Sun, Sep 02, 2007
LORD, STRETCH MY FAITH! GENESIS 11:31-12:5
Genesis 11:31-12:5 by Joe Guglielmo
Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
Series: Sunday Service
LORD, STRETCH MY FAITH!
GENESIS 11:31-12:5
  

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Genesis chapter 11 as we look at how God stretches our faith. Now the problem with faith is that we must trust the Lord. We are in a difficult situation, we don’t know how it is going to turn out, and many times we jump in to try and help out, and in doing so we many times bring about more trouble for ourselves. One person put it this way regarding faith. He wrote: “Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible.”  In other words, you are resting your whole weight, your entire life on the Lord no matter what comes your way because you know He is in control and wants what is best for your life!

            But where is your faith placed?  Who is your faith resting upon?  You see, it truly does matter as this story illustrates for us. We are told:

            On April 30, 1976 Evelyn Mooers attached a rappelling rope to a drain pipe grating on the roof of the Mark Twain South County Bank. Mooers, an experienced climber, had once scaled 14,410 – foot Mt. Rainer in Washington State. The rappelling exercise from the bank building would have been routine but for one miscalculation.  The drain pipe grating wasn’t anchored. Numerous bank officials and their friends watched as Mooers plummeted to her death. Her faith in the grating was fatally misplaced.

- Today in the Word, May, 1990, MBI, p. 16

            This morning we are going to look at the faith of Abram, who will be called Abraham as we move on in our study of Genesis, and we are going to see how God not only brought him to saving faith but then how the Lord stretched his faith.  You see, his faith was in the true and living God and once that took place, then it was time to grow, it was time for that faith to be stretched! I have called this study: Lord, Stretch My Faith because I believe that is something each of us want but it is getting from point A to point B we don’t like too much. It is that walking by faith that is difficult at times. So with that said, let’s begin reading in Genesis chapter 11, starting in verse 31 and see what the Lord has for us this morning in regards to seeing our faith grow!

GENESIS 11:31-12:5

            I think there are times that we read these stories and we truly don’t see what they were going through. And then, when we look at our own lives we may think, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. These people had it made, not like I have to endure!” Now we may not use those words, but we may think that way and you know what, that is wrong!

            This morning I would like to show you what Abram went through by looking at five points in regards to Abram or Abraham’s faith and as we do I believe it will help shed some light on what God is calling us to do, how He is stretching our faith.  The five points are as follows: ABRAM WAS AN IDOL-WORSHIPING GENTILEGOD’S CALL TO ABRAM,ABRAM’S PARTIAL OBEDIENCEWHAT HELD ABRAM BACK, and lastly, ABRAM WALKED BY FAITH. And so my prayer this morning is that God would stretch our faith or really that we would walk as He leads us, that we would grow as we learn to trust in Him more and more and to trust in ourselves, our resources less and less!

1.  ABRAM WAS AN IDOL-WORSHIPING GENTILE – JOSHUA 24:2

            Now many would be shocked to hear that Abram was an idol-worshiping gentile but it is true!  Yes, here in Genesis all we know is that He came from the Ur of the Chaldeans or the area of Babylon. It is the area where the tower of Babel was located and thus, filled with idolatry.  Thus, in Joshua 24:2 we are told, And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.”’

            I know, it only says that Terah, his father was an idol-worshiper, not Abram.  But notice that it also says they served other gods. That tells me that father Abraham, the father of the Jewish people; the father of faith was an idol-worshiping gentile before God called him!

            When I think of my background, my life prior to my salvation, I was no different. You see, I too was an idol-worshiping gentile in rebellion against God. My idol was evolution and its priests were the scientists who were promoting this false religion of evolution.  It truly looked like a hopeless situation for me and with man it was impossible, but not with God as we shall see.  And folks, sorry to burst your bubble but you were all idol-worshiping gentiles at one time, none of you came out of the womb praising the Lord. But you did come out of the womb as a sinner separated from God!  Now for Abram, and for us, what can be done? That is our second point!

2.  GOD’S CALL TO ABRAM – GENESIS 11:31

            Now we don’t see this take place, but prior to Abram leaving the Ur of the Chaldeans and traveling towards the land of Canaan, God called him and Abram responded to that call upon his life. Abram gave his life to the Lord, how do I know that? Because he is going to follow the Lord and leave behind the idolatry he once practiced. God told him to separate from his friends, his family and to go to a land he didn’t know because that land would be given to him and Abram began that journey!

