TEXT: Gen. 12:1-9
INTRO: Most Christians view the concept of “faith” like a convenient light switch; you turn it on and off as you need it. Faith however is not so much of an act here and there as much as it is a perspective that drives us to act in any situation like we really believe in God and actually have confidence that He will act on our behalf!
ILLUS: According to an Associated Press account, in September 1994 Cindy Hartman of Conway, Arkansas, walked into her house to answer the phone and was confronted by a burglar. He ripped the phone cord out of the wall and ordered her into a closet. Hartman dropped to her knees and asked the burglar if she could pray for him. "I want you to know that God loves you and I forgive you,'' she said. The burglar apologized for what he had done. Then he yelled out the door to a woman in a pickup truck: "We've got to unload all of this. This is a Christian home and a Christian family. We can't do this to them." As Hartman remained on her knees, the burglar returned furniture he had taken from her home. Then he took the bullets out of his gun, handed the gun to Hartman, and walked out the door. Praying for our enemies is incredibly disarming. -- Scott Harrison, Waterloo, Iowa. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 2.
To the world faith like this seems to be “crazy faith!” To those however who have experienced this kind of “crazy faith” they have discovered the greatest joy of their lives. Crazy faith is the kind of faith that will respond to God in obedience no matter how crazy it may seem at the moment! It is the kind of faith that CAN remove mountains, and even more amazingly, it can move man!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that where there are great risks combined with great faith there are great rewards! We are not called to just reasonable faith; we are called to radical faith in God!
A. God’s Way 12:1a
1. Abram was quite comfortable in Ur of the Chaldeans.
a. Large modern city with a great marketplace.
b. Well developed industry and opportunities.
2. But it was a place without God, the city had two prominent temples and deities that were worshipped, the moon god Nannar and his wife Ningal.
a. God calls Abram to leave this place, there was no future here!
b. God wanted Abram to find a new environment where God could not only reveal Himself clearly to Abram, but give Abram an opportunity to show the world what a real living God can do compared to lifeless idols.
3. So God calls out to Abram.
a. God calls out to everyone to listen to Him.
b. The question is really, “will we listen to Him?”
4. For Abram to claim that he heard from God in a city that never heard from their lifeless idols sounded crazy!
a. Many no doubt asked him how he knew he had really heard from God.
b. How could Abram really know if God was real?
c. Only by FAITH, CRAZY FAITH – crazy because the only way to really prove it was to act upon it!
ILLUS: "I do not understand the digestive system, but I eat. I don't understand all about our respiratory system, but I continue to breathe. So it is with faith.” - Billy Graham
5. It had not been Abram seeking God, it was God who called to Abram to follow Him, to suddenly change what you believe in was a radical change, this is God’s way for salvation!
B. Great Wonder 12:1b
1. It is one thing for God to ask Abram to believe in Him, but quite another thing to ask Abram to completely obey Him for the rest of his life!
a. God’s request here is radical …leave behind everything and go somewhere he had never been before!
b. This would mean leaving behind all the things Abram knew about and was comfortable with …to go somewhere unknown!
2. In Abram’s case, belief in God meant a total lifestyle change (and isn’t this still true?)!
a. It was not enough for Abram to simply say, “Ok Lord, I will believe in you.” … God was asking him to abandon everything he knew and to trust Him with everything he didn’t know!
b. This is really why it is so difficult to have faith in God, it is not the idea of believing in God, many Americans are willing to do this, but obeying God and living by His standards rather than our own is the tough part of faith … and the stuff of real faith!
ILLUS: It is so hard to believe because it is so hard to obey. -- Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
3. God wants far more from us than just knowledge in our head that He exists, He wants obedience in our life that will allow Him to work out His mighty acts and through this show the world that He is real through us!
a. Imagine Abram telling his family that a new God had spoken to him, one that they have never heard of before; and this new God asked him to take his family and start traveling toward a land none of them had ever been to before without really knowing what life was going to be like even during the trip!
b. That is why it is called FAITH!
A. God’s Will 12:2
1. God’s will however was not to diminish his life by asking him to leave behind a glorious lifestyle in a great city like Ur, it was actually to give him something better!
a. God does not make our lives worse when we come to Him; it will always turn out better in the end!
b. That doesn’t always mean a smooth ride, just a glorious one!
2. There were battles in the desert, there were losses, there were enemies to confront, but there was always victory too!
3. Faith would give Abram a much better perspective on life, by knowing God he would have the advantage of knowing that everything was always under control and so he would not have to be afraid.
4. Faith gives our lives perspective, something the world never really gains outside of Christ.
a. To someone without faith in God their lives simply stumble forward and they are always anxious about what may be around the next corner.
b. To someone without faith there is no sense of meaning to life, since there is no larger picture to existence they are left with a sense of just existing without real meaning.
c. Faith opens up the big universe and gives us an inside perspective since we know the creator.
ILLUS: Visitors to the Kennedy Space Center are a little disappointed at the Vehicle Assembly Building. Touted as the largest building in the world, it does not seem too impressive at first. One approaches it over the flat scrub of Merritt Island. There are no nearby structures for comparison. With no sense of perspective, it seems quite ordinary. Then one goes inside. There is a man on a scaffold. He seems no bigger than a fly. There are clouds that form at the top, sometimes making it rain inside the building. Once he has acquired a sense of perspective, the visitor is able to grasp the immensity of the structure. Our faith gives us a sense of perspective. With it we can distinguish the large things in life from the small. We can see how really large the spiritual issues are that confront us! -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
5. Abram could have stayed in Ur and continued a rich life with many earthly blessings, but his name today no one would have heard of, or he could obey by faith and watch God do something through his life that would last for eternity!
B. Great Work! 12:3
1. Abram’s life of faith would be so powerful that it would affect all the nations of the world!
a. God would deal with others based on how they dealt with Abram and his descendants!
b. In many ways this is still true, not just with Abram, but with all of God’s children.
2. God’s purposes in this world flow through His chosen people, all believers of all ages.
a. All history is moving toward an appointed end that God has decreed.
b. And all these things are for the purpose of saving those who have found a relationship with God through faith.
3. We don’t live for just the things of this world for the here and now, we live by faith that God has a great future in store for all those who continue to have faith in Him.
a. It is hard to convince unbelievers of this future reality, but whether they believe or not won’t change the fact that it is true!
b. Faith is the key to having a real future with God whether unbelievers think we are crazy or not …we are crazy, we have crazy faith!
ILLUS: To those who believe, no explanation is necessary. To those who do not believe, no explanation is possible. -- Franz Werfel (1890-1945)
4. Though Abram at the moment could not possibly see how God would fulfill these great promises to him, he would believe by faith that God will do what He said He will do!
A. Great Willpower 12:4-5
1. Abram responds with crazy faith …gets up and leaves Ur and starts off on a journey to a place he has never been before!
a. He doesn’t decide to first check out the brochures on this new land or to check with the job opportunities that might be available in Canaan, he just goes in one big leap of faith!
ILLUS: Don't be afraid to take a big step. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps. -- David Lloyd George (1863-1945)
b. Sometimes we need to respond in faith in great ways, not just through little steps!
2. Abram accepted the whole package in faith and responded in total commitment.
3. Such great faith however has great rewards! When we risk little, the rewards are often little, where there have been great risks there are great rewards!
4. Abram’s faith brought him to the place called the “Promise land,” but remember, while it was a “Promise land” it was still full of Canaanites!
a. Faith is a progressive experience for believers, not just a one time act at an altar!
b. Faith is meant to be a living reality; you can’t just get “saved” and then sit back and not live for the Lord the rest of your life
c. Real faith has real obedience every day of our lives!
B. Godly Worship 12:6-9
1. Abram travels throughout the land, east, and west, south and north … he is checking out what will one day be his and his children’s!
a. Yet, during Abram’s lifetime he owned very little of this territory, only a small area used for a burial plot!
b. What he saw as his he saw by faith and trusted God for it all!
2. Once he had arrived God not only “showed him the land” (12:1b) but now promises to “give his offspring the land” (12:7)
3. Abram’s response to God’s promises – he builds an altar and worships the Lord in the heart of the land that would one day belong to his descendants!
a. Notice that he is worshipping though it had not yet happened, in fact he didn’t even yet have a son to produce descendants, and he and his wife were really too old for kids anymore, this is really CRAZY FAITH!
b. Faith allows us to worship and thank God before we actually see the fruit or answers as though it has already happened!
ILLUS: Faith is not believing that God can, but that God will! -- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
4. In fact, Abram as he travels through the land continues building altars and calling on the Lord, it is not enough to just take from the Lord; he is also giving the land altars to worship the Lord as evidence that one day this land would be full of places to worship the Lord.
a. Even when he heads toward the desert area known as the Negev, the area south, he continues to build altars and worship the Lord.
b. Abram’s practical way to show his confidence that God would honor His promise to give all this land to him was to build altars of worship to God throughout the land.
5. Abram also wanted to demonstrate that no matter where he was, it was a place to worship God.
6. Abram demonstrated a crazy faith …a complete commitment no matter what the world must have thought at the time.
a. And the entire world is a better place for his crazy faith!
b. This would still be true if we had radical faith today!
CONCLUSION: God’s call on Abraham required crazy faith, he left everything to follow God to a place he had never been before. The payoff however was huge! Where there is great risk with great faith there are great rewards! One does not come without the other. Do you have crazy faith? You’re crazy not to!!!