Believe in Our God
Genesis 15:1 – 6
I remember the camping area – Stoors Pond Recreation Area in Hanover NH, it was a wonderful space. There was a swimming pool, a beach, and a pond. The week long retreat every year ended with a giant campfire. It was a strange experience at first for me, to see teens talk about how Jesus has worked in their lives. It was refreshing to hear teens talk about their lives openly. I remember the one night, when I was first moved by God through hearing the testimonies of my peers. I remember wondering how amazing it was that God’s love was so powerful in the lives of my friends at this retreat. I remember wondering, I haven’t experienced that, but I would like to.
I remember when I first understood the message of God’s love. I remember youth pastors telling me about God’s great love that surpassed all my sins at the time. I heard about God’s great love that is more powerful than my anger, my lies, my judgment of others, and my jealousy of others’ lives. I remember thinking about this for a little bit but forgetting it as soon as the message and worship was over.
I remember going to church just to see friends. I didn’t care about God or Jesus at all. All I wanted to do was to see my friends. I remember only being interested in girls, games, and making sure mom and dad were not yelling at me. Of course, there was the pressure to get good grades, so I cared about that too.
I remember being reminded by pastors through out my life telling us the importance of believing in God. I remember wondering, how could I believe without proof of His existence? How remember thinking, how could I believe in God’s love, when I have not experienced it?
I remember throwing all those experiences away because there just could not be a way for this Christianity thing to real. I believed that any rational person who believes in science and knowledge could not believe that there is a God, or a guy named Jesus. I remember taking my 11 or 12 year old sister through the museum pretending I knew a lot, and telling her that there was no way that this world came to be through creation.
I remember going to Chinese Christian Conferences in Chicago, and feeling God change me. Once I entered a retreat blatantly against Christianity, but after a few days, I was praying to God. There was this one trip, when I met mom and dad and my sister in Chicago for this conference. They came from New York, and I came from Iowa. Afterwards, I was given the responsibility to drive my sister home. I remember praying during throughout that car ride with her.
I remember experiencing God’s amazing love in college. I remember deciding to trust in God. I remember committing to this relationship with God, not knowing how God would lead me. I remember committing to my relationship with God, not knowing who completely who God is…
I remember being baptized and first testifying of God’s amazing love. I remember telling the congregation in college of how every moment spent with God was so filled with acceptance and love compared to the many moments of life spent exerting to find acceptance and love from my peers and girlfriend at the time.
We are all on a journey in our lives, we are on a journey with God. All of you are sitting here, and some of you have experienced God’s amazing love. Some of you are sitting here with no interest in any of this at all. You come because your family comes, you come because it is the Sunday routine. Some of you have experienced God’s love a bit, you have grown, and you are starting to know what it means to depend on God in your life. We are all on a journey with God in our lives. Wherever you are on this journey is exactly where you are, and that is okay.
However, there is a time in our journey with God, if you have experienced God’s love and guidance, that we need to decide to commit to this relationship with God. At this point, you may not be completely sure of everything, you may not be completely certain, but it is a choice to be made to commit to your relationship with God.
And like any relationship, once you have committed to it – you will experience more from that relationship. What do I mean? I am married to Kirstie. Many of you were there at our wedding. What was that all about? We were publicly committing our lives to each other. I can assure you that if we were not married, our relationship would not be as deep. I mean, we have been only married about three years, but it feels like we have known each other forever. In our relationship with God, once you have committed to it – you will experience God more. There is something that happens when we are willing to give public testimony of our growing faith in God, and our growing relationship with God. I believe the Holy Spirit falls on you when you take this step, and you will sense the Holy Spirit direct, lead and guide your life. If I didn’t commit to be married to Kirstie, our relationship would not be as full of experiences. It’s the same with God, once you have commit to your relationship with God, you will experience more from that relationship.
Today, we are going to see the circumstances of Abram’s committed faith in God. We will be in Genesis 15:1 – 6.
