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July 27, 2014 - The Call to Wait - Genesis 15:1-6

posted Jul 28, 2014, 6:36 AM by Grant Garber
Due to technical difficulties, this sermon was not recorded.  This is a transcript of the message.

Of all the things God calls us to do in life, none is more important, or more difficult, than the call to wait.

Everyone in the sanctuary today is waiting on something. Some are waiting to see what will happen in an important relationship, or with their children or grandchildren. Others are waiting to see what will happen at work, if they will ever find a job they truly like, or if they will ever be able to retire. Still others are waiting to see what will happen with their health. Some are even waiting to see if they will survive their diseases.

Maybe the hardest waiting is waiting upon God. You have claimed one of the promises of Scripture as God’s promise to you:

Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Jeremiah 33:3: “Call unto me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things you do not know.”

Romans 8:28: “All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purposes.”

Philippians 1:6: “He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion...”

You have taken at least one of these promises to heart, and now you are waiting upon the Lord for the fulfillment of what was promised. So the question today is: How do you survive the wait?

That is certainly the question that Abram was asking in our text. We don’t know how long it has been since he and Sari packed up life in Haran and began their journey with God, solely because God made a promise to them. God promised them a son, land, and a future if they would only follow. But clearly the old couple thinks it has been too long. They have had some good times and some bad times on the journey. What they haven’t had is a son. So they just keep waiting, wandering around, and hoping the promise will come true. God has already spoken a second time to reaffirm the promise. Now, when He comes a third time, He begins by saying in verse 1: “Do not be afraid, Abram.” Don’t fear for your future. Don’t fear that you will not have a son.

So God has made the same promise three times and still no baby. It is like coming to church to hear the promises over and over: “He that has begun a good work will bring it to completion...”

This time Abram doesn't just say, “Thanks for the reminder.” No, he protests. Verse 2: “But Abram said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’” It was as if to say, “It is time to get realistic. It is time to settle for the possible. I’m too old to keep hoping because the hope has started to hurt.”

We echo this when we find ourselves thinking lines such as, “I used to dream about having a calling, but now I’ll settle for a job.” “When we were married we vowed fidelity, but now I’ll settle for staying out of each other’s way.” “I started school excited about learning, but now I’ll settle for getting good enough grades.” We might as well say, “I guess I don’t need you to do a good work, God. I’ll settle for okay. God, how about blessing Eliezer and we will call it even between us.”

Notice how God responds to Abram’s, and our, plans to settle for the realistic. He doesn't try to persuade Abram to keep believing. Nor does He cuddle or cajole him. He certainly doesn't say, “Wow, look at the time. I better hurry up with that kid of yours.” No, God simply reaffirms the promise, making it all the more fantastic. Verse 4: “Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man (a slave born in Abram’s household) will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens...’”

This is the most important thing to remember when you are waiting. Look not to the possible and the realistic. Look toward heaven. “...count the stars --- if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be.” All that we have is God’s often-repeated promise and a choice. But if you want to do more than settle in life, you have to look toward heaven and to wait upon God.

Now why is that? Why does God wait so long to give Abram and Sari that baby? Why does God wait to unfold His promises in life? Why do we just keep wandering around waiting, waiting, waiting?

Abram wasn't just wasting time. No, his waiting became the means by which God molded Abram’s soul. That is why our waiting is all about as well. While we wait, we are making the most important choices of our lives. These are the choices that will determine if we have the soul to be a blessing.

Remember, that was the original blessing. God told Abram, “I will bless you that you may be a blessing.” So the blessing wasn't that Abram would have a son, and it isn’t that you will get all your dreams. The blessing is to bless others, which means to give them a taste of the bliss of heaven. And it is the waiting, when it is done well, that molds your soul into a blessing to those around you. That’s because waiting creates a choice to keep believing. You can’t bless if you don’t believe.

Verse 6 tells us that after lifting his face toward heaven, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” This is the first time we find the word righteousness in the Bible. And isn’t it striking that it has nothing to do with moral codes, the law, standards, thin-lipped piety, or the other things we associate with righteousness? Righteousness has to do with expectancy, with hope, and with a choice to look toward heaven and believe.

Some have wondered aloud why God should declare someone righteous, that is forgive their sin and fit them for heaven, just because they believed they were going to become a father! But this is to miss the point. God was stimulating faith through His word so that Abram would learn to trust the Lord for all that he was unable to do for himself. In exactly the same way God still proclaims His truth through His Word in order that men and women might believe Him and trust Him to be all that they could ever wish for in time and eternity.

Are you starting to see how waiting shapes us into a blessing? We need people who are walking through life expectantly. We need hope. We need believers. The people around us are counting on us to believe. Even if they don’t believe, they need to at least believe that we believe. That’s because there is no blessing in cynicism. All of the important things in life: raising children, maintaining healthy relationships, making a difference, building community, or working for justice are accomplished only by those who believe in something.

The church believes in something. We believe that not only did heaven come down to us in Jesus Christ; not only did He die for our sins, our unrighteousness, and our failures to believe; not only did He rise from the tomb, but Jesus Christ is now reigning over all the earth. And we believe that one day He will bring the righteous Kingdom of God fully to earth.

We have heard this promise for a long, long time, and yet we are still waiting. There are plenty of reasons to doubt and to settle for a world full of violence and injustice. But those of us who choose to still believe, should walk through life as a blessing, particularly to those who do not believe.

Our belief in the reign of Jesus Christ makes us a blessing for several reasons. For one, it makes us a blessing because we long ago gave up the illusion that we are in control. And isn't that already a blessing? Nothing righteous happens when we are in control. After this third visit from God, Abram built another altar and again sacrificed his plans to control God’s promises. Secondly, when we are stuck in confusion, conflicts, or even routine, we can look up to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Seeing His grace for us again, we can more easily offer grace as a blessing. Thirdly, we have a righteous vision of what the world is supposed to look like. That’s why we go to depressed neighborhoods, poor countries, and wherever Jesus Christ is at work building His Kingdom.

Maybe the best way our belief in the reigning Christ makes us a blessing, however, has to do with this notion of expectancy. We, like Abram, wait as a people who expect to be surprised. Again, that is what righteousness originally meant --- expectant. Do you expect to look in the rearview mirror as you leave church to find Jesus in the back seat? You may be surprised and ask Him, “Don’t they need you back there at church?” But Jesus says He’s with you. Then you get home only to find out He’s not planning on leaving. How would that change things? To your amazement you find Him in the car again as you go to work tomorrow morning. So you get to work, or the place you volunteer, and introduce Him to your colleagues saying something like, “I guess it’s ‘Take your Savior to Work Day’”. How would that change the conversations at work, the jokes, or the decisions you make? The point, of course, is that Jesus is in all of these places.

Do you expect Him to be in your home, at school, where you work, or in the car as you run errands? Do you expect Him to do the most miraculous things in all of these places? You do, if you want to be a blessing.

Now, may it be so. Amen.