Transforming Stories: How your story points to His Story! (Week 12)

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“The Scandal of Trust: When trust is the only thing you have left!”

Hebrews 11:17-19 (ESV)

March 26, 2017 by Pastor Jerry Ingalls


What happens in life when all we have left is trust? 

A middle-aged woman finds a lump and finds herself with more doctor visits in the coming months than she has had in years. She prays and prays, has her family & friends & church pray, only to hear the ‘C’ word—she has cancer. Her mind goes blank as she finds herself walking out of the doctor’s office; suddenly her vision clouds over as the tears start falling… Now what?

An older man has just been let go of at work. He is in his late-fifties and has been at the same company since his 30s and now: no job; nothing to show for over 20 years of loyalty; the last kid still in college; a 30-year mortgage, twice refinanced, that still needs to be paid… His mind races out of control as he carries a cardboard box filled with family pictures and worthless tokens out the side door for the last time, heading to the parking lot, heading to… Now what?

A teenager’s parents are fighting more than ever; the word divorce being thrown around more and more. His grades are suffering, his friends are inviting him to go to parties, he is having a hard time focusing as his world seems to be crumbling around him. Is there really a God and if so, how could he possibly be good, and does God even care about people like him? He heads out the front door with hopes of ending up somewhere better than here… Now what?

A young couple, recently married, is so excited to have become pregnant in hopes of starting a family together. Three months later, with a nursery under construction, a baby registry filled out, names being discussed, and invitations in the mail, the wife calls the husband from work crying as something terrible is happening and the EMTs are putting her in the ambulance. She needs him to meet her at the hospital as she won’t stop bleeding; she thinks they lost the baby. Their world starts narrowing and the next breath is too hard to take as he races out of the factory running to his car… Now what?

“Now what?” is right! What happens in life when all that we worked for, hoped for, dreamed of seems to be taken from us in a moment? What races through our minds?  

[This is a message I need to sit down for…]

That is the situation we are confronted with in today’s lesson. A situation so relevant to our own stories that we are scandalized by God’s presence in this story. A story about unlikely parents—an old man and his wife—and their young son whose name means “laughter.” An impossible story from beginning to end. A story of death and life. A story of loss and gain. A transforming story that foreshadows the Easter Story. A story that keeps being told…

Listen to Hebrews 11:17-19“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, [18] of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ [19] He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”

Let me share a roadmap of where we are going today: 1) we are going to learn something about God; and 2) we are going to learn how to apply that truth in our everyday lives.

Remember this about the Bible:

  • The aim of Scripture is God, more than it is to learn about the people of the story.
  • The application of the point (the “so what?”) is about how we respond to what we learn from the Scripture about God.
  • We learn and apply Scripture by watching how the people in the story respond to their situation based on what they believe about God. Faith births faithfulness. Truth leads to application.

Knowing this, let’s now read the story found in Genesis 22:1-19.

Here is the aim of this story: God is trustworthy and true. God keeps His promises. God provides for that which God promises. God is consistent to His own character.

If we had time, I could share with you literally dozens of other Bible stories that testify to these truths about God. If we had all day, we could have testimony after testimony that this is true about God.

But the next step is the hard one! If you believe that God is trustworthy, then what do you do when all you are left with is your faith in a trustworthy God?    …Now what?

Here is the application of this story: This is the climax of Abraham & Sarah’s story with God. They have been on amazing journey with God, chasing His promise and the fulfillment of that which caused them to leave their homeland in search of God’s Promised Land (Genesis 12:1-3). For 45 years, Abraham and Sarah spent time with God causing them to know His attributes and character (Genesis 12:4—21:34). When God asked them to return to Him the precious gift he had given them (Isaac), they trusted God for who they knew Him to be—trustworthy in character and true to His promises!

The Bible doesn’t say it was easy for them; it just records them doing it! Because of who they knew God to be (relationships!) they said “yes” to a painful offering: they offered their 15-year old son to God simply because He asked it of them; they did not understand His command or know if they would ever get him back. They made a painful offering!

Have you ever made a painful offering to God?