            I believe Abram recognized his condition, that he needed help and he responded to God’s call upon his life just as we do. In Matthew 9:10-13 we are told, Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’  When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’

            You see, before you can come to the Great Physician, Jesus Christ, you must realize that you are sick in sin and only He can help.  Thus, as He calls you by His Spirit you have a choice to respond to that call or reject it.  Here’s the thing, if you respond to His call it is an act of faith on your part!

            All you have are the Word’s of God, just as Abram had, and you are believing them and responding to them by faith. Listen to what Paul said in II Thessalonians 2:13-14, But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  You see, God calls and we respond to the truth by faith, the Gospel message and we are saved!

            Paul, in Ephesians 2:8-9, verses most if not all of us are very familiar with, wrote,For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Listen to how The Amplified Bible puts these verses, For it is by free grace (God's unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ's salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law's demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.].

            You see, we have been saved by God’s grace, through our faith in Him and God through Jesus Christ extends that gift of grace to us!  It is as George Muller said, a great man of faith, “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.”

            And folks, it truly begins with our salvation. We can’t save ourselves, it is not possible, we are powerless but God steps in and reaches down and saves us and He gets the glory. But, don’t forget that our salvation is based in Christ through faith. We have nothing tangible to assure us except God’s Word, which is enough for me. God’s Word has stayed the test of time. You see, it is as Paul said in Hebrews 11:6, But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  Is it possible to please God apart from faith? No!  Thus, you can’t be saved apart from faith!

            So we see this idol-worshiping gentile become a believer in the true and living God by faith, by trusting in God’s Word. Paul, in Romans 10:17 makes that point about faith and not only how it begins, but how it grows as he tells us, So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  You see, God’s Word opened up to us by the Spirit of God causes us to come to that saving faith and now, after we are saved, it is time for us to grow and that too is done as we hear and apply the Word of God by faith and we walk as God leads us. That is what we will see with our next point, as Abram has to walk in this new faith that he has.

3.  ABRAM’S PARTIAL OBEDIENCE – GENESIS 11:31

            God is calling Abram to leave that past life behind and to begin that new life in the land of Canaan, the Promise Land. So what’s the big deal? Did you hear what I said?  He had to leave that old life behind; family, friends, his idols, everything he was living for and walk in the new life he had in the Lord, traveling to a land where he not only did not know anyone, but he had no property to pitch his tent!

            But, instead of traveling the 500 or 600 miles westward to the land of Canaan he travels northwest some 600 miles to Haran and he stops there for maybe 15 or 25 years! Why didn’t he go all the way to Canaan? We will deal with that in our next section, but here’s the point. If God calls you to do something and you only go halfway, are you obedient to Him? Obviously not and thus, you do not trust Him; your faith in Him is waxing and waning!

            Babylon means “destruction” so Abram was saved from the destruction that sin brought to his life, he left that old life and began the journey.  But he did not go far enough. He came to the city of Haran, which means “barren”, and thus, a life that is not lived by walking in the Spirit, a life that is not in obedience to the Lord is truly a barren life as Abram found out!

            In Matthew 16:24-26 we are told, Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’

            Notice what Jesus is saying here. That old life needs to be crucified, not part way or some of the way but all the way. And truly, if we don’t take those steps of faith we are going to miss out on the blessings that God has for us. God wanted to bless Abram but before the blessing he needed to be obedient, he needed to walk by faith.

            As I look at some of you out there this morning I see people who have walked by faith. God called you to take those steps, to be involved in a certain ministry and you were probably nervous, unsure and yet, you heard the call of God to walk and you obeyed and as you look back, look how you have been blessed by God just because you walked, you trusted in Him! For some of you, you have heard the call but you are not walking, you are holding back and you are missing out on the blessings that God has for you!

            You see, if it were easy, if we didn’t need faith, would we really need God? Of course not, we could do it on our own. The reality is, we can’t do it on our own and we need the Lord, we need to rest our whole weight upon Him and walk by faith, as he leads, not some of the way, not part of the way, but all of the way! Now, what prevented Abram from being completely obedient to the Lord, what held him back? That is what we will be looking at next!

4.  WHAT HELD ABRAM BACK – GENESIS 11:32

            Haran was the name of his brother who died and thus, this city of Haran may have been named in memory of him or for him when he was alive.  Thus, Abram had many family members there and thus, it is hard to leave family. He didn’t want to offend anyone. Interestingly enough, Jesus said regarding this issue, Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man's enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”  Matthew 10:34-37.

