When Michelangelo was 72 years old he started work on the monumental dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. When Galileo was 74 he published his dialogue concerning two new sciences. When Stradivarius was in his early 90s he fashioned two of his most famous violins. When P.T Barnum was 71 he joined James Bailey to form the Barnum and Bailey Circus.
When Abraham was 75 years old God commanded him to leave his home in Haran and move to the land of Canaan. And because of his obedience, because he believed the promises of God, not only did Abraham get mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, the scripture that was read this morning, but we have the nation of Israel as well.
But it wasn’t that simple, it didn’t just happen, as a matter of fact even though Abraham lived a long time after the promise was given, he didn’t see it fulfilled. But that didn’t mean that he stopped believing the promise or that the promise was any less valid.
When God spoke to Abraham he told him, “I want you to leave your family, your home, everything you have accumulated because I have big plans for you. I am going to make you the father of a great nation.”
At that point I’m sure that Abraham’s response must have been “Cool, when will I see this happen?” And the truth was that he was never told when it would happen only that it would happen.
Abraham and Sarah, his wife, were childless. It would appear that even when they were younger they were unable to have children and now that they were getting along in years.
That which had been probable, then become simply possible, had moved to improbable and finally had became impossible. Abraham the father of a great nation? Abraham wasn’t even the father of single child.
If we pull up a map we can see that this is where Abraham was from. Way down here was Ur of the Chaldeans, and it was from here that Abraham’s father Terah moved his family to go to Canaan, but instead settled here in the village of Heran. We don’t know how long Abraham and his family lived in Heran but it was while they were still there that God told him to leave the home that he had established there.
Eventually Abraham and his clan made their way to Egypt before they eventually settled here in Shechem but God hadn’t revealed that destination in the beginning; all God had said was “Go to the land that I will show you.” Didn’t give him directions on how to get there, didn’t give him a road map or a GPs, we don’t know that he was a member of the UCA, that would be the Ur Camel Association.
All we know is that God told Abraham to go and Abraham went. The story keeps getting better though. Because once Abraham and his household had arrived at Shechem the Lord appeared to him and said “I am going to give this land to your offspring.” Which must have been a surprise to Abraham seeing he didn’t have any offspring, and yet still he believed.
And if you’ve read the book of Genesis you know that for the next twenty years the story continues.
Abraham and his wife Sarah move to Egypt during a famine. Then they move back to what would come to be known as the promised land.
Then there’s the entire story of how God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins. But still no offspring. But the promise was still there.
And then almost twenty-five years after that original conversation Sarah conceives. In Australia they would say that Sarah fell pregnant, and considering she was 90 years old it was lucky she didn’t break a hip.
But having a child, although a pretty spectacular feat when both participants are in their nineties, still wasn’t the entire promise. The promise was that Abraham would be the father of a great nation, but when he died he had one legit heir, Isaac who had married Rebekah and they would have two children Jacob and Esau. And Abraham was buried in a cave that he had purchased to bury his wife Sarah. Quite a nation huh? And you start to think that maybe the story is over, and yet, if we go through Jacob and Esau and see how Jacob who would come to be known as Israel had 12 sons we think, you know this might work.
But a great famine came upon their land and they had to move to Egypt. What’s with famines and people moving to Egypt?
And at this point you think that maybe the story is over; especially when you see their descendants become slaves of the Egyptians. But 400 years down the road a man name Moses leads the slaves out of Egypt and after another forty years of wandering in the wilderness they find their way back to land that God had promised them. But it’s another four hundred years before this group of nomadic tribes becomes a great nation. In total almost 900 years have passed from the promise to the fulfilment of the promise. 900 years, I find it difficult to be kept waiting an hour. 900 years.
This is week one of a brand-new series at Cornerstone called Step Out. Which seems fitting as we step out into a brand-new chapter in the story of Cornerstone.
Over the next several weeks we are going to be looking at times in the story of God’s people when they made the decision to step out in faith and follow God’s prompting.
The story that we are starting with is not only a story of faith, it is a story of patience.
Now I knew this wouldn’t be an easy message for me, because I’m not always the most patient of people. Anyone here been tied up in the traffic on the Bedford Highway or Hammonds Plains Rd. lately? Nuts isn’t it?
