There are few among us that have not been touched over the years by Radio Bible Class and its Day of Discovery and Daily Bread ministries. Few of us ever met the man who led that ministry for the past many years. He was the son of the founder M.R. DeHann. Alzheimer’s crippled and ended the conscious ministry of Richard W. DeHann last year. During his long struggle with this debilitating disease this poem hung on the wall of his office.
Courage, Brother, do not stumble,
Though your path be dark as night;
There’s a star to guide the humble,
Trust in God and do the right.
Let the road be rough and dreary,
And its end far out of sight,
Foot it bravely, strong or weary;
Trust in God and do the right.
Perish policy and cunning,
Perish all that fears the light;
Whether losing, whether winning
Trust in God and do the right.
Trust no party, sect or faction,
Trust no leaders in the fight;
But in every word and action
Trust in God and do the right.
Simple rule and safest guiding,
Inward peace and inward might,
Star upon our path abiding;
Trust in God and do the right.
Some will hate you, some will love you,
Some will flatter, some will slight;
Cease from man, and look above you,
Trust in God and do the right.
By Norman Macleod
Life is a Struggle
Did you know all of life is a struggle? Are you feeling perhaps more keenly now than ever before? As Christians we are called to STRUGGLE TOGETHER. In fact, that is one of the ways Paul describes us as Christians.
- Salvation begins as a Struggle Luke 13:24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. (KJV)
- Prayer can be a struggle Romans 15:30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (NIV)
- Self control and discipline should be life long struggles First Corinthians 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery
[competes in the games NIV]
is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. (KJV) Disciple making ministry is a struggle Colossians 1:29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (NKJV) Intercessory prayer is a struggle Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. (NKJV) Holy living is a life long struggle 1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight [agonidzou agona] of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (NKJV) All of life in Christ to the Apostle Paul was a struggle 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight [agona ehgonismai] , I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (NKJV)
AGONIDZOMAI, the word we have been seeing in these verses is translated into English AV – strive 3, fight 3, labor fervently 1; 7
1) to enter a contest: contend in the gymnastic games
2) to contend with adversaries, fight
3) metaph. to contend, struggle, with difficulties and dangers
4) to endeavor with strenuous zeal, strive: to obtain something
And that is what we are called to as Christians!
Abraham struggled as he learned to wait. He waited 25 years to see the promises of God fulfilled. Abraham is a fellow pilgrim struggling on the road of faith. He grew in faith waiting for what had been promised.
The Path of Suffering
We have been studying the lives of fellow strugglers in this Sunday evening series. Each of them have been so powerful as God exposes their lives in the Scriptures.
1. Job struggled to See God, and through his pain and he saw Him as never before.
2. Paul and Silas struggled to sing through persecution and learned to worship God from prison.
3. David struggled through depression and learned more about God in his darkest days than ever before.
4. Joseph struggled to keep his life pure and was purified by God and greatly used.
5. Moses struggled to be content and was satisfied by the very face of God.
6. Abraham struggled to wait for God and when he did became the father of the faith.
Abraham lived in an ancient city called Ur. Nearly 4000 years ago, when God first appeared to Abraham, Ur was one of the most important cities in the world. It was a busy commercial center located in the country of Mesopotamia on the Persian Gulf and bordered by the Euphrates River.
The city covered about four square miles and had a population of about 300,000 people. History records, and archaeology confirms, that many of these people were highly educated. They were proficient in mathematics, astronomy, weaving and engraving. Furthermore they preserved their ideas by writing on clay tablets, which have been invaluable to archaeologists in reconstructing the social and religious life of these people.
Like the rest of the world, Ur was polytheistic. The people worshiped many gods, particularly nature gods. But in the center of Ur was a large worship center or temple called a ziggurat. It was here that the people worshiped their chief deity, a moon god called Nanna.
Abraham no doubt lived with his family outside of the city of Ur. Terah, Abraham’s father, was a shepherd who had settled in the rich pasturelands surrounding the city (4) .
