This morning, we’re going to finish up our four-week series of lessons entitled “My Story.” If you missed the past three weeks, let me bring you up to speed. We’ve been discussing the fact that we are all creating our life stories, that one day we will all look back and tell stories about our lives.
And the good news is that many of you, a few years from now, you’re going to tell a story about this chapter of your life, and you’re going to have a story that you’re really proud to tell. You’ll say, “I made some new friends, I took a step of faith, I started a new discipline that helped change the direction of my life. I was able to get over a hurt and heal a relationship. I started a ministry, I stopped something that was hurting me.” And as you look back several chapters from now to this chapter of your life, you will have a beautiful story to tell.
But, unfortunately — and we all know this is true — for some of us, several years from now, we’ll look back to this chapter of our lives, and we won’t be so proud of it. Because it may be that we are making some decisions right now that we will regret later on, and this might be a chapter in our lives that we just really don’t want to talk about. But how the story ends is up to you.
Because the key thought for this series of lessons is this – the decisions that you made yesterday determine the stories that you tell today. And unfortunately, we can’t change any of those past decisions, we can’t change the story that has been written to this point. But we can change what the story looks like in the future. Because the decisions that we make today will determine the stories that we tell tomorrow.
Now, in this chapter of your life, some of you are going to sense that you need to step out in a new direction. There’s something that God is calling you to do and you’re thinking, “I need to take this step of faith. I need to venture out. Somehow, I just know that there’s something more that I’m supposed to be doing.”
And when you get to that place in your life, sometimes the best decision you can make is to go when it would be easier for you to stay. Sometimes, the best decision you can make is to take that step of faith, to go when it would be easier to play it safe and live in your comfort zone.
Let me give you an example from my own story. When I was in high school, I was good at math. I was really good at math, and I loved math. My idea of fun was sitting down with a pile of equations and working them out. I also developed a love of computers, and I was really good at computer programming.
While I was in high school, I was also actively involved at church. What that meant, among other things, was that, as a teenager, I used to give short talks on Wednesday evenings during the devotional time. And I did a pretty decent job at that. And so, I went to one of our elders when I was a senior in high school and I said, “I’m having trouble making up my mind about what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. I’m thinking about majoring in math, because that’s what I love. But I’m pretty good at speaking, too. And so I thought maybe I should major in Bible and plan to preach. What do you think?”
And this wise elder gave me the second most important piece of advice I’ve ever received in my life. Remember, last week I told you that the most important piece of advice I ever received was, “Hang in there. If you start running now, you’ll be running the rest of your life. Stay with it as long as you can.” But the second best advice I’ve ever received came from this elder. He said, “Don’t become a preacher unless you have to do it. Don’t become a preacher unless you feel compelled to do it. If you can do anything else, do that instead.”
And I thought to myself, “Well, that makes my decision easy, because I don’t feel like I have to be a preacher. I’m content to major in math.” So I did. I went to Freed-Hardeman and signed up to major in math with an emphasis in computer programming. And I fully intended to make that my career.
But something happened during my first semester. Looking back, I’m convinced that God’s Spirit was working on my heart and I began to be more and more convinced that I needed to become a preacher. I thought to myself, “I have the ability to do this and if I don’t use that ability in a way that honors God, I don’t know if I can live with myself.” And so I felt compelled to change my major to Bible.
Not everyone supported that decision. Even though my parents were Christians, they thought I was making a big mistake. I think in their minds a computer programmer would make a pretty good living, and they didn’t even know whether preachers got paid or not. And, as I told you last week, after my first church, I wasn’t so sure myself. But I was convinced that I was doing what God wanted me to do and so I stepped out in faith. It was a scary decision.
But sometimes, the best decision you can make is to go when it would be easier for you to stay. In this series of lessons, we’re asking the question: “How do we live out a story that is worth telling?” How do we live out the story that God wants us to tell?
And I believe the answer is found in Hebrews 12:2. The writer says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author and the perfecter of our faith. If you’re going to go, you’re going to have to leave where you are and that’s going to take faith. Which is why you need Jesus, because he is the one who perfects our faith.
So, in this series of lessons, we’re making four decisions. Week number 1, we decided to start a discipline that would help us to live out the story God wants us to tell.
Week number 2, we decided to stop something that would hinder our story from being what it should be.
Last week, we decided to stay the course when we’ve made a commitment, even though it would sometimes be easier to throw in the towel, to quit, to walk away
But this morning, we’re going to fix our eyes on Jesus when he calls us to go when it would be so much easier for us to play it safe and stay. And the Old Testament story that I think best illustrates this is the story about Abraham’s calling. When we first learn about Abraham, we find him living in the city of Ur in the land of the Chaldeans.
Ur was quite an impressive city for its day. Archaeologists tell us that in Abraham’s day, there were perhaps as many as 250,000 people who lived there, which makes it bigger than Fayetteville. It was a center of mathematics, astronomy, commerce and philosophy. People from all over moved to Ur because they wanted to be part of that great city.
