A. Have you given much thought to how you hope to die?
1. One man with a sense of humor wrote, “When I die, I want to go like my grandfather did, peacefully in his sleep – not screaming in terror like the other people in his car!”
2. I know, I know, death isn’t something to joke about, but neither does it need to be something morbid and depressing.
3. When I ask us about how we hope to die, I’m really asking us how we intend to live until we die.
4. What do we want the condition of our mind and our heart to be when death comes for us?
B. Tragically for many, their gravestone could read, “Died: age 45. Buried: age 75.”
1. Many people die long before they draw their last breath.
2. Many people simply stop living along the way – they no longer seek all the joy and purpose and pleasure that life still has for them.
3. After a certain age, some people figure life is over for them and feel they have nothing more to live for.
C. Abraham had plenty of reasons to fade into the background and “while away” the days waiting to see his beloved Sarah again.
1. After roughly 112 years of marriage – which is longer than most people live – he buried his wife in a newly purchased family tomb and returned to his nomadic tent city near Hebron.
2. For the first few weeks or months, Abraham’s grief probably left him feeling like he wanted to die – which is not uncommon for a widowed partner after death ends a long, successful marriage.
3. But God’s will for all of us, throughout our lives, no matter what difficulties or setbacks we face, is to live each day to the full, for God’s glory.
D. I have been blessed to have a number of excellent examples of people in my life who have done that very thing – people who have lived each day to the full.
1. My paternal grandmother Owens was vibrant and fully engaged in life until a stroke took her quickly at age 96.
2. Our dear friends from Arkansas, Audrey and Ollie Z Golleher became our friends when they were in their 70s.
a. They lived into their 90s, always busy serving, growing and learning.
3. Here at Wetzel Road, we have had so many fine examples of people who have passed on to their reward, who lived each day to the full, for God’s glory – people like Charlie Vrooman, Rudy Carlson, and most recently, Mark Warren.
4. Some of our present senior saints are living out that very journey with God before our eyes – people like Bill and Joyce Perkins, and Pearley Taylor, Doris Coomey, Nancy Altic, Jacques Bourdon, and Kathryn Olbricht, just to name a few.
5. These people inspire us because they just keep serving and learning and growing.
6. Older age and retirement for them doesn’t mean a rocking chair and Bingo – it means using each day to serve the Lord and shine the light of God before others.
E. Abraham was also that kind of person.
1. He is an example of someone who lived life to the hilt, right up to the end of his life.
2. His biblical biography doesn’t even begin until he was 75 years old!
3. His life was one adventure after another for 100 years after that!
F. Today, as we conclude our sermon series on Abraham – A Journey of Faith, we want to explore the end of his life, and see what lessons we can learn about finishing strong.
1. Starting strong is not that difficult, but staying strong and finishing strong are much harder.
2. But isn’t that something that all of us want to do? Don’t we want to stay strong and finish strong?
I. The Story
A. The end of Abraham’s story begins in Genesis 25: 1 Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. 3 Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan; the descendants of Dedan were the Asshurites, the Letushites and the Leummites. 4 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah. (Gen. 25:1-4)
1. In our sermon on the death of Sarah, a few sermons ago, we discussed the fact that Abraham remarried after Sarah died.
2. We don’t know exactly how long it was after Sarah’s death that Abraham remarried, but it was likely a few years and it appears to have happened after Abraham got a wife for Isaac, which included the servant’s long journey to and from Abraham’s homeland 500 miles away.
3. Instead of asking why Abraham would marry again at his age – he was probably around 140 years old – a better question would be, why not?
a. Abraham had enjoyed a wonderful relationship with Sarah and had loved his home and loved having a family.
b. He had grown accustomed to the intimate companionship of a mate, so when Sarah died, remarriage became a choice to consider.
4. Some people are put off by the idea of someone having another spouse after one has died.
a. They like to romantically say that love is forever, and think that a husband and wife parted by death will resume their romance in heaven.
b. But we know that when Jesus was confronted by this question during his ministry, He corrected many false romantic and theological thoughts with this truth: “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Mt. 22:30)
c. In other words, we, like the angels, will worship and serve God forever as individuals, but in heaven that will be okay – we will never feel lonely nor alone.