            Now we would never expect Jesus to say something like that and yet, He did! What does He mean? He means that the Lord needs to be first in your life, He needs to be the priority in your life, because if He is not, you will be distracted by family, they will cause you to stop walking! It is not that we are to hate our family, but we are to love the Lord more. Prior to moving up here some 12 years ago, my family, not my wife or children, but the rest of the family did not want me to go. They thought I was nuts going to a place I knew no one, no family around.  My co-workers thought I was nuts, how could I leave my job where I was making good money and had 5 weeks vacation and go somewhere where I was going to have to work two jobs, some 70 to 90 hours a week!  You see, they were a distraction, trying to get me to stay, not to walk by faith. But I knew the call of God, I knew what He had spoken to me and thus, I walked by faith!

            Also, there was Abram’s father, Terah, maybe mourning over the death of his son and Abram might have thought he should stay until dad died, and that stay lasted some 15 to 25 years!  Interestingly enough, the name Terah means, “delay” and thus, the delay in Abram’s walking caused him to be barren spiritually.  There was no fruit in his life.  God wanted him in the land of Canaan, the Promise Land, a land of walking in the Spirit and not guided by the flesh!

            In regards to this, we are told in Luke 9:57-62, Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, ‘Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’ And another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’

            Now don’t think the Lord is being insensitive here. The poor man’s father died and Jesus won’t let him go and bury him. This man’s father was still alive and the implication is that he wasn’t even sick. Thus, this is just an excuse not to follow, not to walk by faith. And folks, excuses just show a lack of trusting in the Lord.  Do you think the Lord is going to call you to do something and then just leave you alone? Of course not, He will be with you all the way, no matter how difficult things may get! And think about it, you have believed God for your salvation and now He tells you to walk and you can’t trust Him?

            Again, faith speaks of trust and a lack of faith means you don’t trust the Lord. In Mark 4:35-41 Jesus told His men to get into boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. And as they set out, Jesus went to sleep in the back of the boat. Then, the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed – you know the story! This windstorm that blew upon them was causing the boat to sink, water was filling the boat and they were doing everything possible to save themselves.  In fact, they started getting mad at Jesus for sleeping while their lives were in jeopardy!  They said to Jesus, “ . . . ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’  Mark 4:38.  And Jesus calmed the wind and He rebuked them for not having any faith!

            Now it does seem like Jesus was a little harsh with them.  Why did He rebuke them when there was a bad storm and it seemed like the boat was going down and they would perish in this storm? Because, in Mark 4:35 Jesus said, “ . . . ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’  Notice, Jesus did not say, “Go under to the other side” but that they would cross over to the other side, they would make it safely. How could they be sure? Because the Lord said it and thus, if you trust in the Words of God, you will walk or row in this case by faith!

            What is holding you back from walking by faith? Can you let it go and trust in the Lord and see what He will do in you and through you no matter how much of a storm is blowing? You see, if He called you He will see you through it. I hope that you can. You see, our last point is going to deal with Abram walking by faith!

5.  ABRAM WALKED BY FAITH – GENESIS 12:1-5

            The Lord repeats the command for Abram to leave the past behind and to walk by faith into the Promise Land, that walk in the Spirit.  And Abram left, traveling to the land of Canaan, his faith was growing. Obviously it was not perfect but it was growing! I’m sure that every one of us here this morning want to see our faith grow, mature. You may be praying right now, “Lord, stretch my faith!”

            Now, here’s the thing. We make that prayer, we ask God to stretch our faith and then we say, “You want me to do what?” or “You have to be kidding me?” or something to that effect! It is like the story of the mountain climber who slipped and began to fall off the side of the mountain. And as he fell he was able to grab a hold of some branches of a small tree. As he hung there for dear life, all of a sudden he heard some of the roots of this small tree beginning to break lose and he knew he was in trouble.

            Thus, he began to cry out to the Lord for help, to be saved from this disaster. And all of a sudden God speaks to him and tells him to “Let go!”  The man replied back, “What?” And the Lord said, “Let go!” And the man replied back, “Is anyone else up there?”

