Summary: Don't rely on yourself to get through the speed bumps in life. Turn to the Lord and determine what is best for you to do spiritually speaking.
Do you like to drive? Some people love it. Just give them a bag of sunflower seeds and they can drive forever—much to the chagrin of their family. I like driving except through parking lots. My stress level rises there because there are so many potential hazards like runaway shopping carts, kids darting in and out, and cars suddenly pulling out of parking spaces. On top of all that, there’s those speed bumps you have to contend with. If I can, I’ll drive clear around a speed bump rather than drive over it. What’s the worst is failing to see a speed bump so that you accidently launch yourself over it straining the vehicle’s suspension and giving your passengers a nasty jolt. Minding the speed bumps is a good rule for every motorist to follow.
Last week we started a sermon series about a man named Abraham. We’re following his journey of faith because it’s a lot like our journey. We’ve learned so far that this journey is one that begins with God. It is he in his grace who sets us on this journey to heaven and promises to accompany us. But what we’ll learn today is that this journey of faith is not without its speed bumps. Abraham failed to mind the speed bump he encountered in our text and launched himself and his wife into trouble as a result. But even then God did not abandon them. He intervened to keep his promises to Abraham of undying love. Let’s see what we can learn about minding the speed bumps on our journey of faith.
First of all, does it surprise you to hear that there are speed bumps on this journey of faith? Shouldn’t it just be a smooth ride to heaven? For example once Abram, as he was still called then, moved to Canaan as God directed him to do, shouldn’t life have been easy for him? After all God had promised to bless him and to make his name great. But what we learn today is that a severe famine hit the land of Canaan. The lack of food may have been especially hard on Abram because his entourage by then may have numbered two hundred people in addition to all the cattle and sheep he owned. And as a newcomer in the land Abram probably didn’t have the time or place to store away extra food to prepare for a calamity like this.
But Abram was resourceful. He decided to head south to Egypt—a perennial breadbasket and oasis in times of famine because if nothing else, the Nile River could usually be counted on to provide water for farmers there. While it made sense to head to Egypt, there’s no record that Abram consulted God in the matter. And so while Abram would escape a crisis of the body, he ran headlong into a crisis of the soul.
I’ll explain what that means, but first let me ask you this. How often do you consult God before making important decisions? If we do pray, isn’t it often after we’ve made up our mind about what we’re going to do? At that point we’re really just asking God to rubberstamp whatever decision we’ve made! You see, Abram’s problem was that he failed to consider the spiritual implications of his decision. Would his journey to Egypt unnecessarily put his faith in jeopardy? How about us? Do we think through the spiritual implications of taking a certain job, of dating a certain person, or of going on a certain weekend getaway? Often we don’t, do we? We just think of the physical side of things. “It’s a great job with good benefits!” “But she’s so beautiful.” “He’s so smart!” What we often fail to consider is that the new job or that special someone may not help us grow closer to our Lord. Instead they will cause us to drift from him because either we’ll become too busy for regular worship, or because our new friends won’t share our faith in Jesus and may make us second-guess our trust in him.
But back to Abram. Why was it so spiritually dangerous for Abram to head down to Egypt? Can you figure it out from this conversation Abram had with his wife Sarai as they drew near the Egyptian border? “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you” (Genesis 12:11-13). About the only good thing Abram said there was that his wife was beautiful. But then what did he go on to ask Sarai to do? He wanted her to lie about her relationship with him. Abram was afraid that the Egyptians would be so taken with Sarai’s beauty that they would kill him to get their hands on his wife. This was not paranoia. This is how things worked in places like Egypt. If the rich and powerful saw something they wanted, they took it. Consider how King David himself had arranged for a man’s murder so he could marry that man’s wife!