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A Wavering Faith Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
May 4, 2022 1:00 am

A Wavering Faith Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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May 4, 2022 1:00 am

Can we trust God to take care of us? Abraham was chosen by God to leave the comforts of Ur, going a land he had never seen. Along the way, he came face to face with a test of faith which involved his own wife. In this message, we discover the pitfalls of backsliding—turning from God to go our own way. Backsliding always has more burdens than blessings.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Abraham was chosen by God to leave the comforts of Ur of the Chaldees and journey to a land he'd never seen.

His nice house became a tent, and he came face to face with challenges he'd never expected. Today, Abraham's faith is tested for the first time. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, as you teach further about strength for the journey, tell us what you mean by a wavering faith. Dave, this is a remarkable story because Abraham had the faith to leave Ur of Chaldees, as you pointed out, to go into the land, the special land that God gave him. But he did not have the faith to believe that God could sustain him within the land.

So when a famine came, he went to Egypt, he backslid, but God brought him back. What a story, story of hope, a story of faith, a story of failure, but also of grace. You know, I want to thank the many of you who support the ministry of Running to Win. We are in four different languages in more than 20 different countries.

Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Of course, the amount that you give is totally up to you.

It's your choice. But thank you in advance for holding our hands as we continue to spread the word of God to as many as we possibly can. For more information, here's what you can do. Go to RTWOffer.com. That's RTWOffer.com. And when you're there, click on the endurance partner button. Or if you prefer, you can call right now at 1-888-218-9337.

Thanks in advance because together, as we share the word of God with so many, you are a part of this ministry. The story can be told a thousand times. A businessman has an expense account. He can buy what he wants. He can even take out cash as long as he provides receipts for how he spends it. But his credit card was maxed out. And when the company said that you have to make at least the minimum payment, he decided to take some of the money from that expense account and use it toward his credit card, arguing that this is not stealing because he fully intended to replace the money he had taken.

And that's not stealing. The problem is that he was discovered. He was questioned about where this money went and his alibi worked for a while, but eventually, like alibis generally do, it was exposed as a fraud.

And he was fired from his job. Amazing how truth-telling or lying becomes important down the road in our lives. What we do when we are in a tight place really reveals the kind of character that you and I really have. It's the tight places that bring to the surface our values and our core convictions. Abraham was in a tight place. God had called him to leave Ur of the Chaldees and to go into a land that he would show him.

Because the call of God always has to supersede a call to our immediate families. That is to say that even the call of God is more important than his country and his kindred as seen in the life of Abraham. He comes into the land. He has an altar and there he worships the Lord God in the altar and he has a tent, as we learned last time.

His fellowship with God is constantly being renewed because wherever he goes, he builds another altar which prefigured the coming of Jesus. But then a test came to him. A test that would show whether or not he had really learned to trust God. Could he trust God to take care of him in, quote, the land that he'd been given?

That was the test. And one of the things that Abraham was going to have to discover is that backsliding, that means turning away from God and doing our own thing. That backsliding always has more burdens than blessings.

You do it for the blessings but you end up with the burdens. The story of course is found in the 12th chapter of the book of Genesis. Genesis chapter 12 is where we read. And as we go through this, we are going to walk with Abraham through his experience.

Then we're going to end up with some life-changing lessons and we're trusting the Spirit of God today to do something in our hearts that is absolutely permanent and eternal. Let's look at the experience that Abraham had. First of all, God chose to test him. He's in the land by obedience to the command of God and it says in chapter 12 verse 10, now there was a famine in the land.

Last part of the verse, for the famine was severe in the land. That was the test chosen by God for him. You say, well, the text doesn't say that God chose it for him, but we know that God stands back of natural disasters.

Even if the immediate cause is some kind of a weather pattern, even if the immediate cause of an earthquake is a fault in the heart of the earth, the ultimate cause standing behind all that is God. And so God shows this test for Abraham and notice that the test came after Abraham was in fellowship. The previous verses say so clearly that Abraham built an altar and he called on the name of the Lord. And also it was a famine in the land of plenty. God tested him in the very area in which he had been given promises. Because as we noticed in the previous message that God says to Abraham, this land is yours and God gave him the title deed to you and to your descendants. And it is right there in the midst of those promises of God that he has the severe test.

The test comes without warning and without instructions. Years ago when our children were small, we bought them a bicycle. I still don't know why, but we did not bring it home as a bicycle. We brought it home. We brought it home in a box. And then the box had instructions at least. Now I have to tell you that I knew that if I were going to put it together, our kids would have graduated from college before I would have been finished.

