I'd like to share three stories with you today: the story of Abraham, the story of me, and the story of you.
Whether you’ve grown up in the church or not, Abraham (AKA Abram) is a name you’ve likely heard before. In fact, three of the world’s major religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) claim him as a founding father for their faith, so I guess you could say he’s kind of a big deal (cue Ron Burgundy).
But what sets this man apart, and how did his name become so great?
Genesis 12:1-4 gives us a clue…
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abra(ha)m went, as the Lord had told him…
Okay, big deal, "Abraham went." While this may not initially strike us on the surface, there’s some important backstory that brings this to life: Abraham’s 75 years old. His wife, Sarah, is 65. They have no kids, and his dad just died. They’ve lived in the same place for their whole lives, in the land of Ur—which is polytheistic society (polytheistic, meaning, they didn’t believe in the god of the bible but actually worshipped many different gods). Yet now, this singular God that they don’t even know comes out of nowhere to tell them, “I want you to leave everything that you’ve known for a place that you don’t.”
Put yourself in Abraham’s shoes: would you take God up on this? Would you leave everything you’ve known for a place that you don’t, all for a God you’ve yet to know?
This is the story of Abraham.
So he answers the call, steps out in faith, and I'm telling you, it led him on quite a journey!
There’s this one time he's traveling through Egypt and ends up in a rather strange situation. Apparently his wife Sarah was one beautiful chica—so beautiful that when the Egyptian princes saw her, they told Pharaoh about her—so he approaches Abraham and says, “Hey, who’s this woman with you?” and Abraham’s moral compass is so wonky, that for fear of Pharaoh taking his life, Abraham offers up his wife to Pharaoh, saying, “She’s actually my sister, so… you can have her.” (ya done messed up A-Abram!)
But once the truth came out of who she was, even Pharaoh’s all like, “Conjunction junction, what’s your malfunction?” and gives her back, so Abraham and Sarah continue on their journey to this unknown place.
On and on, his story plays out like this. And you just get the sense Abraham's kind of bumbling around clumsily saying something like, “Sorry, sorry, I, uhhh, I don’t really know where I'm going, And uhh… yeah… sorry...”
So if you’re thinking, “Wow, this Abraham doesn’t really seem like that great of a guy,” you’d be right! Yet God still remains with him.
Remember the call? Look at Genesis 12:2 this time…
"And I (God) will make of you (Abraham) a great nation. I will...make your name great."
Abraham’s not a great guy. God didn’t call Abraham because he was great; he called Abraham to make him great. God doesn’t call the qualified, but qualifies the called.
This is the story of Abraham, and this is our story too.
I've been following Jesus since I was 5 years old, and I'm telling you, it's not because I'm great. Over the years I've been a liar, a porn addict, a cheat, and more. I've flaked out and abandoned. And while I could say I've never once tried passing my wife off as my sister in Egypt (at least I have that going for me?), I've done some incredibly stupid, idiotic, off the mark things in my time.
Following God can be messy, and it can really bring you to the end of yourself, because you recognize time after time again that you don’t know what you’re doing—you don’t know where you’re going.
But each of these moments have become invitations for me to recognize (and I believe it’s what Abraham had to zero in on too): God never called me to be great; he only called me to follow him.
God never called Abraham to start a great nation, but to follow him up out of where he was so that GOD could make Abraham into a great nation, but when Abraham had his eyes set on becoming a great nation, that’s when he’d get into trouble (like sleeping with his wife’s servant to try and come up with an heir by his own power rather than God’s).
In a world clamoring like at the Tower of Babel to make a name for itself, God says, "I pick you, not because you're great, but to make you great."
And this greatness is meant to have a generative effect:
"I (God) will bless you...and you will be a blessing… through you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 12:2-3)
As much as God called Abraham to himself, the idea was for his life to be for others too, because when God calls you to himself, he calls you to the whole world.
When God calls you to himself, he calls you to the whole world.
This can be fleshed out in a hundred different ways:
Sometimes it means planting a church. Sometimes it means starting a bible study. Sometimes it means getting married.
Sometimes it means staying single.
Sometimes it means having kids.
Sometimes it means not having kids.
Sometimes it means buying a bigger house.
Sometimes it means downsizing.
Sometimes it means taking the gospel to the ends of the world,
Sometimes it means taking it to the end of your driveway.
Sometimes it means confessing your sins
Sometimes it means forgiving others for their sins.
Sometimes it means being generous now.
Sometimes it means saving so you can be generous later.
Sometimes it means listening.
Sometimes it means speaking.
Sometimes it’s changing the world.
Sometimes it’s changing a diaper.
Sometimes it’s momentous.
Sometimes it’s mundane.
The point is: it’s not about the destination, but the One you’re with along the way. It’s about knowing the One who calls you to follow him wherever he may lead.
God never called us to be great; he called us to be his. And what he is able to do when we follow him is something out of this world.
I may not know where I’m going,
but I know the One who leads me
and that makes all the difference.
As we continue in our series of songs, this third song draws on this theme of calling. At times, the road winds and we don't know what to do. Other times, we find he has to come chase after us because we've made a mess of things again. And other times, it's like we're trying to muster the strength to keep going on. All the while, the prayer becomes one of: "well, please, keep me near." We discover it's not about our grit to follow, but his faithfulness to keep us following.
I Will Follow
Through green pastures, in times of pain, Your rod and Your staff, my comfort remain
Through the darkness, in the valley of death,
With You as my guide, I’ll follow till the end
I will follow
I will follow
I will follow
Keep me near
Through difficulties, and times of ease,
Your love revives me, and keeps me at peace
And when I doubt You, won't believe anymore
Still You're faithful and come to restore
bridge It’s hard to live for You at times, because I love myself so much And so I pray You strip away my pride so I can see
O God, this cross is heavy, and this burden is a load that I can’t bear alone
But I know You are here with me
If you've been following Jesus for any length of time, you've likely found this to be the case.
I may not know where I’m going, but I know the One who leads me and that makes all the difference.
But if you haven't, and you're interested in knowing more about what following Jesus means, remember: he's not calling you because you're great already; he's calling you to make you great.
He can do it.
He will do it.