            You see, we will trust God as long as we feel safe, as long as it makes sense to us, but God says to us, “Let go!” That is how faith grows folks, as we exercise it. I’m sure you all have seen athletes, as their muscles are solid, rippling. If you haven’t, then just look at me and you will get the idea – no laughing! Now, they did not get that way by sitting around doing nothing. They exercised those muscles and those muscles grew.  On the other hand, I did not get this way by exercising, but that is another story. Here’s the point. Faith is a muscle that needs to be exercised or it will atrophy!

            A few years back I had a frozen shoulder and I could not raise my arm above my head. Thus, I had to go to physical therapy to loosen that shoulder up or, the way I saw it, I was paying to be tortured.  I could not believe what they were doing to me and I was paying for it! Because my shoulder was so tight they had two women pressing it down and then asking me if it hurt!  I think the expression on my face answered that for them, but they did not stop. Now while I was going through this, I didn’t like it but you know what, I can raise my arm over my head because I allowed them to do to me what I myself could never do! That is true with the Lord as He stretches us. It may hurt, it may be painful, but then, looking back, we see that it was worth it, we see what God was doing in our lives, stretching our faith! 

            Think about it like this. Oswald Chambers, a great man of God and a great man of faith, said, “Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace.” (Oswald Chambers in Run today’s Race). 

            George Muller, another great man of God and faith tells us, “God delights to increase the faith of His children . . . I say, and say it deliberately – trials, difficulties and sometimes defeat, are the very food of faith . . . We should take them out of His hands as evidences of His love and care for us in developing more and more faith which He is seeking to strengthen in us.”

            Why do we have to experience difficult times for our faith to grow? Because it is during those times we cannot trust in ourselves, we have come to the end of our resources, there is nothing else for us to do, and thus, we walk!  It truly is the place God wanted for us, but to get us there, He allowed us to be in a situation that caused us to look up and not out trying to figure out what we are going to do!

            Paul, in Hebrews chapter 11 speaks of the great men and women of faith. And starting in verse 32 we are told, And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. . . .”  Hebrews 11:32-35a.

            And people read that and think, “That is great, the victory they had, the dead raise to life again, kingdoms brought down” and-so-on.  But they don’t read the rest of what verse 35 says and onward. We are told, “ . . . Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented — of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.  Hebrews 11:35b-40.

            You see, we don’t like reading that because that is painful but these men and women walked by faith in spite of what happened to them, they trusted in the Lord and looked for something better.  A city of God not built with human hands but is eternal!  Thus, they were able to walk by faith, trusting in the Lord because they believed that He is in control and He is, do you believe that? I hope so!

            The holocaust is one of the terribly traumatic episodes of modern history, yet it has also yielded some astounding stories of bravery and faith. In France a Jewish family were hidden by some concerned French nationals in the basement of their house. The Jewish family waited and waited for their deliverance. At the end of the war these words were found scribbled on the wall of the basement:

            “I believe in the sun even when it does not shine.

            I believe in love even when it is not given.

            I believe in God even when he is silent.”

- Hans, God on the Witness Stand

            I hope that you have seen how faith can grow here this morning. How that God can take an idol-worshiping gentile and call him into the kingdom of God, to saving faith and all they must do is respond by faith, asking Jesus to be Lord and Savior of their lives! But there are times when God calls us to walk and we don’t walk as He tells us. We might have partial obedience to His call and there is no blessing in that. Don’t let things hinder your walk of faith but keep your eyes focused on the Lord. Walk by faith and see the blessings that God has for your life, the fruit that will be born in it even in the midst of a raging storm! He is there with you and as you walk, you will grow in faith!  You see, faith is not you holding onto God, but the reality that God is holding onto you and He will never let you go! Do you believe that?

            Thus, stand fast in faith as Paul tells us in I Corinthians 16:13, Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.  May we continue in the faith as we are told in Acts 14:13,strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.’ May we be strong in the faith as Paul tells us in Romans 4:20-24, 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. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.

            May we abound in faith as Paul tells us in II Corinthians 8:7, But as you abound in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us — see that you abound in this grace also.  May we be grounded in faith as Paul points out in Colossians 1:23, if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.  May we hold fast to the faith that we have as Paul tells us in

I Timothy 1:19, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.  And lastly, may we pray for an increase of our faith as we are told in Luke 17:5, And the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’

            As I close this morning, let me leave you with these words to think about. Barnhouse wrote: “Faith is not a mushroom that grows overnight in damp soil; it is an oak tree that grows for a thousand years under the blast of wind and rain.” Thus, let us not only pray for our faith to grow, but then let us walk by faith as God stretches our faith and we grow in Him!