God's promises come to reality in his life he did see some fulfillment.
a. At 100 he finally got the promised son, hardly the descendants like the sand of the seashore, but one was a good start anyway!
b. He only had one son his entire lifetime, he never really saw God's promise of a great nation, of descendants by the millions; he saw only a small start toward it!
c. Even partial fruit was enough for him however to continue the courage to obey!
2. While he didn't get everything he wanted in his life he got enough of what God would do to keep him faithful in following Him!
3. Too many Christians do nothing if they don't see all their big dreams come true, they are unwilling to accept less than grandiose things and thus they often miss out on great adventures for God!
ILLUS: ROBERT REED SAID, "I HAVE EVERYTHING I NEED FOR JOY!" HIS HANDS ARE TWISTED AND HIS FEET ARE USELESS! HE CAN'T BATHE HIMSELF, HE CAN'T FEED HIMSELF, AND HE CAN'T BRUSH HIS TEETH, COMB HIS HAIR, OR PUT ON HIS OWN UNDERWEAR. HIS SHIRTS ARE HELD TOGETHER BY STRIPS OF VELCRO, AND HIS SPEECH DRAGS LIKE WORN-OUT AUDIO CASSETTES. ROBERT HAS CEREBRAL PALSY. THE DISEASE KEEPS HIM FROM DRIVING A CAR, RIDING A BIKE OR GOING FOR A WALK, BUT IT DIDN'T KEEP HIM FROM GRADUATING FROM HIGH SCHOOL OR ATTENDING ABILENE CHRISTIAN COLLEGE SO HE COULD FOLLOW GOD'S PLANS FOR HIM TO PREACH THE GOSPEL. AFTER GETTING HIS DEGREE HE TAUGHT AT ST. LOUIS JUNIOR COLLEGE AND TOOK 5 MISSIONS TRIPS OVERSEAS TO PREACH. HE THEN BECAME A MISSIONARY IN PORTUGAL. HE MOVED TO LISBON, ALONE, IN 1972. THERE HE RENTED A ROOM AND BEGAN TO STUDY PORTUGUESE. HE FOUND A RESTAURANT OWNER WHO WOULD FEED HIM AFTER THE RUSH HOUR AND A TUTOR WHO WOULD INSTRUCT HIM IN THE LANGUAGE. THEN HE STATIONED HIMSELF DAILY IN A PARK, WHERE HE DISTRIBUTED BROCHURES ABOUT CHRIST. WITHIN 6 YEARS HE LED 70 PEOPLE TO THE LORD, ONE OF WHOM BECAME HIS WIFE, ROSA. WHEN HE WOULD SPEAK TO AUDIENCES, HE WOULD BE CARRIED UP IN HIS WHEELCHAIR TO THE PLATFORM, A BIBLE WOULD BE LAID IN HIS LAP, HIS STIFF FINGERS WOULD FORCE OPEN THE PAGES, AND PEOPLE WOULD BEGIN TO WIPE TEARS FROM THEIR EYES IN ADMIRATION. ROBERT COULD HAVE ASKED FOR SYMPATHY OR PITY, BUT HE ALWAYS DID JUST THE OPPOSITE, HE WOULD HOLD UP HIS BENT HAND IN THE AIR AND SAY: "I HAVE EVERYTHING I NEED FOR JOY!" HIS SHIRTS MIGHT BE HELD TOGETHER WITH VELCRO, BUT HIS LIFE IS HELD TOGETHER WITH JOY! HE KEPT THE COURAGE TO OBEY! -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
B. Perfect! Heb. 11:16
1. O.K. So we don't always see what we thought God's promises would bring, we many times see only partial fulfillment. We must remember like Abraham that we are looking for a perfect time that isn't here yet when this happens!
a. By faith Abraham trusted God, he kept the courage to obey even with only partial answers because he was looking for something better some day, the perfect answers to all those promises were still good, even if not seen in his lifetime, he will still see them in eternity.
b. For those who keep courage and obey in spite of only partial answers God is proud to be called our God! 11:16
c. All the promises given us will become reality whether we see them or not here and now.
2. Sometimes they come late, like with Isaac, sometimes they come in small installments like owning only the cave of Machpeleh though Abraham was promised the entire Promised Land.
3. However God chooses to have promises come they will always be perfect because He is perfect!
4. There really is only one way to respond to God's promises whether we see them fulfilled like we would like or only partially fulfilled:
a. That we continue to have the courage to obey!
b. To keep faith in spite of slow fulfillment or even no fulfillment, remembering that not one promise of God's will ever be ignored!
c. This is why it is called FAITH! It will take courage to obey God's way of life. Things won't always go well for us and at times all we will have to cling to will be His promises! TAKE COURAGE SAINTS -- AND OBEY!
ILLUS: MARTIN LUTHER ONCE SAID, "IF IT WERE IN THE WILL OF GOD I'D PLANT AN OAK TREE TODAY EVEN IF CHRIST WERE COMING TOMORROW." IT WOULDN'T MATTER THAT IT DIDN'T MAKE SENSE OR SEEMED TO BE WASTE OF TIME, HE WOULD OBEY CHRIST TODAY EVEN IF IT DIDN'T MATTER TOMORROW ... THIS IS THE COURAGE TO OBEY! -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
CONCLUSION: Obedience to God's Word is not always an easy task; it takes courage and effort to live by principles we don't always get to see the benefits from. Courage to live in obedience can only come from seeing the big picture, the big promises, and not letting go! Courage doesn't mean failure-proof, it just means fighting back and getting back on course when we see our error! Take courage to obey like Abraham and you'll get the same reward some day!