ALL IN - Abraham
ALL IN • Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 27:42
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Here we go into a new year. As 2022 kicks off, many people take the opportunity of flipping over the new calendar to think about what else in their lives needs to flip over to something new as well. I admit that New Years resolutions can sometimes be a bit cheesy. It is a list that often includes habits like starting to eat healthier, or exercise more frequently, or reading more books. Sometimes it includes not only personal habits, but communal habits like spending more time with friends. These are all great things, but New Years resolutions have a bad reputation of being shallow commitments that very few people actually make happen. There is data to support this observation. Every year gym memberships spike in January with new members signing up, but by the end of February the gym settles back down to its regular clientele as all those other well-intentioned people drop off.
Be that as it may, there is something about the new year that gives us the feeling of a fresh start. Or at the very least, the new year gives us the longing for a fresh start. And if we can find just one new habit or renewed hobby to embrace, it can be such a wonderful experience for us to find some forward progress and momentum. As each one of us considers what those opportunities might look like in our own lives, I want to start this new year with a series that looks at some prominent characters in the Old Testament who also faced new opportunities. Each one of these examples we will look at over the coming weeks faced moments when their faith and relationship with God deepened and grew because there was an opportunity placed in front of them.
There is a card-playing term when betting on a hand. When card players puts everything they have on the hand they have been dealt, it is sometimes referred to as going ‘all in.’ We are going to see something like this in these Old Testament examples in the coming weeks. Not that faith in God is a gamble—that’s not what I am saying. But rather, sometimes it feels as though life deals a hand in which our faith has an opportunity to go ‘all in’ with God. My hope is that looking at the examples over the coming weeks will give us some fresh eyes to see when God may be placing before each one of us ‘all in’ moments in our faith. The first one we consider today is Abram (later to be called Abraham).
1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. 6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. 9 Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
it is God who makes the first promises to Abram 1 - great nation 2 - promised land
The author of Genesis makes our introduction to Abram pretty one-sided. God does all the talking—at least so far. It is God who begins this relationship with Abram. It is God who makes the first promises to Abram; we see two of them in these opening verses of Genesis 12. God makes a covenant to make Abram into a great nation (verse 2) and God makes a covenant to give Abram the land of Canaan (verse 7). As far as Abram’s part, Genesis makes it very brief and to-the-point. Verse 4 says, “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.”
So Abram went. Genesis makes it sound so simple. Really? Is there anyone here who has packed up your family and your entire life and moved to a completely new place without ever seeing it or knowing where you were going or what you were getting into? After all, in verse 1 God never tells Abram exactly where the destination will be; all God says is, “go…to the land I will show you.” And Abram does it. Abram is dealt a hand by God, and Abram goes all in. It is a move that lands him in the heroes-of-faith list in Hebrews 11. But there is so much detail left out. All we read in this passage is that Abram obeyed and he went. But that does not give us a very detailed picture of what this ‘all in’ moment really looked like and felt like for him.
the very first words that the Bible records Abram saying is telling his wife to lie about their family because he is scared
However, as we continue down the road in Abram’s life, we do get to encounter some more vivid detail which allows us to see a better picture of how Abram went about responding to his ‘all in’ moments. Consider this; the very next section of Genesis 12 tells us that there is a famine in Canaan, and Abram takes his family to Egypt so they can find food. In Egypt, Abram instructs his wife, Sarai, to tell everyone that she is Abram’s sister, not his wife, because Abram is afraid for his life. These are the very first words in scripture we hear from Abram. The very first words that the Bible records Abram saying is telling his wife to lie about their family because he is scared. Hang on; what happened to this ‘all in’ moment which just happened a few verses ago? Abram went from being dealt a hand in which he responded by going all in, to folding that hand and taking all his chips off the table. In Genesis 12:4 Abram is all in; not even ten verses later in Genesis 12:13 Abram pulls out. In one verse his faith takes strong commendable action, and in another verse his faith withers and shrinks in fear.