Maybe God wants you to sell all that you have; maybe God wants you to give your kidney to someone else who needs it; maybe God wants you to donate blood on a regular basis; maybe God wants you to give your extra car to someone who needs a car; maybe God wants you to give your time to visit lonely people or help those who can’t do what you can; maybe God wants you to move, sell your house, quit your job, use your talents more, be generous with what He has provided for you. Maybe God asks because He knows more than you do…

King David said, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).

Obedience is an outflow of trust! Faith begets faithfulness and putting your faith into practice causes you to know God more and trust Him for who He is and not for who you wish Him to be. Christianity is not about your choosing when to obey; calculating when to make sacrifices or living a life of self-flagellation in hopes that God will make your life workout for you. That is twisted and self-serving. We must live with a constant willingness to obey, ready to respond when God asks. It is about trust!

 Jesus concludes his famous Sermon on the Mount with a very specific teaching that makes this point: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).

(Illustration with chair*) Let me bring it all together for you: Learning that God is trustworthy is important, but it is only impactful IF you now go out there and put your full weight into the promise; you don’t trust God until you have had to trust God; you can’t really proclaim that “God is good all the time” until you have found Him good in your own life and circumstances! Otherwise it is truth divorced of reality. God did for Abraham and Sarah what they could not learn on their own; He gave them an opportunity to put their full weight onto Him!

That is who God is—His character; His attributes; His actions; His judgements. But the only way we can discover that God is trustworthy is by putting our trust in Him! This is what we learn by watching Abraham and Sarah as the people of the promise; that is what we see when Sarah trusts Abraham, and together they trust God: “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8). And here is where our text from Hebrews 11:19 helps us understand the depth of Abraham and Sarah’s faith: “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead.”

Their faith allowed them to trust God in the worst of circumstances! With Isaac being taken from them, trust in God was all they had left… Not trust that God would give them what they wanted or fix their circumstances; but trust that no matter what may come, God was with them.

When my wife and I went through the miscarriage of our 3rd child; it was heart wrenching, but God was true to His promise: Immanuel—“God is with us”! And His presence comforted us and assured us.

The greatest risk of this sermon has been to ask you to join with me in the presumption that you are willing to “trust” God; that you would have faith in Him. Faith is scandalous in today’s world; just as trusting another person is risky business. But that ends up being the point of the sermon: you must risk trust to learn how to trust; you must take a step of faith to learn what faith is. You only know what you know until you live what you know!

[chair illustration: Can you really know what a chair is unless you have put your full weight into a chair?]

 Do you know this God? The God who sacrificed His one and only Son. Jesus gave it all on the Cross so that whosoever puts their full weight onto Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Will you trust Him with your life and circumstances?

 … Now What?

 …For the middle-aged woman who just found out she has cancer…

…For the older man who just lost his job…

…For the teenager who is lonely and lost…

…For the young couple who just lost their baby…

…For you and your circumstances…

…For me in my own…

[bring chair down to response area] I invite you to symbolically come down and take a moment to rest in this chair…

 Let’s pray and ask God, “Lord, can I put my full weight onto you? … I trust you with my life, not to make it work out the way I want, but that you will be with me through it all … forever.”

 

*An optional illustration to support Chair Imagery: Lean Your Whole Weight on Him

The islanders were cannibals. Nobody trusted anybody else. His life was in constant danger. He had come to tell them the good news about Jesus. He wanted to translate John’s Gospel into their language, but he discovered that there was no word in their language for ‘faith’, ‘belief’ or ‘trust’.

John Paton (1824–1907), a Scot, had traveled to the New Hebrides (a group of islands in the south-west Pacific) determined to tell the tribal people about Jesus, but he struggled to find the right word for ‘faith’. One day, when his indigenous servant came in, Paton raised both feet off the floor, sat back in his chair and asked, ‘What am I doing now?’ In reply, the servant used a word that means, ‘to lean your whole weight upon’. This became the expression that Paton used. Faith is leaning our whole weight upon Jesus.

Source: sent to me in an email from Scott; original source unknown.


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