God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes He works in our lives in such a way that we do not really understand. Sometimes He answers prayers in a way that we weren’t expecting. And sometimes, from our perspective, we don’t see Him working at all. And in the midst of it all, we sometimes question God and wonder, ‘how are you possibly in the midst of this?’ We rationalize and say that “it’s always good to have a back up plan” and rely partly on God and partly on our own instead on relying completely on God as we are commanded to do. When we do that we are double minded between the world and God. In this hesitation there leaves no room for true faith but rather faith becomes a matter of opinion. We never are certain because we never quite give authority to our invisible God. This hesitation is the death of hope. It is so tempting and easy to take it upon ourselves and help God get His plans going instead of letting God lead. So how can we trust God when we do not know what the future holds?
I’ll tell you a little bit about my story. When God called me to Youth Ministry, I questioned God’s leading and thought His leading was ridiculous. My undergrad is in Gerontology, the study of old age, the only youth ministry experience I had was attending Youth Group as a teenager and to be quite frank, teenagers scared me! I questioned God many times trying to figure out what He was doing. Many times I felt very discouraged of God’s leading because it didn’t seem to make sense to me. But I knew I needed to obey God because He knew what He was doing. Abraham’s story of faith was one of the stories of faith that drove me to continue marching on.
As Christians, we have faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “…confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see.” Paul describes the life of the Christian as living by faith and not by sight. In the book of Hebrews, faith involves active obedience; meaning you show your faith in God when you obey Him and where He leads you. Martin Luther King Junior said it well when he said, “faith is taking the next step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” It was by faith that enabled Abraham to overcome obstacles that from a human perspective were impossible.
God asked Abraham to leave his home and family. Abraham obeyed without hesitation even though he did not know all the details. He was called by God to go to a place where he would receive his inheritance although he did not know where he was going. Abraham left the known and familiar into the unknown and unfamiliar following God’s lead. He acted based on God’s promise alone completely controlled by God and his promise which, is what faith entails. Abraham acted upon his faith by obeying God and showing that He trusts Him.
Then once he arrived at the Promised Land, he lived as a foreigner in tents. Sometimes obeying God mean sacrifice. God sometimes asks us to give up our secure familiar surroundings in order to carry out his will. Even still, verse 10 tells us that Abraham “looked forward” to what God had in store. In the midst of the unknown, even if we do not know what the future holds for us, our faith gives us hope for the future.
I’m always marveled at the faith of Abraham and Sarah because where God led them seemed absolutely ridiculous yet they showed their faith in God even know they did not know all the unknowns. Let’s stop for a moment and put ourselves in the shoes of Abraham and Sarah. Who here has children? Who here had children when they were 90 years old and older? Who here thinks that sounds absolutely ridiculous? Well when Abraham and Sarah had Isaac, he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old. It’s no wonder Sarah laughed when she heard she was going to have a child. It is humanly impossible!
In the end, God fulfilled his promise to Abraham. He received the land and has descendants as numerous as the stars. (Pause). Despite Abraham not knowing what the future held, and despite living as a foreigner in the land God promised to give to him, he obeyed God trusting in His promise. Despite Abraham and Sarah being well past childbearing age, He trusted God would fulfill His promise. So although the future seemed preposterous, this did not alter his faith.
Honestly, there probably isn’t anything harder than waiting whether we’re expecting something good, bad or unknown. One way we cope is helping God get his plan into action or conclude what we are waiting for is never going to happen.
In Abraham’s case, God promised him the Promised Land and descendants as numerous as the stars. When he got there, he lived as a foreigner but he continued to look forward to that day it that would be inherited to him. God promised Him and Sarah a child even though they were very old. It was humanly impossible yet they looked beyond their humanness and trusted Him. Scripture doesn’t tell us that Abraham doubted God but rather obeyed without hesitation. He said yes to God’s leading with the drop of a hat because the faith he had in our promise-keeping God.
