For the six weeks leading up to Christmas, I’ll be surveying the Old Testament. From creation and the fall of man to the prophets anticipation, the entire Old Testament points to the coming of Christ. The rest of this year we will accomplish two things: 1) Teach a very brief history of the Old Testament and 2) demonstrate how every stage of the Old Testament is leading us to Bethlehem.
The Life of Abraham is crucial to the coming of Jesus Christ. The events of his life can be found beginning in Genesis 12. Although we’ve only moved ahead nine chapters, a lot has taken place since Genesis 3. There are some who believe more time has passed between Genesis 3 and Genesis 12 than between Genesis 12 and today.
Genesis 18:14 asks, “Is anything impossible for the Lord?” It’s an interesting question, not because we don’t know the answer but because we don’t believe the answer. No, nothing is impossible for the Lord. Even seemingly impossible tasks are not too difficult for God. Let’s look at four principles that help us accept God’s will for our lives, even when it seems impossible.
1. God’s will is very specific. You may not know what God’s will is, but He does. In Genesis 12:1, God calls Abram to “Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house.” That doesn’t sound too specific. “Go.” No destination is given, just a simple command. But what seems general to us is specific to God. God calls Abraham to leave the security of his land, but promises in verse 3 to protect Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt.” God calls Abraham to leave the community of his relatives, but promises a new community in verse 2: “I will make you into a great nation.” And God calls Abraham to leave his father’s house – his very identity – but promises to give Abraham a new identity in verse 2: “I will make your name great.” You may not know God’s plan, but God does. God doesn’t leave any detail out.
2. God’s will invites our participation. Let’s be very clear – God doesn’t need us. He can do it on His own. But God wants us. It’s an amazing thought. God invites you to be a part of His will. In Genesis 12:1, God told Abraham to “Go.” In verse 4, we see Abraham’s response: “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him….” So Abram went. With that simple phrase, the journey to Bethlehem takes a great leap forward. God could have used any method to bring Jesus into the world, but he chose the family of Abraham.
But God’s will was clear to Abraham. One of the most common questions I receive as a pastor is, “What is God’s will for my life?” I believe we’re asking the wrong question. We should be asking, “If I know God’s will, would I follow it?” I don’t believe that God’s will is as difficult to decipher as we think it is. God gives simple instructions: “Go.” But I think the reason why we don’t follow God’s will is because…
3. God’s will involves many obstacles. If you are unfamiliar with the story of Abraham and his wife Sarah, there is one detail that has yet to be revealed in Genesis 12. Abraham is 75 years old and Sarah is 65 when God calls them to “go” and promises them to make their offspring into a great nation. They eventually become 99 and 89 and still without children. In Genesis 18:11-14, we see the obstacle clearly.
11 Abraham and Sarah were old and getting on in years. Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. 12 So she laughed to herself: “After I have become shriveled up and my lord is old, will I have delight?” 13 But the Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Can I really have a baby when I’m old?’ 14 Is anything impossible for the Lord? At the appointed time I will come back to you, and in about a year she will have a son.”
The reason why we don’t follow God’s will is because it is hard. Sometimes, it is impossible. God burdens us to “Go,” but that means taking a pay cut, moving from family, burdening our spouse, giving up weekends. We see the task ahead and recognize the difficult journey. So we assume it can not be God’s will for our lives. But God’s will wasn’t meant to be easy. There is a time for rest, but our lives is not that time. Don’t confuse obstacles with God’s closing hand.
4. God’s will doesn’t follow our schedule. Sometime we make sacrifices for obedience. We participate in God’s will with the hope of fulfilled promises that haven’t come. We wait for months, years, or even decades with nothing in hand to show. Like Abraham, we “Go,” and leave a lot of comforts behind. In Genesis 18:14, God’s messenger tells Abraham, “At the appointed time I will come back to you, and in about a year she will have a son.” God tells Abraham, who has waited 99 years for a child, to wait one more year.
God always fulfills his promises, but not on our schedule. We find in Genesis 21 that Sarah, at 90 years old, has a son – “At the appointed time.” Galatians 4:4 tells us that “When the time came to completion, God sent His Son.” It took over a thousand years for the promise of Bethlehem to be fulfilled, but God’s timing was perfect.
Abraham could not have possibly known what would unfold by the phrase, “So Abram went.” His obedience to God’s will lead him on a difficult journey that produced a prominent nation. For centuries that nation would struggle in their faithfulness to God. Then for four more centuries, they would hear nothing from Him. Finally, at the appointed time, over a thousand years after Abram went, God would send His Son to be born in Bethlehem.
What is God’s will for your life? How is He using you to prepare the way for future events? And more importantly, when you hear the will of God, will you follow it?