Abraham is known to the church as a man of faith. Indeed, the Bible holds him up to us as an example of faith: "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (Galatians 3:6). "So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham" (verse 9).
God had appeared to Abram (as he was called then) and said: "...Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward" (Genesis 15:1). The Lord also promised Abram he would be "...buried in a good old age" (verse 15). In addition, God pledged that anyone who tried to harm or curse him would himself be cursed: "And I will...curse him that curseth thee..." (12:3).
Beloved, these are some incredible promises - protection, a long life, heavenly intervention. And God had spoken these things to Abram personally!
Scripture testifies that Abram "...believed in the Lord; and (God) counted it to him for righteousness" (verse 6). It also says Abram was a "friend of God."
Here was a pious, believing servant of God - a man visited by the Lord Himself and promised personal protection and a long life without fear of harm. And Abram believed God. He trusted that the Lord would shelter, protect and shield him from all danger.
You remember Abram's story from this point. He left his country at God's command - totally by faith. God told him, "Everywhere you put your foot will be your land."
Now, Abram was living peacefully on a mountain between Bethel and Hai when a famine struck. Evidently he had a lot of cattle, and he needed pastures and water to feed them. So he decided to pick up and move: "...and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there [live for a while]..." (verse 10).
This was Abram's first mistake. He never should have left the land to which God had sent him. When Abram left the Promised land, he was about seventy years old, and his wife, Sarai, was about sixty. And as they entered pagan Egypt, Abram looked at his beautiful wife and asked her to join him in a subterfuge:
"...I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: therefore...when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee" (verses 11-13).
Abram was saying, "When we get to Egypt, the men will see how beautiful you are - and they'll lust after you and try to kill me! Please - tell everyone you're my sister. I'm putting my life into your hands!"
This was a half-truth. Abram and Sarai had the same father but different mothers, so Sarai was his half-sister. She would only be telling "half a lie" - all to save Abram's skin!
Here was a man who is known to us as the father of faith. God had appeared to him, promising him great protection. But, suddenly, he no longer took the Lord at His Word! Abram knew Egypt was a place of lust, idolatry, confusion - yet he was ready to go there and put his family at extreme risk.
Sure enough, when they got to Egypt, word spread about Sarai's great beauty. Every prince and leader around found out about her. Abram sensed this, so he reminded Sarai: "Remember, you're my sister. We have a deal. My life is in your hands!"
This was absolute cowardice - absolute lack of faith! Abram was subjecting his life to his wife's protection, not God's - to his own human strategy. What a shameful, faithless act! This great man of faith was willing to let his wife be taken from him and put into a heathen harem, where she might be defiled by wicked rulers.
And she was taken by Pharaoh. Scripture says, "The princes...of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. And he entreated Abram well for her sake..." (verses 15-16).
Do you understand what was happening here? The promised seed was to come through Sarai - and she could have been defiled by heathen men!
Shame on both of them for entering into this subterfuge! There was no excuse for Abram's behavior. Can you imagine any godly man placing his wife in the hands of a heathen reprobate? I can only wonder what went through Sarai's mind as she was taken from her husband.
Yet Pharaoh gave Abram a great dowry for Sarai, pouring out all kinds of blessings on him - sheep, oxen, donkeys, camels, servants. Overnight Abram became wealthy. But I wonder if he even slept that night! I would hope he spent his nights on his face before God, questioning his cowardice and lack of faith. How could he sleep when he knew his wife was in the hands of a heathen? She could be defiled - corrupting the seed of God's promise.
I ask you - how could such a man of faith let this happen? Had Abram completely forgotten God's promises? Why didn't he realize, "They can't kill me. God said I would live to a ripe, old age. He promised to be my shield, my protection!"
The Truth Is, Abram Was In No Danger!
Had Abram trusted God - had he stood up boldly and declared, "This woman is my wife. Hands off!" - God would have honored him. The Lord would have protected both him and Sarai. "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). The actual Greek reading of this verse is: "If we are faithless, yet He remains faithful...."
If you had been on the scene that day with Abram, you probably would have said to this man, "Abram, you are really messed up! You're supposed to be a man of faith. God has personally appeared to you and given you all His promises. But now you've missed it completely. You've manipulated and mistreated your lovely wife. You've sinned against the light, Abram. You are unworthy of the blessings God promised you. You're finished!"
No! This was never in God's mind about Abram. God is faithful - even when we are not! The moment Abram committed his life to the Lord, God had a plan for him. And God wasn't going to allow some present circumstance or failure to stop His eternal purpose for Abram's life.