Genesis 15:1 – 6
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the world of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Promise for Abram
Verse one of chapter 15 says, “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” What is God doing here? God is making a promise to Abram. God promised to Abram, I will protect you, you will be rewarded greatly. Do not be afraid.
Likewise, we are given promises by God. Many times, God also tells us to not be afraid. God also tells us that God will protect us. God also tells us that we will receive a great reward. For example, perhaps the most famous verse is John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. What’s the promise? God loves the world, God gave His only son for the world. What should we do? Believe in God’s Son. What’s the great reward? Eternal life. Where’s the protection? John 3:17, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
What’s our response to God’s promise? What was Abram’s response to God’s promise?
Interestingly Abram’s response is full of doubt. He tells God, prove it! It’s like the time when we are given a promise and we ask the other person to pinky swear it. You hold out your pinky and hopefully the pinky HOOK comes…
Listen to what Abram says, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Basically, Abram is saying, God can you show me something, give me something because I don’t see your protection, I don’t see my reward at all yet. Assure to me that your words are true!
That’s part of the journey with God. Perhaps some of you are in that part of the journey. Every week, in some form or another you hear the older youth, leaders here talk about how GOOD God is, but you have not experienced it? In your heart and your mind, you are seeking proof. You want confirmation. You want assurance. I wonder, have you asked God for this? Have you asked God in prayer to show Himself to you? This is part of the journey of life and with God.
Even Abram responds in this way. He doesn’t completely believe God in this moment. He has doubt. Abram even continues to say, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” Remember that God told Abram that he would become a great nation, and group of peoples. Well, how is that possible without even a child for Abram. Remember too that Abram is like really old here, and to his human eyes – it will seem that it is becoming less and less possible. So, he turns to God and says, God you haven’t even given me a child… what’s Abram doing? Abram is telling God, how God’s words have proved to be empty so far.
We have those moments in our journey with God, too right? I mean hasn’t God made promises that we cannot see? The word ‘eternal’ in John 3:16 doesn’t mean only an everlasting in time kind of life. The word ‘eternal’ in John 3:16 also means a quality of life that is good! Well, there has been many experiences in my walk with God, and with all peoples walk with God, where the quality of life does not increase the more we believe in God. Rather the quality of life, the comfort we experience decreases. Personally, in my walk with God, I have become more painfully aware of my sin, then I really would like to be… and it is a painful to be humbled in this way. In my walk with God, there has been times of when I sort of want to give up. I too have been hurt by church leadership, and it is disheartening, and you think “why am I even doing this?” There has been pain in the family too, like when my sister broke her back in three places… I prayed “God save her!”
That is what is happening for Abram. God, you made the promises, I heard them clearly from Your Word. Well, where is it? I encourage you that like Abram do not be afraid of expressing these disappointments to God. Do not be afraid of asking God for confirmation!
But be careful too, because it is when we have experienced disappointment in our walk with God when we start thinking like Abram. He looks around and sees Eliezer of Damascus. It is not his child, but Abram thinks…perhaps this is who God meant when He said offspring. Tell these thoughts to God also. Ask God, is this who you meant? Is this what you meant? Ask God, “What do you mean when it says this in the Bible?” “I don’t agree with this in Scripture, can you help me!”
I remember in my walk with God, asking and praying wondering about the whole science and faith debate. I was really conflicted at the time. To me, I felt like I had to choose between one or the other. Either I would believe in God and throw away science and rationality. Or I will believe in rationality and science and reject God. Interestingly, I prayed to God for help during this time. And God told me clearly, “Andrew, what did my son Jesus command for you to do?” I answered in prayer, “To love You and to love our neighbor” Then God said, “Just do that first and foremost and don’t worry about the rest…” Several years after this prayer, when I was in class in seminary… I started to learn that Genesis 1 and 2 is not a science book, it is a theological text. And everything was clear at that time.
Whatever it is that is blocking your commitment with God, I am telling you that you can tell God. You don’t have to be afraid. Keep praying, and God will answer. Keep praying, and God will give you an answer. It may not be a answer you expected but keep praying, and you will understand.
