Summary: A July 4th sermon about spiritual lessons I learned from an in depth study of Abraham Lincoln.
1. This morning as I begin my sermon on the lessons I learned from Abraham Lincoln I want to share a series of 5 questions about former presidents. They may or may not be about Abraham Lincoln. I will tell you that at least one of them will have Abraham Lincoln as the correct answer. You may feel free to guess which former president they are about. If you think you know the right answer just make a mental note of it & I’ll give you the right answers in just a few minutes. Let’s begin with our questions.
1) This future president wrote an essay entitled, "An Essay on Infidelity," in which he attacked a belief in God & particularly the deity of Christ.
A) Franklin Pierce, B) Ulysses Grant,
C) Jimmy Carter D) Abraham Lincoln
2) This President suggested that if the slaves were freed they should be returned to Liberia.
A) Abraham Lincoln, B) Milard Filmore,
C) John Quincy Adams, D) Thomas Jefferson
3) This president was offered the governorship of the territory of Oregon before it was a state, but turned it down because his wife refused to go.
A) John Adams B) William McKinley,
C) Howard Taft D) Abraham Lincoln
4) Many historians believe this future president proposed to his future wife, then had second thoughts, but married her out of a sense of obligation.
A) George Washington, B) Calvin Coolige,
C) Abraham Lincoln, D) Martin Van Buren
5) This president admitted to having such strong thoughts of suicide when he was a young man that he refused to even carry a pocket knife.
A) Ronald Reagan, B) Harry Trumann,
C) Abraham Lincoln D) Franklin D. Roosevelt
2. Lincoln is the correct answer for all 5 questions.
3. There are a number of stories about Honest Abe that I would like to be able to tell today. However, let me tell you a true one that you probably haven’t heard before. Lincoln was a huge fan of the theater. He loved to go. In fact, he attended often enough that he saw some actors more than once. One actor in particular, a young man named John he saw in three different productions. He was moved by one performance to the point where he invited the actor to his box following the performance. Sadly the young man didn’t accept the invitation and only later it became clear why. He would keep another appointment with President Lincoln sometime later. Perhaps you have heard of him, his name was John Wilkes Booth. (Lincoln, Redeemer President, P 317)
4. There are many things about Lincoln that you may not have heard before this morning, but I want us to do more than merely look at the stories & lore about Lincoln’s life, I want us to understand more of what made Lincoln really Lincoln.
5. This morning I want to begin in a place that I didn’t even know until I began studying for this sermon.
Lincoln started with almost no faith, but eventually developed a genuine faith.
1. Lincoln never did get along with his father, & the fact that his father was a religious man actually got in the way of Lincoln’s faith. It didn’t destroy it, but it certainly didn’t help it much either. In his early life Lincoln came closer to totally disagreeing with his father on the matter of religion and faith than he did on anything else.
2. But that only explains part of it. Lincoln had a truly great mind. He was a genius. But it would appear that his intelligence actually got in his way of finding God. Let me explain what I’m talking about. He tried to figure everything about God out on his own. That’s the reason why when he was 25, he wrote an essay that was an attack on the faith. He couldn’t make sense of it all & thus he appeared to write faith off as nothing more than non sense. He always believed that there was a God, but he wasn’t ready to acknowledge that He was anything like the God Christians worshipped.
1 Cor 1:26 - 29 NLT
26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful, or wealthy when God called you.
27 Instead, God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful.
28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important,
29 so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God.
3. Initially Lincoln wanted to have everything figured out. He wanted everything to make perfect sense to him. I think that’s one of the reasons that it’s often more difficult for the really intelligent to come to terms with faith, because they are accustomed to believing they know the answers for life’s difficult questions. They try to figure things out for themselves. That’s a good thing on the one hand, but it will eventually let you down because you aren’t going to be able to figure everything out. That’s what Abraham Lincoln would eventually come to understand. The longer he lived, the more he came to terms with the fact that there was never going to be a time when he was going to be able to understand everything. That didn’t mean that he would quit trying to make sense of things, but he would have to accept that God could have a plan though it didn’t to make sense to him. As the responsibilities he carried increased, he became more and more dependent upon God.