Due to technical difficulties, this sermon was not recorded. This is a transcript of the message.
Of all the things God calls us to do in life, none is more important, or more difficult, than the call to wait.
Everyone in the sanctuary today is waiting on something. Some are waiting to see what will happen in an important relationship, or with their children or grandchildren. Others are waiting to see what will happen at work, if they will ever find a job they truly like, or if they will ever be able to retire. Still others are waiting to see what will happen with their health. Some are even waiting to see if they will survive their diseases.
Maybe the hardest waiting is waiting upon God. You have claimed one of the promises of Scripture as God’s promise to you:
Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Jeremiah 33:3: “Call unto me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things you do not know.”
Romans 8:28: “All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purposes.”
Philippians 1:6: “He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion...”
You have taken at least one of these promises to heart, and now you are waiting upon the Lord for the fulfillment of what was promised. So the question today is: How do you survive the wait?
That is certainly the question that Abram was asking in our text. We don’t know how long it has been since he and Sari packed up life in Haran and began their journey with God, solely because God made a promise to them. God promised them a son, land, and a future if they would only follow. But clearly the old couple thinks it has been too long. They have had some good times and some bad times on the journey. What they haven’t had is a son. So they just keep waiting, wandering around, and hoping the promise will come true. God has already spoken a second time to reaffirm the promise. Now, when He comes a third time, He begins by saying in verse 1: “Do not be afraid, Abram.” Don’t fear for your future. Don’t fear that you will not have a son.
So God has made the same promise three times and still no baby. It is like coming to church to hear the promises over and over: “He that has begun a good work will bring it to completion...”
This time Abram doesn't just say, “Thanks for the reminder.” No, he protests. Verse 2: “But Abram said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’” It was as if to say, “It is time to get realistic. It is time to settle for the possible. I’m too old to keep hoping because the hope has started to hurt.”
We echo this when we find ourselves thinking lines such as, “I used to dream about having a calling, but now I’ll settle for a job.” “When we were married we vowed fidelity, but now I’ll settle for staying out of each other’s way.” “I started school excited about learning, but now I’ll settle for getting good enough grades.” We might as well say, “I guess I don’t need you to do a good work, God. I’ll settle for okay. God, how about blessing Eliezer and we will call it even between us.”
Notice how God responds to Abram’s, and our, plans to settle for the realistic. He doesn't try to persuade Abram to keep believing. Nor does He cuddle or cajole him. He certainly doesn't say, “Wow, look at the time. I better hurry up with that kid of yours.” No, God simply reaffirms the promise, making it all the more fantastic. Verse 4: “Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man (a slave born in Abram’s household) will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens...’”
This is the most important thing to remember when you are waiting. Look not to the possible and the realistic. Look toward heaven. “...count the stars --- if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be.” All that we have is God’s often-repeated promise and a choice. But if you want to do more than settle in life, you have to look toward heaven and to wait upon God.
Now why is that? Why does God wait so long to give Abram and Sari that baby? Why does God wait to unfold His promises in life? Why do we just keep wandering around waiting, waiting, waiting?
Abram wasn't just wasting time. No, his waiting became the means by which God molded Abram’s soul. That is why our waiting is all about as well. While we wait, we are making the most important choices of our lives. These are the choices that will determine if we have the soul to be a blessing.
Remember, that was the original blessing. God told Abram, “I will bless you that you may be a blessing.” So the blessing wasn't that Abram would have a son, and it isn’t that you will get all your dreams. The blessing is to bless others, which means to give them a taste of the bliss of heaven. And it is the waiting, when it is done well, that molds your soul into a blessing to those around you. That’s because waiting creates a choice to keep believing. You can’t bless if you don’t believe.
Verse 6 tells us that after lifting his face toward heaven, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” This is the first time we find the word righteousness in the Bible. And isn’t it striking that it has nothing to do with moral codes, the law, standards, thin-lipped piety, or the other things we associate with righteousness? Righteousness has to do with expectancy, with hope, and with a choice to look toward heaven and believe.
Some have wondered aloud why God should declare someone righteous, that is forgive their sin and fit them for heaven, just because they believed they were going to become a father! But this is to miss the point. God was stimulating faith through His word so that Abram would learn to trust the Lord for all that he was unable to do for himself. In exactly the same way God still proclaims His truth through His Word in order that men and women might believe Him and trust Him to be all that they could ever wish for in time and eternity.
Are you starting to see how waiting shapes us into a blessing? We need people who are walking through life expectantly. We need hope. We need believers. The people around us are counting on us to believe. Even if they don’t believe, they need to at least believe that we believe. That’s because there is no blessing in cynicism. All of the important things in life: raising children, maintaining healthy relationships, making a difference, building community, or working for justice are accomplished only by those who believe in something.