Abram and Sarai try to make their family a different way apart from God’s promise
This is a pattern for Abram. God provides a way for Abram to come clean and embrace the truth by the end of Genesis 12. But jump ahead to Genesis 20 and Abram does the exact same thing again by telling the exact same lie. And again God comes and bails Abram out. Along the way, Abram questions God by pointing out that he is an old man has no children of his own; how is God possibly going to keep this promise about Abram becoming a great nation when he has no descendants? In Genesis 16 Abram and Sarai take matters into their own hands by using an Egyptian slave girl to give Abram a child, even though this is not what God promised Abram.
We are beginning to see that—even though Abram has moments in his faith of being all in with God—there are also plenty of moments when Abram’s faith struggles. After Sarai gives birth to Isaac, God provides one more opportunity for Abram’s faith to be all in. This time, Abram is prepared to give up and sacrifice his only son, Isaac, in obedience to God’s instruction. Now before we are too hard on Abram or God for appearing to condone child sacrifice, we should remember that this story appears in Genesis 22 as a foreshadow of God’s redemption; it is an event that is meant to point us forward to Jesus offering himself as a sacrifice.
Abram’s faith is NOT always linear
even a life of faith that is ‘all in’ has moments that fall apart
Here is what I think we see in the life of Abram; we see a picture of faith that is not linear. Abram has his spiritual ups and downs. I, for one, actually take come comfort in that; because this is how I know Abram is for real. After all, if Abram never messed up, never faltered, never sinned, then I would know that it is all made up. But the real actual story of Abram tells about a life that is real because—in all honesty—this is how the life of faith goes for each one of us too. Faith is not always completely linear. What I mean by that is the life of faith does not always draw a perfectly straight line. Sure, we see Abram has a life of faith that grows; but it seems like two steps forward and one step back, three more steps forward and two steps back. Here is what we see in Abram; even a life of faith that is ‘all in’ has moments that fall apart.
So here we are, starting off a new year with new commitments. And maybe it feels like there should be a commitment to grow in faith—that’s good; there should be. But like that new gym membership, undoubtedly we will find ourselves by the end of February with a bit of a wavering and crooked path. That’s okay. Your faith does not need to be perfect all the time. In fact, there was only ever one person on this planet who could be perfect all the time—that was Jesus. It is okay that you are not perfect, because Jesus took care of that part for you.
imperfect faith can still be all in
But here is what else we see in the story of Abram. Imperfect faith can still be all in. Because here is what else we see in the story of Abram. Even though Abram’s faith shows up as a crooked line of ups and downs, God’s faithfulness remains absolutely straight the entire way. Abram’s faith was not always linear; God’s faithfulness is always linear. God never waivers of falters from his covenant. This also shows up again and again in the story of Abram.
After all the lies that Abram told in Egypt in Genesis 12, God responds to Abram in Genesis 13 with this.
14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”
And later in Genesis 15 God repeats his promise for descendants.
1 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. 7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
Then everything happens with Abram and Sarai trying to make a family for themselves by having a child through an Egyptian slave girl. And after all that, God says again,
3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
God’s faithfulness is ALWAYS secure
God’s faithfulness to his covenant promise never changed all throughout Abram’s life from the moment we first meet Abram in Genesis 12 all the way till Abram dies. The one contestant factor that remains absolutely secure in the life of Abram’s faith is the faithfulness of God. This is the one ingredient which shows us what an ‘all in’ faith looks like. Abram’s faith was counted as ‘all in’ because God is the one who always and forever remains all in with Abram. God is actually the one who is ‘all in’ every single step of the way.
the faithfulness which God showed to Abram is also a faithfulness which comes to us
what matters most in your life of faith is not how perfectly you take each step forward; what matters most in your life of faith is that God always remains faithful to the covenant love he has for you
The faithfulness which God showed to Abram is also a faithfulness which comes to us. Whatever this new year brings in your journey of faith, God remains ‘all in’ with you every step of the way. In moments when your journey ahead sprints with joy and success, God is right there with you just as he promised. In moments when your journey ahead buckles and falls flat, God remains right there with you just as he promised. Abram’s life of faith is a reminder for us that God will always remain faithful in every step ahead, no matter where those steps should go. What matters most in your life of faith is not how perfectly you take each step forward; what matters most in your life of faith is that God always remains faithful to the covenant love he has for you.
what matters most in my life of faith is that God remains faithful