As we look at every day life in the 21st Century, B.C. that is, we find that it has not changed much. God’s friend Abraham was faced with the same daily struggle each of us must endure. Let us examine the TEN SPECIFIC STRUGGLES he went through and seek to learn a lesson for our lives from each. We might summarize each of his struggles as a question God was asking him. We my be asked the same questions so lets listen.
· Is God Sufficient for Abraham to follow down an unknown and potentially dangerous path ? Gen 12:1-9 [-]
o When God calls we must leave behind all that would slow us down. [Oops, he kept Lot; he wasted years in Haran ‘parched’ ] Remember Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (NKJV)
o When God leads He can overcome all the disruptions and weariness following His plan may bring.
o Hebrews 11:8-19
§ Abraham obeyed the call. v. 8
§ Abraham dwelled in the land v. 9
§ Abraham waited for the city v. 10
§ Abraham embraced the promises of God v. 13
1. Gene Getz, Abraham (Chicago:Victor, ), p. 11.
2. Farrar, Better Homes and Jungles, p.189-90.
3. Ruth Calkin, Tell me again Lord (Wheaton:Tyndale, 1974), p. 124-25.
4. Gene Getz, Abraham (Chicago:Victor, ), p. 11.
5. Gene Getz, Abraham (Chicago:Victor, ), p. 11.
6. Farrar, Better Homes and Jungles, p.189-90.
7. Ruth Calkin, Tell me again Lord (Wheaton:Tyndale, 1974), p. 124-25.
8. From the Dobson Fathers tract.
9. Letters to Phillip.
Chapter 13 is where I’ll start in just a few minutes. But I want to introduce the concept tonight of Abraham’s life by talking to you about maybe something you haven’t thought of in recent days, as the Christian life being a struggle. Now, I know it’s a struggle to get up for some of us in the morning. I know it’s a struggle for some of us to go to school. Sometimes it’s a struggle to do your running or whatever you do physically. Or cleaning your room might be a struggle. But I’m talking about spiritually. God has described repeatedly, in fact seven times in the Bible, that the Christian life is a struggle. If anybody tells you it’s any different either they don’t know about it, or they’re not telling it straight. The Bible says that the life that you come into and that I came into when I came to Christ, I began on a lifelong, never ending till I get to glory, struggle.
Let me show you what I mean in Luke chapter 13 and verse 24, this is what Jesus Christ said. Let me, I rarely do this, but let me read you the first word in Greek. Verse 24 says agonize, “agōnizomai to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Jesus Christ said the very process of coming to salvation is an agonizing struggle.
How many of you, the first time you heard the gospel, you started doing one of these numbers … of holding on. I’ve seen this many times in my ministry. When I have, at youth meetings, at special meetings, given an invitation I have seen the people holding on. It was such a struggle for them in their heart. As you heard Tim say, the struggle the first time he heard the gospel. As many have said in the new member interviews when we talked to them, they say it was hard because they realized what they needed to give up. I heard a fellow share this afternoon, he said that he thought I’m going to have to give up so much.
Jesus Christ said verse 24 of Luke chapter 13, that we agonize as we come to Him. There are a few among us who haven’t been touched over the years by the ministry of Radio Bible Class. In fact, Radio Bible Class, the Day of Discovery on television, those little devotional booklets called Daily Bread are the product of the burden of a man who agonized for Christ. His name was M. R. DeHaan. After M. R. DeHaan passed into glory into the presence of the Lord, his son Richard took over. For many years, his son has marvelously enlarged the ministries of Radio Bible Class and it’s touched countless millions of lives. What few people know is that he struggled for years with the onslaught of what we know so much about nowadays, Alzheimer’s, as he slowly diminished. By the way he was a godly Christian. That’s one of the hardest things to see, the capacity of the knowledge about the Lord to diminish as their mind slows. As those last years came, he couldn’t remember the Bible, he couldn’t remember people, he couldn’t remember details even about his own conversion. Finally, when they took him home for the last time, good old Richard W. DeHaan started taking care of him there, so he wouldn’t get lost or hurt himself or hurt anybody. They started clearing out his office and they found that right there in his office, every day during those years that he saw his global ministry coming down to not even anything he could remember, he would read over this little prayer that hung on his wall. I want to read it to you tonight in light of the fact that our lives are a struggle.
