2017年11月14日星期二

A Community of Love and Shared Abundance

Luke 18: 15-30, 35-43
Babies,
Rich Ruler,
Blind Beggar
Most Jews during Jesus' time had longed for God’s kingdom to come. They addressed this glorious time of God’s kingdom as ‘the age’ to come. The word for ‘age αἰώνιος ’ here is often translated as ‘eternal’, and the phrase ‘eternal life  ζωή αἰώνιος ‘ has regularly been used to describe the blissful life of ‘the age’ to come.
In this age to come”, everything will be new, fresh, and free from corruption, decay, evil, bitterness, pain, fear and death. There Heaven and earth will be joined together; God and his children will live with each other.
In Luke 17:20-21, the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come. Jesus answered them, ‘the kingdom of God is in the midst of you (or in your heart).”
By this, Jesus meant that the kingdom of God, ‘the age to come’ was breaking in; the powers of the new age are already at work. Wherever Jesus is, people are not only welcomed into God's kingdom; they are healed, and given a new life which truly anticipates the total healing and joy that are due to be fulfilled in God’s final new day.
Luke continues in 18:1-14 tell the parables of the Persistent Widow and the prayer of the Pharisee and tax collector. By this, Luke tells us that God’s kingdom embraces those powerless and underserved people. Jesus is the central figure of God’s kingdom, yet we see that he was also marginalised, persecuted, rejected, suffered and died on the cross.
Today we see there are sufferings and injustice in the world. This should not weaken our faith, and lead us to doubt the presence and goodness of God. For wherever there is suffering, Jesus Christ is there to suffer with the people. Jesus identifies with the vulnerable and the lowly. He walks through sufferings with the oppressed and wounded. And together they shall overcome in the end.
Chapter 18, verse 15 onwards, Luke continues to delineate the characteristics of people belonging to God’s kingdom, and also the nature of God’s kingdom itself:
God's People Can Lose Everything but Cannot Lose God, the Heavenly Father
18:15-17 says that people were bringing babies to Jesus for him to place His hands on them. The disciples forbade the people for doing so sternly. But Jesus received them, let the children come to me, God’s kingdom belongs to the ones like these. I am telling you the truth: anyone who does not receive God’s kingdom like a child will never get into it.”
Luke emphasises ‘babies’. The focus is not about humility, but something about the helplessness of children, and their complete trust of those who love and care for them. Jesus sees deep into the heart of what it means to receive God’s kingdom; it is like drinking one’s mothers’ milk, like learning to see, and to smile, by looking at one’s mother’s eyes and face. The fragile and helpless babies grab tightly to their parents even at the cost of putting down their favourite toys.
There is nothing that we can rely on in order to enter the kingdom, neither own effort nor merits, but solely on God, our heavenly Father.
Today are you clinging solely to God now? Can you let go of those things or habits that are displeasing to God for the sake of entering God’s kingdom?
You may have just lost your loved ones or experienced a setback in your career or business. As God’s people, we can lose everything but we cannot lose God! Holding onto God, pray to him, serve him unceasingly, He will help you to sail through the dark valleys and make a successful twist.
If you have already lost something you treasured much, and you further lose the heavenly Father, you will enter into even more disastrous stage.
The following text, verses 18-23 goes on to say:
There is a ruler asked Jesus: ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life (the life of the age to come)?’
Jesus said to him, “Why call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Don’t commit adultery, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t’ swear falsely, honour your father and mother.”
He said, “I have kept them all since I was a boy.”
When Jesus heard it, He said to the ruler, “there is just one thing you are short of. Sell everything you own, and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.”
When the rich ruler heard it, he turned very sad because he was extremely wealthy.
Jesus looked at the ruler, and He said, How hard it is for those with possessions to enter God’s kingdom! Yes, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter God’s kingdom.” (vv.24-25)
Jesus is not against rich people, but against people who obtain security from the many possessions they have’. Their sense of security comes from possessions like, ‘wealth, fame, status, serving experience, and knowledge of the law.” The rich ruler belonged to this group who are so confident, so well organized, so determined, even looking into the face of the one he calls ‘good’, but eventually had to turn away feeling sad.
This kind of people refuses to submit to God’s command, because that would demand them to effectively depend on God solely rather than their possessions.
Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?” (v.26)
When we realize that we are helpless, weak and fragile like babies, and we humble ourselves to solely relying on God’s grace, grab hold on God, we will enter into God’s kingdom and receive the life of the kingdom.  
Let’s grab hold unto God, find refuge in Him and be obedient to his will. We will once again mount up like an eagle!
God's People Are to Freely and Joyfully Follow Jesus
The following text verses 35-43, says that as Jesus and disciples were approaching Jericho, there was a blind man sitting by the road, he was begging. When he heard that Jesus is coming by, he shouted out, ‘Jesus—son of David, have mercy on me!’
The people told him to be silent, but he yelled out all the more, “son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and told them to bring the blind man to him. When he came up, Jesus asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’
He said, “Master, I want to see again.” Jesus said, ‘see again, you faith has saved you.” At once he received his sight again, and he followed Jesus, glorifying God. When all the people saw it, they too gave praise to God.
Let’s compare 'babies brought to Jesus "and "blind beggar brought to Jesus”.  They both wish to come to Jesus but are hindered by the people. But Jesus clears the way for them to come to Him and receive salvation. They are helpless, deprived groups but Jesus helps them to enter the kingdom of God.
One thing different in the blind beggar; is that he has faith in Jesus. He trusts Jesus so completely that, when offered the chance to ask for money or food, he asks for his sight back again. And he received his sight, and then he followed Jesus, glorifying God, praising Him.
The blind beggar’s reaction is a sharp contrast to the rich ruler who had to turn away very sad!
We notice there is a 'sandwich' structure where ‘the rich ruler’ was inserted in the between ‘babies’ and ‘blind beggar’. Luke's purpose is to emphasise the characteristics of God‘s people, that is ‘grab hold unto God alone’ and ‘follow Jesus joyfully and praising God’.
I pray that the Holy Spirit will fill all of us, to empower us to follow Jesus joyfully and praising God everyday!
God’s People Make Up a Wonderful New World of Love and Shared Abundance
After hearing Jesus’ illustration of the characteristics of people who enter God’s kingdom, Peter said, ‘Look here, we have left everything and followed you.’ (v.28)
Jesus said, I am telling you the truth, everyone who has left his house or wife or brothers or parents or children, because of God’s kingdom, will receive far more in return in the present – and in the age to come they will receive the life that belongs to that age. (Vv.29-30)
By this, Jesus indicates that, in the present time, this new age of God’s kingdom already breaks into our sad old world. Followers of Christ are to leave behind the old ways to form a new community. This community comprises new homes, new families, new fellowship based on mutual love and shared abundance with one another, and all kinds of new possibilities will be opening up for them.
The church is called in every age to be this sort of community, to be a living example of “the age to come”. In this sort of selfless and trusting, living the common life, the world around is attracted to this community and join in. The community of God’s people can now glimpse at what God’s final new world is like, and learn to live out the characteristics of God's kingdom more and more.
Some people may doubt if this wonderful new world does happen in our midst: “It is just a utopia! The communists have tried but they also failed.” Or “It is not happening here at this church, but happening at the other church.”
The whole Bible actually challenges us not to doubt God’s kingdom, but rather to ask a different question, “When this wonderful new world breaks in, where are you? Do you participate in it? Or do you contribute a part to make it happen?”
Conclusion
Dear brothers and sisters, we are all citizens of God’s kingdom: We may be in a season of experiencing setbacks now; we may have lost some things, but we must not lose God, our Heavenly Father. Hold onto God tightly, glorify Him and joyfully follow Jesus closely.
The Holy Spirit’s empowering presence is with us to heal and to bless. There is excitement, heartfelt praise, and celebration of God’s kingdom here and now. Let’s participate in and share with one another the abundance of God's blessings here!

