Message: ‘Real Life… Real Faith’ pt.4
Text: Hebrews 11:17-19
Introduction: Earlier we sang a hymn that was written in the 1800’s by a woman name Frances Havergal. I’d like to read it for you. PP:
Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days.
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be,
swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing,
always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be
filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use,
every power as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will, and make it Thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own;
it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour;
at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.
What’s that hymn talking about? What are the words to this hymn asking us to do, as followers of Jesus Christ?
- It’s asking us to be ‘all in’ for Jesus.
- It’s asking us to hold nothing back from God.
- It’s asking us to ‘give all’ to Jesus.
- It’s asking us to be willing to sacrifice, offer to God, whatever it is that we hold dearest.
ILL: PP: In one of his books, Watchman Nee, said that we approach God like little children with open hands, begging for gifts. Because He’s a good God, He fills our hands with good things; life, health, friends, money, success, recognition, marriage, children, a nice home, a good job, all the things that we count at Thanksgiving when we count our blessings. And so like children, we rejoice in what we have received and run around comparing what we have with each other.
When our hands are finally full, God says,
“My child, I long to have fellowship with you. Reach out your hand and take My hand.” But we can’t do it because our hands are full.
“God, we can’t,” we cry. “Put those things aside and take my hand.” “No, we can’t it’s too hard to put them down.” “But I am the one who gave them to you in the first place.” “O God, what you have asked is too hard. Please don’t ask us to put these things aside.” And God answers quietly, “You must.”
(Keep Believing Ministries)
Watchman Nee himself said: I want nothing for myself, I want everything for the Lord.
These words summed up the life of one of the most important Chinese church leaders, evangelists, writers, and martyrs of the last century.
PP: Background: And I believe that, by faith, Abraham wanted the very same thing. But to get there, Abraham had to go through a time of testing by God.
- As Christians we’re often tested to either help develop our character, or deepen our faith, our trust in God.
- Sometimes we’re tested to stretch our obedience to God and His word.
You see, we’ve already seen in Hebrews 11 that faith and obedience are inseparable.
- Sometimes we’re tested by God to see if He’s truly, the sole desire of our heart, our greatest joy and deepest love.
And today, we’ll see all of this lived out, in real time, by the real person, Abraham.
I see Hebrews 11:17-19 as the writer’s commentary on Genesis 22:1-19, where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, to Him.
- Isaac was everything to Abraham, and in Isaac all the promises of God were found.
- Abraham felt God was asking him to give up what he thought was the only way for God to keep His promises to him.
This is why this test was so great, so important. We’ll see God had a better plan for Abraham and
Transition: The challenge of our text this morning is this… Will you hold onto what you have or will you offer it to the Lord and say,
- Lord it all belongs to you anyway.
- I have faith… in You and in Your word.
Open your Bibles to Hebrews 11:17.
- Hebrews 11:17a Faith tested
PP: By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…
This incident takes place about 12 or so years from the end of Genesis 21. Isaac as was now about the same age as Ishmael was when God told Abraham to send him away, never to see him again.
- Now God was telling him to kill Isaac the only son he had left.
It’s one thing to profess your faith in God when you’re waiting for something from Him, it’s quite another thing to have faith to obey when God answers.
- This was a test to see if Abrahams faith was true faith demonstrated by radical obedience.
- Would he cling to his only son or would he, by faith, trust God and obey His Word?
God was very specific in his call to Abraham in Genesis 22:2 PP: Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.
God was reminding us and Abraham that Isaac was Abrahams dearest possession in life. What God was asking him to do touched the very center of Abrahams being.
There is something to note of here.
- Neither the Genesis account nor here in Hebrews, is there any mention of Abrahams dissent, his questioning, doubt or trying to reason with God.
We read that Abraham… simply obeyed.
We know that Abraham did struggle with obeying God at times throughout his life. But, it seems that each failure to obey, helped develop the discipline of having faith in God and in what He said… then obeying God.
- This certainly would be his final exam, as it were.
- Hebrews 11:17b Faith sacrifices
PP: … and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son
Now some might say,
- I know the rest of the story, Abraham never actually had to sacrifice Isaac, God stepped in and stopped him.
