"By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went."—Hebrews 11:8.
Abraham’s faith is the most famous faith there is, because he is called the Father of the Faithful. I am sure that his faith grew during his many trials, and the faith that he displayed when he prepared to slay his son at the command of God was certainly strong. Trials are at the root of faith; they are tests which temper our faith. The most important trial that Abraham faced may have been the first one we are told about. He was told by God that he must go to a land that he knew nothing about.
Now, as we consider Abraham’s faith, the first thing that we should do is to LOOK AT ABRAHAMS LIFE.
In the beginning, Abraham’s family worshipped idols. Later on they became worshippers of the true God, but there was a lot of ignorance mixed in with their worship, and occasionally their old idolatrous habits returned.
The Lord, who had chosen Abraham to be his servant and the father of His chosen people, told him to leave his friends and relatives. He told him to leave the Ur of the Chaldees, and go to the land of Canaan; which He promised to give him as an inheritance.
Let’s consider first, what Abraham left, and then where Abraham went.
What did he have to leave? He had to leave behind many friends and family. He took his father, Terah with him, but he died after going only part of the way. Before he died, he was sick for quite awhile, and that detained Abraham. But after he died, Abraham went on his way, obedient to God’s command. However, he left behind the house in which he had been brought-up, the family that raised him and loved him, and all those whom he had known. And he left his native country behind. This was not an easy move for Abraham, because he was wealthy and there were huge flocks and herds, and all his possessions, which had accumulated over the years. He had to leave all this, and he had to leave the good pastures where his flocks and his father’s flocks had been fed, and he went into the wilderness. He must give up all his vineyards, and his fig trees, and go to some place that was unknown to him.
Have you ever been separated from those you love? I have, and it broke my heart. I believe that we can all sympathize with what Abraham had to go through, when he left home, and family, and country, to go to an unknown land.
Now, let’s consider the place where Abraham was going. When men leave their country, they want to know what sort of country they are going to. If it is a richer country than their own, they may be sorry that they’re leaving, but they will go there for the promise of a better life. And maybe, after they have lived there for a little while, they may almost forget their mother country, and settle down in their adopted land. But Abraham didn’t know anything about the country that he was moving to; all he had was God’s promise that it would be his inheritance. His father and mother may have warned him against going, saying that it was a wild goose chase. But Abraham was a wise man, so he ignored all the negative things that his friends and family had to say, and he made God’s promise his desire. So when Abraham went forth, he didn’t have a clue about where he was going. One of his friends may have told him, "The journey will be a long one." "You are probably right," said Abraham, "but God will help me along the way." "The end of your journey may be disappointing," they say. "No," Abraham replies, "it cannot be disappointing, because I believe that God will be with me. Wherever He takes me, I will lack for nothing.” So Abraham took the journey, and God did not desert him; He provided for all his needs.
So far we have seen what Abraham left and where he was going, and now I would like for you to see how he went.
We read that when he was commanded to go, he obeyed. God had hardly spoken when Abraham replied. If God directs us to act, we should do it at once. Abraham went without any hesitation. He did not say, "Lord, give me a little time: I will go in a week.” He didn’t say, “Allow me to go and bury my father first." And, he didn’t say, "Lord let me stay until I have harvested my crops." No, he was commanded to go, and he went without hesitation. There were no arguments between God and Abraham, because God has not invited His people to reason with him with human arguments. But He has invited sinners to do it. He has said, "Come now and let us reason together." When men have no faith, God invites them to argue, but when they have faith, arguing with God becomes a sin. Abraham did not ask any questions: he was not like Moses: he did not say, "Who am I that thou shouldest send me;" but when he was commanded to go, he went and he followed God without hesitation. I believe that he left his fathers house as willingly as he had ever gone into it. His friends said his journey was absurd, but to him it was the happiest and the best journey he had ever undertaken, because God was with him; and if a star did not guide him as it did the wise men to Bethlehem, there must have been a star shinning in his heart, that lightened his foot steps and sent him happily toward his new home. He went cheerfully, not knowing where he was going. It is love that makes us willing and obedient to God. It is love that springs from faith and flies to do the will of God.
Now notice that when Abraham began his journey he didn’t lay down any conditions.
If God had commanded him to go across the Atlantic, Abraham would have obeyed. His feet would have been willing to attempt a miracle, and the Ocean floor would have been dry ground for him. We may rest assured that when Abraham started, he didn’t ask any questions about how far or to what place he was going. He left that all in the hands of God. His faith put its hand inside the hand of his Heavenly Father, and he was content to be led wherever his Father would lead him.
Next, we shall see that Abraham’s faith was well rewarded.
I think that in spite of all the trials that Abraham went through, you and I might even envy his situation. What a blessed man he was. Even his dreams were blessed. The Lord was his shield and his exceeding great reward. A land was given to him, and it was not a barren land? The ancient Jews used to say that Canaan was the breast of the world; because it was flowing with milk and honey. God gave him all the land from the Nile River to the River Euphrates. And in his mind, he saw a nation as numerous as the sand of the sea living in this land. And he expected an even greater blessing. He could see the day when his sons would witness the second coming of Christ in their own land, a time when all the people would love and serve God.
Now, I would like for you to consider that YOU AND I MAY BE PLACED IN THE SAME POSITION. Many people, when they are first saved, have to pass through the same trials that Abraham had to bear. Some of us had religious parents, so when we were saved, it was a happy event. But others were born to parents who ignored God. I may be talking to some right now. No sooner did you begin to attend church, than your father was the first to laugh at you, and when they found you on your knees in prayer, your mother, brothers, and sisters all made fun of you. You may have suffered a lot of persecution in your own home.
