Peninsula Community Church
By Faith: Obedience To the Calling
October 9, 2016
Hebrews 11:8-10 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Today, we continue our journey through the Hall of Fame of Faith. So far, we have examined the story of Cain and Abel, Enoch, and last week we looked at the life of Noah. Today, we look at the story of Abraham and God’s calling and promise to him. As we examine the lives of those who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame of Faith, we find that the one key denominator in all of these stories is a unswerving faith in God. Each of these success stories is based on the individual’s faith and trust in almighty God.
The story of Abraham is no different. In the text we just read, as well as the account in Genesis 12, we find that Abraham was called to pick up stakes and move to a place he knew nothing about. We find that Abraham obeyed God because of His faith. Abraham was called by God to move outside of his comfort zone and what was familiar to him. For us personally, there are times where God will challenge us and shake us so that we are moved into a new perspective, a new way of thinking, and a new calling or service to God.
As I think of this story the question that comes to mind is “How many of us love to play it safe?” Too often we choose to live in a place of comfort and contentment. We put stakes into the ground and huddle around that which is comfortable and that which is familiar rather than stepping outside of our comfort zone. Abraham was definitely called to move outside his comfort zone in order to accomplish God’s will and purpose. He was called to move to a place he did not know and to a people he was not familiar with. In fact, I would argue today that Abraham could not fulfill God’s promise where he was, he had to move. He had to go to where he could be best used for the Kingdom of God.
For us today we must recognize that God moves us out of our comfort zone for several reasons. For one, sometimes, we need to be shaken out of our comfort zones because we have become so comfortable with our current status that we don’t do anything to better ourselves or those around us. Sometimes, we need to be moved out of our comfort zone because God cannot use us as much as he can when we live in that place. God does this because He has a better plan for our life. And finally, God has to shake us from our comfort zone because in our comfort zone we can become self-centered and inwardly focused. The result is that too often we become ineffective in our service to God.
Listen to Abrahams’s story in Genesis 12:1-5. Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan.
Listen to the process involved with the call of Abram. God called him to leave the country of his kindred, the place of his heritage, and he was to leave his family and he was go to the land that God would show him. Think about this. We all have an infinity toward our families but what would you do if God called you to pack your bags, leave home, and go where he wanted you to go but you would not know where you were going until you got there? Would you go?
God calls Abraham to leave everything that is a part of his identity. He was called to give up his cultural identity, his family identity, and his inheritance. In a sense, this reminds us of the words of Paul in the book of Philippians and his desire to give up things for God. Paul said this But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).
Do you here the echo of the call of Abraham in these words? To make Paul’s words even more significant, we must look at the preceding verses to see that Paul had just given the church at Philippi his resume. He listed his degrees. He detailed his family heritage and his family genealogy because that was what made a man in that day important and it gave him status in the land. But in the end, Paul stated that he counted all of that loss. He counted that as rubbish or garbage when compared to what he was to gain through a personal relationship with Christ. You see Paul weighed out the fact that he wanted a personal relationship with Christ more than he wanted to be known by his degrees or his heritage. Through Paul, a new standard was being set. It was a standard that measured our importance not by our social status but by a personal dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ.
As we look at this lesson this morning let me make a couple of observations. First, it is noteworthy that we do not have much of a response from Abraham. All we know is that God called and Abraham obeyed. There is no discussion on Abraham’s part. He does not argue with God. He simply obeyed the call of God. The question for us is how many times do we argue with God about something He is calling us to do? We debate. We argue. We think of every excuse we can come up with as to why we should not do the thing or things that God has called us to. Sometimes the arguments are based in genuine issues but we if we are not careful we can argue obedience away. I would also note that God does not generally call us to give up everything necessarily but He may call us to step outside of what we are familiar with.
The second lesson here is that true obedience to God is an expression of faith in God. It has been said and I wholeheartedly agree that our faith is expressed in our obedience. We are saved by faith and not works but it is our faith that drives us toward obedience to God’s word and to His calling upon our life. So in essence, our obedience to God is in fact our faith being expressed. While our works do not save us they do demonstrate our trust and confidence in God.
James had it so right when he made the following statements in James 1:22-25. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Abraham was promised a great blessing if he responded in faith to the call of God. Abraham did his part and God did His. You see for us today the greatest act of obedience we can have is our obedience to the Word of God. We read, we listen, and we obey. In James 2:14-24 James stated the following. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
Here is what James is saying. Put your money where your mouth is. Abraham was truly saved by faith but his works testified to the fact that he had faith to trust God with his life. In our story today, we see the faith of Abraham expressed. He responds to the call of God to go. Why, because he had faith. What is amazing is that Abraham did not have the whole story at his disposal and yet he was fully and completely obedient to God.
As we look at the life of faith we must underhand that the call of God does not come without obstacles and issues. God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. This was all great except that both Sara and Abraham were past their prime as it related to having children. Abraham was 75 years old. But their faith was focused not in their age but in a God who was big enough to do what He said He would do. They had a confidence in God that nothing was impossible with God. Even if he was too old, God could work in miraculous ways to fulfill His promise and His word. He was to become the father of many nations and God would fulfill His promises whatever it take.
So what does all of this mean for us today? When God calls us we can step out in faith and believe that He will fulfill His will in us. Sometimes the unknown can and will scare us. But if our faith in God is bigger than our fear of the unknown we will survive and will be sustained in great and powerful ways. Our job is to be obedient and God will do the rest. Sometimes it means that we observe a need in the church and we become the vessel and channel through which God provides and uses us to touch others. Perhaps it is serving in a ministry that we do not feel comfortable with but we see a need. We hear the call and we obey by serving Him. Are you listening because God is calling and He is speaking today.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom