STAGGER NOT

STAGGER NOT Andy Hollifield 9-3-18

Romans 4:20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

Have you ever been stuck in one of those deep valleys that you just can’t seem to climb out of? You know, one of those where every time you think you’re gaining ground you wind up with your face in the dirt again. Well, you are not the first one. And before you think that God has forgotten you, just know that it is scriptural. According to James 2:23, Abraham was called a friend by God. You wouldn’t think that if you read his entire life story. As a matter of fact, you would probably think that he was snake-bit and just couldn’t catch a break. We know about the covenant between him and the Lord and we think about how the Lord blessed him and he accumulated great wealth but those are the highlights; the other parts of his life, not so much. When you read his story, you will see that as a man of incredible faith  he “staggered not at the promise of God.” The fact is that God thinks just as much of you as he did Abraham and faith doesn’t come easy. Faith in God comes from him proving himself faithful through trial after trial.

If you start in Genesis chapter 12, you will find that is where God told him to leave his home and go somewhere that he didn’t even know where he was going. Wandering through the wilderness and desert not knowing where you were going required either faith or stupidity. It would be the latter if he had done it on his own, but since he did it in obedience to God it resulted in him having stronger faith. One thing that I noticed was that God gave him the promise that he would make of him a great nation and through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. Imagine roaming through the wilderness with that promise rolling around in your mind. It would have seemed like just empty words to most of us at the time but Abraham “staggered not.”

In chapter 13 you find that Abraham and his nephew Lot had both accumulated great wealth and flocks and it became necessary for them to separate. After giving Lot the choice of which land he wanted, Abraham once again wound up stuck in the desert. Immediately after the two of them parted ways, God spoke to Abraham again confirming his previous promise but once again Abraham was currently still in the wilderness and now him and Sarai were all alone except for their servants. It wasn’t looking good for him becoming a great nation but still he “staggered not.”

In chapter 14, Lot had been taken captive by an invasion.  When Abraham received word of the invasion of Sodom and Gomorrah and the capture of his nephew, he trained his servants to fight.  He then went and recaptured everything that had been taken. In chapter 15, Abraham has one of those times when he enquired of the Lord as to what he will give him considering he has no children to be his heir. The Lord appeared to Abraham in a vision and in so many words told him: you have me. Then he confirmed his promise to him again that one of his own sons would be his heir and he would make a great nation out of him. God went on to explain in detail his promise to Abraham including the borders of the land he was to inherit from the Lord as well as the coming 400 year captivity of the nation of Israel as his descendants would come to be known. But even with the details of the promise; he was still childless and in the wilderness. The promise as of yet, was just words but still he “staggered not.”

In chapter 16 we find that Abraham got ahead of God and at the suggestion of his wife took her maid servant Hagar as his wife. She bore him a son named Ishmael when he was 86 years old. It would be 14 more years before the promised heir Issac would be born. In spite of Abrahams actions, God eventually blessed Ishmael because he was Abraham’s son, and made a great nation out of him also. Chapter 17 shows the compassion of God because right after Abraham had gotten ahead of the Lord, God blessed him and reconfirmed the promise again. At this time he even changed his name from Abram to Abraham as we know it today. He told him that the reason for the change was because he had already made him a father of many nations. God was speaking in past tense as if the promise was already done. He went on to tell him how he would bring it all to pass. This time when God reconfirmed the promise, he told him that him and Sarah would bear him a son in her old age. God changed her name from Sarai to Sarah because he was going to make her a mother of many nations and that his son would be named Issac. In verse 17, Abraham literally falls down laughing at the thought that he was going to be a father at 100 years old and Sarah was going to bear a child at 90. It was at this time that circumcision was instituted by God as a sign of the promise although nothing had come to pass yet.

Chapter 18 opens with visitors coming to see Abraham. It is a two-fold visit with the birth of Issac being scheduled and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah being forthcoming to be carried out by two of these three men, the other one being the Lord. This is the part of the story where Sarah laughed and also where Abraham tried to bargain with the Lord for the preservation of Sodom and Gomorrah. Keep in mind that his nephew Lot resided in Sodom with his family. In chapter 19, the two angels that had visited Abraham with the Lord arrived to destroy Sodom. Even though there had not been ten righteous found, God still had the angels escort Lot and his family out before the destruction started. Lot had fallen a long way from his days with his uncle. Even though he may not have been personally involved with the homosexual lifestyle and all the wickedness taking place, he was still tolerant of it. He even offered his two virgin daughters to the men of the city when they came to sexually assault the two angels. The chapter ends with Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed, Lot’s wife being turned to a pillar of salt for looking back on the city she loved, and his daughters getting him drunk and getting pregnant by him to preserve his seed. But still, Abraham “staggered not.”

In chapter 20 Abraham put the life of king Abimelech in jeopardy by lying and saying that Sarah was only his sister. She actually was a half-sister.  God appeared to Abimelech in a dream and told him the truth and promised that if he touched Sarah he was a dead man. In chapter 21 Issac was born and Sarah became jealous of Ishmael. On the day Issac was weaned, she insisted that Abraham send Ishmael and Hagar away. Although it broke his heart, Abraham again complied with his wife’s wishes and sent them away. Chapter 22 starts with the Lord telling Abraham to take Issac, his only son and his heir, and offer him for a burnt offering on top of a mountain in Moriah. After three days journey, The Lord showed Abraham where he was to go. After leaving their servants, Abraham and Issac went up the mountain and began to carry out the ritual of the sacrifice. When questioned by his son as to what they were going to offer for sacrifice, Abraham told him “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” Once they were there, Issac was laid on the altar and Abraham was about to take his life.  The angel of the Lord immediately called unto him from heaven and told him not to sacrifice his son because he had proven his fear of the Lord by not withholding him. In verse 13 Abraham looked and saw a ram caught by his horns in a thicket which he retrieved and sacrificed. Abraham’s life concluded with him remarrying after the death of Sarah and the marriage of Issac. He even went on to have six more sons by his second wife but gave all of his inheritance to his promised heir Issac.

I said all of that in detail to illustrate a point. Little did Abraham know that as he started up one side of that mountain, God had a ram starting up the other side. Even to the point of drawing back the knife to slay his son, Abraham “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief.” He spent all of his life never getting to the top of the mountain in victory but just enduring one valley after another. One hardship or trial after another. Heartache after heartache from separating from his nephew Lot to having to send away his son Ishmael. It seems that his life would have almost been more heartache than one man could endure.

With that being said, God is no respecter of persons. Your life may seem like Abraham’s to be just one heartache and trial and valley after another never reaching the top of the mountain. As he continually proved to Abraham, even when his promises only seem as empty words and a million miles away, God is always faithful. It may not look like it now but God will provide your ram. You will go on to see better days. Abraham was well over 100 by the time Sarah died and he remarried. God blessed him with not only six more sons, but he also lived to see his great grand sons, obviously including Jacob after whom the nation of Israel was named. Even if you never have great grand sons, you will always have the Lord’s presence and blessings in your life. Don’t give up and don’t ever think that God has forgotten you. “Be strong in faith.” Stagger not at the promises of God. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

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