Journey of a Lifetime
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 12, 2004
Genesis 12:1-9 (NLT)
Earlier in the service
we looked at a section from the Bible in Genesis 12. It told the story
of a man God was leading on a journey. The manís name was Abram. We
know him better as Abraham, which is what his name was changed to in
Genesis 17. So Iíll probably refer to him by both. Abram lived about
4000 years ago and was part of a wealthy family living in the city of
Ur. I like a name I can pronounce. ďUr.Ē (All together nowÖ Ur.) Ur was
located in the part of the world we know today as Iraq. Perhaps youíve
heard of it. In its heyday, Ur was one of the most important cities in
the world and had ruled from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea.
In fact, the city marked a major military and cultural peak in the
history Mesopotamia. But by the time Abram arrived on the scene it was
in a state of political decline. It was disintegrating rapidly under
the impact of foreign invaders.
But even though the city was in a state of decline, it was still at a
high level economically and culturally compared to the rest of the
area. It was also a centre for worship. The people were worshipers of
the sun, the moon, stars, fire, rain, and other forces of nature. From
a world that started off with one God in the garden of Eden, the people
had made gods out of a variety of things. Kind of like weíve done
today. Take a look at this drawing of how Ur would have been laid out.
[PowerPoint] Up near the top you can see a huge structure that
dominates the city. That was the location of the temple to their
Moon-God. That temple supposedly looked like this at the time of Abram.
And hereís a shot of some of the ruins there today.
So there Abram wasÖ living comfortably in a proud city, and enjoying
all the economic, social and cultural benefits Ur had to offer. And
itís out of this setting that God spoke to Abram and challenged him to
set out on a journey.
Just to get a sense of the journey that Abraham was about to take,
letís look at this map. You can see that he traveled quite a distance,
especially considering that he would have walked most of the way. In
fact, he traveled over 1000 miles (1600 km) following Godís direction.
God took Abraham on quite a journey. Heís taken me on a journey as
well. And I believe God wants to take each one of us on our own
personal journey. The journey He wants to take you on wonít be the same
as the one Heís taking me on. They may intersect, but I know He has
something special planned just for you. And whatever it is, let me tell
you Ė you can trust Him. When I look back at my life and see the
opportunities and experiences and even some of the heartaches and
disappointments Iíve had because of my relationship with God, thereís
nothing I would want to change. The only things I would change would be
the times that I decided I wanted to go my own way and started out on
my own journey apart from God.
So this morning, over the next several minutes, let me give you a
checklist. Itís a checklist for you to follow on your journey with God.
A Travelerís Checklist:
The first thing on the
checklist and the first thing we need to do is make sure we get
Directions Ė Seek Godís guidance
Genesis 12:1 (NLT);
Then the LORD told Abram, "Leave your
country, your relatives, and your father's house, and go to the land
that I will show you."
I heard a really neat story a few years ago that was conveyed to me as
a true story. I asked around a bit, and people told me it was true. It
involves an elderly couple living in Grand Manan, New Brunswick. Well,
this is a particularly Godly couple who are part of one of the Wesleyan
Churches there. The wife is pretty much bedridden, and the husband
stays home most of the time to care for her.
But they have a son who is not a Christian, and who works in political
circles in the U.S. Iím not exactly sure what he does, but after the
attacks of September 11, 2001 (3 years ago yesterday), he was in the
White House. He was sitting in a room when President Bush came rushing
in and declared, ďI need someone to pray for me right now.Ē No one
answered, so the president again stated, ďI need someone to pray for me
right now.Ē Again, no one was answering. So this son spoke up and said,
ďIím not a Christian, so I canít pray for you. But I know someone who
can.Ē So that night this Godly man in Grand Manan, New Brunswick
received a phone call to pray for the most powerful man in the world.
It inspires me to think that the President of the United States, the
leader of the free world, the most powerful man on earth, needs to seek
the guidance of the Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, the
Ruler of everything. And if the most powerful man on earth needs Godís
help, what makes me think I can get by without it?
Psalm 119:105 (NLT);
Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light
for my path.
Whatever direction God may give to you, be ready for it. Read His Word
regularly, talk with Him daily, and learn to be tuned in to the things
of God. Allow Him to speak to you and show you the way He wants you to
go. And whatever that means, remember that you can trust Him.
2. Pack the car
Ė Prepare to follow Godís leading
Back in 1994, English
papers reported a bizarre story about a 63-year old man who needed gall
bladder surgery. The only problem was he was afraid of doctors. He
refused to let them perform the surgery. But realizing that it needed
to be done, he decided to perform the surgery on himself. But something
went wrong, and the manís self-surgery resulted in an infection that
led to his death soon afterward.
The man knew what needed to be done. But he had a problem trusting the
doctors, and decided to take things into his own hands. Folks, we need
to trust God. Whatever directions he has given you for your life, you
need to know that you can trust Him.
Abraham received Godís instructions. Then He had a choice. He could
acknowledge Godís leading and prepare to follow it into a land he knew
nothing about, or he could stay where he was with family and friends,
enjoying the wealth that his family had accumulated over the years.
What was his choice? Verse 4 tells us;
Genesis 12:4 (NLT);
So Abram departed as the LORD had instructed
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT);
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do
not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and
He will direct your paths.
I donít always understand Godís leading or what He has in store for me,
but I donít need to. God sees the big picture and directs my life
accordingly. And Heíll do the same for you.
3. Step on the
gas Ė Put it into action
James 1:22 (NLT)
And remember, it is a message to obey, not
just to listen to. If you don't obey, you are only fooling yourself.
Abraham was 75 years old when he got his marching orders. (v. 4)
Moses was 80.
Samuel and David were both young boys when God called them.
Mary was a teenager when the angel appeared to her to say she would
give birth to Jesus.
And Jesus himself began his public ministry when he was 30.
God calls people from all kinds of backgrounds at all kinds of stages
in their lives. And God is providing some kind of direction for your
life today. Whatever direction heís giving you, donít hesitate. You can
4. Turn right Ė
Be committed to the journey
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT)
And let us run with endurance the race that
God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom
our faith depends from start to finishÖ Think about all he endured when
sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don't become
weary and give up.
Iíve got to tell you, Abraham didnít always stay on the right road.
Later in the same chapter where we read about his call we read about
him taking a wrong turn. He arrived in Egypt, and was afraid that some
Egyptian might kill him in order to have his wife. I mean, Sarai was 65
years old but must have been quite the hottie. So the two of them
agreed that they would pass her off as his sister instead of as his
wife so that no one would kill Abram.
And their plan workedÖ kind of. Pharaoh himself was smitten by Saraiís
beauty, and took her for his harem. But when Pharaoh discovered their
deception, he was furious and had them sent out of the country under
Abraham trusted God enough to follow him, but later on he failed to
trust God to protect him.
Or how about Peter, Jesusí disciple? Late one night (actually, early
one morning around 3:00 am) he and the rest of the disciples were out
in a boat on the Sea of Galilee fighting against the wind and the waves
when all of a sudden they looked out and saw a figure walking across
the water toward them. They began screaming and yelling in terror. They
thought it was a ghost coming toward them. But a voice called out,
ďRelaxÖ chill. Itís just me.Ē It was the voice of Jesus. Peter being
Peter called back, ďIf itís really you, tell me to come to you by
walking on the water, too.Ē Perhaps not the brightest thing he ever
said, but Jesus humoured him and said, ďOkay, come on out. The waterís
So Peter hoped over the side of the boat and headed out toward Jesus.
And he was doing all right, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. He
was walking across the top of the water, but then he lost perspective.
He looked away from the very one making it possible for him to walk on
the water. And when he did, he began to sink. And Jesus had to reach
out and rescue him.
While I was preparing this message, I came across a quote:
ďItís easy to trust God when everything falls neatly into place, but
the faithful trust God even when they feel lost and without direction.Ē
~ Eddie Snipes, Exchanged Life Outreach
You and I need to turn right and be committed to following Godís
leading on the journey. Easy enough to say, but the truth is there may
be times that you take a wrong turnÖ when you take your eyes off of
Jesus. My problem is that when Iím driving a car down a wrong road, Iím
too stubborn to admit it. I prefer to wander aimlessly, hoping that by
some fluke I arrive at my destination. Which, of course, never happens.
When we take our eyes off of Jesus and stray from the road Heís leading
us on, we need to set our pride aside, admit our failure, apologize for
it, and get back on the right road. Listen to what it says in Proverbs
Proverbs 24:16 (NIV)
ďÖfor though a righteous man falls seven
times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.Ē
So make it your goal to turn right. And in the event that you do take a
wrong turn, donít waste time. Do whatever it takes to get right with
5. Pull over at
the rest stop Ė Take time for God
Genesis 12:8 (NLT);
After that, Abram traveled southward and set
up camp in the hill country between Bethel on the west and Ai on the
east. There he built an altar and worshiped the LORD.
