May 8, 2018
Is God faithful? Does God really care about me? Does He have my back right now? Will God provide? Or is everything really up to me? Those are the kind of faith questions we live with everyday. But it seems that I never really needed a clear answer to the question “Is God faithful?” until the fall of 2008. You see in the fall of 2008 we had just moved to Tacoma, Washington to begin a new ministry. But we had not yet sold our home in Albany, Oregon. We weren’t worried about selling it because our home was big and beautiful and it backed up to an amazing green space and no one would ever be able to build behind it. So it was a great property. But then something happened: the housing market crashed, and no one was buying or selling anything. Now I was fine for a couple of months. But then October turned to November, November to December, and December turned to January and nothing was happening. We’d even lowered the prices a couple of times and I began to wonder if God was going to provide for us. After all, He had always provided for us. But this time was different, because now it was starting to look like we might lose all the equity that we’d built up over the past 20 years.
So I found myself asking that question, Is God faithful? After all, the Bible says, the righteous will live by faith. So what would I do? Then I read Matthew 6 where God’s Word tells us not to worry about our lives, what we will eat or drink, or about what we will wear, and was reminded how my heavenly Father knows our needs and will provide our needs. It’s like I was reading this truth for the first time, and I made a decision that day to trust God no matter what. After that a couple of things happened: First, I was free. I no longer worried about it. Second, a sense of security came over me. I was actually okay with loosing everything, because I knew that God was so much bigger than my worries. He would provide. I had passed this crisis of faith.
But what about you? Do you ever find yourself wondering: Is God faithful? Do you ever ask: Will God have my back when I need Him most? Or do you go through life worrying about everything and thinking that everything in this life really up to you? You see, if you’ve ever asked those questions you are not alone, for those are the kinds of questions God’s people have always asked. In fact, that’s really what Life In The Story of God is all about: It’s about living by faith.
So as we return to The Story of God this morning, that’s what we are going to see. In fact, in The Story So Farwe have walked through the faith stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Each of their stories remind us of the struggles we face in walking by faith, and yet each story also tell us of the faithfulness of God. For their stories wouldn’t even be here if God had not introduced to Abraham what He wanted to do through him. That’s where I want to start this morning, for at the heart of the Story of God is the Unifying Kingdom Theme that flows through the Bible. And that unifying Kingdom theme is this, from the very beginning it has been God’s desire to have “God’s People in God’s Place Under God’s Rule and Blessing.” And that’s what God established in the garden with Adam and Eve: Life as God designed it to be. Life where there was harmony in their relationship with one another, and harmony in their life with God, and a life where they experienced God’s blessing daily. Life was good. Life was very good.
But then we saw how Adam and Eve’s choice to live independent of God’s rule had devastating consequences on us all. Through their rebellion sin entered the world, harmony in our relationships now suffer, and the natural bent of man is to go his own way apart from God’s rule and blessing. That’s when God’s Kingdom Perished.
But even though man had gone his own way, God wasn’t done with us. This is the part of God’s story where Abraham comes in. For in Genesis 12, God comes to Abram and introduces His plan to restore His kingdom by blessing the nations through Abraham. Here we were introduced to The Kingdom Promised: Let’s read this together: The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “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. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3
That final promise is where we are now connected with God’s promise. All the people on earth will be blessed through Abraham, because it is through Abraham’s seed where Jesus comes. This is what God’s Word declares: If you belong to Christ,then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:29 So then, just as Abraham was blessed to be a blessing, so now we who are in Christ have been blessed to be a blessing. That’s how we are connected with God’s Story, with Abraham’s Story, with Isaac’s, Jacob’s and Joseph’s story. They lived by faith in God’s promise, much the same way we today are called to live by faith. So then, as we prepare to take the next step in God’s Story, let’s look back and see how God was faithful to each of these men.
And we begin this faith journey by looking at Abraham’s Story of a Tested Faith: Abraham listened to God’s call and left family and country behind and went to the land God promised him. Upon arriving, the first test Abram faced was whether he would worship the idols of the new land or continue to worship this invisible God who sent him here. He passed that test and built an altar to worship Him. But he failed his next test when a famine came and he went with his wife to Egypt. He was afraid of what might happen to his wife Sarah, so he had her lie and say she was his sister. He failed that test of faith, because he did not trust God to protect him and bring him back safely. But God did protect him and even made him wealthy with livestock and silver and gold, so much so that a conflict arose between his herders and Lot’s herders. This led to his next test: Will Abram trust God to provide when presented with land. Faced with this conflict caused by their growing wealth, Abram could have been greedy and taken the best land for himself, but he chose to be generous. He gave Lot his choice of land. We now see the growth of Abram’s faith.
