Is It Ever a Mistake To Believe God?
Text: Genesis 12
Proposition: God’s promises and the directions to attaining those promises are absolutely trustworthy but the experience of gaining them will test our faith.
Introduction: Do you get many of those e-mails from Kuwait and Nigeria and the FBI that promise you massive amounts of money, vast inheritances, great estate settlements? I figure last week alone I made over three million from these high flying promises. The problem is that the promise is only as good as the one who makes it. If the promise is made by a fraud artist then it has no substance, in fact it has negative substance, meaning that if I risk believing it I not only do not gain, I loose. I think that we experience this same type of wariness to believe from all kinds of everyday things, from cars that break down and diets that don’t work to people who disappoint and even families who fall apart. Is it possible that our wariness to believe also gets extended to God, especially in those times when it seems that to believe not just in His existence but in the things that He has promised in the Bible just doesn’t seem to match what we experience? In other words, “Is it ever a mistake to believe God?” Let’s take a look at a man named Abram who believed God and then struggled with what happened next. Turn with me to Genesis 12 as we read about some of the greatest promises God ever made.
I. The Greater the Promise the Greater the Demands of Belief.
God tells Abram to leave country, family and his father’s house, to leave all that is a strength, all that is safe and familiar and to go into an unknown place. It seems that promises of God are like that, He calls us to let go of past things before we are able to pick up that which is new. Maybe the past things are old places we used to go, people we used to hang out with, even music that was a big part of our thinking. The promises of God invite a belief that says what I’m leaving behind is nothing compared to what lays ahead. Have a look at the number of times that God uses the phrase ‘I will’ in these three verses: “a land I will show you; I will make you a great nation; I will bless you; I will bless those who bless you; I will curse those who curse you.” I get the sense that these are promises that God is guaranteeing to Abram. It’s like He is saying, ‘If you do this, I will do this.’ It’s not a maybe, it’s not conditional on Abram having enough money or being a good person, it’s conditional only upon God and He says repeatedly that He is willing. God can say ‘I will’ because there is nothing that limits Him, not time, not circumstance and not even your failings. The promise that He made to Abram was huge, it was to give him a land out of which a great nation would arise and from which great blessings would come. The greatest of those blessings would be the lineage of Jesus Christ through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed. What this great, great promise called for was a great belief that the One who promised could and would do what He said. It is this belief or faith on Abrams part that God counted as righteousness. Faith is to God the key component of relationship for by faith in Him and His promises He gives us His righteousness or right standing with Him.
II. God Not Only Invites Belief, He Refines It.
Twice Abram has had some sort of encounter with God. Perhaps it was a vision or dream or audible voice, whatever the form of the encounter it was real and Abram believed God. Perhaps in your life, circumstance is the way that God speaks, perhaps as you read your Bible that is the way He speaks most clearly, whatever the means, God is not silent, He does speak to us. As Abram arrives in what we would now call the land of Israel, God tells him that all the land he can now see will belong to his descendents. First God tells him about this land and now He shows him the land, promise upon promise, but until you go you can’t see. Abram even believed the part that said he would have descendents, children who would possess this land, even though he was more than 75 years old. So Abram believes but now comes the twist. The land that God promises is inhabited by someone else. The land which God promises is struck by famine. The land which is promised is something he must leave in order to one day possess. Abram heads south to Egypt and begins to fear that Sarai his wife would be a temptation to the Egyptians. The very woman that is key to the promises of having descendents he seeks to hide by deception saying that she is his sister fearing that the Egyptians would sooner commit murder than adultery. That is they wouldn’t take Sarai, that would be taking another man’s wife, instead they would kill Abram, murder being a lesser sin in their eyes than adultery. In fact Abrams deception opens the door for Pharaoh to do exactly what he feared as Sarai is taken from him.
It seems that to believe God is creating more and more problems for Abram. Was it ever a mistake to believe God? I suppose we could rephrase the question and ask, “Is it ever a mistake to believe the truth?”, since what God knows is what really is and there is no deceit in Him. Jesus once even said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Sometimes we are like Abram, we fear situations or people and we take things into our own hands, we deceive ourselves thinking that danger exists where in fact there is no danger. We forget that it is not our responsibility to make the promises of God come true, that’s His responsibility. Our responsibility is know that to believe in God’s promises is never a mistake. It’s ours to be patient, to persevere, to trust even when there’s a famine, even when I think I’m too old to begin again, even though it’s my with descendents who will possess what I now only see. It’s my responsibility to not turn back to my old ways, my former country, family, household. God even uses the unlikely, the Pharaoh of Egypt, to set Abram straight and to chastise him for his deceit. God blessed Abram just as He said He would and sent him back to the promised land, wealthier yes, but much, much wiser. Be ready for the next step in believing God.