When youíre driving down the highway there are two kinds of rest stops
you can pull over at. There are the small ones along the side of the
road that you just stop at for a little break by yourself, and there
are the larger ones that have washrooms, picnic tables, vending
machines, gas stations, convenience stores, and whole lot of people.
You need both on this journey God is taking you on. You need the times
to pull over yourself and worship the Lord privately and talk with Him
about the details of your life. And you need to get together with His
Church, as youíre doing this morning at Sunrise. Here you can meet all
kind of other people on their own journeys, and you can come together
to worship Christ. Plus, you have the opportunity to check the map and
make sure that youíre still on the right road.
6. Fill up the
tank Ė Replenish yourself spiritually
Ever feel out of gas
spiritually? You need to refuel. How do you do that? There are lots of
ways. Let me just give you the top three. These are really essential
and should be part of the life of every believer:
This is interesting to
me. Did you realize that Jesus, who was Himself God, needed to spend
time replenishing Himself? Look at this:
Luke 5:16 (NLT);
ÖJesus often withdrew to the wilderness for
If Jesus needed to take time to fill up His tank, so do I and so do you.
7. Check under
the hood Ė Evaluate yourself
Any M*A*S*H fans here? I
love M*A*S*H. In fact, I just got season 6 on DVD and started watching
it this week. Thatís the season when Charles Emerson Winchester joins
the unit. Maybe one of the best comedies of all time. I remember seeing
one episode where Hawkeye was upset because while he was in Korea one
of his old schoolmates who Hawkeye described as ďincredibly averageĒ
was back in the U.S. receiving a $100,000 grant to study mice. And
remember, thatís 1950s currency. Hawkeye was feeling sorry for himself
and the fact that he was out of the loop. He wasnít in a position where
he could receive honours and be given grants for work projects. Thatís
when Colonel Potter sat him down and told him something that was so
good that I wrote it down:
ďItís too big a world to be in competition with everybody else. The
only person I have to be better than is who I am right now.Ē
~ Colonel Potter
We all need to stop and evaluate ourselves from time to time. How are
we doing? Are we improving? Are we stronger Christians today than we
were a year ago? Are we expressing Godís love more freely, frequently,
and fruitfully? What have we learned in the past week about God? The
past month? Are we consistently spending time praying and reading Godís
word? Are we an encouragement to other Christians? Are we withstanding
It can be difficult to evaluate yourself, unless of course youíre
willing to lie. But itís a process we all should go through from time
1 Timothy 4:16 (NLT)
Keep a close watch on yourself and on your
teaching. Stay true to what is right, and God will save you and those
who hear you.
8. Get back on
the road again Ė Keep moving forward
(Show picture of Willie
You can pull over at the rest stop, fill up the tank, and check under
the hood. But when thatís done be sure to get back on the road again.
After Abram stopped for his rest stop, it tells us;
Genesis 12:9 (NIV);
Then Abram set out and continued toward the
Godís glad when you stop to worship Him. But remember thatís only a
rest stop, itís not the journey. Itís not where Christianity is lived
out. You live out Christianity in your everyday lifeÖ the way you treat
the people who wait on you, the way you talk to your spouse, the way
you fill out your income tax forms, the way you handle difficult people
at work, the way you share Christ and represent Him to your friends and
Youíve got to get back on the road and keep moving and obeying and
following the directions He gives you for your life.
God takes us all on our
own journey. For Shera and for me, that has meant starting a new church
here in Charlottetown. For Abram it meant taking his family and leaving
the familiar and comfortable surroundings of Ur and heading to a land
God promised to him. I donít know what it means for you. Just be tuned
into His Word and into what Heís trying to say to you, and be obedient.
Check the roadmap, the Bible, to make sure that youíre headed in the
right direction, and trust Him.
And let me throw a quick work in for parents. Make sure you let your
kids follow Godís roadmap for their lives, not yours. I can think of
several examples of parents who had their own big dreams for their
children and pushed them toward those dreams even if those dreams
conflicted with what God had in mind for them. But thereís nothing you
could do worse than not letting your child follow Godís plan for their
life. It may not be what you dreamed of, it could mean theyíll move
away, and it may mean they wonít make a whole lot of money or be seen
as successful in the eyes of the world. But believe me when I tell you
that any sacrifice is worth it. Years ago I came to the conclusion thatÖ
Any sacrifice to be in the middle of Godís
will is no sacrifice, because thereís no better place to be.
Thereís no better place to be than in the middle of Godís will, so how
can anything that gets us there be considered a sacrifice?
Godís good, and you can trust Him on this journey Heís leading you on.