2017年11月8日星期三

Be A Joyful Community

Philippians 4: 4-7
Rejoice in the Context of Present Difficulties
Philippians is known as a book on rejoicing because Paul wrote concerning this theme many times in the book. Joy is a very important driving force in our lives. The book of Proverbs speaks of the healing effect of joy: “A joyful heart is good medicine” (Prov 17:22). Worrying is the cause of many diseases but rejoicing brings good health and cure illnesses. What then is true happiness? Where can we acquire it?
From the following verses in Philippians, we can observe several scenarios whereby we can rejoice.
Phil 1:3-6 – Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Wherever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Whenever Paul prayed for the Philippians, he did so with a heart filled with joy, because the Philippians were, in one accord, prospering in the gospel, growing and maturing in the Lord. Being a partner to Paul, they had contributed through their practical help when Paul was in Philippi and through their financial support when he was in prison.
As we help our ministers, missionaries, and evangelists through prayer, hospitality, and financial gifts, we become partners with them in spreading the gospel message. When others think about you, what comes to their minds? Are you remembered with joy by them? Do your acts of kindness lift up others?
And Paul was also confident that God would continue his good work in them. Paul trusts that God will continue to bless and use Philippians mightily; as a result, he is filled with joy each time he prays for Philippians! Even if the church now is undergoing difficulty, God is faithful; he will never leave his church. He will continue to sustain the church. We can take comfort from God’s faithfulness.
In Phil 1:15-18, we discover a strange phenomenon. Paul knew that in Philippians, some were preaching to build their own reputation, taking advantage of his imprisonment to try to make a name for themselves. Regardless of the motives of these preachers, Paul rejoiced that the Good News was being preached.
Paul looked at it from a positive perspective, Phil 1:18 – But that doesn’t matter, whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice.
Paul had an amazingly selfless attitude. He did everything for the Lord alone and was not calculative. Some Christians serve for the wrong reasons. Yet we should be glad if God uses their effort and message, regardless of their motives.  This is a lesson that everyone who serves the Lord ought to learn. This is the secret to joyful ministry.
Besides, we are told that Paul is filled with joy whenever he sees his brothers and sisters in Christ having unity. This unity in the church comes not easy. It is achieved by congregation living a humble life, caring and respecting each other. Such a joy of seeing the church in unity is the greatest reward for any servant of the Lord.
For Phil 2:1-4, - Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than ourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
Many Christians live only to make a good impression on others or to please themselves. But selfishness brings discord. Paul therefore stressed spiritual unity, asking the Philippians to love one another and to be one in spirit and purpose.
“Is there…?” These rhetorical questions expect positive answers. When we work together, caring for the problems of others as if they were our problems, we demonstrates Christ’s example of putting others first, and we experience unity. Don’t be so concerned about making a good impression or meeting your own needs that you strain relationships in God’s family. Selfishness can ruin a church, but genuine humility can build it.
Being humble involves having a true perspective about ourselves. It does not mean that we should put ourselves down. Before God, we are sinners, saved only God’s grace, but we are saved and therefore have great worth in God’s kingdom.
We are to lay aside selfishness and threat others with respect and common courtesy. Considering others’ interests as more important than our own links us with Christ, who was a true example of humility. Jesus Christ was humble, willing to give up his rights in order to obey God and serve people. We would be overflowed with joy if we start to live in harmony and love!
Phil 2: 17-18 – But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.
Both Jews and pagans often poured out a libation of wine wither on a sacrifice or at the base of the altar in honour of the deity. Paul regarded his life as a sacrifice to God. Even if he had to die, Paul was content, knowing that he had helped the Philippians live for Christ. His faithful service for the sake of the church is a cause for rejoicing because nothing done for God is in vain.
More than that, he was also able to encourage the brothers and sisters to rejoice rather than worry for his sake. He writes, “Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.”
When you are totally committed to serving Christ, sacrificing to build the faith of others, it will bring a joyous reward.
Phil 3:1 – Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard our faith. Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcise to be saved.
Paul warns the people to watch out for there are some “dogs” and evil people in the church who will divide the church, yet believers ought not to be affected by these matters. Instead, they should rejoice in the Lord and not losing the testimony of joy. Pay attention to the positive examples that are set before us, move closer to the goal the Lord has set for us, and wait for His return.
Phil 4:1 – Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.
Staying true means steadfastly resisting the negative influences of temptation, false teaching or persecution. It requires perseverance when we are challenged or opposed. Don’t lose heart or give up. God promises to gives us strength of character. With the Holy Spirit’s help and with the help of fellow believers, you can stay true to the Lord.
Being able to witness the growth of the brothers and sisters and their staying true to the Lord was a source of joy and pride for Paul. I believe this is the same for every servant of the Lord. Conversely, the lack of growth or the lack of firm standing in the Lord among the brothers and sisters will bring anxiety to any of the Lord’s servants.