Courage, brother! Do not stumble, though your path be dark as night; there’s a star to guide the humble: trust in God, and do the right.
Let the road be rough or dreary, and its end far out of sight; foot it bravely; strong or weary, trust in God and do the right.
Perish policy and cunning, perish all that fears the light! Whether losing, whether winning, trust in God, and do the right.
Trust no party, sect, or faction; trust no leaders in the fight; but in every word or action, trust in God and do the right.
Simple rule, and safest guiding, inward peace and inward might, star upon our path abiding, trust in God and do the right.
Some will hate you, some will love you, some will flatter, some will slight; Cease from man, and look above you, trust in God and do the right.
He was a fellow struggler with us until the last day he was in the office. As his life ebbs out, his conscious life, he would quote, trust in God and do the right. I wonder tonight, as we look at Abraham’s life, do you ever feel like your spiritual life is a struggle? Do you ever feel like perhaps more keenly than ever before in your life, that it’s getting harder? I’ll tell you a secret. It does get harder as Christians. We are called to struggle together. In fact, that’s the way the New Testament describes us as Christians.
Number one, Luke 13 verse 24, I just quoted you. Salvation begins as a struggle. I have a friend that raises exotic birds. They raise them for the oil that’s in their spine and for their low-fat meat. This friend, as they raise them, they have these gigantic eggs that these animals are hatched from. I was told that in this person’s desire to help the little animal get out of its egg, they pulled back a little too much. God designed that the struggle and the horrible fight against that shell that must be accomplished is what makes the lungs work in those little creatures. When this well-meaning friend pulled away the eggshell and the little bird came out it suffocated, because it wasn’t allowed to struggle out of it. The scriptures tell us salvation begins with a struggle. If you, in your well-meaning way, try and reduce the struggle for someone… if someone is convicted about their sin don’t say, oh, it’s okay… don’t worry about it, God’s so loving. Let them agonize through the struggle of their sin, of their godly sorrow to repentance. If someone is overwhelmed with why God would love them, let them be overwhelmed. Salvation starts with a struggle.
Look at a second verse with me. Look at Romans 15 and verse 30, and this is all explanatory of where we’re going with Abraham. So, stay with me. I’m going to just show you the struggle that the Christian life is, in New Testament. Secondly, prayer can be a struggle and if your prayer life is getting easier, and easier, and easier… I’m not sure you really understand it. It’s like when I first got used to the Nordic track. I thought it was just a breeze until someone showed me the little tension lever down below. I was working with no tension. I was just like them on the TV, it was great. I remember when my friend reached down, I couldn’t even move my legs. If your prayer life is effortless, you most likely have not engaged very much.
Look at Romans 15 and verse 30. “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my agōn.” What English word does that sound like? Agony, agonizing. Paul said, I agōn. I agōnizomai by prayer to God for me. What did Christ sweat? As it were great drops of sweat that looked like blood when he was praying. What did Paul say? That he labored for the people. He didn’t consider preaching to be a labor. I do, he didn’t. I don’t understand prayer as well as he did. He labored for the people he ministered to in prayer. Prayer can be a struggle.
Look at another text. 1 Corinthians 9 and verse 25. The common denominator in all of these verses is that word agōn and agony, agōnizomai. Certainly not only salvation begins as a struggle, Christ said, not only can prayer be a struggle, but self-control and discipline should be a lifelong struggle. 1 Corinthians 9 and verse 25. “And every man that striveth for the mastery.” If you have a New International, it says competes in the games. It’s the very same word, agōnizomai. “Everyone that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things.”
Now they do it, the athletes in the game, for a corruptible crown but we… an incorruptible one. Here, he’s saying they are working for something as transient, although this is artificial, as a little leaf on a plant. That’s all they got in the Olympics. They got a little twisted Laurel wreath around their head, which after it dried out crumbled like dried flowers do. He said they discipline and self-control their bodies for nothing but a fragment of a leaf. He says we should have a lifelong discipline in this body because we’re going to get something that’s going to last forever. How much more it should devote our attention. I hope that you have entered into a lifelong struggle against your flesh to discipline yourself. The people that I admire most in life are the people that have learned to conquer their own desires, their own flesh. The people that are the mentors that I look to, that I long to talk to are men and women that have learned to control their bodies and desires. The more we do that, the more we’re like Christ.