5. Even at Abraham’s age, God had some new experiences for him and a few surprises as well.
a. When Abraham married Keturah, I’m guessing that he didn’t think, “Keturah and I are going to have a bunch of more children.”
b. He may have thought he was well beyond the age for bringing children into the world.
c. But then one day, Keturah said to him, “Guess what? We’re going to have a baby!”
d. And they did. Then some months later, Keturah uttered those words again and a second boy arrived.
e. In his second marriage, Abraham heard those words from Keturah no less than 6 times.
f. Abraham had never experienced this before – He and Sarah had struggled with infertility for decades – what a joyful change this must have been.
g. It was hard enough to picture 100 year old Abraham and 90 year old Sarah with baby Isaac, but it is even harder to picture Abraham at 140+ years old surrounded by preschoolers!
6. Regardless of the many details that are left out of this brief passage of scripture, it is clear that Abraham continued to live a full life, watching a whole second family sprout, grow, bloom, and then bear fruit.
a. That may not be what you or I might want in our later years, but Abraham embraced it and it should cause us to wonder what surprises God might have in our futures.
B. Abraham’s story continues: 5 Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. 6 But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east. (Gen. 25:5-6)
1. While Abraham continued living, he never let his second life take anything away from his first.
2. Isaac was the promised son – the one whom God said would be the sole heir of the covenant, the one through whom the Hebrew nation would be born.
3. Even though Abraham was to leave everything he owned to Isaac after his death, before his death he took good care of all his children, establishing each of his sons financially as they left and started their own families.
4. It is wise for each of us to make sure everything is in order in case of our own death, so that our families will be taken care of in our absence.
a. These things should include a legally signed will, our wishes for our own funeral, and an adequate insurance package.
b. But even more important than monetary things, we should ask ourselves: “what kind of emotional and spiritual inheritance am I laying up for my family? Am I living in a way that is making our family life brighter, happier and more fulfilling for our family?”
5. Abraham certainly was involved in establishing a wonderful legacy for his family both spiritually and monetarily.
C. Now we come to the end of Abraham’s story, the Bible says: 7 Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. 8 Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. 9 His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, 10 the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. 11 After Abraham's death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi. (Gen. 25:7-11)
1. When you do the math, we see that Abraham lived 38 years after the death of Sarah.
2. The Bible says: “He died at a good old age, an old man full of years.”
a. The Hebrew word translated “full” is sahbah which means full and satisfied.
b. So Abraham died with a full smile – full of years, full of satisfaction, full of contentment.
3. The expression “he was gathered to his people” pictured the burial practice in which his body was allowed to decay and then his bones were gathered and placed in the family ossuary with those who had gone before him.
a. But it also carried with it the significance of joining his God-believing ancestors in eternal intimacy with the Almighty in heaven.
4. The passage mentions only his sons Isaac and Ishmael burying their father, but I’m sure all the sons were also involved.
a. I am encouraged by the fact that Ishmael was involved – which conveys the idea that Abraham continued to be involved in Ishmael’s life, even though he was not the son of promise.
b. The children of Abraham must have been proud of their father and honored to place him in the family burial cave.
D. I think a very appropriate response to the end of Abraham’s life is: “What a way to go!”
1. Abraham truly made the most of his days on earth and he honored God with his life and his resources.
2. As we think about trying to finish well in the twilight years of our lives, I want to encourage us to embrace two goals.
3. First, It will be best for us to strive to live each day anew and stay young at heart.
a. Satchel Paige was a famous African American baseball player.
1. He started out in the Negro leagues, but eventually played in the Major Leagues.
2. Paige was born in 1906 and lived during a very difficult time of inequality.
3. When interviewed he often teased journalists by adding or subtracting years each time they asked him how old he was, then he would turn the tables and ask them this question: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”
b. That’s a thought provoking question, isn’t it?
a. So, how old are you, not chronologically, but mentally and spiritually?
c. How wonderful it would be if while we grow older, we stay young at heart – open to the wonder and imagination of childhood, with a passion for learning, and an optimism about the future.
d. If we strive toward this goal, we will be able to truly live life to the full however many days God allows us to live.
2. A second helpful goal to live life to the full is to never give up.
a. Life can be hard as we experience many failures, losses, and disappointments.
b. But we can chose to quit when we experience them, or we can chose to go on.
c. You are probably familiar with Winston Churchill’s inspiring WWII speech to his discouraged English society – he said: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
d. That “never give in, never give up” attitude will serve us well throughout our lives.
e. To use another baseball illustration: We all admire Babe Ruth as one of the greatest sluggers to play the game with his 714 homerun record, which remained unbroken until 1974.
