This is the story of a guy named Abram.
Actually, this is your story…and my story. It’s everybody’s story.
Be patient; read on and all will be revealed.
Now, Abram was just an old nobody, desert dude, minding his own business when God showed up and made him an incredible promise. It’s found in Genesis 12:1-9. Take a minute to read it … don’t worry, I’ll wait.
What a promise! God told Abram exactly what His dream for him would be, didn’t He? That was easy for Abram to know, since he got it straight from God, but what about you and me? What is our God-given dream? Well, we have to be able to define it before we can know what it is. Simply put, a God-given dream typically flows out of things you enjoy, things that you’re good at, or things you have an interest in. A God-given dream can be something that you’ve always known you would do when you grew up, or a God-given dream can be something you find out about later in life. Either way, God gives us these dreams for three purposes:
- To ultimately bring honor and glory to God.
- To make disciples for Him and spread the good news of His grace, mercy, and salvation (aka “the Gospel”).
- To bring true and lasting fulfillment, joy, peace, purpose, and power to our lives.
Do you know what your God-given dream is? If you know what it is, the best way to achieve that dream is to get to know God really well, because He created you (and everything else, by the way)—therefore, He knows you and what’s best for you. If you don’t know what your God-given dream is, that’s OK too. How do you find out? Just keep on getting to know God better and better; when the time is right, He’ll let you know.
OK, now that we’ve described what a God-given dream is, let’s get back to our story. God told Abram that He would bless him and his descendants. That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you like God to tell you that He’ll bless you and that you’ll be a blessing to others? But hold on a minute. This promise was not so easy for Abram to believe; you’ll see why later on.
God told Abram something to do, and his doing it was dependent upon God’s fulfillment of His promise. Did you notice what it says in verses 4 and 5: “Abram was seventy-five years old when the Lord told him to leave the city of Haran. He obeyed and left with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions and slaves they had gotten while in Haran” (Contemporary English Version). What incredible obedience! The Bible doesn’t record that Abram questioned or hesitated. In fact, it records the total opposite: Abram and his family left with all their stuff—just like that. Do you and I have that kind of faith when all we know is what God told us, but don’t know the plan? Wow! And by the way, here’s a little important detail that I don’t want you to miss, because it makes Abram’s behavior even more incredible: Did you notice that Abram didn’t have any children? It’s kind of hard to have descendants without, well … descendants. Again, we’ll get to that more in detail later.
We haven’t gotten to the end of our story, but already there are a couple of important things we can learn from Abraham and Sarah’s story:
- God has given you a specific dream to serve Him, increase His kingdom, and bring honor and glory to His name.
- God will likely not tell you all the details and plans up front; He’s looking for you to give Him your total trust and obedience.
I hope that you’re really letting this story soak in and that you apply it to your life. Remember what I said before—everything in the Bible is written for a purpose, and that is to help you live a better life for God. There’s more coming next week.
Barren Womb in a Barren Place
Abram and Sarai: two lowly, childless desert dwellers who were promised by God that they would have a son and that son would make their descendants as vast and numberless as the stars in the sky! Wow, awesome promise . . . except that Abram and Sarai were both everyday people; so, like us: sometimes they had faith, and sometimes they didn’t; sometimes they obeyed, and sometimes they didn’t.
In the midst of Abram’s journey to find the Promised Land, the Lord reminded Abram several more times of His incredible promise. But don’t you know that Abram was human? And don’t you know that he was not getting any younger? And don’t you know that he must have been constantly thinking about God’s promise?
Finally in chapter 15 of Genesis, we see Abram verbalizing what must have been on his and his wife’s mind the entire time: “Abram answered, ‘Lord All-Powerful, you have given me everything I could ask for, except children. And when I die, Eliezer of Damascus will get all I own. You have not given me any children, and this servant of mine will inherit everything’” (verses 2 and 3). There it is! Isn’t it nice to know that Abram was human just like you and me, and questioned and doubted too? God replied to Abram that he indeed would have a child and that his descendants would be like the stars in the heavens. Take a look at Abram’s response to God’s explanation: “Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord was pleased with Him” (verse 6).
Fast-forward several more years. By this time Abram was trying to make God’s promise come true all by himself, in his power, and through his timetable, and it’s no surprise that lots of really bad things happened with his family. (I’m talking “Daytime TV” bad—everybody in the family needed therapy!)
Here’s an interesting question that I can’t resist asking you: Have you ever tried to fulfill God’s dream for you in your own timetable and through your own power? What were the results? Not good? I know. I’ve experienced those same results—likely you have too. And the truth is that every morning we must choose to let God control our moment-by-moment choices so that in the end we will have a good life and can live the dream that God has given us.
In the midst of all of this craziness, Abram’s wife, Sarai, still hadn’t had any children. Abram was again reassured by God of His promise to Abram, and in chapter 18 of Genesis we see God more specifically promise Abram and give a specific time when his son will be born.
Fast-forward many years. In Genesis 22 Abram’s name has been changed to Abraham, and his son has been born and probably grown up into a preteen or teen. Both Abraham and his wife (who, by the way, had her name changed as well from Sarai to Sarah) have passed--and failed--many faith tests throughout their lives thus far, but God has one final test for Abraham to see if he really loves and trusts God. The story is found in Genesis 22:1-18. We won’t look at all the verses, but I encourage you to read it on your own. Here’s the bottom line: God decided to test Abraham’s trust, loyalty, faith, and obedience to Him and to His promises by asking Abraham to sacrifice—aka kill—his only, promised son! Abraham followed through with total faith in God, and at the last second, literally, he was stopped, Abraham’s son was spared, and God provided an animal sacrifice instead.