Christ never lost His temper. He never found His temper. He never was given to the flesh because He learned obedience. The writer of Hebrews said He had flesh just like us. He was totally human. He wasn’t fallen. He was non peccare, He couldn’t sin, but he learned obedience. He learned to put down the desires of His flesh, they never dominated Him. It’s a lifelong struggle for self-control and discipline.
Look at Colossians 1 and verse 29, we are fellow strugglers. First of all, because that’s how salvation begins. Secondly, because prayer is a struggle. Thirdly, because we have a lifelong self-control and discipline struggle. But disciple-making is s struggle. If you want to get in something easy don’t try and take people with you to Heaven because it’s not easy. It’s a lifelong struggle. Look at Colossians 1:29, “To this end I also labor, agōnizomai according to His working which works in me.” What’s he talking about? The apostle Paul was talking about the whole concept of making disciples.
In fact, if you look at verse 28, he says we preach Him. We warn every man. We teach “every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ.” Paul had this consuming desire that the people he ministered to, he could someday hold up before Christ and say, I gave them everything needed in order to please you. Did you know, that’s an agonizing struggle?
I’ve known a few people that were in the Olympics. One in particular gave up everything to compete in the Olympics. This person gave up normal life, all of their money, basically their health in order to compete in the Olympics. If you know any of these Olympic athletes, it is an obsession with them and they will go to no ends. They will go to all limits of their exertion, of their finances, or their resources in order to win a little medal. This person never even got a medal. They were always fifth or sixth, never first, second, or third. You know what Paul said? He said, you can take people with you. He says, you and I have the privilege of presenting people to Christ.
I just met someone this week. I really had never talked to them in depth for 15 months. I remember one time I was very, very busy, I had a lot on my mind. I had a briefcase full of materials and I happened to sit by them. They talked to me the whole time and I had all this work to do. In fact, I had missed some important meetings and I had all this stuff to do. They kept talking to me. Finally, I remember when I shut the briefcase, and turned and looked at them, and I talked to them for about an hour and a half. You know what this person told me? That it was in that hour and a half that they came to Christ. Aren’t you glad for the shut briefcases in life? When you and I invest our lives in people that are going to last forever. Did you know, I didn’t know until Friday that someday I’m going to have the privilege of standing before Christ and presenting this person to Him and say, I shut my briefcase when you were working in their heart, and I got to be a tool. Do you know what a burden that lays on me to pray for this person?
Now, do you have anybody that you’re going to hold up and present as your hope and joy, and crown of rejoicing? When you come before Christ that’s another crown. I don’t mean to be giving all these away, but my goodness they’re exciting to be worried about, and to be concerned about, and to be investing our life in. When you get to the end of the road, what are you going to have to show for it? What have you done for Christ? Paul said, I agonized, it’s a miserable struggle for me. He says I put up with all types of needs, I’m tired. He says I’m cold, I’m hungry, I suffer persecution…. that I can present some people.
Now you might not be an apostle. There aren’t any apostles nowadays, don’t worry about it. You aren’t, but you know what? We are called to make disciples. Before you pass into glory, I hope there’s at least one person that you have discipled for Jesus Christ. Paul said, it’s a struggle.