But if we are honest with ourselves, saying “yes” to God is really hard sometimes and never doubting God or obeying without hesitation is really hard sometimes. Perhaps we pray for something and God answers it in a completely different way than we were expecting and that is hard for us to handle sometimes. Or perhaps you pray and nothing happens. Or a loved one gets sick and the future doesn’t look good. Sometimes the future looks grim or it looks confusing and we wondering, ‘what are you up to God?’ And it’s scary not knowing what the future holds: whether it involves the world, our nation, Berwick or even this church.
But faith is so freeing. The African impala can jump over 10 feet high and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet in one jump. Yet, within the walls of a 3-foot high wall at a zoo, they won’t jump. They will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. We can be like that African Impala sometimes. We don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, we don’t know exactly what is going to happen in the next hour. Like the African Impala who will not jump where they cannot see, fear can make us freeze when we do not know what is going to happen next. Faith is so freeing! Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot see. …confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see.” Living by faith and not by sight. In the book of Hebrews, faith involves active obedience; obedience means trust. Faith is taking the next step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Frankly, sometimes God’s leading can seem preposterous, but faith gives reason to trust our promise keeping God. I want everyone, if you can, to put your hand on your chest. We probably all feel the same thing. Your heartbeat. The human heart beats about 60 to 100 times per minute and each of those beats is a gift from God. God woke you up those morning. That means God has a plan for you today. God has a purpose for you today. Paul tells us that God chose us before the foundations of the world. He chose you. He didn’t have to create you but He did. Isn’t it such a comfort to know you are chosen by God. So if we are chosen by God and He has breathed life to us and has given us the gift of a heartbeat today, that means God’s promises apply to us too.
If God promises He has plans for you, plans for you to prosper, not to harm you but plans to give you a hope and a future, then he does. If God promises He will comfort you when you’re down, then He will. If God promises He listens to your prayers, then He does. If God promises that if you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you, then He does every time. The Bible is filled with promises from God to us. Our God is an unchanging God so why is it we doubt Him sometimes and doubt His leading? Our humanness gets in the way sometimes when we try to help God along with His plan; but that only shows our lack of trust in Him.
We can learn from Abraham and the faith He had in God; he was always mindful that God always keeps His promises, no matter how ridiculous they may sound. So when God leads us somewhere, and it seems ridiculous, that is when our faith in God will shine through. Instead of humming and hawing like I did when God called me to youth ministry as I questioned His leading, we should remind ourselves of Abraham’s faith who obeyed God without hesitation. Abraham obeyed God because he had faith knowing God knew what He was doing despite Abraham perhaps not completely understanding.
Some days, I still question God’s leading into youth ministry but what I know now is God has brought teenagers to Evan and I who may not have heard of Jesus otherwise. Even if that is the only reason, and I never know all the details of what God is up to, I’m convicted that I ever mistrusted God’s leading. Even though it seemed ridiculous at the time, He has brought me to and through that experience trusting Him more than ever before.
Our willingness to obey God is dependent on how much we trust Him. Even though Abraham was not readily seeing what was being promised to him, what kept him going was faith and the hope that God would fulfill his promises. What kept him going was confidence in God who does and always will keep His promises. God is faithful and unchanging; if he kept His promises then, He does now as well.
As I mentioned in the beginning, sometimes He works in our lives in such a way that we do not really understand. And that is okay. He is God and we are not. Sometimes He answers prayers in a way that we weren’t expecting and then we look back and the pieces start to fall together. And sometimes, from our perspective, we don’t see Him working at all and if that’s the case perhaps we need to check our priorities and ask ourselves, am I God over my situation or am I letting God be God?
So how can we trust God when we do not know what the future holds? God works in mysterious ways and that’s okay. Because we have a God who can and does the impossible. And we also have a trustworthy God who always keeps His promises no matter how preposterous the future may seem. We have faith. Faith allows us to break from the chains of fear knowing we can trust our future as a church, as a community and as Christ’s disciples by trusting in our promise keeping God.