Letting Go To Receive
Published June 23, 2019 at 10:30 AM
Audio of the sermon preached on June 23, 2019, at Cable Community Church, Sherrard, IL
Content Copyright Belongs to Cable Community Church
Letting Go To Receive
Bruce Simpkins writes online about letting go: “In my younger years I thought it would be an exciting adventure to try sky diving. After checking into it, I found I could get a big discount if I brought 5 friends to jump with me . . . so I did.
It was a beautiful sunny day in California when we arrived for a half day training and then an afternoon jump. We practiced by jumping out onto a foam pad. It was important to go "spread eagle" and count to 10. Since we were on a static line, the parachute would automatically open on the count of 10. If there was no chute by the count of 10 then we would apply emergency procedures to open the chute.
When it was finally time to board the airplane we climbed in one at a time and hooked up our static lines. I happened to be the last one in which meant I would be the first one out. There was no door on the side of the plane and I was sitting on the edge looking straight down and holding on to the door jam. As the plane took off, I remember thinking that if I fell out on takeoff, the parachute would do me no good at all. But I put the thought out of my mind and waited for my chance to jump.
When the instructor told me to take my position I stood up in the doorway thinking how exhilarating it would to "fly like an eagle". The instructor shouted, "Jump"! I saw that we were over a neighborhood and the thought flashed through my mind that we were in the wrong place and that perhaps we were not high enough. So I hesitated for just a moment. The instructor was not a patient man though and slapped me hard on the back and shouted, "Jump"! That actually knocked me off balance and so instead of jumping, I tried to catch my balance but ended up falling part way out of the plane and grabbed hold of the wing strut with my feet still in the plane.
I couldn’t get back in the plane and I couldn’t jump! I shouted to the instructor, "What should I do"?! And his incredulous voice shouted back, "JUST LET GO"! So I let go and fell like a rock. There was no glorious eagle soaring. There was no exhilarating victory. Just a falling rock.”
Our life with Jesus can be just like this, sometimes. We can make plans and preparations for how we think things should go, but when the critical moment comes, we often find ourselves holding on for dear life, afraid and shouting (or silently praying), “What do I do now?” Only to hear our instructor; the Spirit of Christ, saying, “Just Let Go!”
Our text today from Genesis 22:1-14, is just such a story from the life of Abraham, the father of the faithful. As we look this morning at Genesis 22:1-14, we will see will see that when it comes to obeying and trusting God, Abraham was ready, willing and able.
- Abraham's journey with God is one of starts and stumbles.
- First God called Abraham to follow God to an unknown land where He would bless him.
- Abraham obeyed God and left his homeland.
- Abraham didn't trust God through a famine, and went into Egypt
- After that God promised Abraham a son
- Abraham listened to his wife and fathered a son through her servant.
- Just prior to today's text, God had told Abraham to send Hagar and the boy into the wilderness.
- At the time of today's text, Abraham was ready to obey God.
- Interesting fact... most Bible accounts of God speaking to someone have God repeating their name. The normal form of this address is the person’s name repeated twice to which the person answers with the single word in Hebrew, hinnenei, "Here am I."
- For example - Jacob: Gen 46:2, Moses: Exod 3:4, Samuel: 1 Sam 3:4, 10
- Here, God calls Abraham once, and he is ready to answer, and then - despite the nature of what God calls Abraham to do (which we will discuss shortly) Abraham doesn't delay.
- He gets up early the next morning and begins the task.
- Forbes Magazine states that early risers are the most successful people. They claim the discipline of getting up early produces many positive results, such as:
- 1. More proactive approach to life
- 2. The ability to anticipate problems better
- 3. Better goal-setting
- 4. Time for exercise
- 5. Sleep is much better when we go to bed early and get up early.
- 6. More optimism
- 7. Time to focus
- 8. More time for family
- Abraham would have been listed in Forbes Magazine. Genesis 22:3 says that "he got up EARLY and loaded his donkey." There was no sulking, no pity party, no depression and no delay for this successful man of God. He purposed in his heart the night before to obey God, even if he did not fully understand.
- How often do we put off doing what God has said, hoping that either the request will go away or God will change His mind?
- How easy would it have been for Abraham just to sleep in that next day?
- But he didn't. He woke up early. He had already decided to trust God. He was ready... anxious... to follow God's command.
- Not only was Abraham ready to follow God, but Abraham was willing, no matter the cost
- it is hard to miss the import of verse three: "Abraham . . . set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him."
- Abraham’s entire life had been marked by his journey to a place that he did not know, into a future that he did not always understand while trusting that God would show him the destination and how to get there.
- Even the New Testament remembered Abraham as a man on an uncertain journey (Heb 11:8): "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going."
- And so we see Abraham still traveling, this time toward a future fraught with still greater uncertainty and the possibility of endings arising out of new beginnings, the exact opposite of what his previous journey had taught him.
- And yet, in contrast to his earlier responses, this time Abraham simply went without incident. Because God said so.
- James Bryan Smith begins this chapter of his book, “The Good and Beautiful God,” by telling a story about taking his six year old son to an amusement park. While at the park, he and his son got on a ride. A teenage boy buckled them into their seats and then started the ride. The entire time during the ride, James Bryan Smith felt a panic in his heart for fear that his son would fly out of the ride. He states:
- "With white knuckles and gritted teeth I prayed the entire ninety seconds for the ride to end. I looked over at Jacob, who was laughing and having a great time.”
