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Archive for Promises of God

The third obstacle that Abram had to overcome was his lack of patience. God gave the promise of a land and a people to Abram when he was 75. God delivered on the promise (Genesis 21:1-5) when Abram was 100. Do the math.

It’s daunting for us to think about Abram waiting 25 years for God to fulfill his promise when we can’t stand in line 10 minutes for a double cheeseburger. God is never early. We must recognize that when God fulfills his promise he always delivers in accordance to his timetable. He’s never late. He’s always on time.

The final obstacle that Abram had to overcome was an incorrect perspective. It’s easy for us to sit back some 6,000 years later and pick Abram’s life to pieces. He did mess some stuff up, for sure. But for all that Abram got wrong, he got this one right. In Genesis 22:1-2, God spoke to Abram and asked him to give the promise back. In reading the story, I’m amazed that Abram responded so readily and willingly.

As I think about Abram’s offering of Issac on the altar atop Mt. Moriah, I am reminded that the promises of God are not given for the gratification of our flesh. This is where I take issue with the health, wealth, and prosperity movement in the western hemisphere. Those purveyor’s of riches boldly announce that God has promises for us that will make us richer, prettier, more successful, happier, thinner, and healthier. They are about the gratification of the flesh. But as I read the Bible I simply don’t see it. The promises of God are about the eternal purposes of God that he wants to accomplish in the world. The promise giver is always greater than the promise itself. In the words of Rick Warren, “it’s not about you.” Somehow, Abram had grown in his relationship with God to the extent that he was able to trust him with the promise itself.

I believe that God still makes promises to his people today. That’s the subject of this weekend’s message. But for now let me say that those promises involve our participation in the accomplishment of God’s eternal purposes in the world. God is about God’s work. We’re invited to join him.

God’s promise to Abram was that He would give him a land and then a people. Abram embraced the promise quickly, but standing on that promise would not come without challenges. He would have to utilize a deep faith in God to overcome several obstacles. Today I’ll post two of them and tomorrow catch the following two.

The first obstacle Abram had to overcome was his personal limitations. One of the first things we learn about Abram and his wife Sarai was that she was “barren” and unable to conceive children (Genesis 11:30). God’s promise to provide Abram more descendents than could be counted was located at the very epicenter of Abram’s impossibility. God’s promises do not come to us at our point of strength. God’s promises come to us at our point of weakness, vulnerability and impossibility.

Why?

So there would be no explanation for his life apart from the intervention of God. When people look at your life what do they see? Do they see your skills? Your knowledge? Your talent? Your sophistication? Your charisma? Or do they see a life that is unexplainable? God’s promises are God-sized. When He intervenes in the lives of his children he leaves clear fingerprints.

The second obstacle Abram had to overcome was his private resources and resourcefulness. As we continue to survey the life of Abram, we read that 10 years pass following the promise. As time passes, Abram begins to grow impatient and devises a plan that would allow him to do God’s will his way and in accordance to his own timetable. In Genesis 15:1-3, Abram suggests to God that he could adopt his slave, Elieazar, and allow him to be the heir of promise. God said “no,” and restated his promise to Abram again. In Genesis 16:1-5, Abram and Sarai concoct another plan. This time Abram would use Hagar to become the surrogate mother of an heir to fulfill the promise. Even though Abram slept with Hagar and conceived Ishmael, God again rejected this substitution, and again reaffirmed his promise.

Sometimes we can grow impatient with God and in our impatience begin looking for substitutes. Every time we do, we settle for something less than God’s best.

My favorite C.S. Lewis quote reminds me that “our problem is not that we are too weak…our problem is that we are too strong.”

What is your weakness? That’s where God is most likely to begin his greatest work. What substitutes for God’s best are you offering to Him?

The promises of God will create a crisis of belief that will have to be overcome by faith. That’s true of Abram. That’s true of you, too.

Have you ever had a person break a promise? Hurts, doesn’t it? I think the thing that hurts the most is the disappointment that comes…not because an obligation went unfulfilled…but because of the violation of trust. When promises are broken, relationships change.

A promise, after all, is only as good as the one who makes it. We trust others to keep their promises. When promises are kept, trust gradually increases. But when promises are broken, trust plummets!

The good news is that God is not fickle. He’s not on and off. He’s always true to complete whatever he begins. He always keeps his promises. He never denies his word. His character and actions are always consistent. He can be completely trusted. Even when his promises run contrary to our experience and understanding.

In Genesis 13:14-18, God gave Abram a promise.

After Lot had gone, the Lord said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west. I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants as a permanent possession. And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted! Go and walk through the land in every direction, for I am giving it to you.” So Abram moved his camp to Hebron and settled near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. There he built another altar to the Lord. (Genesis 13:14-18, NLT)

In those verses God promised Abram that he was going to give him a land and then a people. When God makes a promise to his children, like Abram we find that our faith is immediately challenged. In tomorrow’s post I’ll share four obstacles that Abram had to overcome as we continue to look over his shoulder into his life.