Title: “WHEN I GRIP IT TIGHTLY, IT HURTS”
Text: Hebrews 11:8-19
Have you ever found yourself white-knuckled and so weary of trying to hold on to things in life that you can’t focus on anything else? Sometimes even the thought of having to let go sends a flash of panic through your soul…so you grit your teeth and muster your determination to grip them even tighter. It may be the dreams of a new home, the hope of being able to start a family, or the strong desire to move closer to family, or the cry of your heart wanting to see your child follow in your footsteps. If that’s the case for you, the Holy Spirit has brought you here this morning for a divine appointment.
You see, it’s at times like these that our loving Father must pry our fingers loose from what has dominated our focus. I’ve been there. I’ve found a kindred spirit with Corrie ten Boom, who wrote: “I’ve learned that we must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me.” We protest, saying, “Don’t you know God how much I need this?! Can’t You see that my future and our lives depend on this?!”
I think its God’s providence that has led Bruce to take us through this series on Faith. Many of us are in life situations that are stretching our faith. In preparing this message I found a definition of faith I like: Accepting as fact the truths that we cannot touch, feel or see, and then acting on them. This morning we will see Abraham did just that. You see, the life of faith is a life of risk…it’s stepping out into the unknown with nothing more solid before us than God’s word on the matter. Read Text.
We can fit the things we have difficulty releasing into four categories:
I. RELEASING OUR HOME AND FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS
A. With one flash of lightning, your house and all your possessions can burn to the ground. A job change can take you across the country away from your family.
B. In Abraham’s case, he was told by God to leave his home and familiar surroundings and he wasn’t told at the start where he was to go. Try convincing your own wife of that one! 11:8-10
C. When Abraham got there, he was a stranger; he gained no right to any soil; he had no army to conquer it, no title to enforce; and when he died, he still didn’t own one square inch of soil…yet God promised him it would be his some day. His only hope was in a God who gave His word that it would be his.
D. God may ask us to give up our secure, familiar surroundings in order to carry out His will; He may ask us to do some difficult tasks. But we can be sure that the outcome will always be for our best, drawing us closer to Him.
E. If you’re the type of person who needs to plan every move…your knuckles may turn white on your grip of your Day-Timer when God asks you to step into the realm of the unknown. Faith carries with it an element of adventure into the unknown. Our faith in the One who knows the way is enough for us to take the next step.
II. RELEASING YOUR HOPE OF STARTING A FAMILY 11:11-12
A. If you remember your OT story of Sarah, when she first heard of God’s promise of a child through her old, barren womb, she laughed. That laugh was evidence that she doubted God’s word. But according to Hebrews, those first doubts were overcome, and faith swept into her soul and her dead womb turned into the vitality needed to bear a child.
B. Have your first doubts ever stopped you from realizing God’s promises for your life? Is part of your faith dead and withered…yet part of you wants to believe it’s true?
C. God’s word to Sarah teaches me that no matter how unlikely or impossible God’s promises are…they can be trusted because they are based on God’s character. God cannot lie, and He will not make a promise that He does not intend to keep!
D. From the first promise of a son, it was a 25-year wait before Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Waiting is one of the most difficult things for me to handle. You too? How do you handle waiting for something that is against all hope…after all human efforts have turned up futile? Illus. – Church Bell & Corn
E. Faith is able to wait for the fulfillment in God’s time! Let me encourage you to keep obeying God while you’re waiting.
III. RELEASING YOUR DESIRES OF YOUR OWN HOME AND LAND 11:13-16
A. For a newly wed couple, the hope of owning a home in California seems to be more and more impossible. But for Abraham and Sarah, they died without even getting to see the fulfillment of the promise of a land of their own. They died still clinging, by faith, to that promise!
B. They died without seeing numerous seed, nor getting to distribute land parcels of the Promised Land. They died never having put their hands on what was the very object of their faith.
C. Can you look for something in the future…not obtain it in your lifetime…and yet die with a strong faith that it will be realized for the generations that will follow you?
D. Let me give you some encouragement. Not all of God’s promises match our expectations, and they aren’t all fulfilled the moment we believe in Christ…but don’t become impatient and quit! This world is not our home and God assures us He has something better for us in our eternal home!
E. If Abraham and Sarah thought God’s promise was all wrapped up in a piece of desert soil in Canaan, then they would have considered themselves deceived. But they understood the promises to mean spiritual things…and that was the object of their faith that carried them through life…then they died and realized the object of their faith…falling into the arms of a Father whose house is the Holy City! They were able to confess they were strangers here. (Song- This world is not my home, I’m just a passin through; my treasures are laid out somewhere beyond the blue; the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door; and I can’t feel at home in this world any more. Oh Lord you know, I have no...)
F. That kind of foresight allowed them to wait quietly…calmly…until God would give them the fulfillment of the promise. When was the last time you resolved to wait quietly…calmly?
IV. RELEASING YOUR DREAMS FOR THE FUTURE OF YOUR CHILDREN 11:17-19
A. Talk about a test! This is undoubtedly the strongest test of faith ever evidenced in our world. The test was designed to reveal the strength of his confidence in God.
B. He had received a promise that his seed would be like the sand on the seashore. But God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, as an offering to Him. If Abraham had been surrounded by other children, and there was no special promise…then this act of faith would not have been so remarkable. But even then, it would be a strong act of faith.
C. The fulfillment of the promise depended on Isaac living.
D. Have you faced circumstances that upfront seemed to be the opposite way you wanted to go? Have you faced a situation where hope was against hope?
E. Look at this story again. First Abraham received a promise of many seed. Then he received the instruction to sacrifice his son. Through the packing for the trip…through the journey to Mt. Moriah…through the instructions to the servants at the bottom of the mountain…Abraham clung to the promise of God…through Isaac your descendants shall be called!
F. Two evidences he believed: (1) To the servants he said, “Wait here; we will worship on the mountain and WE will return.” (2) And here in Hebrews it says he believed God would resurrect his slain son.
G. Abraham did not hesitate, even though what he was asked to do was utterly impossible in our eyes!
H. And so it should be for you and me…if God reveals His will to us, we are simply to OBEY! We are not to step back and try to reason with God…or tell Him the options we are comfortable with…but simply say, “I’m your servant Lord; speak and I will do it!”
Let me conclude with asking you some questions. Is it any easier for you to believe the resurrection of the dead than it was for Abraham? Are there any more obstacles for you to believe than there were for Abraham?
In light of the resurrection of Lazarus and Jesus, you and I have FEWER obstacles to believe in the resurrection! So I ask: what’s holding you back from following God by faith in the things you know He wants you to do?!
The steps up the mountain for Abraham and Isaac were heavy and slow. But I imagine they skipped, danced and played together on the journey home! God had faithfully provided a LAMB! And He has provided YOU with a Lamb. Are you aware that Mt. Moriah was later renamed when another Lamb was sacrificed there? It is also called Mt. Calvary…where JESUS, THE LAMB OF GOD was sacrificed!!!
If you’ve been one who has been unwilling to surrender your life to God 100%, without risk…then you will miss out on the abundant life God wants to give you. Read Poem “Treasures”