Series: Growing Deeper in Prayer Genesis 17
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson decide to go on a camping trip. After dinner and a bottle of wine, they laid down for the night, and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend.
“Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.” Watson replied, “I see millions of stars.”
“What does that tell you?” Watson pondered for a minute.
“Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.”
“Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo.”
“Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three.”
“Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant.”
“Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.”
“What does it tell you, Holmes?”
Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke: “Watson, you dumb person! Someone has stolen our tent!”
One experience 2 different perspectives. Counting stars may not be your favorite hobby, but once in a while it is good to look up and be reminded of a greater world out there. Or maybe you be you gave up counting the stars when you quickly realized your tent was stolen?
We continue to unfold our theme for this year Exponential, Growing Deeper, Moving Forward, Reaching wider. Exponential is a radical way of growth where every believer seeks to multiply themselves through the power of God’s LIFE working in them. In this term we look at Growing Deeper and in particular in the area of Prayer.
Waiting on God can be an exercise like counting the stars. It starts off with excitement and a sense of wonder but quickly becomes a futile venture, especially when you discover your tent has just been stolen. You will agree with me that waiting on God is not a maendeleo chap chap business, but can feel like a long and slow process and sometimes even make us think God has forgotten us.
At some point in our lives we were counting, counting the promises of God, counting with hope, zeal and excitement. I want to get married before I reach 30, I want to finish my project before I reach 40, When I marry I want my 2 perfect children. This is my season, this is my year, this is my time, this is my hour we say but soon after we are ashamed to admit that we have stopped counting.
Quite honestly we have all had these kinds of prayers and dreams. This is how I think of EMERGE, we want to grow to 1000 by the year 2022, we want to grow EXPONENTIAL…..a church with multiple facilities, bursting it’s banks with activity and reaching many….we are now in the 3rd year and sometimes when we look at our numbers today….It feels like someone has stolen our tent.
How do we journey through these kinds of experiences in our walk of faith? Does the reality of our immediate situations rob us the Hope of eternity? How do we discern God’s best timing when we feel we are out of time? How will we Grow Deeper under these circumstances?
These feelings are not uncommon for you alone. For Abraham counting stars was a special experience. It was a personal experience. Let’s see his account in Gen 17.
Stars, Ahh yes the stars. He would remember. Now at 99 years, he remembers how more than 20 years ago, He responded to follow God with zeal and passion.
In Gen 12, God called Abraham with some great promises and exciting words, “I will make you into a great Nation…(read vs 1-3) and At 75 he set off with his whole household into an unknown world. Hoping for the best.
In Chapters 15, God appears to Abraham with these words (read Vs 1-6). Abraham is quick to point out his biggest need as though God had forgotten his promise. And that’s when he was shown the stars and he begun to imagine the possibilities…. Look up into the heavens and count the stars…If you can count them…so shall your offspring be….
Ahh yes the stars…
God then proceeds to make a covenant with Abraham that evening.
In chapter 16 an interesting twist of events happens. This is the may be season, this is when Abraham’s tent was stolen…Sarai his wife realizes that Abraham may be lost in his dreams and offers their interpretation of what God meant by saying you will have descendants.
It was a ‘God helps those who help themselves solution’ and Sarah offers Hagar as an alternative and as a result Ishmael is born.
Now at 99 years old, Ishmael at 13 years old, God reappears to him and affirms the covenant through circumcision.
In Vs 15 however God revisits his promise, read…It’s like he reminds God the tent is stolen, stop dreaming…Forget that story we already sorted this thing out with Sarah, while you took your time…Ishmael came about, Now work with him….
But God goes on to affirm His promise still stands….
Allow me to address some lessons we can learn from Abraham and especially how God calls us to grow deeper in our walk with him? I will do these in 3 C’s for ease of remembrance, The Call, The Covenant and The Child
Understand the Call
It was an exciting call for Abraham. God had promised great things for and through Abraham. He was given a reason by God to ‘claim, to possess, to take hold and to walk with his head high with an un-bwogable attitude. But could it be that Abraham misunderstood the call. Could it be that He focused on the ‘you’ and missed the ‘I’ in that Call. I will make you into a great Nation? Of course being childless, the words great Nation resonated well with him. Did he miss the opportunity to understand the big Why?
Many times we read God’s promises to us with such excitement. Our own small life dreams can lead us to interpret God’s call in our lives. Our immediate needs and desires can cause us to miss God’s big plan. What else could God mean, if He said he will make me a great nation and I don’t have a son?
