Monday, November 21, 2011

Where God Guides, God Provides

I want to see how well y'all listened last week to anything besides the opening phone call.  Do any of you remember any of the promises that God gives us?  I named just a few.  The Bible is full of God's promises but we only talked about a few. 

He promises to supply all our needs. Philippians 4:19

God has promised that His grace is sufficient for us.

We will not be overtaken with temptation.

All things work together for good to those who love and serve Him faithfully.

Those who believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins will be saved.

Eternal life.

Do you believe those promises?  Of course.  Nobody is going to say they don't.

Would you say that you are a person of faith?  Is that an apt description of you?  I'm sure we would all say yes to that.

If you are a person of faith, when was the last time you proved it?  I mean, it's easy to sit here or stand here, fat and happy and comfortable and say that we believe God will supply all our needs when we really mean that Walmart will supply all our needs.  Yes, that maybe part of God's promise to provide everything we need, that He gives us food, clothing and shelter.

But when was the last time you ever really had to depend on God to provide?  When was the last time you knew there was no way out of this situation except for the grace of God?  When was the last time you took God up on His promise to provide a way out of sin and you resisted even though everything in you wanted to give in?

For some of you it might not have been too long ago.  I know a lot of you are going through difficult times right now.  I know I am not the only one that Satan is hammering on here lately.  As a church we have been obedient and we have seen God bless and we can expect Satan to attack and that is where a lot of us are right now.  Physical problems, relational problems, financial problems.

Some of you may need to have your faith strengthened a little bit but the problem with becoming a person of faith is that it is very similar to becoming a person of patience in that it almost always involves going through difficult times.  And maybe that is why God allows that vicious cycle because it strengthens our faith and we are told in Hebrews 11:6 that without faith it is impossible to please God.

George Muller was a great man of faith.  If you have never read his autobiography you are missing out.  He said, "God delights to increase the faith of his children.  We ought, instead of wanting no trials before victory, no exercise for patience, to be willing to take them from God's hand as a means.  I say - and say it deliberately - trials, obstacles, difficulties and sometimes defeats, are the very food of faith."  End quote.

He use the word "obstacles" there and that is an appropriate word to use for the situations that Abram is going through as we look at his life in Genesis.  Today we are in Genesis chapter 12 verses 10-20.  Last week we read in verses 1-5 that God promised Abram that Abram would be blessed and would be a blessing and that all people would be blessed through him.  And God told him to go and without hesitation Abram left.  A real man of faith.

Most of the rest of the story of Abram, or Abraham as he was later called, hinges on that promise and we see over and over again the fulfillment of that promise or what is an obstacle to the fulfillment of that promise.

So, last week we left Abram with the promise that God was going to do incredible things through him and with him and this week, right out of the gate we see a huge obstacle to that promise.  In 11:30 it says that Sarai was barren and had no children.  Abram had to be having some doubts about it all right off the bat but he goes on as it says in 12:4, he left.

So, now, skip down to verse 10 and let's read through verse 20.

There are 2 things I want us to see from this passage:

1)  You don't have faith until you are tested.

2)  God is faithful even when we are not.

As usual in the Book of Genesis we are not given all the details in this story but hopefully by now you are used to that and understand that this is not meant to be a biography about Abram.  It is not just teaching us history.  In fact, as with the rest of Genesis, it is not really about the character being talked about.  It is, once again, about the character of God.

We saw God's sovereignty and love brought out in the creation story.  We saw God's grace and justice in the flood narrative.  We saw his power and trustworthiness through the story of the tower of Babel.  Last week we talked about God's provision as seen through His giving of this promise.  Don't doubt that this week, too, we will see some aspect of God's character that He wants to reveal through His Word.

First, let's take a closer  look at the text and see that we don't have faith until it is tested.   In verse 10 it says that there was a famine in the land.  Abram started out in the area of what is today Iraq and Iran where even today famine is common.  He headed WNW toward the Mediterranean Sea and then fairly south toward Egypt.  Egypt rarely has problems like that since the Nile River regularly overflows and supplies them with plenty of water.

So the famine is the first real test of Abram's faith and what does he do?  He does what makes sense to him.  In fact, it makes sense to us today, right?  Famine over here.  Go over there.  That's just common sense.  The problem is that God told him to go to Canaan and while going to Egypt solved one problem, it caused a few others.

Now look at verse 11.  Guys, how many times has a good-looking woman gotten you in trouble?  (Read 11)  If he had just stopped right there by telling her she was beautiful and kept on going to Egypt.  But no.  The thing is, evidently this was not just Abram being biased toward his wife because in several places it says that all the guys noticed her and wanted her.

There are a couple of interesting things here.  First off, Sarai was 65 years old and still turning the heads.  She must have been something.  I think she must have been beautiful inside and out.  She carried herself well, as they say.  Although she is complicit in this scheme.  She agrees to it.  That doesn't say much for her but in those days she probably didn't have a whole lot of choice.

The other thing I found interesting here is that it was true that men would find her beautiful and if Abram was her husband he might have been killed which means that the people of that day put a much higher value on marriage than they did life.  They wouldn't just take her if she was married.  That would be wrong.  So they just killed the husband.  Interesting to me.

Now look down at verse 16.  It's looking pretty good for Abram about now, right?  Pharoah just gave him a whole lot of stuff.  He's still alive.  Good news, isn't it?  Abram is standing there the proud owner of sheep, cattle, camels, servants and donkeys...and no wife.  No way the promise of God comes through now.

Have you ever been there?  "God, I know you said such and such but I really messed up this time and have really gotten off track so bad that there is no way to fix it."  We don't know that Abram said anything like that but he had to be thinking something along those lines.  And I'm sure I'm the only one who also thinks like that.

God, I know you have called me here but I can't afford it.  I'm paying on a house in Lake Worth.  What?  It sold already?

Yes, but God, I don't have any place to live and can't afford any place if I could find something.  A parsonage?  But it doesn't have a fence for my dogs!  It does now?

God, there is no way we will ever find a worship leader to come way out here...who's there?  Bill and Pat Lightsey?

God, we only have about 15-20 people here.  There is no way we are going to be able to pay all our bills this summer.  What Dale?  The bills are all paid and we got an insurance check as a bonus?

You know what?  I'm gonna ask God for a swimming pool and a helicopter pad just to see if He ever says, "No."  No, I'm kidding.  I'm not asking for that.  Because God's not near as concerned about whether we are comfortable and having fun as He is about our ministry.  He is not worried about us having well-known names.  He wants His name to be proclaimed and He will provide all of our needs to make that happen.  Even when we are not faithful, God still is.  Amen?

In closing, I want to look at a passage that, to me, shows what true faith really is.  Turn to Daniel chapter 3.  Daniel is in the OT between Ezekiel and Hosea if that helps.   I love the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  The king had a giant golden idol set up and made it a law that everyone bow down to it and these 3 guys refused.  The law said that if you didn't bow down then you would be thrown into the furnace.  You probably remember the story from when you were a little kid.

Read 16-18

That is faith.  Shad, Shack and Bed knew that God had guided them to where they are right now and that God would provide.  Even if it was not like they would choose.  Even if it meant they didn't live through it.  They believed God's promises.  And even today, where God guides, God provides.

Do you know Him today?  Do you have a relationship with Him?  Today is the day of salvation.

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