1. What we often forget is that the home-run king also struck out 1,330 times – he struck out almost twice as many times as he hit a homerun.
2. The all-time strikeout leaderboard reads like a who’s who of power hitters – Reggie Jackson, Sammy Sosa, and Alex Rodriguez – they are among those who have hit the most home runs, but they are also among those who have the most strike outs.
3. In baseball terms, the lesson is: to hit a lot of balls, you have to swing at a lot of pitches, so keep swinging away, even if you miss the ball.
f. In other words, the lesson for us is this: to be successful we are going to have to experience a lot of failure.
g. If we give up when we fail, then we will never be successful.
h. We must not let failure stop us…never give in…never give up.
i. Abraham never let failure stop him.
II. The Application
A. There’s an old woodman’s proverb that says, “A tree is best measured when it’s down.”
1. You can see how that would ring true with the challenge of measuring a tree while it is still standing, but the same can be said when measuring someone’s life.
2. It is best not to try to measure someone’s life while they are still living, because their story is still unfolding.
3. But once the tree is down, and their life is over, then we can measure the greatness with unquestioning accuracy.
4. Now that we have completed our exploration of the life of Abraham, let’s step back and try to take a measurement of the whole journey.
5. In the closing chapter of Charles Swindoll’s book on the life of Abraham, he did a nice job of summarizing the main lessons we learn from the life of Abraham.
6. Let me share with you the conclusion of his measurement and the way Abraham’s life becomes a model for our own lives.
B. First, Abraham’s example is worthy of our imitation because: When he was called, he obeyed.
1. It was faith that caused Abraham to obey.
2. Abraham followed God by faith, not even knowing where he was going.
3. Like Abraham, we need to learn to trust and obey as we make the journey step by step.
C. Second, Abraham’s example is worthy of our imitation because: What he was promised, he believed.
1. Whether living in a tent on foreign soil, or defying the odds of having a child in old age, Abraham believed God’s promises – he took God at His Word.
2. We must do the same – If God says something in His Book, then we must believe it, even if we don’t understand it.
D. Third, Abraham’s example is worthy of our imitation because: When he was tested, he trusted.
1. It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice.
2. What a hard test that must have been!
3. If we are going to be faithful on our journey with the Lord, we are going to have to trust Him even during the hardest tests we have to face.
4. I don’t think I have to spell out what those hardest tests include – we know them all to well – and they certainly do stretch our faith, and sadly, some abandon their faith when they face them.
E. Finally, Abraham’s example is worthy of our imitation because: When he was blessed, he shared.
1. Abraham became incredibly wealthy during his journey with God.
2. He became rich in land, cattle, camels, silver and gold.
3. But Abraham didn’t hoard it for himself, rather he shared his blessings with others along the way.
a. He gave a tenth to Melchizedek.
b. He gave Lot the choice of the best land.
c. He allowed his men who helped rescue Lot to keep the spoils and took none for himself.
d. He helped many sons establish their own households.
4. Question: How good are we at passing along our blessings to others and to the spiritual efforts we see as important like the church, Camp Hunt, the orphanage we support or other great works?
5. God’s blessings are not intended to be kept for ourselves, but as 2 Cor. 9:8 tells us that God is able to give to us so that we can abound in every good work.
6. God wants us to pass along the blessings, just like Abraham did.
F. Abraham wasn’t perfect, no one is, except Jesus, but he did leave a very good example for us.
1. Wherever God leads, follow.
2. Whatever God promises, believe.
3. Whenever God tests, trust.
4. However God blesses, share.
5. These four simple directives summarize Abraham’s formula for success.
G. The apostle Paul gave Abraham this fitting epitaph: 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness - for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
1. Abraham’s story is our story - In our own way, each of us is a nomad, a pilgrim on earth.
2. Like this great man of faith, we have been called on a great spiritual journey with God.
3. Like Abraham, we will be declared righteous on the basis of our trust in the Lord.
4. Like Abraham, let’s walk by faith, trusting in all of God’s promises, then our journey will be blessed, and will end in fullness of satisfaction and peace.
Abraham – One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith, by Charles Swindoll, Tyndale, 2014.