And that may look to be true, only the Greek grammar used in Hebrews 11:17 was in the act of offering up indicates that as far as Abraham was concerned, Isaac’s sacrifice was complete, it was a done deal. To put it another way, to Abraham, Isaac was already dead.
So lets get the big picture here.
- Abraham was in the process of actually offering up, sacrificing Isaac on an altar.
- According to Genesis 22, Isaac was tied up, placed on the altar, on top of the very wood that would have been used to burn his body after he was dead.
- Abraham was standing over him, holding a knife to plunge into his heart.
But, Abraham was not just sacrificing what he loved most in life, he was also sacrificing the fulfillment of the promises God made to him… it was promised that Isaac would have descendants.
- No Isaac, no descendants.
- No Isaac, no promised land.
- No Isaac, no great nation.
The fulfillment of the promises God made to Abraham, necessitated Isaac staying alive.
- Do you see why this was such a huge sacrifice?
By God’s amazing power and love, He gave Isaac to Abraham. And Isaac filled Abraham’s hands. Now God was asking him to put Isaac aside to walk in a deeper fellowship with Him.
Friends, listen. Being a Christian, a follower of Jesus, requires a faith that obeys, even, when in that obedience we may need to empty our hands of all the wonderful and amazing things God has blessed us with.
- There is no other way. Faith obeys.
- Faith sacrifices, even the very best of what we have, to obey God.
That’s what Jesus meant when he said this in Luke 14:26 PP: If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
PP: By faith, sacrificing something for God isn’t all that hard, when it’s something we don’t value much. Right?
- The test, the true test, is offering to God what is our dearest, most cherished possession.
Christian, God asked Abraham for nothing less than his best… Faith, requires sacrifice.
- Hebrews 11:18 Faith trusts…completely
PP: of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”
How far would Abrahams obedience go? Would he still believe God’s Word… God’s promises.
- Wrapped up in Isaac were the promises of God to Abraham concerning his own descendants.
The dilemma was obvious.
- The promise of God required that Isaac live
- yet the command of God called for him to die.
Now, you may have never been put in that position, but I’m certain there have been times that God seemed to be telling you something that just didn’t make sense. When that happens, our faith often stumbles when God doesn’t make everything clear.
- But, true faith waits to see how God is going to work this out according to His hidden wisdom.
- In other words, true faith… trusts God completely.
Back to Genesis 22:5 PP: Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”
Abraham told his servants that he and Isaac will go to worship God and then return… the meaning of the text is that they, both, will return.
- How could Abraham say that when he knew he was going to sacrifice Isaac?
Abraham… believed God. He believed God’s word.
- He had confidence not in his abilities to work this out, not in the circumstance to work itself out on its own.
- No, in the midst of his most demanding and heartbreaking test, Abraham had confidence in the word of God.
Abraham… trusted God and His word.
Christian look, your faith will be tested. You’ll need an anchor that’ll hold you steady when nothing seems to make sense… that anchor is God’s Word.
- Abraham made it through the greatest struggle of his life, because he trusted God and His word…completely.
- Hebrews 11:19 Faith reveals God’s power
PP: He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
Pastor Christian Cheong tells the following true story: PP: Gladys Aylward, missionary to China more than 50 years ago, was forced to flee when the Japanese invaded Yangcheng.
But she couldn’t leave her work behind. With only one assistant, she led a hundred-plus orphans over the mountains toward Free China.
During Glaydy’s harrowing journey out of war-torn Yangcheng – she grappled with despair as never before. After passing a sleepless night, she faced the morning with no hope of reaching safety. A thirteen-year-old girl in the group reminded her of their much-loved story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. “But I am not Moses,” Gladys cried in desperation. “Of course you aren’t,” the girl said, “but Jehovah is still God!”
That’s what Abraham believed… that God was able…powerful to make the impossible possible. Faith, true faith, reveals God’s power.
PP: Remember that Abraham told his servant that he and Isaac will return after worshipping God. What was he thinking? Well, we actually know because the writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us.