Finally, look at verse 12 of chapter 4 of the same book, Colossians 4:12. Salvation is a struggle, that’s how it begins. Prayers is a struggle, the more we understand it. Self-control and discipline are lifelong struggles. Disciple-making and that ministry is a struggle. Intercessory prayer is another struggle. I’m just talking about general prayer now, intercessory prayer. Look at Colossians 4:12, Epaphras, he’s one of you. Now see, that gets us all on the hook. Now, we’re not talking about Paul, we’re talking about Epaphras. He’s like us. He worked down at the local chariot shop. He just was normal. He was just an everyday guy. He’s one of you, he’s “a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always agōnizomai fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Did you notice, not just the apostles labor in prayer, not just the elders should labor in prayer. All of us normal people should learn to intercede. If you want something exciting, why don’t you go home tonight and in your quiet time before you go to sleep say, Lord if there’s ever any intercessory prayer you want for some of the people I know, missionaries that are on the back of my bulletin, or whatever… just wake me up some night if you want me to pray for them. You will get a wakeup call sooner or later because you know that the eyes of the Lord are running to and fro throughout the Earth. There are countless stories of people like us that were awakened in the middle of the night and just could not get someone off their mind. When you get that, don’t lay there and look at the clock and figure, what am I going to do… I got a test tomorrow. Just slip out of bed and get on your knees. Cry out to God on behalf of that person and then wait. When you get your receipts, when you mail in money for missionaries, get the receipt back. The Oriental Mission Society, OMS, always sends these little cards. Any of you that support OMS missionaries know that these little one-page cards, they’re about size these blue cards, are a glossy little testimony for missionaries. They are the neatest things to read. I look forward to getting my receipt every month so I can read that. Do you know what they are about? They’re about people that awaken in the middle of the night and pray for missionaries. A year later, or two years later, or six months later, or one week later, or whenever it is, they find out that God used them specifically at a critical moment in the life of a missionary. I hope that you will be willing to agonize in intercessory prayer.
Number six is in 1 Timothy 6:12. Both of them are in 1 Timothy, the last two are. Paul said that holy living is a lifelong struggle. Did you know that we are all supposed to be pursuing holiness? The writer of Hebrews says, follow close behind holiness, without which no one will see God. You know what the apostle Paul adds to that? He said, it’s a struggle. Look at 1 Timothy 6:12. agōn, agōnizomai. He uses the word twice. Fight the good fight, agōnizou agōna. The fight of faith. “Lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called…” and we talked about that this morning, we’re called to Christ. “Which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Do you know that you are called to an agonizing struggle for holiness?
When I used to teach high school students and disciple them. High school students, what challenging time in life. Their whole body’s changing. They’re just exploding with hormones in every direction. They’re crazy one day and utterly serious the next day, and everything in between. I remember I used to have more fun with them. I’d trap them because they’re always hungry. I’d say, okay, if you come with me on Saturday, you get one pound of steak, two pounds of grilled chicken and I’d list off all the food that they could eat. Then I’d have to go buy it all and cook it, but it was fun. I would get them and take them out in the mountains there, the Piedmont Appalachian area where I was ministering to students. I take them off the bus and I put the bus keys in my pocket so they couldn’t get away. Then we’d climb some mountain and do everything. Then I’d feed them. They’d have to sit in front of me for an hour before I’d take them home. I would teach them how to live the Christian life. It’s neat. Kids that didn’t even know how to shave right, call me now. They’re pastoring churches across the country. Some of the worst ones, some of the ones we had to expel from Bob Jones Academy and Bob Jones University are now some of the most fervent servants of the Lord.
I remember the one story I’d always tell them. I say, you know what your Christian life is like? An island and Satan is trying to put his landing craft on it. If he can’t get you in the landing craft of the eye gates, then he’s going to get you with the landing craft of your ears. If he can’t get you there, he’s going to get you to be lazy and not get up and spend time with God. He’s going to get you somewhere, sometime. If you don’t learn his wiles, you are going to fail and struggle. You are never going to, in your spiritual life, find victory. You know what Paul said? He says fight the good fight; holy living is a lifelong struggle. It’s just as mortal combat, as taking the islands back, across the Pacific and World War II. It’s just as treacherous as clearing the landmines of Bosnia today. It’s just as dangerous as going into the fire of the Gulf wars. It’s a fight.
There’s a little song, if you went to VBS as a little kid, to Good News Clubs, you probably learned it. It says, it’s a battlefield brother, not a recreation room. It’s a fight and not a game. Run if you want to, run if you will but I came here to stay. It’s a little course, we teach the kids about what a struggle the Christian life is.
