Summary: This was part of a three month emphasis on faith, and this message focuses on what God wants from us.
Discovering the Possibilities of Faith
Lesson: What Does God Want from Me?
Turn to Gen. 22. Today we are wrapping up our Discovering the Possibilities of Faith campaign – it has been quite a journey over the past three months, watching many of you wrestle with issues of faith and hearing about your victories and struggles. But rather than topping this off with a nice “wrap-up” kind of message, today’s message might be the most challenging and messy of them all, because today’s message hits at the core of our being. I want to invite you to think honestly and open up your heart, allowing God to penetrate and show you things you haven’t seen before. Let’s start out by reading together vs. 1-19.
This story of Abraham offering his son Isaac is one of the top five toughest stories for me personally to read in the bible because I consider myself primarily a husband and a father. Any story like this one that attacks my values and instincts as a husband or father is hard for me to deal with. Now turn to Hebrews 11, and let’s read an addendum in the great chapter on faith where we have been focused on for the past 5 or 6 weeks.
Let’s read Hebrews 11:17-19 together.
17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac,
18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.
We’ve answered some great questions about faith the last two weeks – can I really have my inheritance, and how can I have my inheritance – we’ve focused on what God wants to give us. But today we wrap this discussion up by asking a question that involves some painful images – “what does God want from me?” And the story of Abraham will help guide us along, but it is the most uncomfortable of stories.
There are a few reasons why we don’t like this story:
1. We don’t like the idea of God testing our faith. We don’t like to think that God at times will stretch our limits and our faith in Him and cause us to be in the worst possible predicaments so as to see if we will trust Him like we claim to trust Him.
2. We don’t like the idea that God would ask us to sacrifice our most precious treasure. Our most treasured possessions are not our possessions, but rather our relationships. That God would dare reach into our personal world is frightening to us – “God, take my money, take my car, my house, my job, my church, my retirement – but don’t ask me to give You my most precious relationship that I have.”
3. We don’t like the idea that Abraham actually followed through with God’s request. After reading this story, we feel put on the spot – “How could Abraham have done what He did?!” The Bible makes it clear that unless God had stayed His hand, in Abraham’s heart, Isaac was dead.
In his book, Velvet Elvis, I love what Rob Bell writes about the stories in the Bible when he tells us that “It’s not so much that the stories happened, but that they happen.” The fact is that God doesn’t only make the request to Abraham to lay down his most precious possession – it’s that God is still doing this today.
Now let me be clear – God is not leading you to KILL anybody (as tempting as that might sound), please don’t misunderstand my words this morning. But there is a point, where as we surrender the very possessions and relationships that are most important to us, as we lay them down at the altar before God – that God replaces everything/everyone else as our most treasured Possession. At that point of surrender, of laying everything else down- my son or my daughter or my husband or wife or mom or dad- I am doing away with any other possession taking God’s place.
There is a great series of messages rolling around in my head that I will preach someday titled, “What God wants to know.” One of these messages might very well deal with Gen. 22:12 (on screen) where the Angel of the Lord stops Abraham from killing his son and says, “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”