By: William Henry
As many of you have probably already started the new year with resolutions, some of you may have even created a vision board. For those of you who are unfamiliar with a vision board, its basically a map of what you plan for yourself coming into the new year. A vision board helps you to plan and understand your life goal for the year and lead you into your plans for the future.
The first thing I want to encourage you to ask yourself is, who’s plan is it? Are you mapping out your plan or are you planning to work out God’s plan for your life? This is a huge question. I have often used the analogy of a highway, sometimes a toll road.
To summarize, if we look at life as a road, there are exits and forks. We all start out on God’s plan, His Road. We are born with the opportunities to follow His will in our lives. At some point, we are presented with a major fork. We either choose to continue down His highway, or we choose our own. Regardless of which one we choose, there are opportunities to get back to His or to leave it.
As I started this year, I began reading the Bible again from Genesis 1:1 on January 1st. When I first read the entire Bible, I started in the middle of the year and I followed it. Then I continued to stay on that plan and then God made it clear this year, that I needed to do things differently. So, I stopped the plan I was on mid-stream and started over.
God used this to take me back through the story of Abraham again. Of course, I was presented the same questions and emotions I have felt every time I have read the story. This time, God wanted me to spend some time on faith. Its different this time because it isn’t about looking at how I can be more faithful, but showing me the faithfulness I have demonstrated. God was encouraging me.
Many of us have probably taken one of the gifts of the spirit tests, there are many available all over the internet or in your church maybe. One of my gifts is encouragement. When I am following God’s plan, He will instruct me to encourage people. Sometimes, it’s people I know really well family or friends. Other times, its random people I meet in a store. What I know is, it’s a gift that is to be used to glorify God. Sometimes, He will spend time encouraging me. It is my time spent strengthening myself in God’s promises.
We can look back to 1 Samuel, David is struggling because his people have turned on him. His people wanted to stone him to death because they had been robbed of their possessions and families. David was distraught to put it mildly. But, David knew what to do. He stopped listening to people and remembered all God had done for him.
And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. 1 Samuel 30:6
I learned this lesson a while ago. I cannot look to others, but only to God. When I feel weak or I lose sight of my path, I have learned the answer is really simple. It’s not always easy to do, but it’s simple. I start giving thanks. I thank God for everything He has already done. As I start to thank Him, He reminds me of other things He has done for me. Its not that He is boasting, although He is God, but rather He is reminding me of how much He loves me. He is encouraging me by reminding me of all the things He has done already. Then, He starts showing me His promises. This is how I strengthen myself in Him. I believe, this is what David did. I believe David knelt on his own, alone, and began to thank God for everything God provided and promises to provide. I believe he began to see that God always holds true to His promises.
When we look at Abraham, much earlier than the story of David, we know Abraham was faithful. So much so, he was willing and committed to following everything God put on him. When we look at Abraham and his son Isaac, we have to marvel at the faith of these two.
When we read through Genesis 12, we see that Abram was 75 years old when he departed Haran. God had already promised he would make him a father of many nations, but at 75 it would require a lot of faith to believe that would ever happen. Imagine, patient are you? When you have asked for something, hoped for something, would you wait for that long? My wife and I were in our mid-twenties when our first child was born. If had made it to 50, I would have already given up hope that I would have a child. Abram believed God wholly.
When we fast forward, Abram is 86 years old and fathers Ishmael. Sarai ran Hagar off and Abram’s son was gone with her. Yet, Abram remained faithful. When we get to Genesis 17, we see God give him a name. God changes his name to Abraham. At 99 years old, God instructs Abraham to walk before Him and be blameless that God can make a covenant between himself and Abraham. God also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah. God again makes it clear, Abraham and Sarah will be given a son. We are told Abraham fell on his face and laughed.
Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” Genesis 17:17
Abraham brought up Ishmael, but God reiterates that He is referring to the son yet to come. He instructs Abraham to name his son Isaac. On a side note, we are also told that Abraham upheld his promise to God and was circumcised at 99 years old. Not only that, but that he made sure his 13 year old son Ishmael was also circumcised. If you are a man, I want you to think about that. This is a time when there wasn’t anesthesia or morphine, this is a man and a knife in the woods. Trust and fear of God are required for a man to endure this kind of procedure.
As we progress into Genesis 18, Sarah overhears that she will bear a child and she too laughs, struggling to comprehend how this will be possible. Abraham and Sarah are nearly 100 years old. They have waited a very long time. We have heard of women’s biological clocks, imagine 99 years old and never having a child and then a baby is born. The reason for the detail is to help us to understand God makes the impossible, possible. He always fulfills His promises.
Now, we fast forward. God instructs Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. We have to remember that Abraham has waited for decades for this son to come and now, after everything that has happened, God wants Abraham to sacrifice him. This isn’t just sending him away, this is much more than just a simple letting him go.
Abraham has to build an alter while his son watches. Then, he ties his son up and places him on the alter. Then he takes out his knife and prepares to kill his son, the son he has hoped and waited for. God, seeing Abraham’s faith stops him and provides a ram to be sacrificed.
What I want to focus on is the aftermath. Imagine for a minute that you are asked to sacrifice your son. Your son is old enough to ask the question of where is the lamb to sacrifice, so he understands this process. Now, as his father, you bind his hands and put him on the alter. You take your knife out and prepare to sacrifice your son. That would be an extremely traumatic experience as a father. But, what about the son?
Most of us, when we read the story, we think about Abraham’s faith. We look at all the time taken to explain how long Abraham waited for this child. We focus on the unbelievable story of a 100 year old man and a 99 year old woman gave birth to a baby boy. We look at the faith required to continue to trust God for that long.
How may of us would give up hope on a promise that was decades old? Maybe we have a dream of owning a mansion or being a millionaire, but would we continue to believe that if we were 99 years old and it hadn’t happened? Most of us are not patient enough and lack the faith to believe and trust for that long. Not Abraham. He believed God’s promise and never lost faith. But let’s go back to Isaac.
While we don’t know the details of the conversation immediately following the encounter, we know that Isaac learned to trust God through this process. Think about it. If you are reading this, you have a dad. Maybe he isn’t in your life or maybe he is, but you have a dad. If your dad had placed you on alter and you both knew he was about to sacrifice you, how would you feel about him?
Would you still want to join him for family dinner? Would you trust him around your children? Would you forgive him for his willingness to kill you? Would you understand that God is sovereign and trust God?
I want you to imagine you are Isaac. Maybe there have been some struggles in your life, some major events that have molded or shaped who you are in a way that you only looked at the negative effects of the experience. Instead of looking at the bad, I want you to think about it from Isaac’s perspective.
These things aren’t about what God did to you, but rather what God delivered you from. We know Abraham was following God’s instructions, but it wasn’t Abraham that delivered Isaac from sacrifice and death on earth. God did that. God delivered Isaac. Abraham was committed to killing his son and God stopped it.
When you look at whatever happened in the past, whatever put you here in this place, whatever you might have experienced, God either provided blessing or delivered you from tribulation. God is not the cause of your troubles, but He is the answer.
As you look at this year, as you plan out your resolutions or your vision board, pause for a minute. Give thanks. Thank God for deliverance and for blessings. Ask Him to show you His desires for you this year. Don’t expect the answer to be all about you. Expect that God wants to do great things for others through you.
After you have thanked Him, after you have asked for His vision for your life, have faith! Trust in Him and follow through with what He desires of you!
My prayers for you are that you find your path. If you aren’t on God’s road, that you take the exit ramp to get on it! I Pray that you will be blessed by the blessings you provide others. Welcome 2019, but don’t look back on 2018 with frustration. Instead be thankful for the blessings and deliverance experienced in 2018 and look forward to those things to come in 2019 and beyond!