The Lord had promised him, "I will be your shield!" And now God moved in to make good on His promise: He plagued Pharaoh's house! I believe the disease He sent on them made it impossible for any man even to touch Sarai. God shut every womb by shutting down every man. Pharaoh didn't lay a hand on Sarai!
So God did shield Abram and his wife. And now there was no possibility of any heathen person in Egypt to say, "The seed was polluted!" No - God was faithful, even when His people were not!
Somehow Pharaoh realized what had happened. We don't know whether Sarai confessed to him, or whether the Lord revealed it to him. But when he found out she was married, he rebuked Abram, saying, "Why did you do this?" "...take her, and go thy way" (verse 19). "And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had" (Genesis 12:17-20).
God's plan for Abram continued uninterrupted. It was not thwarted by Abram's lack of faith, even though he had failed God miserably. Likewise, beloved, whatever God determines for your life, you cannot stop, if you simply put your life in His hands. He is faithful concerning His purposes for our lives - even when we are not!
Twenty-four years later Abraham (as he was now known) moved south and encamped between Kadesh and Shur, settling down in Gerar. Again he apparently had to move about to feed and water his huge herds of livestock.
Abraham was now ninety-nine years old, and Sarah (as she was called now) was almost ninety. Over the years Abram had seen God's faithfulness in every area of his life. He had defeated the kings who had invaded Sodom. He had rescued Lot and his family. He had met Melchizedek, king of Salem. He had given birth to a son, Ishmael.
Wouldn't you suppose that in those twenty-four years, Abraham had learned to fully trust the Lord? He'd had this many more years of seeing God's keeping power at work in his life - of seeing God's leading and intervention in all his ways.
But in Gerar, something similar happened. King Abimelech, who ruled over that land, set his eyes on Sarah - and he wanted her for his harem! (This must have been one striking woman. I'd like to know what kind of soap Sarah used - what kind of diet she was on, what kind of exercises she did - to be so desired at the age of ninety. Everywhere she went, her reputation of beauty spread - such that kings sent for her!)
What did Abraham do now? He went to Sarah, saying, "I'm asking you to help me again. You're going to have to say you're my sister. Sarah, my life is in your hands!"
Can you believe it? He was still a coward, after twenty-four years! "...and [Abimelech] took Sarah" (Genesis 20:2). Sarah went into yet another pagan's harem - but God's seed had not yet been born. Once again, Abraham put his wife, his family and the future Israel in jeopardy.
If you had stood by and witnessed this, no doubt you would have asked yourself, "What kind of man is this? Is he really supposed to be an example of faith, a picture of a man who believes God? He's telling outright lies!"
Yet what was God's response? He didn't deal with Abraham the way we would have. He didn't say, "Now you've really done it! I delivered you out of a mess like this once before, but now you've gone straight back to your old compromise. Will you ever grow up in Me, Abraham?
"Now I'm going to have to chastise you. You need to understand how you have failed Me, grieved Me, mistrusted Me. I'm going to step aside and let you pay the consequences. Now you'll reap what you have sown!"
No - never! "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful..." (2 Timothy 2:13). God did not chide Abraham or abandon him to work things out for himself. On the contrary, God's plan for Abraham went on unhindered - and right on schedule!
The Lord did the same thing with Abimelech he had done with Pharaoh: He shut every womb! Nobody could touch Sarah. God told Abimelech: "...I withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her" (Genesis 20:6).
Here Is a Picture of God's Restraining Hand!
God restrained Abimelech from acting foolishly to thwart His purposes. He actually kept Abimelech from sinning!
I know all about the restraining hand of the Lord. As I look back over the years of my walk with God, I realize I would not be here today if He hadn't had His restraining hand upon me. He will let His children go only so far - but no further!
I remember awful discouragements in my early days of ministry. At times I felt overwhelmed by all the financial responsibilities. Often I felt like a failure as a husband and father as well. I would get so low, I thought my faith would shatter completely.
On a few occasions, I was convinced there was no use in going on. I never considered suicide or giving up completely on my Lord. But I was tired of all the obligations - tired of not understanding why my life had so many struggles. During those times, I would go to the bank, withdraw some cash, hop in my car and drive away, thinking, "That's it - I've had it! I'm just going to disappear. God will have to take care of my family and this ministry. I can't take any more!"
One particular time, I was driving along, halfway to Mexico from Dallas. But God was sitting in the backseat. He kindly said, "David, where are you going?"
Like Jonah, I answered, "I've had it, Lord. I can't take any more! I'm going to Mexico. Nobody will know me there, and I can witness freely without all these obligations. I'm not running away from You, Lord - I love You. Nor am I running from my family. I love them too. I just don't feel like I'm the man of God I should be."
