Today, we continue our message series “Jumping Hurdles.” Hurdles are difficulties in life that we must overcome to fulfill Go’s purpose. Every hurdle that you may encounter in life has been allowed by God. And God will help you to jump that hurdle if you ask Him.
Today’s message is entitled “Faith Factor.” As you may guess, we’re going to be talking about faith. What is faith?
Hebrews 11:1-2 (ESV) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.
Faith looks to a future promised by God and believes. Faith looks into the unseen realm and is convinced that this unseen future will become a reality. Faith is not something new to the New Testament. Faith has been essential to a relationship with God from the very beginning. Those who believed God in the Old Testament, looking forward to the Messiah, were saved. Those who believe in Jesus Christ in the New Testament era in which we live are also saved. We shall meet people of faith from all generations in heaven one day.
2 Peter 1:4 (ESV) … he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
The promises of God that we read in the Bible are not there for our entertainment. These promises are the key to our relationship with God and receiving His blessings. Are the promises in the Bible automatic for every believer? Absolutely not. Every promise is activated by faith. By believing that what God said in that promise will happen in the future.
Hebrews 11:8 (ESV) By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Today, our story is about a man named Abraham, who believed God’s promises and received great blessing as a result. God promised Abraham things that would happen in the future, some of which were long past the end of his life. The promises that God gave to Abraham required him to obey God, they were conditional promises.
Most of God’s promises are conditional, they require faith and obedience in order to be fulfilled. We going to see how that plays out in the life of Abraham. What is the opposite of faith? It’s unbelief, doubt or worry. Unbelieve leads to disobedience and fear. The Christian life from beginning to end, if to be a life of faith. Today, we’re going to learn … to receive God’s promises, we must believe and obey.
Genesis 12:1 (ESV) Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
Abram was born in the land of Ur and his father’s name was Terah. The New Testament tells us that the call of God to Abram that we just read took place in Ur. In Genesis 11, it tells us that Terah began to travel to the land of Canaan, but stopped to live in Haran along with Abram. Terah, as head of the family, began to follow God’s direction, but did not fully obey. Following God’s instructions, God then gives a promise to Abram in the next verse.
Genesis 12:2 (ESV) And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
The promise was that God would make a great nation from Abram’s descendants. And not only that, Abram would be blessed so that he could be a blessing to others. On top of that, Abram would have a great name, as we are still studying his life thousands of years later.
Genesis 12:4 (ESV) So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
After his father Terah died in Haran, Abram continued the journey to the land of Canaan. Most likely, Abram was not able to leave for Canaan, while his father was in charge of the family. Yet, when given the opportunity, Abram completely obeyed God’s call.
Let’s think for a few minutes about God’s call to Abram. The call came to Abram in Ur, modern day Iraq. His family had lived in Ur for probably hundreds of years, if not longer. The call was to travel to a land that God did no even reveal to Abram at first. He was to start on a journey not knowing where he was going. And the risk to Abram was not just to himself, but for the entire family that would be going to him.
The journey came in two stages, first to Haran and finally to Canaan. Obviously, there must have been a disagreement between Abram and his father Terah about whether to continue to Canaan. Terah opted to stay in Haran, but Abram finally chose to continue to follow God’s direction to Canaan. We must obey God’s call.
It’s important for us to note that the promise that God had for Abram had the condition of obedience. If Abram had not obeyed and travelled to the land of Canaan, the promise of God could never have been fulfilled in his life. And the same is true in our lives today. The Bible is filled with promises that we can and should claim for ourselves. However, in order to have the blessing of the promise, we must fulfill its conditions. Not only does God give us promises in His Word, He also gives us specific promises through the Holy Spirit. In either case, we must obey God and fulfill the conditions of the promise.
The most important promise in the Bible is the promise of salvation or eternal life. Even though the promise is offered to everyone, only those who fulfill its conditions receive eternal life. We go through the three conditions every Sunday at the end of the message. The first condition is a person must repent and turn away from their sin. The second condition is that they must believe in Jesus Christ. And the third condition is that they must commit to serving Jesus as their Lord. When you choose to obey God’s call to be saved, you will be saved. Not only must we obey God’s call, we must …
Genesis 15:1 (ESV) After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
Years later, Abram was getting establish in Canaan and God was blessing him. However, his wife Sarah was still barren and they had no children. God appeared again to Abram to encourage him to not have fear but faith. So, how could God’s promise of making Abram a great nation come to pass? Abram thought that perhaps he could have children through a servant, as was the custom of the day.
