Summary: This message reveals the terrible consequences of fear in our lives and the great need we have to evict it with faith in God's promises.
In the famous American classic “the Red Badge of Courage” which takes place during the American Civil War, a young soldier is drilling and preparing with his regiment to go into battle. Days and weeks pass and just drilling. Finally, the day comes when they go marching out. He’s terrified. They march to the front lines and begin shooting. Things go well until the enemy begins charging. The young man is so terrified of losing his life that he turns and runs the other way as fast as he can. Humiliated - a coward! Later, as he returns to his regiment, he discovers that he’s not the only one. Many others tried to run – many others were terrified. Many others failed. In the midst of a calling, the greatest enemy is fear!
Abraham answered God’s call – he finally left his homeland and his relatives and went down the road on which God had called him. This was a huge step of faith for a man who grew up as a pagan in a pagan land worshipping other gods. But as we saw last week – there was one thing that gave Abraham the strength to set out and follow God’s call: the promises – I will give you a land. I will make of you a great nation. I will make you a blessing to all the nations. When he heard that – he followed God. He was a changed man.
It’s the promises of God’s word that change our hearts – they produce faith in our heart. Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
Notice the change in this man who is standing on God’s promises. Gen. 12:7-8 “Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD.”
Abraham has finally arrived to the land of promise and God essentially tells him: STOP. How? He says “To your offspring I will give this land.” Imagine the joy to hear this promise. This is our new home! This is the place of God’s calling! How does he react? With WORSHIP.
He builds an altar in that very place and then further south also. He calls on the name of the Lord. He gives glory to his Master and King. Now let me ask you – has anything changed? Has Abraham received any of the promises of God? Does he have the land? NO. Is he a great nation? NO. Is he a blessing to all the nations? NO. Then why does he worship? Because he KNOWS God keeps his promises. He trusts the Lord.
You too should worship God not just because he has done something for you, but because he is faithful to his Word to you. Reading the promises of God should produce in your heart such joy, such amazement, such faith that you can’t help but shout to the Lord in praise and worship!
This brings such joy to our Father’s heart. But God’s goal is that we grow in our faith and trust in his promises. How will he bring about a greater faith and trust? Through testing. Through hardship. Can you trust the Lord in the midst of trials?
And so this is what God does with Abraham – he tests Abraham’s faith in the promises. Notice the first trial: “Now there was a famine in the land.” What land is that? The land of promise. We don’t know how long Abraham and Sarai were in the land – it could have been weeks or months but it wasn’t long and soon this very land of God was not providing food for them.
It was so exciting traveling across the world to the Czech Republic back in ‘95. I was learning the language, the new culture, preparing to be married and excited about discipling others in the Lord. But half a year later it was like hitting a brick wall. I missed speaking in English. I missed my family. I found myself more a burden for others than a blessing since I couldn’t communicate in Czech without a translator. I was ready to go home – to abandon the call.
Abraham did that very thing – he packed his bags and left for Egypt – the closest land with food. There were times in the Old Testament when God’s people go to Egypt in times of famine. Remember how Jacob’s sons went to Egypt for food and it saved the whole family and Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Egypt for protection. It was God’s will. But with Abraham, it was another case. Did he consult the Lord? Did God call him to leave the land? Abraham gives into his fears instead of faith.