Go, Trust, Sacrifice
This past Sunday, we launched a blockbuster summer series, Heroes - Life Lessons from Faith Champions. The truth is, none of the folks we will learn about in this series is perfect. In fact, some of them are remarkably flawed, just like you and me. So it may seem on the surface a bit of a stretch to call them “heroes” or “faith champions”.
But God didn’t choose these people because they had it all together, or because they had some superhero skillset, or because they were particularly exceptional or extraordinary. In fact, God chose many of them because they were the opposite of that… they were flawed, ordinary people God was able to use in extraordinary ways. And He can do the same with you! The truth is, if God wasn’t willing to work with imperfect people, He would have no one to work with at all!
This week, we learned about a man who was far from perfect… in fact, he once encouraged his wife to sleep with another man so he could get ahead. He fathered a child with his housekeeper and later cut them off financially. Once he was surrounded by thugs who had their eye on his pretty wife and pretended to be single to avoid getting roughed up.
He doesn’t sound like much of a hero, yet he would become known as the Father of our faith.
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. Romans 4:16
Why is Abraham such a faith champion? What life lessons can we learn from him? What tests did God give him during his life that we too will face?
TEST 1 - GOING WITHOUT KNOWING
Abraham had spent most of his life in Ur, which is now located in southern Iraq, a bustling economic center with a robust economy, a growing population and a vibrant culture. Abraham was reaping the benefits too… At age 75, he was healthy and wealthy; he had lots of friends and relatives and employees to do life with. There was just one big problem. He and his wife Sara had no child of their own and they desperately wanted one; but at their age, they certainly didn’t expect that to ever happen.
But God had other plans for them. He was about to turn their lives upside down.
1 The Lord had said to Abram,
“Go from your country,
your people and your father’s household
to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2-3
Abraham had a choice to make… Stay where he was and play it safe and or take a step of faith and go where God was leading him…. and even more, to experience God’s blessing.
Abraham went by faith… Do you know what faith is? Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
Faith involves going without knowing… taking a step without seeing clearly what is in front of you. It involves complete trust and obedience. Faith can seem risky, but it is confidence in what we hope for… Remember what this word “hope” means in the Bible. No doubt. That is different from how we understand “hope”. Worldly hope contains doubt… biblical hope contains no doubt. So faith is filled with hope… no doubt, even when it might appear risky.
Abraham would take a step of faith to go without knowing where God was leading him. I wonder if God may want you to trust Him with something specific in your life. What is it? Will you believe God’s promise to bless you as you take a step of faith? What is He calling you to? Will you open your eyes? Will you pass the first test, going without fully knowing? Abraham did.
TEST 2 - TRUSTING GOD TO DO THE IMPOSSIBLE
As God instructed, Abraham made his way to Canaan. He was doing very well financially and had built a nice estate, but he still had no heir. He longed for a child of his own and was disappointed he didn’t have one.
So God reminded Abraham of his promise….
5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:5-6
Do you find waiting difficult? Who likes to wait? But there are lessons in the waiting. God might be at work while you are waiting on Him. Are you willing to wait? Will you trust God to do the impossible?
Abraham continued to believe… and as promised, he and Sarah gave birth to their very own son Issac, when they were 100 years old. That was 25 years after God made the initial promise.
There is a vital lesson here for us that we can’t miss… God views time differently than we view time… He moves in Bible time. 8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 2 Peter 3:8.
Thinking in Bible time gives us an eternal perspective and helps us to manage expectations. There are a lot of practical applications for thinking this way…. A lot of people want to rush decisions because they are impatient and unwilling to wait on God.
Will you trust God to do the impossible in your life? Will you seek His will and wait patiently for God to move in your life… It may not be the way you envision, but God has a plan. You may have to think with an eternal perspective.
TEST 3 - MAKING A SACRIFICE
The third test that God gave Abraham is a test that is shocking to many. It is hard to hear. I’m sure it sounded as crazy to Abraham as it does to us. 2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:2.
Can you imagine the thoughts going through Abraham’s mind? This is my son, my only son, whom I love dearly. My wife and I waited years for him… I carried heartache for years before we finally had him and now I have to give him up by my own hand?
This is the third test that God gives Abraham and that he gives all of us to some degree throughout life. Are you willing to give up the one thing you most want to keep?
No matter what he must have been thinking, Abraham is remarkably obedient.
Abraham doesn’t hesitate… until at the last possible second, an angel of the Lord intervenes… 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Genesis 22:12
God was testing Abraham to see if He would obey… and he did. 17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. Hebrews 11:17
To be clear, the test was not whether God would take Issac away; the test was whether Abraham was willing to let Him. It was all about Abraham’s willingness to obey. No matter how great God tests you in life, it will never be greater than the test Abraham faced.
But the test Abraham faced is the same test that Jesus gives us, as His disciples. Are you willing to give up the one thing you most want to keep? That is our very own lives. Jesus calls us to give up everything and follow Him.
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24.
As Christ-followers, we are called to die to self… to selfish desires, selfish ambitions, selfish ways so that we fully follow Christ. You may be facing a faith test right now… a test that will involve sacrifice. Some of you are holding onto all of what God has given you, unwilling to give anything back to Him… maybe you are holding onto your talents, your time, your treasures. Are you sharing your talents by serving God and His church? Are you sharing your time by studying His Word and praying daily? Are you sharing your treasures by giving to God some of what He has blessed you with?
Every time you pass one of God’s tests, your faith is strengthened. You are able to trust Him with more and more of your life. His tests are never easy and they always challenge you. Will you go even without knowing? Will you trust God to do the impossible? Will you make the sacrifices needed to fully follow Christ?
The more tests you pass, the more inspiring your testimony, the greater your influence and the deeper your faith grows.