In fact, throughout Abraham’s story, God tested his faith. Over and over again the question came to Abraham: Will God provide? Will God protect? Will God deliver? And with each test Abraham’s faith grew. At times he faltered, taking matters into his own hands. Like the time Sarah gave him her maidservant to provide the child of promise. That turned out to be a messy business resulting in the creation of the Arab nations through the birth of Ishmael. But eventually God delivered on His promise to give and offspring to Abraham and Isaac was born to Sarah. After that came one final test. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:1-2 Finally, God gave Abraham his hardest test of faith. Will Abraham trust God with what’s most important to him? We know the answer. He did. And just as he was ready to obey God and sacrifice his son, God intervened and provided one last time: God provided a lamb for the sacrifice. Abraham trusted God and God delivered.
And from Abraham’s story we learned three key truths about our story with God:
- God will protect you. Like Abraham we are strangers in a strange land. This is not our home. There will be times when you will be tested to let fear control you. But do not fear. God has your back. God will always protect you.
- God will provide for you. God provided Abraham with wealth, land, and an offspring. God gave Abraham what He promised. And if He can provide for Abraham, He can provide what you need. You can trust Him. He is faithful.
- God will be for you. This is what God promised Abraham, and what He promises us. Let this New Testament reminder encourage you today:If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31-32
That’s Abraham’s Story. His faith was tested so God could grow his faith. Our story is no different. We will be tested. We will be tested to live by fear rather than faith. We will be tested to live by our own resources rather than by faith. And we will be tested to live as though all of life is up to us rather than by to live by faith. And every time we are tested, we must ask ourselves: Is God faithful?Your story may be quite different than Abraham’s, but just as God was faithful to him, He will be faithful to you, if you trust Him. That’s Abraham’s story.
Now let’s look now at Isaac’s Story of a Compromised Faith: Now there’s not much to Isaac’s story, other than to say, what happened with Isaac can happen to you. So how did Isaac compromise his faith? That story is told in Genesis 27, where Isaac is getting ready to impart his blessing to his firstborn son, Esau. Now, the giving his blessing was supposed to be a big deal, celebrated by the whole community, but Isaac chose to give Esau his blessing in secret. Why? Because Isaac knew that Jacob had already stolen Esau’s birthright. So Isaac wants to give his blessing secretly because he knows that the one who receives his blessing will be the heir of God’s promises… So here’s the compromise: Isaac compromises his faith by showing favoritism to the one son who has no faith. Esau could care less about the promises of God. He was a man of the flesh. And you might even say that was also true of Isaac. He compromises his faith for a bowl of stew.
But Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, overhears his plan and conceives a scheme to get him to bless Jacob instead. Her plan works and Jacob receives the blessing. But here again where we learn something of God’s faithfulness. Even though Isaac’s flesh led him to compromise his faith, Isaac’s blessing will stand. And God will indeed bless Jacob. So what do we learn from Isaac’s story? That God will remain faithful even when we are not. God’s Word tells us that: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful”2 Timothy 2:13
And the reason He remains faithful is that His faithfulness is not dependent on our actions. God’s faithfulness to us is dependent upon His character. And that’s good news. We are prone to wander, even though we’ve been delivered from the power of the flesh by the blood of Christ, the flesh in us still works to reclaim its power over us. The flesh in us still wants to lead us, call the shots and get us to live by the flesh rather than by faith. So sometimes we will sin, sometimes we might even walk away from God for a season. But God will never walk away from us. That’s Isaac’s story. He was faithful to Isaac even though he compromised his faith. And He will be faithful to you.
Let’s look now at Jacob’s Story of a Dysfunctional Faith: Now we see from Isaac’s story that Jacob received the blessing out of the deceitful scheming of his mother. But Jacob wasn’t an innocent bystander in the story. He willingly participated in his mother’s ruse to deceive his dad to get the blessing, and even brought God’s name into the ruse to manipulate his father into giving him the blessing. Jacob himself was a bit of a momma’s boy, a deceiver and manipulator, and had his own problems of the flesh. He was truly the offspring of a dysfunctional family, hence he had a dysfunctional faith. In fact, because he was such a deceiver and manipulator, you would have to say that Jacob lived more by fear than by faith. That’s his story.