- After the ride was over, he and his son sat down on a nearby park bench, and Smith asked his son, "Weren't you scared? That ride was pretty wild. Why did you get on a ride like that?”
- His son answered with childlike honesty, "Because you did, Dad.”
- This is the kind of trust we should have in our Heavenly Father. That’s the kind of trust that Abraham had.
- What is it Abraham was willing to do?
- Let's get into his head for a moment...
- in our best "Dr. Phil" impersonation, let's ask of Abraham... "What were you thinking?"
- Because our answer to that question determines what lesson we will take away from this passage.
- There are several things Abraham might have believed at this point....
- First, that God had somehow changed His mind about the promise.
- Second, that God would keep His promise, but not through Isaac.
- Third, as the writer of Hebrews suggests, that God would have Isaac killed and then raise him back to life, or
- Fourth, something else.... with God, we always have to allow for something else, don't we?
- So Abraham was ready to follow God and willing to follow no matter the cost… He also was able to trust Him.
- The key to understanding this entire story is in learning that Abraham was able to believe that God could see further.
- The test for Abraham was this; would he trust the God that he could not see or trust in the part of the promise he could see and feel; having and holding his son?
- The question that we all have when we come to read this story is one echoed by Isaac when he asks, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" In other words, "Hey, this doesn't make any sense!"
- Abraham's answer to his son shows the depth of the maturity of his faith.
- He says, "God will provide." The Hebrew text is great here. The word that our Bibles translate as "provide" is a word that means, ’to see.’ In fact, 8 out 10 times when the Hebrew word, "raw·aw" appears it is translated, simply, ’see.’ Abraham answers his son’s question by saying, "God will see to it that we have a lamb!"
- Later in the passage, after God called the test to halt and revealed the ram caught in the thicket, Abraham because of his obedience, deepened his conviction about the sufficiency of God and gave the Lord a new name: Yahweh Yireh - The Lord who sees to the provision for every need.
- God wants to make us whole, but sometimes His way takes us along a path that feels like we’re dying. Will we trust HIM? God provides, in the moment when we radically abandon ourselves to His will, by transforming the madness into something we could not have imagined.
- Paul spoke of those moments when he prayed for the believers in a church he had founded. Ephesians 3:17-21.... that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
- Abraham learned to give up control over his own life (which would continue in his son) in order to receive life as a gift from God.
- He learned to let go of that which he could see to trust the Unseen One.
- I wonder this morning... Can we learn the same?
- Roger Staubach who led the Dallas Cowboys to the World Championship in ’71 admitted that his position as a quarterback who didn’t call his own signals was a source of trial for him. Coach Landry sent in every play. He told Roger when to pass, when to run and only in emergency situations could he change the play (and he had better be right!). Even though Roger considered coach Landry to have a "genius mind" when it came to football strategy, pride said that he should be able to run his own team.
- Roger later said, "I faced up to the issue of obedience. Once I learned to obey there was harmony, fulfillment, and victory."
- Hebrews 11: 8-10 -- By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
- Abraham learned to trust in the unseen... the city whose builder is God, and he learned to obey.
- It's hard to obey... It's hard to trust completely in God. We often trust more in what we can see and touch.
- Sometimes God has to cut us loose from the things that we've grasped a hold of in a traumatic way, to send us back to him. Perhaps through a loss of job, or public humiliation, or allowing us to wallow in the fallout of some sin for a while, or the stinging rebuke of another person. God brings us to that place where we see ourselves realistically once more - where we are totally dependent on Jesus for acceptance into God's presence, having no claim of our own.
- On whom do you depend? We could spend more time exploring this... We won't.
- This passage and Job are similar in that when we read them we're glad it's happening to them and not to us!
- I'd like you to simply put yourself in Abraham's place. If that were you, what would God ask YOU to place on the altar; to give up; to give completely to Him?
- To what do you grasp? A tradition? A grudge? A job or career plan? One of your children? A reputation? Free time and hobbies? Truth is, God is asking us to surrender it all. To give it over to Him.
- HUDSON TAYLOR (founder of China Inland Mission) used to hang in his home a plaque with two Hebrew Words on it: EBENEZER & JEHOVAH JIREH They mean ‘Up to now the Lord has helped us’ and ‘The Lord will see to it or provide’ One looked back while the other looked forward. One reminded him of God’s faithfulness and the other of God’s assurances.
- How about you this morning... are you trusting the Lord with all that you have?
- Abraham laid down his Isaac. Lay down your Isaac today and remember the words of Andrew Murray: “God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.”
- Bruce Larson tells how he helped people struggling to surrender their lives to Christ:
- "For many years I worked in New York City and counseled at my office any number of people who were wrestling with this yes-or-no decision. Often I would suggest they walk with me from my office down to the RCA Building on Fifth Avenue. In the entrance of that building is a gigantic statue of Atlas, a beautifully proportioned man who, with all his muscles straining, is holding the world upon his shoulders. There he is, the most powerfully built man in the world, and he can barely stand up under this burden. 'Now that’s one way to live,' I would point out to my companion, 'trying to carry the world on your shoulders. But now come across the street with me.’
- "On the other side of Fifth Avenue is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and there behind the high altar is a little shrine of the boy Jesus, perhaps eight or nine years old, and with no effort he is holding the world in one hand. My point was illustrated graphically.
- "We have a choice. We can carry the world on our shoulders, or we can say, 'I give up, Lord; here's my life. I am ready to follow You. I am willing to trust you no matter what, and I am able to believe that you know more, see further and can handle whatever is troubling me far better that I can. I give you my world.'"