The Lord said, "Turn the car around now, David, before you do something stupid." But I kept driving. Then, suddenly, I heard His voice saying clearly, "Now, David - turn around now! If you drive another five miles, you're on your own!"
The fear of God hit me - and it shook me up! I have never wanted God to take His Spirit from me. And that warning was His loving hand, restraining me!
Tell me - how many times have you been on the brink of making a foolish, horrible mistake? But then God's restraining Spirit came upon you, telling you, "Hold it - stop right there!" Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful. He comes to restrain us, to hold us - to keep us from doing stupid things!
What About David's Unfaithfulness?
When Samuel anointed David to be Israel's king, the young man was given a new heart: "...Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward...." (1 Samuel 16:13).
David became a man who was godly, wise, loved, full of the fear of God: "And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him" (18:14).
He was a man of much prayer. He praised the Lord as few people ever have, blessing the heart of God with his songs and psalms. Nobody could have been more intimate with the Lord than David.
David was also a man of great faith. He went on to slay Goliath and become a mighty warrior for Saul. Women sang of his exploits on the battlefield. God's Spirit clearly was upon this man, and the Lord obviously had a plan for his life.
But then Saul came after David with wrath, and David had to flee. He ran for his life, hiding in caves. After a while, David simply got tired of the battle. He grew weary, unable to take any more. He must have thought, "If I'm so special to the Lord - if I'm His anointed, chosen man for this hour - then why am I in such deep trouble? Why are so many against me?"
So, David took 400 of his men and fled to Gath - the very hometown of the giant Goliath, whom he had slain. Talk about an unfaithful act! David hadn't asked the Lord about this move. On the contrary - he had decided to put his life in the hands of King Achish of Gath, seeking refuge from him.
But in Gath, hostility arose against David. Everybody whispered, "Isn't this the man people sing about? Hasn't he killed thousands of Philistines? He's the one who killed our giant!"
David was captured and taken to the king. He knew he was trapped, in trouble - so he put on an act of insanity! He pretended to be a madman, raving incoherently, scratching the walls, spittle running down his beard. He hoped that somehow his "insanity" would deliver him from the clutches of King Achish.
Yet, what a poor testimony it was before all of his men! Achish merely looked at David and said, "Why did you bring me a madman? This man has lost his mind. Get him out of here!"
Now, what if we had been on that scene? We would have seen this godly, pious, gentle man raving incoherently, crawling on the grass, screaming and scratching. And we'd have said, "You're not the king of Israel. You blew it, David. You played the fool!"
Indeed, David was unfaithful at that moment. But God was still faithful! He didn't write David off. No - while David was playing the madman, acting foolish, God's eternal purpose for him went onward. Saul's kingdom was growing weaker every day. God was moving everything into place to ensure David's blessing!
If you had gone to the Lord and pointed out all of David's foolishness, I believe God would have answered: "I anointed David king - and he will be king! I know his heart. He will repent quickly, running back to Me - because he has a contrite heart! He is still under My favor and blessing. And My plan for him is still on schedule!"
Perhaps, like David, you have gone through some kind of insane period in your life. You faced utter chaos - and you gave up, saying, "I can't handle it anymore!" So you acted according to your flesh, playing the fool, getting ahead of God.
You ended up angry at yourself, disappointed, ashamed. You thought, "How could an anointed, Spirit-filled person like me have failed God so badly? Surely His blessing has to be taken from me now. I've been so vile, manipulative, dishonest, faithless. God can't use me anymore. He can't still be working on my behalf!"
You are so wrong! God will not allow some present struggle of yours to upset His call, plan and purpose for your life. You may have gotten off track - but God's plan is still on track. It is moving full speed ahead!
Whenever I pray, I keep nearby what I call my "crying towel." At times I am under such a heavy burden that I weep into that towel until there are no more tears left. I'll pray for months about certain overwhelming needs - and yet at times my prayers go unanswered.
On one occasion I cried a river of tears - and I got up from prayer without any peace, without any sense of having broken through. I rolled up that towel and flung it across the room, screaming, "Oh, God - I've cried a river of tears! I have pleaded and prayed for so long. But You don't answer! Lord, what do You want from me?"
I walked away heavy-hearted. And yet the very next week, one prayer after another was answered!
The whole time I had been raging at God - throwing my towel against the wall, thinking He had failed me - He had been at work behind the scenes! He was moving people's hearts, arranging things - bringing about the plan He had in mind all along.
I had to run back to Him in repentance - crying like a baby over my unfaithfulness. "I'm sorry, Lord - forgive me! Oh, that I had held on for just one more day!"