It may even be that you were called-on to separate yourself from your whole family, because there were none who respected God. You have suffered loss for Christ’s sake. Even now, you may be passing through some difficult times. You may be saying to yourself, “This isn’t right; should I stop expressing my faith?” Friends, if your father, mother, sisters and brothers forsake you, don’t worry, because the Lord will never leave you or forsake you. Remember, Jesus said, "He that loveth father and mother, and house and lands, more than me, is not worthy of me." You must be willing to give up everything for Christ’s sake; so be prepared. If friends and family will not come along with you in faith; come alone. Doesn’t it say, "Come ye out from among them; be ye separate…?" Be an Abraham. Leave everything, and if you do this in faith, you will receive your reward. He is able, and He has promised to give you in this life ten times more than you lose for him, and in the world to come life everlasting.
Some Christians, who are not called to endure this trial when they are young, frequently have to bear something like it when they are older. I know several people who had been in a church all their lives, and then suddenly they saw the light-that their church did not preach the truth. Their family and friends attended that same place of worship, and they couldn’t accept any criticism of the doctrine of their church. So now there is a split in the family; a mother and daughter no longer speak. And one young man can no longer visit his grandmother, because she is hurt by him changing churches. This saddens the hearts of those who know and love Jesus. Some of these matters, which split families and churches, are not that important, so what are we to do? Should we testify only about those things that we agree with others about, and hold our tongue about the rest? No. Whatever you believe, that’s what you should do. There may be truths that are non-essential to our salvation; but there are no non-essential truths as far as our conscience is concerned. Every truth is essential, and we must never hold our tongue. But let’s follow the Lord in every respect. No matter who turns their back on you, never abandon the truth, because along with Abraham’s trial and Abraham’s faith, you shall have Abraham’s honor and Abraham’s reward.
Today, there is a great calamity that tests the faith of many of God’s people.
They have been successful in business or they have been careful with their money, so that they were able to acquire wealth, a magnificent home and luxurious possessions. But, all of a sudden, misfortune comes and takes it all away. Then they may say, “Why me; what am I going to do?” But God will comfort them, and their faith will grow stronger, and God will reward their faith. One of the problems with growing old is that sometimes you have to go on with your life, even though you don’t know where you’re going. Isn’t it true, when you’re young, you go wherever you want, but when you are old, others take you where you don’t want to go, or like Abraham, you may not know where you are going. But I don’t believe you should complain, because if the father of the faithful had to do it, should the sons and daughters complain. No, where ever God in his providence guides you, let it be your joy to know that he is too wise to make a mistake—too good to be unkind.
As I get older, I think about death more often. It’s a time that must come to each of us. It is a time, when in a certain sense, we must leave this world, not knowing much about the place to we are going to. The hour is coming when you and I will lie silent on our beds, and the message will come—"Get up, and leave your home, leave the city in which you have lived and worked, leave your friends, and leave your children. Get up, and take your last journey." And what do I know about the journey? I have read a little about heaven in the Bible, but the Lord has chosen to make its whereabouts a secret. And He has not told us much about what it’s like. We know about death, but what comes after death? No one has ever returned to tell. Well, be that as it may, we will leave, not knowing where we are going, but we do know that He is with us, so we don’t need to fear any evil. We will be going to our Father’s house, wherever it’s at. We will be going to our heavenly Father’s caring home, where Jesus is: to that royal city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. This will be our last journey, because we will live for ever with Him whom we love. We will take our last journey, and we will not be afraid to take it, because God is our refuge and strength: our helper in the hour of trouble and at our death.
Just one last point, which is that I pray that you Will FOLLOW AFTER THE LEADING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND DO WHAT HE SAYS, AND GO WHEREVER HE LEADS.
Let’s follow the Good Shepherd, because he has a perfect right to lead us wherever he pleases. We are not our own, we are bought with a price. Let this be our saying, "Do what You want Lord, and even if they kill me, I will trust in You.” We are not true to our profession of being Christians, if we pick and choose for ourselves, what we do. Picking and choosing are great enemies of our submission to Christ. In fact, they are not at all consistent with it. If we are really our Lord’s Christians, let’s say this, "It is the Lord, let him do what ever He desires. "The next thing we know is that we should submit to Christ, because wherever He may lead us, even if we don’t know where it is; we do know one thing, we know with whom we go, we do not know the road to take, but we do know the guide. We may feel that the journey is a long one, but we are quite sure that the everlasting arms that carry us are strong enough, even if the journey is long and dangerous. Another reason why we should follow all the commands of God faithfully is this, because we can be sure that all will end well. Things may not appear to be going well, while they are going on, but they will end well. One thing that I know for sure is whether we experience prosperity or hard-times, sickness or health; whether we meet friends or enemies, popularity or hatred, His purpose will be worked out, and that purpose will be for our good.
Just one last point; let us put our trust in our wonder-working God.
When we recall what He has already done for us, how He saved us, and has kept us all these years, we can be confident that He will take us the rest of the way to our heavenly home. When I recall everything He has done, I can only hold up my hands and exclaim, "What hath God wrought!" So, should we doubt the future? No, because God is with us and the God of Abraham is our refuge. I pray that God will give to every one of you a solid trust in His providence, so that you may go onward for Christ, even if you don’t know where you’re your going.
And if anyone here today doesn’t believe in God, may you be led to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, and afterwards to trust your God, and leave all your concerns in his hands. May God bless His word, and may you go with God, trusting Him for all things, for I know that He will bless you and keep you.