That’s where Abraham and his family lived. But, as wonderful as that city was, there was a problem with it – the people there worshiped a lot of heathen gods. In fact, in Joshua 24:2, we learn that Abraham’s family worshiped those other gods. They worshiped the gods of the Chaldeans.
But the one true God came to Abraham and gave him a very simple and direct command in Genesis 12:1. “The LORD said to Abram, ‘Leave your land, your relatives, and your father’s home. Go to the land that I will show you.’” (NET) Abram, I want you to leave this city, leave your family. And go to the land I will show you. Leave and go. Leave and go.
Now, this may seem obvious to you, but I want to go ahead and say it anyway. In order for you to go somewhere else, you have to leave where you are. To go somewhere else, you have to leave what’s known, what’s comfortable, what’s predictable and what’s easy. Craig Groeschel has put it this way: “To step toward your destiny, you might have to step away from your security.”
Let me say that again. Sometimes, to step toward what God is calling you to do, to step toward your destiny, you have to step away from your security. Think about Abram. God said, “Go to this place you’ve never been. In fact, I’m not even going to tell you where it is.” And I would imagine that Abram thought to himself, “Wait a minute, I grew up here, I’ve got all my friends here, I like it here. My house is almost paid for here. You know, if I ever have kids, I like the schools here. I’ve got my best friend here; we’ve been friends since we were 12 years old. I get my hair cut down the street. I know where to get my oil changed. And there were all these things that were comfortable to him and yet God was calling him to go to a place he knew nothing about.
And God made this promise in verses 2 and 3. He said, “Abram, here’s my promise to you.” “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great and you will be a blessing, and I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you, I will curse. And all the people on the earth will be blessed through you.”
Which must have been a bit confusing to Abram. “There are going to be nations of people that will come from us? God, maybe you haven’t noticed, but we don’t have any kids. None. I’m 75 years old and we’ve been trying for years, but we’re childless. We can’t have kids, and you’re telling me that there will be nations of people that will come out of us?”
Here’s something very important. I don’t know if you’ve ever made a promise to God. God, if you just help me pass this test, I promise I’ll study next time. God, if you’ll make the biopsy come back negative, I’ll go to church Sunday morning. How many of you have made a promise like that?
Here’s the thing. We’re not changed by the promises we make to God. We’re changed by believing the promises that God has made to us. Let me say that again. We’re not changed by the promises we make to God. We’re changed by believing the promises that God has made to us. And God makes this promise to Abram. And so, what did he do in response? Verse 4 — Abram left as the Lord told him.
Now I want you to stop and think about this for a moment. What would have happened if Abram didn’t go? What if he made excuses and he said, “Well, it’s easier for me to stay and I don’t really know where I’m going, and that doesn’t seem very safe, and it’s scary. And we tried to have kids; and we’re not going to have kids. It seems to me that I’ve got a lot to lose and not much to gain.”
Today, we refer to God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But If Abram didn’t go, there never would have been an Isaac. There wouldn’t have been a Jacob. And he would not be known as the God of Abraham because Abraham would have stayed behind with the foreign gods that his family worshiped. I’m telling you, there are untold consequences that would be different today if Abram didn’t have the faith to obey God and go.
I believe that someone here this morning needs to hear this message – There is going to come a time in your life when you sense there’s something new, something different and you will have the opportunity to go where you believe God has called you to go. But, to do that, you’re going to have to leave where you are and if you don’t have the faith to do it, but instead because of fear, you refuse to go, you have no idea the blessings you will miss out on if you don’t go. Sometimes, the best decision you can make is to go when it would be easier to stay.
So let me ask again the question that I’ve been asking every week of this series. If you’ve been here the past few weeks, you know what I’m going to ask. The question is, “What is the story that God wants you to tell?” And then, ask yourself the question, “Where do you need to go in order to be able to tell that story?” What step of faith do you need to take so your story will be what God wants it to be? And I want you to really think about that because it can drastically change your life if you decide to go when it would be easier for you to stay.
Now, we understand that for Abraham, it was a literal moving, a literal going from one place to another. It may not be so literal for you. Now, it could be. I think every missionary who is in the field has felt this call from God – a call to leave their country, to leave their family, to leave everything that’s known and everything’s that’s comfortable to go to a place that they believe God wants them to serve.
I believe that God is calling us as a church to go. And to do that, we’re going to have to leave everything around us here that’s known and that’s comfortable, and go to a place where things are going to be different, and maybe not so comfortable.
But it’s not always that literal. Sometimes God calls you to go to be a part of a particular ministry. Or he calls you to go and love your neighbor in a special way. Or he calls you to go find someone who is hurting and help to heal them.
But, wherever God calls you to go, be certain of this — When God calls, there are no guarantees about tomorrow. Abraham truly didn’t know where he was going, he didn’t know how he would get there, he didn’t know how long it would take, and he didn’t even know for sure how he would know he was there when he got there. All he knew was that God had called him to go. Everything else was uncertain.
