Journey of a Lifetime
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 12, 2004

 

Main Passage: 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.

1. 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 himÖ

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 trust Him.

 

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 armed escort.

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 fine.Ē

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 24Ö

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 God again.

 

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:
 

  • Worship Him Regularly (Thatís what Abram stopped to do.)

  • Talk with Him Daily

  • Read His Word Faithfully

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 prayer.

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 temptation?

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 to 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 Nelson)

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 Negev.

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 family.

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.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2004 SunriseOnline.ca