The church believes in something. We believe that not only did heaven come down to us in Jesus Christ; not only did He die for our sins, our unrighteousness, and our failures to believe; not only did He rise from the tomb, but Jesus Christ is now reigning over all the earth. And we believe that one day He will bring the righteous Kingdom of God fully to earth.
We have heard this promise for a long, long time, and yet we are still waiting. There are plenty of reasons to doubt and to settle for a world full of violence and injustice. But those of us who choose to still believe, should walk through life as a blessing, particularly to those who do not believe.
Our belief in the reign of Jesus Christ makes us a blessing for several reasons. For one, it makes us a blessing because we long ago gave up the illusion that we are in control. And isn't that already a blessing? Nothing righteous happens when we are in control. After this third visit from God, Abram built another altar and again sacrificed his plans to control God’s promises. Secondly, when we are stuck in confusion, conflicts, or even routine, we can look up to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Seeing His grace for us again, we can more easily offer grace as a blessing. Thirdly, we have a righteous vision of what the world is supposed to look like. That’s why we go to depressed neighborhoods, poor countries, and wherever Jesus Christ is at work building His Kingdom.
Maybe the best way our belief in the reigning Christ makes us a blessing, however, has to do with this notion of expectancy. We, like Abram, wait as a people who expect to be surprised. Again, that is what righteousness originally meant --- expectant. Do you expect to look in the rearview mirror as you leave church to find Jesus in the back seat? You may be surprised and ask Him, “Don’t they need you back there at church?” But Jesus says He’s with you. Then you get home only to find out He’s not planning on leaving. How would that change things? To your amazement you find Him in the car again as you go to work tomorrow morning. So you get to work, or the place you volunteer, and introduce Him to your colleagues saying something like, “I guess it’s ‘Take your Savior to Work Day’”. How would that change the conversations at work, the jokes, or the decisions you make? The point, of course, is that Jesus is in all of these places.
Do you expect Him to be in your home, at school, where you work, or in the car as you run errands? Do you expect Him to do the most miraculous things in all of these places? You do, if you want to be a blessing.
Now, may it be so. Amen.
- We want our lives to make a difference for others. We have been blessed to be a blessing.
- What do you do when you get your life to what you thought was the right place, only to discover a famine?
- Sometimes when you have hit a famine, you simply have to make a change or take a detour for a while.
- No one who lives by faith can remain neutral on this holy business of being a blessing. You are either blessing or cursing those around you.
- The times we are most tempted to doubt that God will bless us is when we don’t have clarity about life’s journey.
- Trust, or faith, doesn't always bring understanding.
- Trust casts us upon the love of God, which is the great blessing. And you don’t know if you have received this blessing until there is a reason to be anxious.
- Wherever you are learning faith that is the right place for you to be.
- You cannot be a blessing without having an altar of prayer where you sacrifice your fears in order to see that you are held by the love of God.
- Even when we are lacking faith, God remains faithful to us. That is the source of our great hope.
- You have to receive love to give it. And the only way to receive love is to trust it.
We are called not just to receive, but to be a blessing.
- We all yearn for a sense of calling.
"The secret of human beings is the secret of their responsibility." ~Vaclav Havel
- We all know about hard labor/knocking ourselves out/struggling with hope. The question we ask is, “What is my calling in this struggle?”
- We have made an idolatry of our own generation, assuming that all of life’s meaning has to be found within our years. The ancients always understood themselves as part of a future that lived on.
- Abram and Sari were settled in Haran, into a life without a future. The worst part is that their society had given up hope and chosen barren comfort and security.
- For some reason, Terah had stopped his pilgrimage and settled at a place along the way. Perhaps you started out with a magnificent dream, but the demands of life have caused you to place your dream on a shelf in the closet of your soul.
- The call of God kindled something that had almost died out in Abram’s soul --- hope.
- You have to leave what is known to find hope.
- Life isn't about settling. It’s about following the sojourner God who is on the move.
- The Gospel has always been about leaving and cleaving --- leaving what is known but barren, and cleaving to the holy promise of hope.
- Whatever you have settled for, you have to leave to find the new place in life that God wants to show you.
- Every call of God is built upon the foundation of being a blessing.
- The altar is the place where we sacrifice what we have but cannot keep, in order to receive what only God can give but which we can never lose --- being a blessing.
Question #1 – What do you do when your prophet dies?
- You can try to hang on to all the things you learned, as if the prophet never died.
- You can look for a new prophet.
- There is always more of God’s truth to be learned from new prophets.
Question #2 – What will you do when God is silent?
- David chose to trust in a God who isn't on a leash and doesn't always come when beckoned.
- Jesus chose to stay on the cross.
- Saul chose to respond to God’s silence by becoming so desperate he went to a sorcerer.
- Our great temptation when we are disappointed with God is to listen to whoever is speaking.
- We need to be good stewards of our disappointments from God.
- It is easy to have “faith because of”. Real faith emerges as “faith in spite of”.