Let’s look at God’s response to Abram’s doubt, and questions. In the NLT version of the this passage it says, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”
First God rejects Abram’s thoughts. Abram’s thoughts about “perhaps it is this or that…” is rejected by God. But does not just say NO, God brings Abram out to see the night sky. God makes another promise to Abram. God says to Abram, you will have as many descendants as the stars in the sky.
What just happened? God personally came to show Abram something. This must have been an amazing experience with God! Imagine Abram looking up and wondering… “WOW!” God personally came to reassure Abram something. God did not prove it to Abram, but God made his promise larger and grander. This too will happen in your walk and journey with God. You will be wondering about a small thing in your life, perhaps you are afraid, perhaps you are scared, perhaps you are uncertain, but God will bring you out to show you His grand vision. God will show to you an even larger vision. This vision will be so large that there will be no way you can do it yourself, but the only thing to do is to trust in God and believe. God told Abram, your reward is great, will you believe it? God challenged Abram to believe.
This will happen in your walk with God. Some of you have recently been experiencing it. I remember first experiencing it. I remember first seeing what God sees, and completely trusting in that moment that God will work to bring His vision into completion.
I remember when I was so afraid of not graduating from college, I just called out to God for help. I remember the nights when to study, I had to pray for strength and for help. I remember listening to “A thousand times I failed… and still your mercy remains” and how that song guided me to have strength each day. I remember how one night in college, God broke my heart for the powerless in this world. I remember how the opportunity to go to Korea arose, and I wondered if it was the right choice. I remember in Korea, when I first felt God’s calling in my life. I remember God also showing me the depths of my evil heart during the same time. Thank God for that! I remember experiencing God’s amazing grace and forgiveness. I remember God telling me that being a teacher would not be my path, but rather, I would be working in ministry. I remember God telling me even before I started dating Kirstie, that I had to be completely committed to her for me to even start my relationship with her. I remember God telling me that God was leading me to CFBC. These aren’t all the examples. But at all these moments in my walk with God, where God has shown Himself to me. But there was a decision still, would I follow God and the leadings I had from Him? Or would I reject it? Would I believe in God or would I doubt God? Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.
What was Abram’s response? AND THEN HE BELIEVED THE LORD, AND HE COUNTED IT TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Abram chose to believe God. Abram chose to believe God’s promise and word. Abram chose to trust in God, despite the lack of evidence for God’s words!
No matter where you are on this journey with God, I completely trust that God is working. Perhaps you are here to see your friends or because mom or dad made you. Perhaps you are here because you have recently experienced a taste of what life depending on God means. Perhaps you are questioning God, and how valid this whole God thing is. Perhaps you simply don’t care! No matter what, you are on a journey with God. Even if you do not believe it, I know that God is working, and God is leading in your life. I know that God will work in your life. I know that God will transform your life.
However, if you sense God working. If you sense your relationship and dependence on Him growing. Stop feeling guilty for all the lack of Bible reading, stop feeling guilty for all the lack of praying, stop feeling guilty… stop feeling like you are not good enough, stop feeling like you may not be ready… if you sense that you are growing in your dependence on Him… there comes a time on this journey where you first decide I will believe in God, there comes a time when you decide I will believe even though I am not completely sure. I will believe even though, I don’t know where this will lead. I will believe even though I have these doubts. I will believe, because I want to taste and see what life is like with God.
Again, it is like any relationship. Your full commitment to it will reveal a depth in the relationship that is impossible before the full commitment. Today, I feel led to ask that if you have seen God working in your life. If you have been growing to trust in God more. If you have been depending on God more. If you need to depend on God more because a tough season of life is coming. If you just want to pray to know God more…
If you want, and only if you want, don’t look around to see who may be coming or not…Then all we would like to do is to pray for you. There is no pressure, we want to just pray for you! I have asked our leaders Bonnie, Lynn, Brian here to be available to pray for you. Martin and Elaine will keep playing music, but you can go to them too! Kirstie and I are available too.