#1 “Journey of Faith” Series
TEXT: Gen. 11:27-12:9; Acts 7:2-5
INTRO: The very first lessons of life are those that involve OBEDIENCE! Some of the first things we teach our child include their need to obey us!
ILLUS: One evening my husband, Mark, and our preschooler, Krystal, were on the couch chatting. "Daddy, you're the boss of the house, right?" I overheard her ask sweetly.
My husband proudly replied, "Yes, I'm the boss of the house."
But Krystal quickly burst his
bubble when she added, "Cause Mommy put you in charge, huh Daddy?" -- Rhonda Mony,
This is also true in nature ... most baby animals by instinct learn the importance of obedience to their mother's calls immediately after birth; their very survival may depend on these first lessons of obedience, a young animal that strays when its mother calls may well end up as the meal of larger and bigger animals. Obedience in nature is often the difference between life and death!
This can also be true in the spiritual realm ... our spiritual vitality and progression will depend on not just the moment of obedience, but the lifestyle of obedience to God's Word and Will!
PROP. SENT: The example of Abraham's journey of faith will teach us to learn well the lessons of faith so that we don't make the errors that can be costly to our walk with God.
I. THE CONDITIONS Gen. 11:27-32
A. Dismal! Gen. 11:27-30
2. Ur was a hustle and bustle city on the Euphrates River with lots of trade ships coming and going; as well as being the major crossroads city for land caravans.
3. It was quite developed at the time of Abraham ... in fact the city had been in existence already for more than 1,000 years.
4. The people of the city worshipped idols ... the most important god was "SIN" – the Babylonian moon god. (Rather appropriate name!)
5. They were steeped in mysticism and idolatry!
6. Like large rich cities the highest culture in material things may be linked to the lowest in morals and values! It was a morally corrupt city with most of the ungodly trappings of modern day large cities found today!
7. To think that God wished to create a new people for Himself by calling out a rich prominent citizen of this city!
ILLUS: Nearly 200 years ago there were two Scottish brothers named John and David Livingstone. John had set his mind on making money and becoming wealthy, and he did. But under his name in an old edition of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" John Livingstone is listed simply as "the brother of David Livingstone."
And who was David Livingstone? While John had dedicated himself to making money, David had knelt and prayed. Surrendering himself to Christ, he resolved, "I will place no value on anything I have or possess unless it is in relationship to the Kingdom of God." The inscription over his burial place in Westminster Abbey reads, "For thirty years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize."
On his 59th birthday David Livingstone wrote, "My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All; I again dedicate my whole self to Thee." -- Billy Graham in Breakfast with Billy Graham. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 6.
a. How different the paths from Abram and those who stayed in Ur!
b. The difference was the path of obedience.
B. "Delay!" Gen. 11:31-32
1. Abram's family experienced some painful events:
a. His brother Haran (Lot’s father) dies while still in Ur. (11:28)
b. His wife Sarai cannot get pregnant (11:30) … a much greater shame in those days than we can understand at present.
2. These verses point out a problem for Abram ... his dad Terah and his nephew Lot travel with him and they take a route that took them to Haran instead of going to Canaan like Abram had been told by God!
3. TERAH's name means "DELAY!" in Hebrew. As part of an act of delay in obedience to go to Canaan, Abram settles in Haran with his father Terah and his nephew lot.
a. Haran was like a sister city to Ur ... the same type of conditions existed there as did in Ur.
b. In fact the main deities of Haran were the same, the Babylonian moon god “SIN” they left behind in Ur was the same principle deity in Haran.
c. This was like going nowhere for Abram!!! It was merely a disobedient DELAY!
ILLUS: Understanding can wait, but obedience cannot. -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 8114.
4. God finally steps in and removes the "DELAY!" (Terah dies!)
5. "Only God knows the multitudes of Christians that have left Ur, bound for the Promise Land, only to get bogged down in Haran!"
6. Disobedience only slows down our journey of faith, these delays can be costly and are certainly time consuming!
II. THE CALL Gen. 12:1-3; Acts 7:2-3
A. Divine Gen. 12:1-3
1. It is quite clear from this passage that God somehow spoke very clearly to Abram while he still lived in Ur of the Chaldeans.
2. This was no invitation from a moon god or goddess ... it was a divine call from the ONE TRUE GOD!
a. We don't know how God revealed Himself to Abram while in Ur, just that He did.
b. Perhaps this is good, this way the door is open for God to use many different vehicles to reveal Himself to man ... although today the primary means is by the Word of God!
3. This call was not based on how good Abram was at the time, it was based on God's plan of redemption for man!
a. God wants you just as you are, you don't have to be a certain type before you get saved.
b. God will help change your life after you receive Him as Lord!
4. The sense of all these wonderful "I WILLS" in verses 2-3 is that God is making these promises to Abram ... promises that Abram would either believe or not!
a. In fact, a good deal of these promises logically could not be fulfilled in Abram's own lifetime ... so Abram's faith would have to be based simply on God's Word and His character!
b. In other words, he would have to believe without seeing ... in fact, Abram would die still believing they would come to pass knowing in his own lifetime he might not see hardly any of these promises!
c. Hebrews back this up in chapter 11.
5. NEVER-THE-LESS ... Abram considered God FAITHFUL who made the promises ... and so he BELIEVED GOD and this was credited to him as RIGHTEOUSNESS!
6. God often calls without proof, just lots of promises so we have to believe BY FAITH AND NOT SIGHT!
a. After all this is the very meaning of Heb. 11:1!
b. It is not easy to believe ... but necessary!
ILLUS: One of our students received an appointment from a bishop, and the student did not feel the placement exactly suited his abilities.
I overheard him complaining about it to another student, and then the other student said, "You know, the world's a better place because Michelangelo did not say, 'I don't do ceilings.' "
Her comment stopped me dead in my tracks. I had to admit she was right.
If you and I are going to be faithful to the ministry God is calling us to, then we had better understand that. I reflected on the attitudes of key people throughout the Scriptures and the history of the church.
The world's a better place because a German monk named Martin Luther did not say, "I don't do doors."
The world's a better place because an Oxford don named John Wesley didn't say, "I don't do preaching in fields."
The world's a better place because Moses didn't say, "I don't do Pharaohs or mass migrations."
The world's a better place because Noah didn't say, "I don't do arks and animals."
The world's a better place because Rahab didn't say, "I don't do enemy spies."
The world's a better place because Ruth didn't say, "I don't do mothers-in-law."
The world's a better place because Samuel didn't say, "I don't do mornings."
The world's a better place because David didn't say, "I don't do giants."
The world's a better place because Peter didn't say, "I don't do Gentiles."
The world's a better place because John didn't say, "I don't do deserts."
The world's a better place because Mary didn't say, "I don't do virgin births."
The world's a better place because Paul didn't say, "I don't do correspondence."
The world's a better place because Mary Magdalene didn't say, "I don't do feet."
The world's a better place because Jesus didn't say, "I don't do crosses."
And the world will be a better place only if you and I don't say, "I don't do ..." -- Leonard Sweet, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 2.
7. Obedience built the faith that stood against the world, which created the giants of faith.
B. Disobedience Acts 7:2-3
1. Stephen's recounting the story of Abraham here makes it very clear what Gen. 12:1 hints at by the use of the past tense, Abraham was suppose to LEAVE his home in Ur and his father Terah and other family and travel to Canaan!
2. Yet the text we read just prior to chapter 12 makes it clear that Terah traveled with Abram and Lot, and instead of going to Canaan they traveled to Haran ... a city that TERAH his father would be comfortable living in.
a. Remember the city of Haran was like a twin city of Ur, same gods and goddesses.
b. Haran like Ur also was the same type of city in terms of being big on commerce ... main junction for land routes and boats, also being near the Euphrates River.
3. Remember what "TERAH'S" name meant? "DELAY!" Abraham accepted this delay either out of disobedience or he was patiently waiting for God to help him break from his family in an honorable way!
4. God ends the "delay" by the death of his father and so the reason for staying at Haran ends ... and Abraham then continues the journey as God had originally instructed him.
5. God was patient with Abram's awkward start in faith. By delaying in Haran and staying with his family Abram created a stronger bond to Lot who then left with him ... and created problems for him later as well!
6. Perhaps some of the difficulties that Abram faced later might have been evaded had he gone directly to Canaan and not stopped at Haran ... including the timing of the famine that drove him into Egypt where he sins!
ILLUS: This past Tuesday, after I put my kids to bed, I drove over to the church because I heard there was a rehearsal for "Return to Central High," and I wanted to encourage the cast and some of the musicians. I intended to be here just a few moments, so I drove my car up and parked it between the auditorium and the parking lot. I was in here only a short period of time, and after I encouraged them, I ran out to my car and drove home.
The next morning, in my mail box I got a note from a staff member: "Bill, a small thing, but Tuesday night when you came to rehearsal, you parked at the side of the lobby, in the no-parking area. A reaction from one of my crew, who did not recognize you until after you got out of the car, was, 'There's another jerk parking in the no-parking area.' We try hard not to allow people, even workers, to park anywhere other than the parking lots. I would appreciate your cooperation, too. Signed. ..."
He's no longer with us anymore. He was late coming back from lunch the next day, and when you gotta make a cut, you gotta make a cut. [Laughter] He's with us, and his stock went up in my book, because he had the courage to write me about what could be a little slippage in my character. Because you know what I thought as I drove up here? I thought, I shouldn't park illegally there, but I mean, I am the pastor. Which translates: "I'm an exception."
If you people allow me to take three steps down the road of saying that I'm an exception to the rules, I am in big trouble. I am not the exception. -- Bill Hybels, "The Character Crisis," Preaching Today, Tape No. 57.
a. It is too easy to allow “little things” to pass in our lives; such disobediences lead the way to larger things.
b. It is important that we watch our lives carefully.
7. Today's disobedience CAN BRING TOMORROW’S SORROWS AND CONSEQUENCES even when forgiveness exists prior to tomorrow!
III. THE CHALLENGES Gen. 12:4-9; Acts 7:4-5
A. Dangerous! Gen. 12:4-6
1. Going to a land full of small armies and robbers at every turn is not exactly a picnic!
a. Living this life of faith, this journey of faith, will not be without dangers or risks!
b. Faith means staying on course toward a land we've never seen, obeying a God we take by faith, counting on simply the promises He has made to us in His Word, that when we get there we will be rewarded!
ILLUS: The Bible recognizes no faith that does not lead to obedience, nor does it recognize any obedience that does not spring from faith. The two are at opposite sides of the same coin. -- A.W. Tozer. Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 4.
2. Every turn could end in disaster but Abram trusted God and kept going ... at each place it should be noted that HE BUILT AN ALTAR everywhere he came to!
a. We need to renew our faith on our journey by building altars to God as we go ... the point of the altar was to sacrifice to God and pray!
b. You can't make the journey with confidence if you are not building altars as you go ... you need to learn that this journey requires constant sacrifices ... and constant prayer!
3. Being that much of the land would be desert meant trusting God for sustaining them physically when the evidence would be to the contrary!
a. Christians can trust that God will meet their every need even when the evidence points in the opposite direction!
b. It would not be easy to do this; in fact, since Abram had delayed this journey by being in Haran his timing brought him into Canaan during a famine.
c. Abram's response to this famine would have consequences that would strike even his own children later!
4. It is dangerous to be a Christian in a world that is surely non-Christian!
a. Each turn we take brings on a new struggle or risk.
b. Yet, it is these obstacles that God uses to BUILD our faith up and makes us strong ... they are NOT designed to destroy us!
c. The difference comes by the way we respond to these trials!
5. In light of the promises the journey will prove to be well worth the trip!
a. This is still true, while it might be rough living the life of faith out in this world, these 70 years or so will not be anything compared with eternity and being in God's presence forever!
b. The destination will have proved the confidence and steadiness of our faith under present duress!
B. Disbelief! Gen. 12:7; Acts 7:4-5
1. As incredible as it might have sounded to Abram, God promises the impossible; he would have a son as part of this promise!
a. Abraham was 75 years old when he left Haran!
b. That means Sarah was already 65 years old ... already past childbearing years!
c. Sometimes it just seems impossible that God is real and that He is really at work in our lives!
d. But our feelings don't change God's character ... HE DOES CARE AND IS AT WORK ... HE HAS A PLAN NO MATTER HOW BAD THINGS MIGHT SEEM AT ANY MOMENT!
2. Later Abram and Sarai both laughed at the possibility of God giving them a son. Why? Twenty five years go by on this journey and nothing happens, they are near 100 years old and 90 years old and then God has the nerve to say NOW!
a. Why is God like this!?
b. Why does He seem to wait too long (at least by our sense of time!).
c. It may sound strange ... but when God works He wants us to know without a doubt that it was HIM!
ILLUS: When J. Wilbur Chapman was in London, he had an opportunity to meet General Booth, who at that time was past 80 years of age. Dr. Chapman listened reverently as the old general spoke of the trials and the conflicts and the victories he had experienced.
The American evangelist then asked the general if he would disclose his secret for success. "He hesitated a second," Dr. Chapman said, "and I saw the tears come into his eyes and steal down his cheeks," and then he said, "I will tell you the secret. God has had all there was of me. There have been men with greater brains than I, men with greater opportunities; but from the day I got the poor of London on my heart, and a vision of what Jesus Christ could do with the poor of London, I made up my mind that He would have all of William Booth there was. And if there is anything of power in the Salvation Army today, it is because God has all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life."
Dr. Chapman said he went away from that meeting with General Booth knowing "that the greatness of a man's power is the measure of his surrender." – Source Unknown
d. Even God is concerned at times that we have reason for our faith … at least good solid hints!
e. For them giving birth to Isaac at 100 years old and 90 years old would be a VERY STRONG hint of God's power!
f. It is also important that we notice that God's demonstration of His power gives credibility to His promises!
g. But before we get lost in this ... all this came AFTER Abraham believed God!
3. It is important for us to notice that Abraham and Sarah made mistakes along the journey just as we are likely to do ... more on that in future sermons!
4. It is sometimes HARD TO BELIEVE ... and when it is HARD TO BELIEVE ... IT IS HARD TO BEHAVE! ... BUT BELIEVE WE MUST!
C. Determination Gen. 12:8-9
1. In spite of the delay, in spite of the errors and the times of mistakes, Abram continues the journey and continues to building altars!
2. This is what finally allows him to make it to the land of promise ... he doesn't quit!
3. The character of Abram was faulty just like us, he made mistakes but came back ... instead of anger and quitting he continues the struggle and keeps his head and faith intact!
4. As our text ends we find Abram pitching his tent near BETHEL, meaning, "GOD'S HOUSE" -- no wonder the guy kept going, he knew where to look for strength and help!
a. Setting up his tent meant "family."
b. Notice he pitches it near "GOD'S HOUSE."
c. This gives confidence and renewal in the desert as we journey!
5. This place of "
a. It was a place of rest!
b. It was a place of renewal of strength!
c. It was a special place to sense God's strength and touch!
d. This is still true!
6. Determination is necessary if we are to keep going toward the PROMISE LAND!
ILLUS: A few centuries before Christ a man named Alexander conquered almost all of the known world using military strength, cleverness and a bit of diplomacy. The story is told that Alexander and a small company of soldiers approached a strongly fortified walled city. Alexander, standing outside the walls, raised his voice and demanded to see the king. When the king arrived, Alexander insisted that the king surrender the city and its inhabitants to Alexander and his little band of fighting men.
The king laughed, "Why should I surrender to you? You can't do us any harm!" But Alexander offered to give the king a demonstration. He ordered his men to line up single file and start marching. He marched them straight toward a sheer cliff
The townspeople gathered on the wall and watched in shocked silence as, one by one, Alexander's soldiers marched without hesitation right off the cliff to their deaths! After ten soldiers died, Alexander ordered the rest of the men to return to his side. The townspeople and the king immediately surrendered to Alexander the Great. They realized that if a few men were actually willing to commit suicide at the command of this dynamic leader, then nothing could stop his eventual victory.
Are you willing to be as obedient to the ruler of the universe, Jesus Christ, as those soldiers were to Alexander? Are you as dedicated and committed? Think how much power Christ could have in our area with just a portion of such commitment. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 102-103.
a. The world is moved by total dedication.
b. Obedience that is passionate will turn this world … and shake Satan!
CONCLUSION: The first and most essential ingredient in "the journey of faith" is obedience to God! Initial obedience must be followed by continual obedience or we can be "delayed" in Haran on the way to the Promise Land! Obedience is a principle characteristic of faith not only in the beginning of our walk with God but throughout our lifetime! How's your journey of faith going!?