In the church today just like that of Philippians, there are relational problems among the people. Paul addresses this problem in Philippians and writes a few words of encouragement.
Phil 4:2-3 – Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of life.
These two women had been workers for Christ in the church. Their broken relationship was no small matter, because many had become believers through their efforts. It is possible to believe in Christ, work hard for his Kingdom, and yet have broken relationships with others who are committed to the same cause. But there is no excuse for remaining un-reconciled.
Do you need to be reconciled to someone today? If you are facing a conflict you can’t resolve, don’t let the tension build into an explosion. Don’t withdraw or resort to cruel power plays. Don’t stand idly by and wait for the dispute to resolve itself. Instead, seek the help of those known for peacemaking.
We are the God’s people whose names written in the Book of life. We are destined to receive eternal. As God’s people, we are to resolve the conflict so that we could live joyfully together.
That is why Paul again exhorted us to rejoice in the Lord and start praying to God in the following verses 4-7, – Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
It seems strange that a man in prison would be telling a church to rejoice. But Paul’s attitude teaches us an important lesson: our inner attitudes do not have to reflect our outward circumstances. Paul was full of joy because he knew that no matter what happened to him, Jesus Christ was with him.
Several times in this letter Paul urged the Philippians to be joyful, probably because they needed to hear this. It’s easy to get discouraged about unpleasant circumstances or to take unimportant events too seriously. If you haven’t been joyful lately, you may not be looking at life from the right perspective.
Ultimate joy comes from Christ dwelling within us. Christ is near, and at his second coming we will fully realize this ultimate joy. He who lives within us will fulfil his final purposes for us.
We are to be considerate (reasonable, fair minded, and charitable) to others. This means we are not to seek revenge against those who treat us unfairly, nor are we to be overly vocal about our personal rights.
Imagine never worrying about anything! It seems like impossibility; we all have worries on the job, in our homes, at school. But Paul’s advice is to turn our worries in to prayers. Do you want to worry less? Then pray more! Whenever you start to worry, stop and pray.
God’s peace is different from the world’s peace. True peace is not found in positive thinking, in absence of conflict, or in good feelings. It comes from knowing that God is in control. Our citizenship in Christ’ Kingdom is sure, our destiny is set, and we can have victory over sin. Let God’s peace guard your heart against anxiety.
Conclusion
From the passages above, we can observe that Paul’s joy was not affected by the unfavourable circumstances around him. He wrote the epistle to the Philippians while in prison and facing the enemies attacks. He saw that there were false teachers and human conflict in Philippians.
It is clear that Paul was able to face every challenge with a joyful heart. Such a transcendent joy was due to his firm belief in the Lord who had called him, and also due to the partnership and fellowship with brothers and sisters in church for doing God’s ministries. He also firmly believed that God will finish His good works in the Church for God is sovereign over everything and that everything is under God’s control. Paul also instructed the congregation to live in harmony and love so that joy would overflow them.  

While we were still sinners and enemies of God, He prepared salvation for us. God has caused us to be in His beloved Son. He has forgiven us of our past transgressions so that we may be reconciled to Him and become people of the new creation. We are now God’s children. Our futures are guaranteed by Christ despite present difficulties. We stand on firm foundation. God has given us His Holy Spirit to live in us and to guide us. God has given us the hope of eternal life. We cannot but rejoice as a community faith! We rejoice. We always rejoice. Let’s be always thankful.

2017年11月3日星期五

Pilgrim Progress with Abraham

Genesis 12:1-3
God called Abram to leave for a Promised Land
Abram (Abraham) and his father, Terah, lived in Ur of the Chaldeans, later known as Babylon. When Abram was 75 years old, God called him to leave Ur for a promised land. Without hesitation, he set out from Ur to journey towards Canaan. Abraham had a good start!
Since then, Abram underwent drastic changes in life. He died at the age of 175. From 75 to 175 years old, his life was dominated by two themes: offspring (or seed) and land.
What are the themes of your life after you became Christian? Did God drastically change your direction and values?
The first record of God calling Abram is found in Genesis 12:1-3:
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your fathers’ household to the land I will show you.
I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Abram must leave an established life in post-Babel Chaldea to begin a life of pilgrimage with God. He was to journey to a better world of God’s making.
In Gen 12:1-3, the word “bless” (beraka) appears five times. The same word, “bless,” also appears five times 5 times in Gen 1-11.
1:22
God blessed every living thing that inhabit the water and that fly in the air on the Fifth Day.
1:28
God blessed mankind on the Sixth Day.
2:3
God blessed the Seventh Day and made it holy.
5:2
God blessed Adam and Eve.
9:1
God blessed Noah and his sons.