Let’s take a look at several verses to get the flavor of what God was trying to do and Abraham’s responses: “The Lord said, ‘Go get Isaac, your only son, the one you dearly love! Take him to the land of Moriah, and I will show you a mountain where you must sacrifice him to me on the fires of an altar’ ” (verse 2). “ ‘Don’t hurt the boy or harm him in any way!’ the angel said. ‘Now I know that you truly obey God, because you were willing to offer him your only son’ ” (verse 12). “The Lord’s angel called out from heaven a second time: ‘You were willing to offer the Lord your only son, and so he makes you this solemn promise, ‘I will bless you and give you such a large family, that someday your descendants will be more numerous than the stars in the sky or the grains of sand along the beach. They will defeat their enemies and take over the cities where their enemies live. You have obeyed me, and so you and your descendants will be a blessing to all nations on earth’ ” (verses 15-18).
Wow! Would you be willing to do that? I mean, would you be willing to give God your all? I mean, take what God has placed on your heart for years and years and just … sacrifice it—in a sense, give it up and totally let it go—just because God told you to? Could you do that? Or would you want to hold on to it even harder and stronger? If you do that, it’s going to be more painful than ever when God has to rip it out of your hands as opposed to you living your life with your spiritual hands holding loosely to the things of this life and holding tightly only to Jesus. I’ve found the secret of holding on to things loosely in this world—even the dreams that God has given me—and it’s found in Jeremiah 29:11: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord” (New International Version). So it stands to reason that if I hold on to God and seek to know Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, then I’ll know—and more important, receive and achieve—God’s dream for me. But it’s only through letting God have His way in my life, and that means letting God have it all (GULP). The Bible says in Psalms 37:4: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
The Walking … Dead?
We’ve been following the life story and faith journey of Abraham and his wife Sarah in their search to find and live out the God-given dream that they were given, and the many tough lessons that they learned along the way. We ended with Abraham successfully passing his final faith and obedience test in God’s “God-given dreams” class. Let’s wrap up with an additional view into the incredible level of Abraham’s obedience and faith in God and in His enduring promises.
Hebrews 11 has some interesting information to share about Abraham’s and Sarah’s faith in the face of their life of overcoming great odds and God’s final test of Abraham. It’s found in verses 8-12—and since my editor doesn’t usually pay me to cut and paste Bible verses, you can read it for yourself.
“Abraham had been promised that Isaac, his only son, would continue his family. But when Abraham was tested, he had faith and was willing to sacrifice Isaac, because he was sure that God could raise people to life. This was just like getting Isaac back from death” (Contemporary English Version, verses 17-19).
Did you catch what that last passage said? When God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Abraham was willing to do it and believed that God could—and would--raise Isaac back from the dead if that’s what God had to do to fulfill His promise! Wow, what faith in both God’s incredible power and His enduring promises!
Now, there are a few really important points to be learned from what we’ve been studying. Let’s look at those, and then I want to make some applications of this story to our own lives.
- God can work to bring about good things even in the midst of your stupid mistakes and bad consequences, because He’s God. He has a way of making bad things turn out right.
- God is ultimately concerned about your holiness; and He’s willing to do whatever it takes to get and keep your attention, trust, and obedience to accomplish that goal.
- WARNING: run-on sentence ahead: God is responding to your stubbornness and knuckleheadedness (I’m pretty sure I made this word up) when He has to get your attention by testing your obedience and allegiance to Him and to His plans by putting you in the most uncomfortable situation where—even for a short time—it seems as if He’s asking you to give up your dream. When in actuality, what He’s asking you to do is not to give up your dream, but to have total trust in Him and to give up control of making your dream come true. Genesis 22:1-12 makes a great point, and it is this: God wants you to take the thing, that dream that you love dearly--more than life itself--and totally trust Him with it.
- God can be trusted with your dreams, your hopes, your aspirations for your life: your job or career; your relationships; your family; your finances; your health … whatever it is you’re worried about, that is most important to you, or that you have big plans for—God is trustworthy.
God if Ever Faithful
I hope you’ve learned a lot in our study of Abraham’s and Sarah’s journeys of faith to live the incredible dream of this promise that Abraham’s children would be more than the stars in the sky and the sand on the beach. I hope that you’ve realized that God has a very special dream that He wants to give to you and is ready and willing to make it happen in your lifetime, for your joy, and His glory. I hope that you’ve paid attention to the mistakes Abraham and Sarah made in trying to force God’s hand and make their dreams come true in their own timetable—it never worked for them and it’ll never work for us.
I hope that you realize that God may choose to give you a big test to either find out where your priorities are and where your heart truly is or correct your path and put you on His path again. Many times chasing our God-given dream can totally eclipse our love for the Dream-giver, and that’s not cool with God.
And finally, I hope you realize that God ultimately wants and deserves your total allegiance and obedience in whatever you do in your life, because God is faithful and trustworthy with everything--especially your dreams.