Here’s the last one. Before we get to Abraham, 2 Timothy 4:7. Paul said this, he says all of my life in Christ has been a struggle. I’ll tell you what, if anybody should have had it easy, it was Paul because he got to go to Heaven. He got to see Christ face to face. He was led to Christ by Christ. Not very many of us were led to Christ by Christ. Most of us He used someone else, our parents, a Sunday school teacher, a faithful servant. Jesus came down and knocked him off his horse and led him to Christ. What a privilege. You know what he said, 2 Timothy 4:7? I have agōnizomai. I have agonized the agony that the Christian life is and “I finished the race, I have kept the faith.” All of life to him was a struggle. I don’t want to discourage anybody tonight, but if you think the Christian life is anything like a picnic, or like a party, or it’s like going on a fun little trip away, you haven’t figured it out yet. Because as we come into the kingdom struggling, prayers of struggle, self-control and discipline as a struggle, disciple-making as a struggle, interceding for people around the world is a struggle, hormonally living is a lifelong life and death struggle with our flesh that lives within us that is seeking to come out from the grave where it is. All of life is a struggle. Agōnizomai, the word that we’ve been seeing in these verses it’s translated in English, strive, fight, labor fervently. It speaks of contending with adversaries in the Greek language. It speaks of those that fought with lions in the ring, with gladiators in the ring. That’s where the Lord through the Spirit of God picked to go into your Bible and mine to describe what life is like in Christ.
Turn back with me to look at one struggler in Genesis chapter 12. As you can tell, it’s so exciting that we won’t finish it tonight, but I wanted to introduce a fellow struggler to you. Now, where we are for some of you that come and go, we’re looking at Abraham who struggled as he learned to wait for God. That was his struggle. His biggest problem was waiting. I hope you can identify with it. I have trouble waiting sometimes, for a lot of things, it’s just really hard. He had to wait 25 years to see what God gave him His word for, arrive. God said, I will give you and then twenty-five years later he gave it to him. You know what? His whole life had a lot of bumps and bounces because he had trouble waiting for 25 years. Do you know what? I bet most of us have trouble waiting for 25 seconds. In fact, 25 seconds at a stoplight and someone will honk or bump you or something. People have trouble waiting for anything nowadays. Abraham had to wait 25 years to see the promises of God fulfilled. Abraham is a fellow pilgrim struggling on the road of faith, just like us. He grew in faith as he waited for what God promised him.
Now, just to give you a perspective where we’ve been, we have been studying the lives of fellow strugglers. Each of those we’ve looked at have been a powerful picture of how God taught a fellow struggler, with us, in their struggle. We first looked at Job many, many weeks, almost months ago. Job had a problem seeing God. He says that. That’s his testimony. He says, I heard about you, I haven’t ever really seen you. Job struggled to see God. Through his faced pain, he learned to see God as he never saw Him before. If you’ve ever struggled through, if you’ve ever triumphed through pain, you learn to see God in a different way. All of a sudden, a lot of stuff doesn’t matter much. When you have a tumor, when you have your first heart attack, when you have the first negative test, when you have the first sign of a crippling and debilitating illness, all of a sudden life changes. It’s not a party anymore. It’s one breath at a time. Job came to the point where he despaired of life. He struggled and he saw God like he never saw Him before.
Paul and Silas struggled to sing through their persecution. They had learned to be persecuted, but God called them to sing in the prison. You remember that night in Acts 16? What a good night that was, when they learned to sing through their struggles. Through that prison experience, they learned to worship God with stripes on their back, with vermin crawling over their bodies.
The third look we looked at was David. David struggled through depression, and he learned more about God on his darkest day than he ever learned on the bright days. Do you struggle with discouragement and depression? Do those dark days come on you? There are times you can make discoveries about God you can’t make any other time. In fact, the book of Psalms is a collection, 70 some of them… at least of David struggling through the struggles of life. You can make some great discoveries about God.
Then we saw Joseph who struggled to keep his life pure. This is a fellow that says I’m leaving home, but I’m going to leave home pure. I’m going to come back here and I’m not going to get involved in any immorality, at all. He struggled to keep his life pure, and he was purified by God, we saw the night we studied it. He was greatly used because of his purity. Are you struggling in the realm of purity? Are you struggling in the realm of persecution? Are you struggling in the realm of depression? Are you struggling in the realm of seeing God better?
