Sun, Dec 16, 2007

PREVENTING GOD'S WILL? GENESIS 31:3-13

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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PREVENTING GOD’S WILL?
GENESIS 31:3-13
 

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Genesis chapter 31 as we look at the subject I call – Preventing God’s Will?  In other words, can this world with their plans and purposes prevent God’s will from being accomplished?  Obviously I don’t believe so. And yet, as many Christians look at this world they become fearful that if we don’t do this or we don’t do that, God is going to lose, His plans and purposes will come to a halt.  Folks, that is not true and we will see that this morning.

            Let me give you an example of how some see God.  Kenneth Copeland taught on the Praise-a-Thon program on TBN back in April of 1988:

            “I was shocked when I found out who the biggest failure in the Bible actually is.   . . . The biggest one is God. . . . I mean, He lost His top-ranking, most anointed angel; the first man He ever created; the first woman He ever created; the whole earth and all the Fullness therein; a third of the angels, at least – that’s a big loss, man . . .

      - Kenneth Copeland, Praise-a-Thon, TBN, April 1988

            God is the biggest failure in the Bible because His creation fell, because the earth, which He entrusted to man, was lost because of man’s sin?  No, created man was created with a free will and man made the decision to rebel against God. It is not God’s fault. God did not create us as robots with no free will. We have choices to make. And folks, it is not as if God was caught off guard by what His creation did, He knew before He created man and He also knew what He would have to do to redeem man from his sin. It is as Revelation 13:8 tells us, All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.  You see, God did not fail, man did and yet God loves us so much that before He created us, He knew He would have to be that sacrificial lamb to save man from his sin!

            Now before we get to our text this morning, let me share with you a couple of stories regarding failure and once again, keep in mind, God never fails, but man, well, you be the judge. We are told:

            The prize for the most useless weapon of all times goes to the Russians. They invented the “dog mine.” The plan was to train the dogs to associate food with the undersides of tanks, in the hope that they would run hungrily beneath advancing Panzer divisions. Bombs were then strapped to the dogs’ backs, which endangered the dogs to the point where no insurance would look at them.

            Unfortunately, the dogs associated food solely with Russian tanks. The plan was begun the first day of the Russian involvement in World War II . . . and abandoned on day two. The dogs with bombs on their backs forced an entire Soviet division to retreat.

- Charles Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life

            In our second story regarding the failure of man you might say they had a good heart but a bad outcome. We are told:

            Stephen Pile has written a book titled The Book of Failures. It’s got unbelievable stuff in it. Like that time back in 1978 during the firemen’s strike in England.  It made possible one of the greatest animal rescue attempts of all time. Valiantly, the British Army had taken over emergency firefighting. On January 14 they were called out by an elderly lady in South London to rescue her cat. They arrived with impressive haste, very cleverly and carefully rescued the cat, and started to drive away. But the lady was so grateful she invited the squad of heroes in for tea. Driving off later with found farewells and warm waving of arms, they ran over her cat and killed it.

- Charles Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life

            You see, man will fail and does fail, but God will never fail. He will not run over your cat you might say! With that said, let’s begin reading in Genesis chapter 31, starting in verse 3 and see if we can get a better understanding on the impossibility of man preventing God’s will from being accomplished and how that should assure us to walk by faith, trusting in Him and His promises to us.

GENESIS 31:3-13

            Jacob has worked for his uncle Laban for 20 years now. He worked 14 of those years to marry both Leah and Rachel, the daughters of Laban. And now he has worked another 6 years for wages so that he can return home, to go back to the land that God had promised to his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac and now to him.

            Now in these verses we have read this morning, I see three main points emerge. We are going to look at: THE LORD’S CALL – GENESIS 31:3; THE WORLD’S RESPONSE – GENESIS 31:4-9; and THE LORD’S FULFILLMENT – GENESIS 31:10-13. And as we look at these this morning, I think you will see what Balaam proclaimed in Numbers 23:19, when he said, God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?  Folks, God does not fail, His plans, His purposes will come to pass in spite of what man may do to try and thwart, to try and put a stop to them!

1.  THE LORD’S CALL – GENESIS 31:3

            Here we see the Lord call Jacob to return home, to return to the land that He had promised him. And Jacob is not only going to listen to God but he will obey God. Why did Jacob do this? Because he trusted in the Lord and thus, what God had promised him he knew God was more than able to bring it to pass.

            When Jacob was running away to Haran, to stay with his uncle Laban because Jacob’s brother, Esau wanted to kill him, he came to Bethel and there he has an encounter with God. And this is what the Lord promised him, And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: ‘I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.’  Genesis 28:13-15.

            Did you notice the four things that God promised to Jacob?  They are:

  • He will have companionship with God – I am always with you
  • God will provide safety for him – I will keep you wherever you go
  • God will guide him – I will bring you back to this land
  • God guarantees him this – I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoke to you

            Because of those promises, Jacob was willing to obey, because, like I have said, he trusted the Lord.  Tragically, many today no longer trust God but they do put their trust, their confidence in man, which is foolish. Some of you may not believe this, but back in September of 1981 The Ladies Home Journal, and no, I was not reading it, but they asked a question, “In whom do you trust?”  Very simple, straightforward question and yet, listen to their responses. They are as follows:

  • Walter Cronkite – 40% of the vote.
  • Pope John Paul – 26% of the vote.
  • Billy Graham – 6% of the vote.
  • God – 3% of the vote.

What a sad statistic, only 3% of the people trusted in God but 72% of them were

willing to trust in man!  And yet, the Bible tells us, It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in princes.  Psalm 118:8-9.

            What has happened that so many people don’t trust the Lord?  It is because they don’t know the Lord, they don’t have that personal relationship with Him and thus, when things get tough, when they don’t go they way they want them to go, then they don’t trust God anymore.  Yes, back in 1981 it was Walter Cronkite, Pope John Paul, and Billy Graham but today, it is people like Oprah Winfrey, she has to be on top or close to the top of the list and I wonder if God would even make that list today!

            The Bible tells us that the faith of Abraham was in the Lord and because he trusted in the Lord he was able to walk by faith even when things were tough.  Paul tells us of Abraham in Romans 4:19-21, And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

            You see, Abraham and his wife Sarah were well passed the age of child bearing and yet God promised that Sarah would have a son and Abraham would be the father of many nations and a specific nation.  The problem is that Abraham is 99 years old, Sarah is 89 years old and Sarah has never been pregnant and it doesn’t look good from a human perspective. But Paul gives us some insight to Abraham, that he trusted in the promises of God because he knew God. He knew that what God had promised He was more than able to bring to pass and He did!  Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah 90 years old!

            Folks, don’t consider the difficulty of the situation but believe in the promises of God, trust in Him and as you do you will be strengthened in the faith, giving glory to God and the reason is simple. You had a right view of God or as Paul said in Ephesians 3:20-21, Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  People don’t trust God because they don’t know God!  Let me explain with this story. We are told:

            A huge crowd was watching the famous tightrope walker, Blondin, cross Niagara Falls one day in 1860. He crossed it numerous times – a 1,000-foot trip 160 feet above the raging waters. He not only walked across it; he also pushed a wheelbarrow across it. One little boy just stared in amazement. So after completing a crossing the fellow looked at that little boy and he said, “Do you believe I could take a person across in the wheelbarrow without falling?”  “Yes, sir. I really do.” The fellow says, “Well then, get in, son.”

- Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 illustrations

            That, in a sense, is what the Lord is telling us to do. “If you trust Me, then get into the wheelbarrow!”  Yes, it can be scary, but God is in control, thus get in and see where God is leading. That is what Jacob had to do, trust God.  He was leaving the place he had lived for 20 years to go back to the land of Canaan, back to his family, back to his brother Esau who 20 years prior wanted to kill him! He had to travel some 500 miles with a large caravan and thus, the trip would be slow and dangerous.  And God told Jacob to get into that wheelbarrow, in a sense, and he did!  He listened and obeyed the Lord because he trusted in the Lord.  How about you? Are you willing to listen and obey the Lord?  Are you willing to get into the wheelbarrow? You will only do that if you trust in Him!

            It is as Linda Sandell wrote in her Poem, Day by Day. She said:

                                    Day by day and with each passing moment,

                                    Strength I find to meet my trials here.

                                    Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,

                                    I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

                                    He whose heart is kind beyond all measure

                                    Gives unto each day what He deems best –

                                    Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,

                                    Mingling toil with peace and rest.

- Linda Sandell, Day by Day    

            This was the plan of God for Jacob’s life, and like I said, it was not going to be easy. You see, the world is going to step in and try to stop this from happening, but man cannot stop the plan of God. The all-knowing God knows the beginning from the end and thus, nothing takes Him by surprise. But it still won’t stop the world from trying, if nothing else to keep you from walking and we will see that with the next point.