And so we step out with bold prayers and confidence as though the call is about us. We go out to claim, possess and achieve. We immediately put God in our clocks and soon start wrestling with Him over really what we think He said and what He really meant. Impatience builds when we see delays and sometimes we even cut corners. We were not seeing the stars right.
Isaiah 55:9 As high as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. While God delights granting our hearts desires, these can never be secondary to His own desires. God’s desire and dream is the one big Star He desires to draw our attention to- His LIFE, Himself.
Are our Prayers and Devotion to God premised on the wrong misunderstanding of God’s Call. True devotion is that which seeks not our will but God’s will, God’s dream. When it is God’s dream, then it becomes God’s time. This is the heart of Prayer and our walk with God.
We stop defining God’s faithfulness, by how first he meets how needs, but how he fulfills His dreams in the fullness of time. God is faithful not only because he gave you bread for today, but because of how he sustains you with or without bread. How have you been waiting on God, Are you really seeking his Will or your will this year?
Engage in the Covenant
After the Call, God would have granted Abraham a Child immediately. Did he not know this was Abraham’s greatest desire? But more than a miracle, God was pursuing Abraham into a covenant with Himself. An exchange of life that is seen in the sacrifice laid up for the cause of this relationship.
Sometimes our pursuit of miracles distract us from appreciating the covenant. Chapter 15:1, before Abraham reminds God of his need, He missed those special words “I am your very great reward”
In the same way the sacrifice of our Lord on the cross for our sins that brought us into this covenant with God can remain a back ground feature in light of our desires and needs. We can miss to appreciate how God has pursued us into a covenant with Him. We can fail to see that “Christ is our very great reward”
In our devotion to God this year- How can we make Christ central in our covenant with God, How can we rise above our feelings, pressure and appreciate that God has given his LIFE to pursue me. How can that LIFE take precedence over my momentary needs? Has the enemy robbed your tent and distracted you from appreciating the real STAR.
Waiting on God is exercising this Covenant Relationship, it is not merely waiting for a prayer to be answered. God has done his part, ours is the simple but consistent response in this relationship. Rom 12:1-2, calls us to this kind of offering ourselves back to God as a living sacrifice.
In His book, Larry speaks of the Christian Spectacles that distract us from a consistent walk with God, what I call distractions to the covenant.
Things that are eye catching in today’s world are measured by standards of the television screen. It is a spectacle. We measure life by tempo, sound and sight. The slower or lower it is the more uncomfortable and disinterested we become, surface feelings become the things that appeal to us. As a result
We stop implementing the basics like reading God’s word and are drawn into experiences and events and charismatic movements- Keshas, fasting, books and powerful conferences, some touching worship tunes among other ‘religious’ exercises to fast track our needs.
Worship itself becomes hindered, drawing out our emotions and authenticity and power is measured by our lopsided attention to the sensual. Our minds slumber but our hearts and emotions take center stage.
(Marsh Mellow Test)
Growing Deeper in Prayer and waiting on God is in the daily and simple response to “Read your Bible, Pray every day if you want to grow” How would you describe your walk with God? What really distracts you from growing deeper, is it too many keshas, conferences, devotionals and spiritual activities. How are you engaging in this covenant?
Appreciate the Child
Eventually God came through for Abraham. God gave him a son at 100 years. But at this time he had come round to understand that this was not His Child, but it was God’s child. Isaac was his climax, but God was on to something greater than Abraham. Abraham just realized, He was privileged in his lifetime to be in the path of God’s great Agenda to the world. He discovered He was a small part of eternity. This then is how we are to appreciate the child. He belongs to God, for a greater purpose. This is what led Abraham to offer Isaac to God back to the altar. God had found him faithful and as a result Abraham became the father of Faith.
He became the father of Faith, not because he believed God for a Son, but because He believed in the Son of God.
When God answered Hannah’s prayer for a child- She immediately took her son back to the service of God. Her miracle did not take her away from God, but her miracle just like Abraham bound her to God.
How have you appreciated God’s blessings of answered prayers? Have you appreciated the person you have become because of waiting on God and not just because of what you received?
Oh Yes, the stars. Abraham would say.
Count your blessings name them one by one, Count your blessing see what God has done, Count your blessing name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
This is how we will grow exponentially, this is how we wait on God. Understand the Call, Engage in the Covenant and Celebrate the children born out of these experiences.