How about Moses? Moses struggled to be content. He grew up in the palace with a gold spoon. He didn’t have a silver spoon. He had a gold one, probably had gems on it, jewels. He struggled with contentment. You know what the scriptures say? He gave up the treasures of Egypt because he got satisfied by God. Moses got to know God face to face like no one else. He learned to be content with God, he didn’t want anything else and God gave him Himself.
Abraham struggled to wait for God. When he did wait for God, he became the father of faith. Now, what we saw last time is he lived in an ancient city. It was very cosmopolitan, 300,000 people. Archeology confirms from Iraq, that many of these people were highly educated. They were proficient in mathematics, astronomy. They knew how to weave. They knew how to engrave. They had libraries. They had incredible astronomical knowledge and like all the rest of the world, except for the Jews, they were polytheistic. Abraham grew up worshiping many gods and he no doubt lived with his family in that city of Ur. As we come to his life in the 21st century BC, which is where you are in chapter 12; 2,100 years almost 2,200 years BC, we find life hasn’t changed much. God’s friend Abraham was faced with the same daily struggle each of us must endure. We’re going to continue tonight looking at 10 specific struggles he went through. I love these. If one of them doesn’t get you the others will. 10 specific struggles he went through, and we seek to learn the lessons for our lives from each. We might summarize each of his struggles as a question God was asking him.
Let’s look at the first one in chapter 12, verse 1. God asks the question, am I sufficient for you Abraham? Am I sufficient enough for you to follow me down an unknown and potentially dangerous path? You might ask yourself the same question, because some of you might be called by God to go to the mission field. Some of you might be called by God to enter the ministry. When you enter service for God, full-time, for the rest of your life, you’re entering a potentially dangerous and an unknown path. The question he asked Abraham was, do you think I’m sufficient enough to follow down an unknown dark path? Let’s look at what Abraham says.
The Lord said in verse 1 of chapter 12 of Genesis to Abraham, “Get out of your country,” that’s the whole culture he knew. Get away “from your family,” leave them behind. Get out of “your father’s house,” with all the security, and all the comfort, and everything that’s just regulated, with all the servants, and all the possessions. Get out of it. I want you to go “to a land I’m going to show you.” God said, and “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I’ll curse him that curses you.”
He took his dad with him until he died. Then he took his nephew with him until he split over Sodom. Lot wanted Sodom instead of the promised land. Abraham didn’t do too well at his first test, his first struggle. He didn’t fully obey, he partially obeyed. Reminds me of Hebrews 12, verse 1. “Therefore we also, since we’re surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Have you laid aside? God says, if you’re going to follow me, you’ve got to lay aside anything that’s going to trip you up. Lay aside the things that are easily bringing you into their captivity and power. Is God sufficient for you, Abraham? To follow down that unknown path, potentially dangerous? Not if you’re not going to leave everything behind.
Secondly, when God leads… Abraham had to learn, he can overcome all the disruptions. If you look here He said, get out of your country, get out of your family, get out of your dad’s house and start walking. Abraham, verse 4, started. He started walking 600 miles. That’s like walking down to the Gulf coast, and he took everything. Can you imagine how disruptive it would be to life, to have to put your tent up, and put your wife in the tent. They would make dinner and check on the animals. By the time you got that all done, you’d drop into bed, get up the next morning, take your tent down, loaded back on an animal, get everybody up, get them ready and go a little further and set up your tent. Can you imagine how frustrating life must have been? How disruptive that must’ve been? How totally nerve wracking would have been? There was no highway patrol to guard them on the way. When they went out there, they were fair game for anybody. God says, you know what? He says, when I lead you, you can overcome all the disruptions and weariness of life. Let me read to you how he did and we’ll close. The book of Hebrews, if you want to see it, chapter 11. This is the divine chronicle on this event. I’m so glad for the book of Hebrews. Chapter 11, verse 8, test number one. Abraham is God going to be sufficient for you to follow down an unknown and potentially dangerous path? The answer is yes, but Abraham didn’t do very well. Aren’t we glad that God doesn’t take our first faltering feeble attempts. He’s the God of the second chance. Look how Abraham does in the record.