Which makes it difficult for us, because we like having certainties regarding the future. We would like to that if we step out in faith, we won’t have any problems and people will always be nice to us, and we’ll live to a ripe old age and die with our family all around us.
And there’s nothing wrong with wanting those things. But understand that living by faith means there are no guarantees and there is no certainty about the future.
Let me put it another way. Living by faith means stepping out for God and leaving the results to him. He’s not going to guarantee you long life and good success, and things being easy. You may have those blessings. But you may not.
Rather, a life of faith means, “I am going to be the man or woman that God wants me to be, no matter where it leads. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m trusting God to work out the details. In the meantime, I’m going to step out by faith and follow where he leads me.”
And it could be that God wants you to start a ministry or be involved in someone else’s life, or whatever. You will know if God is leading you in a particular direction. And so the first question is, “What story does God want you to tell?” Now, based on the story that God wants you to tell, what step of faith do you need to take? Where does God want you to go?
And just to be clear, I’m not telling you to leave your marriage. Don’t you dare go home and say, “Well, dear, it would be easier to stay with you, but, you know, Alan said to go and so Adios.” No, no, no, no. Go back and listen to last week’s lesson. Stay in your marriage.
And I’m not telling you to leave your job. Don’t go in to work tomorrow morning saying, “Well, there’s got to be something else out there and I don’t know what it is, but I’m gonna step out in faith and resign.” No, no, no.
But based on what God wants for you, what step of faith do you need to take? Some of you may take a step of faith and start a Bible study in your home. You don’t know who’s going to come, you don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t know if you’re good enough, you don’t know what you’re going to teach . But one day, your story is going to be different. And you’re going to say, “A while back, I wasn’t sure but I decided to do it, and now I’ve got this great group of people that are learning and growing together. I had no idea how different our lives would be.”
Or others of you, it may be a ministry you’re going to start or get involved in and a months from nowr, you’ll say, “I had no idea that serving these middle school kids would change my life so much or ministering to the elderly folks in this nursing home.”
Or maybe you say, “I’ve always wanted to help repair cars for single moms that couldn’t afford it. I don’t even know how to get started but you do. You step out in faith. And, months from now, you’ve this awesome ministry. But you’ve got to take that first step.
Or some of you, maybe God is calling you to foster or to adopt. And you say, “God, I need details, what’s going to happen?” Because there can be a lot of uncertainty – Can I handle all the responsibilities? Can I afford all the responsibilities? But you believe that’s what God is calling you to do and so you step out in faith. And yes, it will be difficult, but God didn’t call us to an easy life, he called us to a faith-filled life. And you may need to take that step of faith when it would be easier to do nothing.
Why is it that so many of us don’t go when we believe that God wants us to? Why is it that, as a Christian, I may have the Holy Spirit prodding me to serve in a particular way and I just don’t do it. And I can’t speak for you. But for me, a lot of the times, it’s fear. I’m afraid, I’m not sure how it’s going to work out. The bottom line is I don’t have enough faith in God.
But the Bible says that without faith, it’s impossible to please God. How did Abram leave where he was and go where God called him to go? Hebrews 11:8 tells us, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” How did he do it? He did it by faith.
And that’s how you will do it. You’ll do it by faith. When God calls you to go but you don’t know exactly where you’re going or how to get there, how will you go? You’ll go by faith. How did I start preaching when I didn’t know what was going to happen twenty years down the road? I did it by faith. And wherever you go in response to God’s call, you will do it by faith because without faith, it is impossible to please God.
You may say, “But I don’t have enough faith to finish the journey.” Here’s the great news – you don’t have to have enough faith to finish, you just have to have enough to start. You just have to have enough faith to take the first step. I promise you, 40 years ago, I didn’t have the faith to be willing to go through everything I’ve gone through as a preacher. And frankly, if I had known everything that I would experience as a preacher, it probably would have scared me so bad I would never have done it. We just have to take the first step of faith and let God take care of the rest.
So, I don’t know what you’re going to have the faith to do. But one day, you’re going to tell a story and your story will either be, “there’s a chapter in my life where I sensed God was calling me to do something, and by faith I went.” Or your story will be “there’s a chapter in my life where I sensed God was calling me to do something, but I was afraid, and so I did nothing.” Either one of those could be your story.
By faith, I pray that you’ll have the courage to decide to start a discipline that will change the direction of your story. By faith, I pray that you will decide to stop something that would hinder your story from being what God wants it to be. By faith, I pray that you have the courage to stay the course and to be faithful to what you’ve committed to do when it’s easier to throw in the towel and walk away.
And when God calls you to go somewhere, to do something, I pray that you will have the faith to step out and serve God when it would be easier for you to stay. Because the decisions you make today will determine the stories that you tell tomorrow. And we all want to live out a story worth telling, a story that demonstrates the glory of God as we fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author and the perfecter of our faith.