Well I have discovered that when I come down the Hammonds Plains Rd. and I’m heading toward Bedford and the traffic becomes stop and go, no problem. I take a left onto Bedford Hills Rd. and then turn right on Basinview, a left on Wimbeledon, right on Douglas right on Meadowbrook, left on Pleasant, right on Rutledge, left onto Bedford St. across Spring right on Division and down to the Bedford Highway, hey it beats sitting in traffic, and if you live on one of those streets I’m sorry.
I’d make a horrible buzzard, I’d finally get tired of waiting and just go kill something.
And this is a great story about patience, because it is about a promise that would take over nine hundred years before it would be fulfilled.
What could possibly make Abraham believe the unbelievable over an unbelievable length of time?
Well first of all, Abraham Knew the Promise
Abraham knew what he was waiting for and even though Abraham didn’t always have all the details he knew what the promise was. God had very plainly given him the promise; you will become a great nation.
I’m sure that Abraham would have agreed with Woodrow Wilson who said “All things come to him who waits — provided he knows what he is waiting for.”
And the only way that Abraham knew what God had promised was that Abraham was listening to God.
In 2020 most people claim God’s promises from Facebook Memes or coffee mugs. And this may come as a surprise to you, but neither are the most reliable source for God’s promises.
We live in a time where more people have more access to the word of God than at any other point in history. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to read the bible, you had to physically get a bible to read. Today you can read your bible on your computer, phone or tablet in dozens of different translations and a multitude of languages. And if you don’t enjoy reading then you can listen to someone else read you the bible, in your car, on your run or in the tub.
Take the time, figure out a plan, get a translation that you enjoy and read your bible, and discover the promises that God has for us as his people.
Promises like, Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Or, John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
The one I’ve been leaning into over the past number of months comes from the book of James, it’s found in James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.
Or when you are having some doubts, there is 1 John 1:9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. And the assurance of 1 John 5:13 I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.
But you will never know the promises that are in the bible if you don’t read the bible.
Here are a couple of cautions about claiming those promises.
The book of proverbs is not a book of promises, it is a book of principles. Promises are always fulfilled. Principles are general truths and probable outcomes.
So, when we read Proverbs 22:6 Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. We are tempted to take it as a promise, but it is a principle. If you do this, then this is the likely outcome. But there is always that pesky thing that we call free will that can throw a wrench into the works. Do your best and pray for the best.
And some promises are personal promises, they were for a specific person at a specific time. The promise that Gideon made to Mary, that she would have a child even though she was a virgin, that was her promise not yours.
There are promises that God made to the people of Israel 3000 years ago that were specific promises for a specific time and a specific situation.
And don’t try to manipulate God with a promise, you know what I mean. We find a promise and then twist it t fit what we want, because we want to God to act in a certain way and to do certain things.
I don’t know how many times I’ve head well intentioned people try to use Matthew 18:19-20 for that purpose. Matthew 18:19–20 “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”
Sometimes people feel that all they need is a quorum and God will have to do whatever dumb thing they ask for. That promise was part of an entire section on church discipline, and you have to understand the context to understand the promise. Because as I was taught over and over again in college, a text out of context is a pretext.
God has promised us great things, like Philippians 1:6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Or in 1 Corinthians 10:13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
And those are all great promises, and promises that will remain unknown and unclaimed unless you read your bible.
When you talk to believers about their spiritual walk, the concern they express over and over again is how to know the will of God for their lives. And obviously it is a very real concern; if we believe that God is a loving God and that he has our best interest at heart then it would seem likely that the best way to be happy is to follow what God wants for us. But how do we discern the will of God for our lives?
Paul Little made this observation “I was frustrated out of my mind, trying to figure out the will of God. I was doing everything but getting into the presence of God and asking Him to show me.”
Abraham knew the promise because Abraham Knew the Promiser
It wasn’t enough that Abraham knew the promise. Most of us have lived through enough elections to be familiar with promises. Last fall we had our Federal election and yesterday we had our municipal election. And for the past year we have been saturated with news of the US presidential election. Boy, I really wish there was an off switch on that coverage.
And so, we are familiar with promises. And in the most cynical place in my heart I truly believe that the collective promises of politicians aren’t worth a bucket of warm spit.