Verse 8 of Hebrews 11; “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out the place which he would receive as an inheritance.” Do you notice what’s not in there? There’s no half obedience by taking dad along. There’s no half of obedience by taking Lot along. There’s no half obedience. God looked at the final result. After he got through stumbling around for basically several years, God says, verse 8; Abraham obeyed the call. It doesn’t matter how many times you stumbled, are you obeying right now? That’s what God wants, right now are you obedient?
Secondly, it doesn’t stop there. Look at verse 9, “By faith he dwelt in the land,” in fact, the new American says, “lived” and the New International says, “he made it his home.” He got comfortable in what God sent him to do, he didn’t resist it his whole life. He didn’t spend his whole life saying, oh I missed the restaurants of Ur, or I missed whatever. He fully accepted. “He dwelt in the land.”
Thirdly, look at verse 10, “he waited for the city.” A lot of the other versions and say, “looked for the city.” What happened was, he got his eyes off himself. The reason God saw his faith was, he got his eyes off from the desert, he got his eyes off from the tents, he got his eyes off from the sandstorms and bugs and whatever else was out there in the wilderness, and he got his eyes on to looking forward to what God promised, the city.
Then last thing, this is really neat, he didn’t just know about it in his mind. Look at verse 13 and this is something I want you to go home with and really chew on this week. Verse 13, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises.” That’s just like us, we don’t have all the promises. I’m not in Heaven. I don’t have a glorified body yet. My flesh is not dead. It’s supposed to be crucified, but it’s still with me, It’s a lifelong struggle. “Not having received the promises,” but listen, “but having seen them afar off were assured of them,” and listen, “embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims.” You know what? The promises of God were so real to Abraham and the reason he is the father of the faithful, that even though he didn’t have what God promised, he embraced them like he possessed them at that very time. That’s what faith is all about. Have you embraced the promises of God?
It’s a very interesting word. It means to run out and grab. Now our friends in the charismatic movement, name it and claim it… I’m not talking about naming it and claiming it. I’m talking about just taking God at his word. If the Bible says that God will give us peace, He will. You just have to embrace it. If the Bible says, God will overcome whatever causes us to stumble in our life and that He is more powerful and greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world, it’s true. We just have to embrace it. What did Abraham do? He obeyed the call. What did Abraham do? He dwelled in the land God gave him. He waited for the city. While he was waiting, he embraced the promises of God.
So, if Abraham could answer the question tonight, he would answer it this way. Yes, God is sufficient for me to follow down a dark, potentially dangerous unknown path. Some of you are at crossroads in your life, decisions, what the Lord is going to do with you. Are you willing to follow the Lord down an unknown path as long as He said, He’d make it straight and light it for you; but only one step at a time. Abraham had learned to wait. He had to learn to let the Lord be his reward.
Let’s bow and just commit these truths to our hearts by prayer.
Lord, I thank you for Abraham. I thank you, that when you looked at his life, his failures, his lapses, his moral defaults that he endured. Lying, and his servant girl, and the child that they had, and everything else that was going on there, you don’t even mention all that. Thank you, that when you forgive us, you cleanse us, and you put our sins as far as the east is from the west and put them underneath the blood and you remember them no more. Then when you sum up our lives, you sum them up as you see them in their final form. You said Abraham obeyed and became the father of the faithful. Tonight in our hearts, we want to obey. May we realize that our life in Christ started as a struggle, it will end as a struggle, we will have peace that passes understanding the whole way, but it will never get easy. I pray that maybe a few more would sign on with the struggle tonight. And those that are in the struggle would not despair but would rather welcome their weaknesses for you to be strong. And would lay aside any of the weights, and the encumbrances, and the trip-ups that so easily get us off the path. We want to be like Abraham. We want to struggle and follow you by faith. Thank you for your blessings that you’ve promised us. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.