So I hired a young man to come and put it together, which he did in an hour or two. But it had instructions. It said in effect, if you do this right, you could end up with a bicycle. And what you have to do is do point A, B, C, D all the way along the line and this is what it should eventually look like even though it doesn't look like that now. The trials of life come without instructions. You can't see what it's going to look like.

You can't see its purpose. All that you have is the bits and pieces that are dumped onto your lap without an instruction book because God wants to see what kind of a response Abraham is going to have. So first of all, we've looked at the trial that God chose for Abraham, a trial right in the middle of the land he'd been given, a famine, a severe famine in the land. God often tests us in the area of promises and in the area of our strength. Well, we move through the text and we discovered that Abraham fails the test. Abraham fails the test. No evidence that he prayed about his decision.

But look at the tight place that he was in. He had 300 people, you remember, to care for, herdsmen, servants. The Bible says that, 300.

That's a lot of people to care for. And when you've got a famine coming in the land, the temptation is to do whatever you have to do to supply their needs. And so he does not consult God. God has said this is the land. This is approximately the boundaries as he understood them.

Later on, God is going to give a new set of boundaries that are much greater. A famine comes into the land and the Bible says in verse 10 that Abraham went down into Egypt. Now that is true topographically. If you look at a map, you know where Israel is. That's where Abraham was, was the land of Canaan at that time. You go down into Egypt. But it also meant he went down spiritually. Now in order to find out what happened there in the land, you need a little bit of background. In those days it was customary if a man went to a country like that and somebody liked your wife, you might be killed so that the man who liked her could marry her. Tough culture, but that's the way it was. But if you were to say that you're with your sister, you wouldn't get killed but somebody would have to negotiate with you regarding her.

And maybe during those negotiations you could work out some kind of a deal and tell the truth. Abraham is scared. He's really, really scared. So as they go into the land, you'll notice that he suggests to Sarah his wife that they tell a lie. This is not Abraham at his best.

You'll notice it says in verse 11 when he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarah his wife, I know that you're a woman beautiful in appearance, the Elizabeth Taylor of the day. And when the Egyptians see you, they will say this is his wife. Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister that it may go well with me because of you that my life may be spared for your sake. Oh, come on, for your sake. Abraham, it's for your sake. She's not going to get a whole lot of benefit out of this, especially if she ends up being the wife of somebody else.

This is for your skin, thank you. And that when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. Now, you must understand something here that technically Abraham was not lying. According to chapter 20 of the book of Genesis, where he does the very same thing with Abimelech, he later explains and says, well, she is my sister. She's my half sister.

We have the same father, but a different mother. Sarah was actually a half sister to him. So he could actually say she's my sister and be speaking the truth after a manner of speaking. But what he wanted to do is to have them misunderstand it and to think that she was not his wife. That was really the point that Abraham was after. And so he tells this lie. Because when you leave the place of God's blessing and decide now that you're going to do everything on your own, that you're going to take care of yourself in your way, now deceit begins to enter into your life. And that's what happened in the case of Abraham.

Now, he tells the lie and what happens? Blessings come to him. You'll notice it says that when Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.

Ouch. Abraham, you're willing to sacrifice the chastity of your wife to save your neck. And for her sake, he dealt well with Abraham. And he had sheep oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys and camels.

Wow. Abraham could have gone on television and he could have said, I believe in the doctrine of prosperity. Here I am in the land. People told me not to go there. They thought it was a bad idea, but look at how God has blessed me. I've got more cattle than I can count. I've got silver. I've got gold. Surely, surely, surely this is a sign of God's blessing. Could I speak candidly today?

I may. Thank you, my brother. In a case like this, you and I are majority, all right? Prosperity is not always a sign of the approval of God. It's not always a sign of the approval of God, not even in the Old Testament where prosperity was more directly linked to the land and so forth than it is in the new.

That's a whole different subject we're going to cover sometime in a series of messages. But there are people who are prospering today and they're doing it deceitfully. They're prospering and they are manipulating others to prosper. And that is not a sign that God is approving either of their lifestyle or of their methods. Abraham is here and he is prospering under the good hand of the pagan Pharaoh. Well, we've looked at the test God chose for him, the famine in the land.

We've also spoken of the fact that Abraham failed the test. He didn't stay in the land. He didn't ask God what to do. He did the expedient thing and then lied to get what he wanted when he wanted it.

