Genesis 15:1-16 Getting to Know God on Your Trip of Faith – Making the Impossible a Reality Part 4
Everyone is on a trip of faith. Some are thinking about placing their faith for eternal life in Jesus Christ. Others have made the decision to follow Jesus. These two groups of people still make the same journey. Their journey is for eternity.
Yet, there is a big difference. Some will walk along a faith road and think they will go to heaven and meet God. But it is not the right road. It is the wrong road. Jesus called it the wide road. He said many people would go down this road. Even people who say they believe in God will go down this road. This is the wrong way, and you will get lost walking it.
But God knows this and so He is nearby. He keeps pointing the way to everyone. To those who don’t believe in His son Jesus, He points to Jesus Christ His Son and says: He will lead you the right way. You need to follow Him.
To those who have chosen the right path, God lets the Holy Spirit give the directions. The Holy Spirit teaches us the right way. We need to be led by the Holy Spirit.
But in both cases, God designed our trip so that we would get the chance to know Him. Knowing God keeps you on track. So God will take many opportunities in your life for you to learn to trust Him, love Him, learn from Him, and follow Him along this road. We see such an example in the life of Abraham.
If God wants us to live by faith, and He expects this for those who follow Him, then God has given us examples to find out how to live by faith. This evening, I want us to look at God and what He is doing in the life of Abraham – someone God called a friend. We are going to look at specifically what God does in this instance in Abraham’s life and see how we can get to know God on our journey of faith.
God will try to get your attention
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
(Genesis 15:1 NKJV)
In ancient times, God spoke to His people in visions and dreams.
- In sleep – dreams
God has and still does speak to His servants in dreams.
- When awake – visions
God speaks to you when you are awake. He spoke to His servants in the Old Testament in two distinct ways:
- In a bit of ecstasy. Isaiah 6 is a perfect example. John in the book of Revelation is another.
- In a representation. This means that God physically appears to you and speaks to you. Some would say today that this is a daydream. Some doctors would even say that people who experience this have a mental disease.
How does this happen today? My simple answer is that God puts thoughts in your mind. God will put things in your mind to tell you what He wants you to know. But when He does this, He never contradicts Himself. That means what you hear has to harmonize with the Bible. If the Bible prohibits something, God will never tell you to do it. If the Bible expects you to do something, then you will get a “sense” or “compulsion” to do it. This is the Holy Spirit telling you to do it.
Why am I talking about the methods that God uses to talk to you? Because many times, He will try to get your attention. He was trying to get Abraham’s attention here. Abraham did not come to God in prayer. Instead, God came to Abraham. So it is mostly with us. We should be taking each and every matter to God in prayer. But many times, God has to get our attention. He may do it through many ways and with different people.
God will try to get your attention to tell you something important about Him.
God has just delivered Abram through a war. He has protected Abram and helped him receive a financial reward. The Lord speaks to Abram and confirms his faith. Abram learns something new about God. Abram experiences God in a new way.
Abram has many doubts in his mind. For example, he wonders when God says a promise: “I will give this land to your descendants”, Abram doubts it. Why?
Abram has bought this land that his people will inherit. But the region was very unstable. Just northeast of his piece of land, Abram’s nephew has been captured in a war. So Abram had to get an army together and get his nephew back. So, of course, Abram is wondering: “Yeah, God – You say this is mine, but I don’t see it staying mine very long.”
Besides that, Abram questions whether there will be children to inherit.
But Abram said, “Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” (Genesis 15:2-3 NKJV)
God answers and assures Abram that he will have a son.
And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.(Genesis 15:4-6 NKJV)
God says: “Hey, look Abram, not only are you going to have a son, but let’s go outside. See the stars – that is how many children you will have. All these children will come from you.”
God’s purpose in Abram is bigger than Abram himself. God wasn’t just giving Abram a child because Abram wanted a child. That is a good thing to ask. God was giving Abram a child because God had plans for this son…and for Abram’s grandson, and great-grandson, and great-great-grandson…
God’s purpose in Abram is bigger than Abram himself. God’s purpose in your life is bigger than you.
What happened when God showed Abram all this?
Abram believed in God.
That is powerful. You know what that means? God is going to show you lots of stuff – sometimes good stuff and sometimes bad stuff to get your attention.
God reveals some things to you for a reason.
Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward, they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation, they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
(Genesis 15:13-16 NKJV)
What in the world is going on here? What is God saying here? God is comforting Abram.
When you look at what is happening with Abram, he is living a very stressful life and he has some serious questions about his life.
Does what I do make a difference?
You see, God reveals to Abram that he will have a son – and then a family – and then a nation. God says that what Abram will do is very significant. God takes Him outside and shows his life’s significance.
But Abram is still asking. God, you said something great, but how will I know that it will happen? Can you confirm your promise?