Genesis 15:4 (ESV) And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”
God again clearly told Abram, that a son born to him and his wife would be the start of the great nation that God had promised years before. Abram’s faith was wavering, he was seeking to fulfill God’s promises on his own. Yet, God clearly told him that he would have that son of promise.
Genesis 15:5-6 (ESV) And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
God showed Abram, a man with no children, past the years of child-bearing, an image of his children. As impossible as it is to number the stars, so would be the number of his children. Did Abram argue with God and say that it was impossible? No, the Scripture simply says that Abram believed the Lord. Even though he had no idea how it would happen, Abram believed that God would make him into a great nation. And through that faith in God’s Word, this verse tells us that God declared him righteous.
How is it that Abram’s and our faith is the key to having our sins forgiven? At it’s heart, it is still a mystery, but a wonderful mystery. Abram is our father in the faith, for he believed God’s seemingly impossible promise.
The Bible is filled with promises for us to believe. We’ve already talked about the foundational promise that those who believe in Jesus are saved. I’ll give you an opportunity at the end of the message to claim that promise for yourself if you’ve never done so before. But let’s talk about another promise that is difficult for some people to believe and receive its blessing.
Malachi 3:10 (ESV) Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
This promise concerns our finances. The Bible has a lot to say about money. Let’s begin by looking at the blessing in this verse. The blessing is the promise to open heaven’s windows to pour out a blessing to eliminate the needs in your life. The blessing is not a promise you’ll be a millionaire, but it is a promise that God will meet your financial needs. But there is a condition to receive this blessing. The condition is to give the full tithe, which is 10% of your income to the place where you worship to support it.
The natural mind struggles with this condition. We think, I’m already struggling to meet my financial needs. If I give a tithe (10%) to the church, I’ll have even less. How will that help? The answer is that God promises to pour out a blessing from heaven. God understands that this is difficult for many people. So, He challenges us to put Him to the test. Try it out and see if you aren’t better off tithing that you were before. Just one example of believing a promise of God that has great blessing.
Genesis 17:1 (ESV) When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,
The timing of this new appearance of the Lord to Abram is now about 25 years from when God first appeared to him. Abram knew that the older that he and his wife got, the more impossible it became for him to have a son, humanly speaking. Yet, the Lord appeared to Abram again and called on him to walk in faith. You see, faith is not just a one-time thing and then it’s done. Faith is a state of being. In other words, true faith doesn’t believe at one time and then stop believing. When you have faith for one of God’s promises, that faith keeps on believing. You walk before God in faith.
Genesis 17:5 (ESV) No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, which means father of nations. God tells Abram that he has made him a father of nations. This is before Abram has had a long awaited child. Abram argues with God, but God says …
Genesis 17:19 (ESV) God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.
God now tells Abram what he shall name, his yet to be conceived son. Furthermore, the promise or covenant that God has made with Abraham will now continue through Isaac, the son of promise. And if you continue to read the story in Genesis, you will see that Isaac was born. The nation of Israel began and continues today with every true believer being a spiritual son of Abram. The walk of faith for Abraham and Sarah spanned decades, believing for the impossible, a son in their old age. To learn to walk in faith throughout a lifetime is so important.
Let’s talk about the walk of faith for every believer. We give an opportunity at every service for people to commit or recommit their lives to Jesus Christ through faith. And there is a moment in time, when a person believes, their sins are forgiven and they are saved. But the Bible clearly teaches that after the initial belief, each person must live out their faith on a day by day, month by month and year by year basis.
What characterizes a believer? Fundamentally, it is that they believe in Jesus Christ. Those who are believers in Jesus Christ will show their belief by their lifestyles. But what happens if someone who believed at one point, stops believing? If a person doesn’t believe anymore, are they still a believer? The logical and biblical answer is that no, they are no longer a believer, they have fallen away from their faith. Can such a person be restored? Yes, if they repent and recommit their lives to the Lord. The blessings of salvation come to those who walk by faith, who keep on believing, who keep on obeying.
To receive God’s promises, we must believe and obey. God’s promises have conditions that we fulfill by obedience. As we put our faith in God to keep His promises, He gives us the strength to obey. As we walk by faith, God’s blessing on our lives will increase. God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. May each of us walk more in more in the blessing of God’s promises through faith and obedience.