By calling Abram, God reaffirmed his intention to bless his creation. In Gen 3-11, after the fall of Adam and Eve, the word “curse” (arur) is also mentioned five times:
3:14
The Lord God cursed the serpent.
3:17
The ground was cursed because of Adam’s sin.
4:11
Cain was cursed and driven out from the land.
5:29
The Lord has cursed the ground.
9:25
Canaan was cursed.

So, in Gen 12:1-3, God pronounced blessing upon Abram five times to signal his intention to reverse the cursed scenario of Genesis 3-11.
In Genesis 3, human beings sinned against God and fell from his original blessing. From there on, the sinful state of humanity continued to aggravate until Chapter 11. But now God’s original blessing would be revived in the lives of Abram and his offspring.
Abraham’s Trial – Land
In Hebrew, “chosen/elect” and “trial/test” are very similar. Jewish tradition stresses that God’s chosen people must go through trials and have their faith tested. Abraham started well by responding to God’s call. Subsequently, his life was dominated by the twin themes of “land” and “offspring.”
We will now explore the trials of Abraham, despite the good start he had, in connection with acquiring the Promised Land:
12: 6-8
Abram travelled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.

Since the Canaanites were in the land, how could God give it to Abram? In fact, Abram was compelled to move around to find a place to settle. Wherever he went in the land, Abram built an altar to worship God called on the name of the Lord. This was an act of faith to declare that the land belonged to God and that God will definitely give it to Abraham.
12: 10
10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.

But if the land was so good, flowing with milk and honey, how did it end up in a famine? Here, the theme of famine parallels the theme of women infertility, which we will look at later.
13: 5- 7
Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.

If the land was so good, why do we read that, “The land could not support both Abram and Lot”? Why was the land so limited in its ability to produce for the two families?
13:8-12
So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarrelling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”
10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.

Abram initiated the parting of the ways with Lot. He allowed Lot to choose where he would settle. Had Lot chose the Promised Land, Abram would have forfeited it. Thankfully, Lot chose, instead, the fertile plains near Sodom and Gomorrah, which was outside the Promised Land. It was in this way that Abram got to remain in the highlands of Canaan, at Hebron, which was less fertile.
15:13-16
13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
Abram’s descendants would be enslaved elsewhere for 400 years and then only would they inherit the land. Abram himself would not inherit the land. Instead, he would die at a good old age.
15:18-21
18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites,Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

Besides the Canaanites the land was populated by nine other people groups. For Abram’s descendants to inherit the land, they would need to get rid of these people. How would that be accomplished?
23:1-4
Sarah lived to be 127 years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.
Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”

Sarah, Abram’s wife, died in the land. Up until this time, Abram was still just a sojourner who had no rights to the land. He paid a large sum of money to buy piece of land for Sarah’s burial. Abram acted out of faith. Instead of returning to Ur, he chose the land of Canaan as their burial ground. In those days, the site where one is buried represented one’s permanent home.
Recap:
The Canaanites were in the land
A delay of 400 years to inherit the land
There was famine in the land
Nine other people groups occupied the land.
The land could not support both Lot and Abram.
Abram needed to buy a piece of land to bury Sarah.
Abram allowed Lot to choose where he would settle.


If you were Abram, as you study the trials in that are tabulated above, would you hold on to the promises of God and believe that you and your descendants would inherit the land? Would you not be discouraged and felt bitter against God? Perhaps you might even move back to Ur of the Chaldeans?
Despite problems, obstacles, and trials, Abram had faith in God and he acted out of faith. He built altars in the land, worshiped God, and declared the name of the Lord. He declared that the land belonged to God. In his heart, he had permanently settled in the Promised Land.
Lot chose the fertile plains and Abram remained in the infertile highlands of Hebron. Abraham trusted that the Lord would provide for all his needs. He believed that his descendants would one day inherit the land. He also bought a piece of land to be Sarah’s burial site as a gesture towards making the land his permanent home.
The New Testament, in Hebrews 11:8-10, gives credit to Abraham for his faithful acts. Let’s read together:
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 

How would you evaluate Abraham’s faith in his pursuit of the Promised Land? Abraham had weaknesses just as we do. His decision to part ways with Lot and let his nephew choose which land to settle have put the promise of the land at risk.
How do you evaluate your own journey of faith? Have you fallen short? Let us advance in our faith! We will inherit the Promised Land!
Abraham’s Trial – Offspring
God promised that Abram would have many descendants and they would become a great nation.
11:30
Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.