It was fear that sent him fleeing to the safety of his uncle Laban’s. But along the way, in Genesis 28 Jacob meets God at Bethel, where God gave Jacob these four promises:
- He will give Jacob the same blessingsHe gave to Abraham and Isaac
- He will watch over Jacob wherever he goes
- He will bring Jacob back to the land
- He will never leave Jacob until He has fulfilled His promises
And that’s just what happens. God blesses Jacob during his time with Laban. He protects and prospers Jacob, and begins to build the nation He has promised, giving Jacob 11 sons while living under his uncle’s protection. But after serving 20 years of hard labor under Laban, often deceived and cheated, God commands Jacob to return to his land. And Jacob obeys, but keeps his departure a secret from Laban because he is still led by fear. But when Laban discovers this, he is furious and pursues him with everything he’s got. He’s ready to do battle with Jacob. But God warns Labon in a dream to be careful with Jacob. But he confronts Jacob anyway accusing him of one thing after another, and even accusing him of stealing one of his household idols. At that point Jacob admits he was afraid of Laban. But then he turns the tables after realizing that God was with him and says: If the God of my father,the God of Abraham and the Awesome One of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night He rebuked you.” Genesis 31:40-42
Finally, Jacob takes his stand as a man of faith. And his transformation should give us all hope. Because in many ways we’re just like Jacob: We don’t always live by faith. We try everything under the sun to make a life other than faith. We live by fear, we live by the flesh and we don’t always trust in God. But the good news is that even if you don’t trust Him, God will never give up on you. This is what God’s Word declares: I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 You may struggle today being led by your fears or your flesh, but God doesn’t want you to stay captive by them. If you have a faith in Jesus Christ, God promises to change you, and make you into a man or woman of faith. That’s what’s so hopeful about Jacob’s story. As He was faithful to Jacob, He promises to be faithful to you. He will watch over you. He will be with you. And He will never leave you until He’s finished the work He promised to do in you. That’s Jacob’s Story. Is it yours?
Finally, lets look at Joseph’s story of a Model Faith Joseph, the firstborn son of Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife. Joseph, the favored son of Jacob, who was blessed by his dad with a coat of many colors. Joseph, the dreamer who boasted before his brothers of how one day they would all bow before him. Joseph, who is thrown into a well and then sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph, who is falsely accused in the house of Potiphar and put in prison. Joseph who interprets the cup-bearer’s dream, but then is forgotten. Joseph who never wavers in his faith but rises to the be the servant of the captain of the guard. Joseph who is then finally remembered when Pharaoh has a nightmare no one can interpret. Joseph, who interprets Pharaoh’s dream and is exalted to the highest position in the land. Joseph who then saves Egypt from famine and is praised in all of Egypt. Joseph, who conceals his identity from his brothers, when they come to him for help feeding their families. Joseph, who saves his family, reveals his true identity, and brings them all to Egypt where they prosper and begin to grow into a great nation.
And throughout his entire story, no matter what happens to him whether good or evil, Joseph never wavers from his faith in God. In his darkest hours in prison, Joseph believed God was with him. When forgotten by the cup-bearer, Joseph knew that God had not forgotten him. And later, after his family is safe and prospering in Egypt, and Jacob dies, and the brothers come to Joseph, still fearing retribution for their sin against him, Joseph reveals the finest hour of his faith when he says: “Don’t be afraid.Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” Genesis 50:19-21 That’s Joseph’s story. He shows us how to live by faith when our world gets turned upside down. He simply continued to believe that God was with him, so he trusted God and walked with God no matter what the circumstance. And what did in Joseph’s story. God was faithful.
That’s the theme of the Story so Far through the book of Genesis. God is faithful. God called Abraham and promised to make him into a great nation. And that’s what we see happening at the end of Genesis.
So the next time you find yourself wondering if God will provide for you…
Or you find that you’ve wandered from Him…
Or you think you’ve messed up your life…
Or find yourself in a dark place, feeling that maybe you’ve been forgotten by God…
Ask yourself: Is God faithful?
And remember He was faithful to Abraham.
God was faithful to Isaac
God was faithful to Jacob
God was faithful to Joseph
And He will be faithful to you.