Summary: God wants us to withhold nothing from him.

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Isaac Butterworth

October 10, 2010

Genesis 22:1-19 (NIV)

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"

"Here I am," he replied.

2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?"

"Yes, my son?" Abraham replied.

"The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"

"Here I am," he replied.

12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."

It’s stewardship season. I don’t know how you feel about that, but I’ll tell you how it makes me feel. Uncomfortable. I just don’t like asking people for things. And I especially don’t like asking them for money.

I remember years ago, when I was the pastor in another city, we had a man in our church that worked in a local processing plant. His name was Doug. One day, a new guy – a fellow by the name of Mike – showed up to work there, and Doug got acquainted with him and invited him to come to our church.

‘I don’t know,’ Mike said. ‘I don’t much like going to church. All there ever do is ask for money.’

‘Not our preacher!’ Doug said. ‘He never talks about money!’

What Doug didn’t know was that I was scheduled to preach my annual stewardship sermon that very next Sunday! So, what happened? Mike and Shannon, his wife, show up at the First Presbyterian Church, and the preacher is talking about money!

And, here I am again. October has rolled around, and we’ve scheduled our Stewardship Consecration Sunday for October 24. And I’m beginning to feel that anxiety that I get every year about this time. And I’m thinking to myself: ‘I’ve got to somehow convince these people to give their money to the church.’ And this year, it’s even more critical, because, if we don’t see a significant increase in pledges, we’re going to have to make some painful changes.’

But lately, God has been doing a work in my heart. It’s as though he’s been saying to me, ‘Ike, I don’t need the people’s money, and I don’t need your money.’ And, you know what? I began to realize that God doesn’t need our money. God’s kingdom project will go on with or without me, and, quite frankly, it will go on with our without our church. I guess God has been teaching me a lesson in divine sovereignty. And what he’s been showing me is: Nothing will thwart his plan. Nothing will defeat his purpose. And the Kingdom will not fail, least of all due to a lack of funding.

Now, I don’t know about you, but this gives me a huge sense of relief. What I am beginning to see is that there is nothing God has called us as a church to do, there is nothing that God has commissioned me as a pastor to do, there is nothing that he expects you and me to do as disciples of Jesus, there is nothing that we cannot do with the resources he provides. We will always have enough time, we will always have enough money, we will always have whatever we need to do God’s will. Isn’t that liberating?

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