However, Abram’s wife, Sarah, was infertile. As mentioned earlier, this paralleled the “famine” theme.
12:11-13
11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”

There was famine in the land and Abram went down to Egypt. To protect his own life, he lied to the Egyptians that Sarah was his sister. What would happen had Pharaoh or any other Egyptian take Sarah as their wife? How then could Abram have an offspring through Sarah? Abram was an irresponsible husband. But God intervened in the nick of time to remedy the situation.
14:11-12
11 The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12 They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

At one point, Lot was considered to be the heir of Abram but he was taken captive by the four kings. This was an endangerment to the promise of descendants to Abram.
15:2-4
But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 

After that Abram thought that his servant Eliezer was to be his heir. But God said no. He said, “A son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.”
16:1-4
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

After spending ten years in Canaan, Abram remained childless. Sarah made her servant girl, Hagar, to be Abram’s concubine. Abram’s son with Hagar, Ishmael, appeared to be Abram’s heir-apparent. However, God said that Sarah’s son, not Ishmael, who would be the chosen heir of Abram. Sarah and Abram made the mistake of acting out of their own accord rather than seeking the way of the Lord.
20:1-2
Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.

In Gen 20:1-2, for the second time, Abraham lied about Sarah being his sister. This time it was to Abimelek the king of Gerar. Again, what would have happened had Abimelek taken Sarah to be his wife? This would, again, endanger the promise of offspring to Abraham. And, yet again, God intervened in the nick of time to remedy the situation.
22:2
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Finally, Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering to the Lord. But had Isaac, his only son, die, how would happen to God’s promise of descendants to Abraham?
We can compare Gen 22:2 with 12:1, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.’”
The same word, “Go,” is repeated here. Notice also the three-step progression of “your country, your people, and your father’s household” in Gen 12:1 versus “your son, your only son, whom you love” in Gen 22:2.
When Abraham was first called by God, he experienced the initial challenge (or, blow). This was followed by a series of trials. Finally, he faced another great challenge! Does this not reflect our own journey of faith with the Lord?
Conclusion:
Sarah was infertile
Eliezer was not to be Abram’s heir
Sarah was beautiful
Ishmael was not to be Abram’s heir
Lot was taken captive
God commanded Abram to sacrifice Isaac

Again, how do you evaluate Abraham’s faith? In his weakness, he denied his wife and took Hagar as a surrogate mother. But God was faithful to Abraham and intervened to remedy his faults.
Let’s read together Hebrews 11:11-12:
 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

Also, Hebrews 11:17-19:
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

Abraham was faithful in many ways but he also had weaknesses. He did not pass every test with flying colours. However, God evaluated him to be the father of faith and his friend. This reveals to us that our God is great and faithful. His grace is sufficient for us. As long as we are willing to step forward in faith, God will take care of the rest. He even makes up for our weaknesses and mistakes. He wants to bless us until the very end.
Genesis 25:1-8 concludes the life of Abraham:
Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan; the descendants of Dedan were the Ashurites, the Letushites and the Leummites. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanok, Abida and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah.
Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.
Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. 

At the end, Abraham had many descendants but his chosen heir was Isaac. He died a 175-year-old. The Bible describes him as having “died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.”
This is the best way of passing on to rest in the Lord. What a blessed life Abraham led! His legacy continues on up to today for all nations were blessed through his descendants, Israel, and uniquely through the seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ.
Today, what legacy do you want to pass on?
Calling and Prayer:
Have you learned anything from Abraham’s journey of faith? What do you do when you face trials along the way?
Our God is greater than all your problems and trials. His grace is sufficient for you to sail through the trials and to finally inherit the promised blessing.
Allow God to be the vision of your life. Let his kingdom be the theme of your life’s journey. Continue on within the covenant community of God. All the riches and blessings of the Abrahamic covenant promised by God will be bestowed upon us for we are the spiritual descendants of Abraham through faith in Jesus Christ.
Today, let us start building “altars,” worship the Lord, and declare his name wherever we go. Let us invest our time and money into a “piece of land” and make that “land” our “permanent home.”
This little piece of “land,” the promised Holy Spirit, is the initial portion of the total blessing that God will shower upon us until we are filled to the brim and cannot contain it all! And we will also be passing on a precious legacy as we leave this world to rest in the Lord. By doing so, we fulfil our calling as God’s children, the spiritual descendants of Abraham, which is to become “a blessing unto others.”