I was not faithful in trusting - but He remained faithful!
What About Peter - the Apostle
Who Cursed and Denied His Lord?
This was the man who said he would never desert Jesus. Yet, not only did Peter deny he knew Him - but he did it with a stream of profanities pouring from his mouth!
What if you had been standing near the fire, listening to Peter? You would have thought, "Is this the man who was on the Mount of Transfiguration? the one who laid hands on the sick, and they recovered? the one entrusted with the keys to the kingdom? Listen to what's coming out of his mouth!
"How could this man walk so intimately with the Lord, confessing, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God' - and then blow up like this, lying, cursing and denying Him? It's all over for Peter. He might as well go back to his fishing nets. He'll never be heard of again."
No - never! The eternal purpose of God in Peter's life was not thwarted. True, Peter was terribly unfaithful. But God remained faithful. He could not deny who He is!
Had you run to the Lord, crying, "Didn't You see Peter cursing You?", He would have answered, "Yes, Peter has failed Me. But I know his heart. He's going to be on a hill in a few hours, weeping and crying. He's coming back to Me. In fact, he's on his way to Pentecost - to a life of ministry for Me!" "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself" (2 Timothy 2:13).
No matter what you've been through this past year, God looks on your heart! If you have a broken and contrite spirit, He will be there for you. His eternal purpose for you will not be thwarted. He will see it through!
This brings me to God's warning:
There Is Only One Thing That Can Cause
the Lord To Turn Aside From You!
Only one thing can abort God's wonderful purpose for you - and that is the sin of stubborn pride! We see this in the life of Saul. Scripture tells us God's Spirit was on this man, from the day Samuel saw him coming down the road. God had called Saul, and He was using him.
But there was something in Saul that emerged quickly - an arrogant pride! Saul would not confess or admit his sin. Instead, he blamed others to justify his actions. He was more concerned with keeping up appearances than with what God thought of him.
Beloved, this was the difference between David and Saul - pride! Think about it: David sinned as grievously as Saul did. After all, Saul never killed another woman's husband.
But David quickly repented of his sin. When Nathan pointed out his grievous act, David didn't justify it. Rather, he immediately cried out, "God, don't take Your Holy Spirit from me! All I want is to please You. I don't want to live for myself. I know I have failed You. But, please, forgive me - cleanse my heart!"
When Saul was caught in sin, however, he grabbed hold of Samuel's skirt and cried, "Don't take my kingdom from me! Please, stand with me. Don't let me look bad in front of my people."
Saul went through the motions. He was more interested in what the people thought about him than in having grieved the Holy Spirit!
Beloved, it is pride - a haughty, unmoveable spirit - which brings men down! But a broken heart, a contrite spirit, captures the heart of the Lord. It doesn't matter what you've been through, or how you've failed the almighty God; if you're like Peter - if you run to weep it all out before Him after you've failed - He will stand with you. He always stands with those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Just before I wrote this message, I prayed, "Lord, make me a voice for You in these last days. I know I can't be a voice for You unless You keep changing me. I can't speak for You until the things of this world mean nothing to me - until I am the image of Jesus Christ. Please, Lord - change me."
Even as I prayed, I felt so inadequate - so far from what God wants of me. I thought, "I don't think I'll ever make it. I'll never be worthy enough."
That's when the Lord gave me this very message! He said, "You're right, David - you'll never be holy enough, by your own standards and works. But right now I'm not looking for you to do some great thing for Me. I want you to know that, even as you're lying here praying, I'm at work being faithful to you, for My eternal purpose. And I'm going to see My purpose through in your life!"
Beloved, the Lord is going to do that for every one of us! He uses the weak, foolish things of the world to accomplish His purposes. We all fail the Lord; no one in His church is perfect. Yet every time we are unfaithful to Him, He remains faithful to us!
So, take your eyes off of your failures and weaknesses, and fix them on His faithfulness. He cannot deny Himself. He is utterly faithful to His Word - and He is going to see you through all your battles! Hallelujah!
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This data file is the sole property of World Challenge. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware," without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice [i.e., "Copyright © 1999 by World Challenge"]. This data file may not be used without the permission World Challenge for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content with the exception of a few brief quotations. Please give the following source credit: Copyright © 1999 by World Challenge, Lindale, Texas, USA.
This material is solely for personal use and is not to be posted publicly on other web pages. The Lorain County Free-Net Chapel holds exclusive rights from World Challenge, Inc. to publicly post these messsages on its web page. You are free to download, copy, print and distribute this material, so long as you do not post it on a different Internet site. You may, however, link this site to reference these messages.
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