By Faith, Abraham

I heard a good illustration from Chuck Swindoll:

My older brother, Orville, was never a wealthy man, but he was wonderfully generous with what he had. He never held back from the Lord . . . and that is still true! It was this overabundance of faith that led him to be a missionary for more than thirty years in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Just before that, he had done some short-term mission work in Mexico and had come north to gather his wife, Erma Jean, and the kids for the long trip down into the far reaches of South America.

Before leaving, they stopped off for a quick visit with our parents in Houston. Now, you have to appreciate the kind of man my father was. Look up the word responsible in the dictionary, and his picture is there! To him, risks are for those who fail to plan. Responsible people leave nothing to chance. As far as he was concerned, faith is something you exercise when your three backup plans fall through and you have run out of all other options. My father was a believer, but he never understood the life of faith. Not really.

My brother, on the other hand, was stimulated by faith. He has lived his entire adult life on the raw edge of faith. To him, life doesn’t get exciting until God, and God alone, can get us through some specific challenge. That drove our dad nuts!

Orville pulled up to the house in an old Chevy sedan on four of the slickest tires I had ever seen. My father always inspected tires when we came to visit. I wondered how long it would take for him to say something. I’m sure Orville did too. Not very is the answer.

After a great supper of good ol’ collard greens and corn bread, onions and red beans, my mother and sister went into the kitchen, leaving my father at one end of the table, Orville at the other, and me sitting on one side. Then it started.

“Son, how much money do you have for your long trip?”

“Oh, Dad, don’t worry about it. We’re gonna be fine.”

Before he could change the subject, my father pressed the issue, “Answer me! How much money do you have in your wallet?”

Orville smiled and shrugged as he said, “I don’t have any in my wallet.”

I sat silent, watching this verbal tennis match.

“Nothing in your wallet? How much money do you have? You’re gettin’ ready to go down to South America! How much money you got?”

With that, my brother smiled, dug into his pocket, pulled out a quarter, set it on its edge on his end of the table, then gave it a careful thump. It slowly rolled past me all the way to my father’s end of the table and fell into his hand. Dad said, “A quarter? That is all you’ve got?”

Orville broke into an even bigger smile and said, “Yeah. Isn’t that exciting!”

That was not the word my father had in mind. After a heavy sigh and a very brief pause, Dad shook his head and said, “Orville, I just don’t understand you.”

My brother grew more serious. Looking Dad in the eyes, he answered without blinking, “No, Dad, you never have.”

I don’t know how he actually made the trip to their destination . . . or how he and Erma Jean took care of all their little kids, but they never went hungry. And they served in Buenos Aires and traveled to other parts of the world for more than three decades. My father was a man who emerged through the Great Depression, lived in fear of poverty his whole life, seldom took a risk, and never experienced the joy of trusting God that made my brother smile so big that day.

Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, “Ragged-Edge Faith and Reckless Generosity,” Insights (May 2007): 1-2. Copyright © 2007, Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide

That faith, that Swindoll’s brother, Orville, had, that is the faith that Abraham had. Abraham is for sure the father of our faith.

We are here because of Abraham. Our Christian heritage does go back to Abraham.

Abraham was blessed to be a blessing. He followed God in faith, not knowing where he was going but he was blessed and he blessed the world.

I want to turn to Hebrews 11:8-10 in order to talk about Abraham’s faith.

Today’s challenge:

Abraham had faith following God unknowing where God was leading him. So, let’s follow Abraham’s example, having faith in God with our future.

Remember that God is in control. Everyone say:

God is in control—repeat with me.

Ps 89:13

Your arm is endued with power;

your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.

(from New International Version)

Read with me Hebrews 11:8-10:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Now, let’s read Genesis 12:1-3:

 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“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.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

 

  1. First, we see the pilgrimage of faith, this is separation from the world.
    1. This has to do with Abraham’s willingness to follow the Lord. He was willing to follow the Lord in uncharted territory.
    2. Let me set the context.
    3. In Genesis chapter 1-2 things are generated. Then there is the fall. So, we have chapter 3-11 and these chapters are about degeneration. Things are getting bad. The world is going to hell. God destroys the world with the flood. Now, beginning in chapter 12 we have the regeneration.
    4. God will begin to regenerate the world through the line of Abraham.
    5. Abraham lived in Ur.
    6. He then goes to Haran before getting to the area of the promised land.
    7. Of course if you read the rest of Genesis he travels around quite a bit.
    8. Interesting: there is a historian from time of Herod mentions a king of Damascus named Abrahames.
    9. Abrahames was an “immigrant who arrived with an army from the land above Babylon called the land of the Chaldeans. But after a short time he left this country also with his people and took up residence in the land which was called Canaan”
    10. Abram is connected to Damascus through his heir, Eliezer (Gen 15:2-3)
    11. By the way: “Ur is well known as an important center in the land of Sumer; it reached its zenith under the kings of the third dynasty of Ur, who around 2060- 1950 B.C. [Abram was born ca. 2166 B.C.] revived for the last time the ancient cultural traditions of the Sumerians. The names of several of Abram’s relatives are also the names of known cities: . . . Terah . . . Nahor . . . Serug . . . Haran . . . and Laban the Aramean, Jacob’s father-in-law, was from the city Haran in Paddan-aram. All these are places around the river Balih in northern Mesopotamia. Haran and Nahor are often mentioned in the Mari documents of the eighteenth century B.C., and cities named Tell-terah and Serug are known from later Assyrian sources.” “In the ruins of Ur at about this time [2070-2060 B.C.] there are some twenty houses per acre. Assuming six to ten persons per house, there were 120 to 200 people per acre, the average figure of 160 being exactly the same as the population density of modern Damascus [in 1959]. Ur covered 150 acres, and it may therefore be estimated that the population was approximately 24,000 inhabitants.” “If Abraham did come from Mesopotamia sometime in the early second millennium B.C., it is necessary to revise the picture sometimes painted of him as a primitive nomad accustomed only to open spaces of the desert, and to recognize that at least to some extent he must have been the heir of a complex and age-old civilization.” “The movement between Ur and Haran becomes easy to understand when we recall that Ur was the greatest commercial capital that the world had yet seen . . . .”
    12. By the way, we must understand that Abraham had comfortable living in Ur. It was a commercial center. It was advanced. I heard Billy Graham’s daughter say that there was ventilation.
    13. All this and Abraham trusted God.
    14. So, think about it: you are, let’s say, seventy-five years old and you hear from God. I don’t know how God spoke to Abraham but He did. Imagine that God speaks to you.
    15. God says, I want you to go to Malaysia to serve on the mission field. It may make no sense to you. You are comfortable here. God just tells you to go.
    16. Or, suppose that all of your family are close by. Your children live close your grandchildren live close, but God calls your son or daughter to Malaysia. This means that they are going overseas and so are your grandchildren. They are going to be missionaries.
    17. Suppose that God calls your family to Iran or Egypt, or Iraq as a missionary. You see, this is what is going on for Abraham.
    18. I bet there are many family and friends that he never, NEVER saw or talked to again.
    19. No letters, no email, no Skype, no phone.