2.  THE WORLD’S RESPONSE – GENESIS 31:4-9

            Keep in mind that 6 years prior to this we are told in Genesis 30:25-26, And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.’  And Jacob has worked for Laban those 6 years and now it as time for him to go, to return home. This was not his home; the land that God had promised was where he was to be!

            Jacob served Laban faithfully those 20 years; he did above and beyond what he should have done, even when he was treated unfairly.  You see, during those 20 years Laban changed his wages some 10 times and not to benefit Jacob.  He tried to take things away from Jacob and every time he did that, God blessed Jacob. You see, Jacob’s actions didn’t change. He didn’t change his work ethics. He still served Laban faithfully.

            In fact, in Genesis 31:38-42 we are told, These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried their young, and I have not eaten the rams of your flock. That which was torn by beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it. You required it from my hand, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. There I was! In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes. Thus I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night.

            In other words, even when a wild beast killed one of the animals that Jacob was watching, he bore the loss. You see, if you could bring the carcass of that animal back, showing that the beast did not devour it all, the owner of the animal would not make you responsible for the loss.  Jacob did not do that. He bore the loss. Jacob took his job seriously. He watched over the livestock of Laban in the heat of the day, in the cold of the night, when he wanted to and when he didn’t want to, when he was tired and when he wasn’t tired! And yet Laban tried to cheat him, he tried to rip Jacob off but Jacob was faithful and God honored that and blessed him!

            Now my point is this.  Laban, a man of the world, tries to discourage Jacob, to get Jacob to give up on what God has promised him and to stay and work for him forever!  In other words, instead of serving the Lord he wanted Jacob to be in bondage to the world!

            Discouragement is one of those tools the Devil uses to keep us out of the race, to stop us from walking, to stop us dead in our tracks so we do nothing. Maybe you heard of this sale that was going on, it had some interesting things for sale. We are told:

            It was advertised that the devil was going to put his tools up for sale. On the date of the sale the tools were placed for public inspection, each being marked with its sale price. There were a treacherous lot of implements. Hatred, Envy, Jealousy, Doubt, Lying, Pride, and so on. Laid apart from the rest of the pile was a harmless-looking tool, well-worn and priced very high.

            “The name of the tool?” asked one of the purchasers.

            “Oh,” said the adversary, “that’s Discouragement.”

            “Why have you priced it so high?”

            “Because it’s more useful to me than the others. I can pry open and get inside a person’s heart with that one, when I cannot get near him with other tools.  Now once I get inside, I can make him do what I choose. It’s a badly worn tool, because I use it on almost everyone since few people know it belongs to me.”

            The devil’s price for Discouragement was so high, he never sold it. It’s still his major tool, and he still uses it on God’s people today.

- John Lawrence, Down to Earth

            Now why are you listening to the Devil and the people of this world?  If God has called, if He has promised, He is more than able to bring it to pass no matter how difficult or unlikely it may be.

Here is another issue I see as a problem with many Christians today, that they think man can thwart the plan, the efforts of God. Folks, you may step out of the race, you may not walk, but God will fulfill His work in spite of you and what you do.

What I see are people, Christians today that worry about all kinds of things and folks, you do not need to.  Do you know why? Because God has told us the end of the story and He wins!  And folks, that was never in doubt as dark as things might be or will be.  Remember what we are told in Psalm 2, Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: ‘Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.’ ‘I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.”’ Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, And rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. Psalm 2:1-12.  Man may try to stop God, try to prevent God’s will from coming to pass but God just laughs at the foolishness of man.  He can’t stop God, the creation can’t stop the Creator!

            But, because of this mentality, this idea that the world can stop the plans and purposes of God, many Christians are fearful.  Now they may not say that, but think about some of the things that they are saying.  “What if this presidential candidate gets into office, what are we going to do?”  The same thing we should be doing when anyone gets into office, pray for them!  It may not be easy but why would that change what we normally do, bringing the Gospel message to people.  “What are we going to do if we lose our sovereignty and our nation becomes part of the one-world government?”  The same thing we are doing now, spreading the good news of Jesus, the Gospel message even in the darkest of times.

            And I know that Rick Warren has a peace plan but do you really think his peace plan is going to circumvent the peace plan of God? Of course not, things are going to get darker before the dawn shines forth and Jesus returns. There is not going to be any true peace until the Prince of Peace comes no matter what man may say and it is what the Antichrist will say!  He will promote a peace when the Lord says there is no peace! And I can go on and on with things we are fearful of, plans we have made that are contrary to what God has said, but I think you get the idea here.