Because after all, you have to take care of yourself. Can't depend on God. And he ended up being richer than ever, though he was a backslider. What is God's response to all this? Well, we read of it in verse 17, but the Lord afflicted Pharaoh.

That's a shock. Wouldn't you think that the text would say now the Lord afflicted Abraham? Isn't he the problem?

I think so. He's the one who's walking in disobedience. He's the child of God who knows better than this. But the Lord afflicts Pharaoh. This is something very gracious about God and his dealings with his people. The Lord afflicts Pharaoh because God has a purpose for Abraham and Sarah. God had promised the land to Abraham and to his seed, and we do not serve a frustrated deity. We do not serve a God who becomes confused and does not know what to do when one of his children ruin his, quote, perfect plan. He is never at a loss.

His options are more than you and I could ever possibly count. And so we serve a great God. And God said, I'm giving you the land to you and to your seed. Thus, I will preserve Sarah and I will preserve you. And God sends this plague.

We don't know what it was. Maybe it was sexual diseases of some sort that would keep Pharaoh from cohabiting with Sarah. But at any rate, the Egyptians themselves knew this must be the hand of God. This must be because of Abraham and this must be because of Sarah.

Verse 18, so Pharaoh called Abraham and said, what is this that you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say she is my sister so that I took her for my wife? Now here is your wife.

Take her and go. And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had. Get out of here. Abraham, the man of God, rebuked by a pagan king. It's tragic, isn't it? Is there anything sadder that when the world looks at us, they rebuke us for our ethics? Anything sadder than when we read in the newspapers that some Christian minister has been involved in financial mismanagement or shenanigans?

If there's a word like that, if not, let's say there is. Isn't that tragic when the world looks at us and says, hey, look at what you have done. Pharaoh sends them on his way in embarrassment and shame, escorts them out of the land. Just leave.

Get out of here. There are four life-transforming lessons from this passage, four lessons that if they became a part of our lives and the fabric of our lives, we might live differently when we're tempted to backslide, when we're tempted to wander away from God, when we begin to learn that backsliding always has more burdens than it has blessings. The first lesson is this, the sin of unbelief. The sin of unbelief leads to other sins at root, at root.

All sin has as its nucleus unbelief because unbelief says, I know better than God. If I follow him, I'm not going to have the pleasures that I know I should have. I'm not going to have the advantage that I know that I should have. I'm not going to have what I think should be coming to me.

I'm going to be treated unfairly. Following God is not as profitable as following my own way. So we do our own thing. And at root is unbelief. Luther said it is not possible to deliberately sin unless one first thinks wrongly about God. What he meant was we sin because we don't think God is good and has our best interests in mind. That's what happened with Adam and Eve in the garden. If you were good, you'd let me eat of the fruit of the tree, but you're not good. So I'm going to go do it anyway. And then I'll be like God and take you on. That's what lies at the root of our sin.

My friend, it is so important for us to listen to the words of God, to listen to scripture, to learn from people like Abraham, who though he was a man of faith, he was also a man whose faith wavered. I want to thank the many of you who support the ministry of running to win. Perhaps you've heard before, but we are in four different languages.

We are in Spanish, for example, all throughout Central America. It's because of you that we can continue. I have in my hand a note from someone who wrote, my nephew in Peru was terminally sick. The bottom line is that he did not have assurance of salvation, but through your ministry, he came to full assurance of faith. And although he died a month ago, he knew that he belonged to Christ. Do you know that you belong to Christ? We here at running to win, always share the good news of the gospel. Would you consider helping us by becoming an endurance partner?

That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Here's what you can do to find more info. You can go to rtwoffer.com.

That's rtwoffer.com. When you're there, click on the endurance partner button, or if you prefer, you can call right now 1-888-218-9337. How far does the ministry of running to win reach? Well, this morning on my phone, I had a note from someone in Germany who is listening to the ministry of running to win probably online and sharing with me the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ in his own life. We receive every gift that is given to this ministry as a stewardship. We want to see more people come to Jesus Christ.

We desire that more people should be edified, and it's because of people like you that we can continue and even expand. Let me give you that contact info again. If you're interested in becoming an endurance partner, the amount that you give regularly is your choice, but here's the info. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com, and when you're there, click on the endurance partner button, or if you prefer, write this down and call immediately 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Abraham's journey of faith hits an early snag as he tries to outmaneuver the Egyptians rather than trust God. Next time on Running to Win, learn more about unbelief. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-23 12:32:27 / 2023-04-23 12:40:32 / 8

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