This is where the dream comes in. God has already spoken. But now, God confirms. God uses visions and dreams to confirm what He wants to do in our lives. In this case, Abram went to sleep and in a dream, God revealed the future. He showed something that would not affect Abram in his lifetime but would happen to his family in a far future. In fact, this event would not happen for 400 years. God is talking about the nation of Israel being slaves in Egypt.
Now some facts:
Year 0 of the Promise – Genesis 12:3 – God gave the covenant to Abram
Year 30 of the Promise – Genesis 15:14-18 God confirms the covenant and gives Abram a prophecy
(Prophecy given to Abram – the exodus from Egypt is given 400 years before)
Genesis 21:9, Galatians 4:29 – Ishmael mocks Isaac
Year 430 of the Promise – Exodus 12:41 – Israel leaves slavery from Egypt to Freedom
This is why when Abram dreams, God tells him 400 years into the future. Why did God share with Abram all of this? Because God has a bigger purpose than just what Abram thought was important. Of course, God expects you to be obedient when God reveals some things to you. Abram was not obedient in this case. In the next chapter, he decides to fulfill this promise on his own terms. The result is Ishmael, the son who would persecute the son of promise.
But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so, it is now. (Galatians 4:29 NKJV)
Abram missed his chance to be obedient. Let me give you a personal experience. From time to time, I dream dreams and I know that they are not normal. They are not normal because I do not dream about certain individuals. They just don’t come up in my dreams. But one-time last month, I had a dream about a friend – Brad Kistler. He is a soldier in the US Army and he is stationed now in southern Germany. He was sent to Germany last fall and so he sent me an email. We had known each other back when we worked together in Boy Scouts. Ten years later, he is in Germany and I thought maybe we could hook up and meet. Well, last month on three consecutive nights I had a dream about him. And I was thinking: What’s up? Why am I dreaming about Brad? Well on the fourth day – he sent me an email saying that he and his wife had just had their first son, Anthony. The day Anthony was born was the day after the first dream. I know now that God wanted me to call Brad. I was disobedient and so I learned too late.
I will save a sermon on the theology of dreams and how God uses them for later. But I want you to notice that God will reveal some things to you for a reason. He wants to use you and you need to listen to Him. When He speaks to you through the Spirit, you need to obey Him.
The more you get to know God, the more He shows you.
Now the last thing I want you to notice is this important truth: The more you get to know God, the more He shows you. This was the case with Abram. This will be the case with you. God is always revealing His will to His servants.
Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.(Amos 3:7 NKJV)
But God reserves the right to reveal things to people who get to know Him. God is not going to say much to people who don’t pay attention to Him. The flip-side to this is that if we want to know more about our lives, we have to get to know God. The more we want to see God use us in our lives, the more we need to get to know Him. This means a couple of skills have to be developed in our lives. You have to start with the basics. The basics include – reading the Bible, prayer, and telling others about Jesus.
1. We need to read the Bible more often.
How many of you have your Bibles with you? A minute-a-day Bible reading does not cut it in today’s world. You take a minute to microwave a soup and it you can eat. But if you take the time to prepare the soup well, it tastes better. So it is with the Word of God. A verse a day for a minute a day is ok. But we have to get into the habit of listening more to God by reading what He says in His word.
2. We need to pray more often.
We are making an emphasis to pray once a month as a church. We make an effort to pray with others once a week. You should be making an effort to pray with God at least once a day. And you shouldn’t be praying just for yourself. Since God’s purpose for your life is bigger than you, your prayers should reflect that. You should be praying for other people. You should be praying for your wife/husband, kids, parents, your future wife/husband, and people around you whom you know need Jesus.
I find it amazing how many Christians frankly whine and complain about their lot in life when they haven’t spent a minute with God about it. They complain and feel upset, but they don’t get together with other Christians to pray once a week. That attitude has to change. We have to start living by faith.
3. We need to say something a little bit more often.
God will reveal to you people who need Jesus. You are the way they can get to know God. I find it amazing that we can ask our Christian brothers and sisters to come together, but we have problems telling others about Jesus. Muslims get mad when we tell them not share with others about their faith. Buddhists call us intolerant when we don’t let them share their faith. So what does the Christian do? The Christian says nothing. Silence. Let me ask this question? Are you so ashamed to get to know your God that you won’t tell anyone about Him? Here is what I say to this question:
Don’t hide your faith. Let other people know. Put the Bible out on your table. Give them the brochure about the church you go to. Slap a picture of Jesus on the wall. Invite some people over for coffee. Let them see that you are a Christian. When they see what you believe, they will later ask. Get yourself ready.
God uses dreams, but it is not the only way that He speaks and it is not the way He speaks to everyone. I am not saying God will speak to you in dreams. But I am saying is that He won’t use that form of communication with people who don’t spend time with Him. He won’t use dreams to tell you something and then contradict His Word. God will use dreams to compliment His word and to confirm His word. God will show you. He will tell through dreams, or He just might have that person come to you and ask about your faith. God will only this to people who get to know Him. God wants to use you, but you have to get to know Him. He wants to make the impossible a reality in other peoples’ lives and He wants to do that by using you.