            And think about this for a minute. Do you think that Satan and his forces were rejoicing in the realms of darkness when Jesus was crucified on the cross of Calvary? You bet he was and they were and you bet the world was because this man of God was destroyed, or so they thought!  And folks, the disciples of Jesus were mourning they didn’t know what they were going to do, like many are doing today.  But was it over? Of course not, Jesus was not defeated on the cross of Calvary, that is where our sins were paid in full and then on that third day He rose from the dead giving us victory over death and eternal life with Him!  That was God’s plan and if the disciples listened to Jesus, this would not have been a surprise to them, but they did not listen to the Words of God, like many today and they were fearful and mourning just like people are doing today!

            John put it like this in I John 2:15-17 when he looks at this world and the things of God. He said, Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.  Yes, the world may try to stop the work of God, they may even discourage some of us in the work of God, but God is victorious and no matter what the world tries to do, God wins and so do we! The world is passing away.  Do you really understand that?  But for those that abide in Christ, we will abide with Him forever!

            Jacob realized this and thus, was able to move forward with the call of God upon his life. You see, this worlds response is to discourage us, to make us think they have thwarted the plans of God, but they can’t and they won’t no matter how dark it will get, and it will get dark folks.  But like I said, out of the darkness the dawn will come and the Morning Star, Jesus Christ will burst onto the scene in victory to take back that which already belongs to Him, this world which He purchased with His life! He is coming back!

3.  THE LORD’S FULFILLMENT – GENESIS 31:10-13

            The dream that Jacob had in Genesis 31:3 where the Lord called him back to the land of Canaan he is now expounding on. And He is showing Jacob that He has provided for him and now it is time to leave, it is time to return home.

            The word “fulfill,” means that something is brought to its designed end. Here, for Jacob, it is a call home but it is not over yet. God is still working in Jacob so that He can work through Jacob and folks; the Lord does the same with us.

            As I look at my life over the years I can clearly see how God called me to Wisconsin some 12 years before it came to pass.  Just as Jacob was called to return home and yet the timing was not yet, so too did I have the call but the timing was not yet.  And during those years He was working in me so that He could work through me for His plan and His purpose. The ministries that He placed me in, from Nursery to Sunday School, to Assistant Pastor, to Small Group Leader and-so-on was to prepare me for what was ahead. Yes, He did work through me in those ministries but He was also working in me at that time! Even the jobs I had were all used to prepare me for the work.

These were all steps of faith and when God called me to come here to Manitowoc, many tried to discourage me from coming.  How can I leave the job I had? How could I leave my family? How could I do this and how can I do that and my only response was, “God has called me!”  So there was the call, there was the world’s response and then there was God’s fulfillment of the promise He made to me and all I had to do was walk and I did! And the Lord bringing me here to Manitowoc is not the end, He is still working in me so that He may work through me and He is doing the same with you, all you must do is walk by faith!

As I begin to close this morning, let me share this story with you regarding how God calls us and even being in the most prestigious place in the eyes of the world, God has a plan for us, He has a purpose and we must walk. We are told:

In his book Facing Loneliness, J. Oswald Sanders writes, “The round of pleasure or the amassing of wealth are but vain attempts to escape from the persistent ache. . . . The millionaire is usually a lonely man and the comedian is often more unhappy than his audience.”

Sanders goes on to emphasize that being successful often fails to produce satisfaction. Then he refers to Henry Martyn, a distinguished scholar, as an example of what he is talking about. Martyn, a Cambridge University student, was honored at only 20 years of age for his achievements in mathematics. In fact, he was given the highest recognition possible in that field. And yet he felt an emptiness inside. He said that instead of finding fulfillment in his achievements, he had “only grasped a shadow.”

After evaluating his life’s goals, Martyn sailed to India as a missionary at the age of 24. When he arrived, he prayed, “Lord, let me burn out for You.” In the next 7 years that preceded his death, he translated the New Testament into three difficult Eastern languages. These notable achievements were certainly not passing “shadows.”

- Our Daily Bread, January 21, 1994

            It is as Jim Elliot, the Christian martyr who gave his life for the cause of Christ said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” How true that is!  Folks, as we have seen here this morning, the Lord called Jacob to come home and yet, there was the world standing in his way, trying to prevent him from going, trying to thwart the plan of God, the will of God.  But Jacob knew the call and he believed in God’s promises to him and he knew that God was faithful and what He had promised, He was more than able to bring to pass and He did!  May you leave here this morning believing in what God has called you to do, not listening to what the world is telling you and then walking and see how God will fulfill what He has promised you!  In a sense, get in the wheelbarrow!

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