Question #3 – What are you going to do when it is time to stop leading?
- Reasons we are tempted to hold on to leadership too long!
- We grow accustomed to the privileges of being in charge.
- Never cling to anything but your God.
- Life is only lived well with open hands.
- The point of your life is to worship/glorify God and enjoy Him forever!
The main distraction in leadership is fear.
- You cannot know how to lead unless you are listening to what God tells you to do.
- When we devote ourselves to reading Scripture, worship, and prayer, we are grounding life in the great tradition of faith. It is from this tradition that the leader finds holy visions for leading his/her people.
- God doesn't need any of us to lead His people in the direction He wants them to go. If you won’t obey, there is always a young David waiting to take over for you.
Three kinds of leadership
- The charismatic leader is bound not only to the people but also to God, who by grace pours His Spirit on the servant.
- We make a lot of sacrifices in leadership trying to make people happy. We can even burn out trying to satisfy them.
- We are afraid they won’t affirm us.
- We are afraid they won’t let us keep leading.
- Because Saul was so desperate to stay in leadership, he listened to the voice of the people instead of God, and in that moment he ceased to be the charismatic leader.
- You can’t lead the people if you are afraid of them.
- If you step into leadership, you will eventually find yourself in worship, either with lament or with thanksgiving. It all depends on how carefully you listen to the Lord’s vision along the way.
- Fear and being afraid are a very common theme throughout the Bible.
- The source of David's confidence and stability was not his own strength—but God.
- David calls on all of us to trust God in our &mes of trouble.
- We can be confident, like David, that our sins are forgiven, that God will not forsake us.
- As Christians, we know that FAITH means that we BELIEVE what we CANNOT SEE.
- We should have NO FEAR because we have been blessed with the security found in CHRIST ALONE.
- The calling of a leader isn't really to lead. It is to seek the Lord who alone can lead people to a future filled with hope.
- Very often in the Bible we find God accommodating to the less-than-stellar ideas of His people. He doesn't insist on His own will for us but stays with us even when we walk down the wrong road, and finds ways to redeem our mistakes for our salvation. It is always about the grace of God.
- Throughout the Bible, the leaders God calls almost never apply for the job. They are all reluctant.
Why do we try to hide from the call of God?
- We feel inadequate.
We had other plans.
- The people who look big in their own eyes are never chosen by God.
- God didn't call you to leadership because He needs your help. God has no needs. He chose you simply to be His willing instrument.
Our fear of conflict.
- If you are just chomping at the bit to be a leader, you will be of little use to God. That’s because God wants leaders who don’t need to lead.
- If we can’t walk away from being leaders, we were never serving God.
- God’s appointed leaders always face opposition. And the greatest opposition comes not from the external enemies but from the people the leader is trying to serve.
- If you are making everyone happy, you aren't leading.
- Saul couldn’t save anyone. Neither can you or I. Only the Spirit of the Lord can save.
- If you are in leadership and you don’t seek the Spirit of the Lord, you will be overshadowed by the spirit of your enemies.
- It isn't hard to start well, but history will evaluate your leadership by how you end.
- Leadership is never about what you do. The real job of a leader is to always search for what God is doing in the hard times and especially in that dangerous moment to your souls when the times are good.
- The need to travel through Samaria is more of a divine necessity than a physical requirement.
- We all have our Samaria(s): A place we try to avoid.
- Our Samaria(s) are sometimes...
- Physical places
- Something deep within us we try to ignore
- A combination of the two. Our internal Samaria identifies an external Samaria and encourages us to take the long journey of avoidance.
- Christ chose to enter His Samaria.
- At the well, Christ was interacting with an unpopular person of an unpopular community.
- Jesus entered Samaria to bring someone to Himself so that she, as unworthy as she appeared, might live in the truth with the reality of her Messiah who quenches an eternal thirst.
- Where is our/your Samaria?
- What did Jesus mean by identifying Himself as the “Good Shepherd”?
What evidence did Jesus offer to substantiate His claim to be the “Good Shepherd”?
- Jesus made the most elaborate of claims --- asking disciples to forsake houses, lands and family for His sake.
- On what authority, by what power, did He make His claims?
- Jesus made all His demands by virtue of His claim to be the “Good Shepherd”.
- As the “Good Shepherd” Jesus loves and cares for us as individuals.
- He knows our names.
- He knows our distinctive characteristics.
- He knows our needs.
What response should you and I make to the credentials of the “Good Shepherd”?
- The evidence was in His willingness to go to any length to protect the sheep.
- We learn the true meaning of His words when He suffers on Calvary and is resurrected on Easter morning.
- His words not only testify to His credentials as the “Good Shepherd” but as the obedient and pleasing Son of God that He was.
- “If” Jesus is the “Good Shepherd”, “then” the sheep ought to follow Him.
- Is He your Shepherd?