The problems Abram’s faith encountered were these.

  1. Sarai was barren and incapable of producing an heir (11:30).
  2. Abram had to leave the Promised Land, which God had told him he would inherit (12:10).
  3. Abram’s life was in danger in Egypt (12:11-20).
  4. Abram’s nephew (heir?), Lot, strove with him over the land (ch. 13).
  5. Abram entered a war and could have died (14:1-16).
  6. Abram’s life was in danger from retaliation in the Promised Land (15:1).
  7. God ruled Eliezer out as Abram’s heir (15:2-3).
  8. Hagar, pregnant with Abram’s son (heir?), departed (16:6).
  9. Abimelech threatened Sarai’s reputation and child (heir?) in Gerar (ch. 20).
  10. Abram had two heirs (21:8-11).
  11. God commanded Abram to slay his heir (ch. 22).
  12. Abram could not find a proper wife for his heir (24:5).

Faith: yes, Abraham obeyed. Will you? Will I? I’ll come back to that.

Repeat after me: God is in control.

Ps 89:13

Your arm is endued with power;

your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.

(from New International Version)

  1. Then we see the patience of faith—the ability to wait and endure without ever entering into possession of the promised land.
    1. Abraham got to the promised land, but really never owned it. We do read in Genesis 25 that Abraham had bought some land. But he did not get to see Israel take possession of it
    2. Abraham did not get to see but two sons
    3. Abraham never saw the nation that his descendants would become.
    4. God’s promise to Abraham, which he waited on:
    5. There are seven elements in this promise—seven suggesting fullness and completeness (cf. 2:2-3). (1) God promised to create a great nation through Abram. (2) He promised to bless Abram. (3) Abram’s name would live on after his lifetime. (4) He was (commanded) to be a blessing to others. (5) God would bless those who blessed Abram. (6) And God would curse those who cursed Abram. (7) All the families of the earth would be blessed through Abram and his descendants.
  2. Perseverance of faith: the positivity of faith, the focus on heaven that causes us to have a certain indifference to things in this life because we’re looking to that glory to come
    1. Repeat after me. God is in control. God is in control.
    2. Consider that Abraham was looking towards a city that God would design.
    3. We are looking to the city of God.
    4. We are looking towards the New Jerusalem.
    5. We are looking towards a time when God makes all things new and right. (Rev. 21)
    6. Now, some two thousand years after Abraham: The Hebrews writer referred to “Abraham” 10 times in total; his example is especially helpful for those tempted to abandon faith in God. Only two other books mention him more: Luke (15 times) and John (11 times).
  1. How do we apply this?
    1. I must be willing to trust God to lead me to uncharted territory as Abraham was willing.
    2. I must be willing to sacrifice, income, time, talent, location to serve the Lord.
    3. I must be willing to move for the Lord.
    4. I must be willing to change occupations for the Lord.
    5. I must be willing to prayerfully consider mission trips, local or foreign. This may be uncharted territory.
    6. I must be willing to serve somewhere new in the community: hospice, nursing home ministry, Men’s Challenge.
    7. I must be willing to talk to someone about Jesus. This is uncharted territory in many ways.
    8. I must be willing to step out.
    9. I must be willing to trust God with my future. I must trust God with the unknown.

Close:

The Undiscovered Country clip (maybe)

The clip from them eating talking with the Klingons, or clip from where Kirk addresses the assemble stating that people are afraid of the future.

 

The future can be scary can’t it? I think the future can be very scary.

When I was in high school I had many friends who were called into the mission field. Several of them are serving overseas now. I did not want called to missions. I was trying to be sensitive to the Lord’s will but I was not interested. But now, I realize I am called to missions as well. In like manner, I must trust God as Abraham did. I like comfort zones, but I must trust God.

Repeat after me: God is in control, God is in control.

Ps 89:13

Your arm is endued with power;

your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.

(from New International Version)

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

Pray

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