Most people think that politicians are incapable of telling the truth after all it was Napoleon Bonaparte who said “If you wish to be success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing.” And Nikita Khrushchev seemed to agree when he wrote, “Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers”
And if they do deliver, you know who pays for it right? William Lyon Mackenzie King summed it up when he said, “The politician’s promises of yesterday are the taxes of today.”
Politicians are going to get a shock when they get to heaven and discover that broken campaign promises count.
But that isn’t the way of God, listen to what the Bible, God’s word says, in Hebrews 6:18 we read Hebrews 6:18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. . .
Now you know as well as I do, that we can know of somebody without actually knowing them. With social media, far too many people think they know famous people but they only know of them.
But Abraham was willing to believe in the promise because he knew and trusted the promiser. Reminds me of a story I heard years ago about of Elsa Einstein Albert Einstein’s wife who said “No, I don’t understand my husband’s theory of relativity, but I know my husband, and I know he can be trusted.”
And Abraham didn’t try to force God to work in Abraham’s timetable.
We need to get over the I want it and I want it now mindset. We live in a world of instant everything. There’re instant cereals, instant soup, instant coffee, instant milk, instant credit, instant delivery, instant success books, instant drying glues, instant winners, instant pain relief, instant acid indigestion relief, instant whitening teeth, instant on TV sets, instant hot burners on stoves. Is it any wonder that we demand instant results from God?
Perhaps we need to learn from Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon who said “Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials. Hold on; Hold fast; Hold out. Patience is genius.”
When Joshua was on his death bed he reminded the people of Israel of God’s faithfulness Joshua 23:14 “Soon I will die, going the way of everything on earth. Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!”
Do you know God? Do you trust God? Not just do you trust him when he does what you want him to do, but do you trust him to do what is right? Even when it’s not what you would have done or would have preferred?
Abraham Believed the Promise. It wasn’t enough that Abraham knew the Promise and knew the Promiser, he had to believe the Promise.
In the scripture that was read this morning time and time again it talked about the faith of Abraham. And what is faith? That question was asked and answered in Hebrews 11:1 Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.
Abraham couldn’t see the end result and yet he was able to believe that even if he couldn’t see it and even if he couldn’t understand it, and even if it seemed impossible he was going to believe it.
But it has to be an active faith, B.C. Forbes said “Many a man thinks he is patient when, in reality, he is indifferent.” Abraham could have just drifted along, not denying the promise but never really embracing it, and that wouldn’t have been what God was looking for. When you hear his promises, you need to believe them.
And finally Abraham Acted On The Promise If we go back Hebrews 11:8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.
It would have been so easy for Abraham to say, “Ok God, if those are your promises then ante up.” I mean if God was God he didn’t need Abraham to pack everything up and move to the land of Canaan. He could have transported Abraham there, and provide a thousand offspring in the blink of an eye but that’s not the way God works.
I truly believe that both of our buildings are evidence of faith. But God didn’t just zap them into existence. It would have been so cool if back in March I had arrived over at Windgate one morning and all the renovations had been miraculously.
If you’ve ever attended one of our Cornerstone 101 Classes you will discover that we have 6 core values at Cornerstone. But when we planted there were seven core values. The one that is missing read “We are committed to planting additional churches and will endeavour to plant a daughter church within the Halifax County Area in the next three to four years.”
And it didn’t happen, we were more concerned with keeping what we had alive, and then it was no longer a priority and it got dropped from the core values. And now here we are 26 years later celebrating the first service of Cornerstone Windgate.
Often God requires us to demonstrate our faith by our actions. Jesus’ brother James wrote a letter to the early church and in it he speaks about Abraham and this is what he says about him James 2:22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.
I love that, our faith is made complete by what we do, by our actions. It’s not enough to believe if God has called us to act as well, Thomas Edison said “Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.”
I’m sure James would agree with Edison because he would go on to expand on that and in verse 26 he tells his readers that faith without works is dead.
So where are you at? If people were to describe you would they describe you as being a patient person? When it comes to believing God’s promises, would you describe yourself as patient?
Listen to how the word of God describes the Christian who is controlled by the Holy Spirit Galatians 5:22–23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!