- Understand this: There is no mention up to this point in Genesis of any kind of resurrection from the dead, yet, that’s what Abraham thought God would do.
- He thought he would sacrifice, kill Isaac and God would raise him from the dead.
It was the only way he saw God keeping his promises to him if he was obedient and sacrificed Isaac.
- It didn’t take away the pain or the anxiety, but it gave Abraham hope.
- Hope that God would give his son life and give him back to Abraham.
Look, Abraham knew personally that God made a promise to give him and Sarah a son, even though they were well past childbearing age.
- Since God is powerful enough to do the impossible… bring life to a barren womb,
- He certainly is powerful enough to bring life back from death.
The text tells us that Abraham considered that God was able. Pastor Steven Cole explains it this way: The Greek word translated considered… means… to take into account, in light of the facts.
Abraham did not blindly take a leap of faith. Rather, he considered God’s attributes and character.
- He is loving, just, and mighty. He never deceives us.
- He is faithful to keep His covenant promises.
He had promised that in Isaac, Abraham’s descendants would be numbered.
- Isaac did not yet have any children, and yet God now had asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.
Therefore, God must be planning to raise Isaac from the dead! What logic! (end quote)
Abraham had faith, he trusted in God’s character.
- He had experienced God’s power and believed nothing was impossible with God.
And through the exercise of his faith, God did the impossible…
- Yes, He stopped Abraham from killing Isaac, but to Abraham, it was as if God has raised Isaac from the dead
- because in his heart, and by his obedience, he had already sacrificed Isaac to God.
He trusted God to provide a way in the midst of what looked like an impossible situation.
- And Christian, hasn’t God done just that, over and over again? Hasn’t He provided a way for you as well?
- Sometimes, just in the nick of time, God shows up, He acts and you’re blessed.
It reminds me of one of the songs we sing: PP:
God will make a way, where there seems to be no way.
He works in ways we can not see. He will make a way for me.
He will be my guide, hold me closely to His side.
With love and strength for each new day,
He will make a way. He will make a way.
Conclusion: PP: There was a movie that came out a number of years ago starring Tom Cruise called ‘Jerry Maguire’. Tom Cruise played a sports agent and he was down to his last client, Cuba Gooding jr.. Do you remember Cuba Gooding jrs famous line from that movie?
- ‘Show Me The Money’ ‘Show me the money, Jerry’ ‘Show Me the Money’.
Cuba Gooding jrs. character was a flamboyant but talented football player who was out of a contract and needed his agent to do more for him than promise that everything will be all right.
- He needed Jerry to get him signed to a huge contract. He needed him to do what he promised to do.
As I was reading over this text, all I kept thinking of was God saying to Abraham:
- Show Me your faith, show Me your faith, Abraham, show Me… your faith.
I heard God say to Abraham,
- OK, you have been faithful in the little things, but will you be faithful in the big things?
- Abraham, are you willing to go all the way for me? Are you willing to put it all on the line… for me? Are you willing to sacrifice to Me the single most important thing in your life?
And followers of Jesus, listen closely… God is asking each of us today that very same thing.
- What/who do you value more than anything else here on earth?
- What is that one thing, that one person that’s closest to your heart?
- Are you willing to sacrifice to Me the single most important thing in your life?
Abraham faced the most difficult decisions he ever had to face. But he followed through, even though it hurt. And that’s where real faith is revealed,
- We follow through, even when it hurts,
- even when we don’t see the good,
- even when we have to give up something so very dear to us,
- even when we can’t see the end from the beginning…
We obey… through faith.
- Because we know that God keeps His Word,
- Because we are assured that God remembers His promises
- Because we have confidence that God’s character is unchangeable,
- Because we cling to the fact that God’s love for His children is great.
- And, because we’re sure… that nothing is impossible for God…
Making the decision to follow in faith is easy at church with other Christians around. But what happens when you’re at school, work or even in the privacy of your own home? Does your faith follow through… with obedience?
God is calling out to each and every Christian today:
- Sharon, show Me your faith.
- Ellen, show Me your faith.
- Joe, show Me your faith.
Christian… show Me your faith!