Summary: Abram’s faith and selflessness in dealing with Lot is an example to us when it comes to giving to God. This was Self-Denial Sunday for an offering given to missions.
The Gift of Giving Up – Genesis 13:1-18
In August 1994, a Korean air jet skidded across a rain-soaked runway and rammed into a safety barricade in Cheju, Korea. All 160 passengers escaped to safety, just moments before the plane exploded into flames. So what caused this near tragedy? According to news reports, the pilot and co-pilot had gotten into a fist fight over who was in charge of the landing controls. Obviously, one of the pilots has the right to land the plane and wouldn’t give it up. The other pilot wouldn’t give up fighting for that right. This is similar to a story in Genesis 13, except for one significant difference. The one entitled to something was willing to give it up, and God blessed him for it. Read Genesis 13:1-18.
We’ll look at this story piece by piece. God had told Abram, later known as Abraham, to leave his homeland, and so he went to the land of Canaan. There was a famine, and Abram took his family down and over to Egypt. Because he was deceitful, the Egyptian Pharoah forced Abram out of the country. This is all Genesis 12.
Genesis 13 begins with Abram and his family, including his nephew Lot, in need of a place to keep their livestock – camels, cows, donkeys and so on. They had returned to the fertile plains of the Jordan River, the land of Canaan.
Then a dispute arose. The men who looked after Abram’s herds began to fight with the men who looked after Lot’s herds. Surrounded by hostile neighbors, they should have pulled together. Instead, they let petty jealousy drive them apart. Sounds a little like the church today. Even as Satan ravages and attacks, here we are, sitting comfortably, fighting with each other about things that don’t matter. And so, this jealousy issue, together with the very real problem of not having enough space to graze all the livestock, Abram and his nephew Lot both feel the need to separate.
Abram strikes a deal with Lot. I’ll read v8-9 again. I want to look at what Abram did here. I want to look at 2 qualities in Abram’s life that would be good for us to apply to our own lives. And since today we are taking our denomination-wide self-denial offering, used directly for overseas missions, we will also be looking at some missionaries from our district serving around the world.
1) The first of Abram’s qualities to spur us on is faith. In Genesis 12:7, God promised this very land to Abram’s descendants, his children and his children’s children and so on. And yet in Genesis 13:9, we see Abram giving it up to Lot. He let Lot take whatever he wanted, which happened to be the best part of that land, “like the garden of the Lord” (v10). Abram had faith that is God promised it, God would give it back. Abram had the confidence that what God said was true. Read Romans 4:20-21. These verses speak of God’s promise to Abram of children, but they apply here too.
Abram took a risk with this, but perhaps that’s what faith is. Believing that God’s Word is true, to the point of putting yourself out on a limb for it. Clearly, going to the mission field is that way. I think of Melissa,a girl I went to school with, ministering on the streets of Kosovo, a war-torn section of the former Yugoslavia. What would drive an intelligent, attractive young girl to work with the homeless in a war-ravaged Islamic nation? Only the faith to believe that God wanted her there. Faith that God would provide her needs. Faith that God’s will is what’s best for her.
How’s your faith? If you were to give above and beyond what you normally give to the church, do you believe that God would honor you for it? As a wider question, do you believe that if God asks you to do something, He’ll provide the way for you to do it? If you stepped out in faith to do what you think God might be asking you to do… what would it be? God always blessed those who stepped out in faith, even in stumbling faih. Not self-confidence – faith in yourself. Not self-delusion – assuming God will do whatever you want, without asking what He wants. And not self-ishness – “bless me, help me, do for me, gimme, gimme, gimme”. True faith is concerned with God’s desires and glory, not ours.
2) The second of Abram’s qualities to spur us on is selflessness. When Abram told Lot to take what he needed, Abram was giving up his rights: he was entitled to what he wanted because he was the elder. Plus, God told him it was his. So Abram was certainly entitled to the best, which he let his nephew take. Abram was content to take the leftovers. Because of his great character, he was content to choose a spiritual reward instead of a material one. He knew that the good is the enemy of the best. The best, the highest road, always involves self-sacrifice and selflessness.