Renewing Our Lives and Ministries Through God's Word

Tracing Our Life’s Journey

Genesis 12:1-4

Paul J. Bucknell

Note: 'Common Spiritual Experiences' records three ways God worked in Abraham's life and typically works in the lives of His people. If we are going to consistently grow as Christians, then we need to fully understand the ways that God works in our lives. This is the second of five sections that compose one longer article on Tracing Our Life's Journey. (This is part of a larger ADT training series, Renewing Our Lives and Minstries Through God's Word, –Renewing your spiritual life and ministries through improving the quality of your time in God's Word. Click to see the full 3-day schedule of this Renewal ADT series.)

Common Spiritual Experiences

“Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran” (Genesis 12:1-4).
Although Abraham was a great man, the way God worked in his life is very typical of how He works in the lives of all His people. Here are three key points to appreciating God’s will for our lives. Actually, these three parts can be used to describe most of our spiritual journeys.

    #1 The call to follow (spiritual rebirth).

The Lord called Abraham to follow His leading out of his home town and away from his people to do what He wanted. At some point, if we are to be one of God’s people, God will speak to us too. Usually, the way God speaks becomes a surprise to us, but for those brought up in a Christian family, it can be much less extraordinary. At one point, we were not looking for God at all. God, instead, chose to look for us. He began to draw us close to Him. I recently met a man on the airplane and started sharing the Gospel with him. He said that this was rather unusual. He explained that he was on a trip back from China. On the way, another pastor also sat next to him and shared the Gospel with him! These are no coincidences. If God had not given these words, “Go forth…” to Abraham, it is probable that he would have stayed there in Ur. He definitely would not have gone to Canaan.

Abraham lived in an culture filled with idols. Most notable was the worship of the moon god. Why is it that God would work in his life? Why would God speak to him? It is here we find God’s great love for him. Abram was not lovable or good. Neither were we. In spite of this, God desired to create special relationships between Him, our Maker, and us, the created. It is absolutely amazing.

We are so undeserving. Notice God’s joy for His people in Isaiah 62:5, “And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So your God will rejoice over you.” This joy for our fellowship with Him is incredible. Those brought up in broken and pain-filled families, do not know of this kind of love and joy. We long for it but do not know its reality until we meet the Lord. John summarizes this in his short words, “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This is where any true spiritual journey must start–in the love and choice of God. He speaks; we follow.

God loves us and desires to commune with us.
Just remember, it is not because we are inherently good or hold lots of promise that He desires to be with us. Anything good that comes from us will not be from our own ways but from what God further inputs into our lives by His Spirit. If we confuse this point, we will mistakenly think God chose us because we were good or would be good. Not at all. We are His because He desired to do something special in our lives to enable us to commune with Him and serve Him. Never confuse God’s grace with works. It is a pity many a Christian fall into this trap and take the joy out of their relationship with the Lord.

The key point is that God’s Word entered Abraham’s life and turned his life upside down. His neighbors and family members were no doubt confused, just like ours have been, but because of God’s intervention Abram became a different man, a great man. God set him on a path to be a great man that millions would respect. This was the beginning, however. He had many other things to learn first.

     #2 The Steps of Obedience.

Abraham faced a number of difficulties in his life, just as we do. We should, for clarity sake, separate the normal life trials we face from the consequences of not making the right decisions. If we merge the typical difficulties that we face with the troubles we get our selves into, then we will never be able to grow. The later difficulties can be avoided!

Everyone has his or her own life struggles. We should spend less time trying to avoid the ‘unavoidables’ and concentrate on learning how God wants to train us through them.  As to the difficulties that we bring into our lives because of sin, these we need to learn how to prevent altogether. Later we will look at three costly detours that Abram took. He stepped away from God’s will. Had Abraham fully respected God’s Word, then he could have avoided them all. We so often blame God for our troubles, where in fact the trouble simply comes from not paying close attention to what He did say. Abraham spent most of his life learning this simple rule. He was a slow learner and therefore it meant great distress in his life and for those around him.

Abraham could have avoided some of his biggest life problems. But what is the sense looking back and observing that? We look back so that we can make better right choices. Can we not instead just say that we will obey God’s Word and seek His blessing? In this way, we can write our future history without all those mean consequences troubling our health, work, marriage, children and ministry.Positively put, God has special plans for us.

He knows what He wants for our lives. We can trust Him with the words that He gives us. Anything that God speaks to us is important. His words have to do with His special plans and wise caution as we seek to do His will.

God has His special design for each of our lives.
 Obedience enables us to a live out a wonderful life of service to our God. We only need to meticulously follow His plans. He knows better. Ephesians 2:10 says that God has planned out  our good works. His words allow us to receive the extra help that we need. God’s plan for Abraham was to become a blessing to many. Abraham would be the avenue much grace could be brought to people from all over the world. This plan was not without its difficulties, but that was largely because Abram didn’t pay special attention to follow God’s words.

    #3 The Challenge of Faith

We will not be able to spend much time here. When we succeed and things are looking good, we typically will meet up with some big challenge to our faith. We might think that Satan put it there. That would be wrong. Satan, of course, in his own way, means to have us fall. He tries to discourage us and give up hope. He would have us commit suicide, if he could. These challenges of faith, though, should be looked at more positively. Surely, we need to watch out for the wiles of the devil, but we will not be able to pass this challenge unless we keep our eyes on God who has perfect control of the things we face in life.
Life's challenges and promises.
God has revealed what is necessary for our lives. When He speaks, then there is ultimate direction. I can think of a number of clear times where God’s Word required me to make a sacrifice. Of course, the sacrifice looks like nothing when we see where He is leading us. But at the time, we often struggle hard. We do not see things so clearly. The more clearly we resonated with doing God’s will, the easier it would be to follow through in obedience.
We need to discern what those ways are and
then obey them.
We always need to obey, and especially during these times of testing. Abraham was asked to bring his only son, Isaac, to Mount Moriah and offered him up to the Lord. This was a life crisis for him. That young man, Isaac, represented all the hopes of his life. For decades, he had to go about with the name ‘Father,’ but he had no children (Abram means ‘father.’)

He no doubt, early on, shared his vision that he would have a multitude of descendants. But then later, he would hear people mocking him behind his back. “Sure, I bet God spoke to him.” Abram had to learn that we only can keep those things that we give up to God.

God has given us certain burdens, visions and dreams in our lives. These are special holy things that the Lord has given to us (We, of course, are not speaking about those despicable selfish ambitions created from our lusts.). He carefully shapes and inserts these into our lives much like our physical DNA, which give design to our special physical uniqueness. He furthermore, places us in certain circumstances of life that control the languages that we speak, the customs with which we eat, the clothes we wear and even our financial circumstances.  We miss out life’s excitement if we ignore these things. David had a wonderful time praising God for His design for him in Psalm 139. Each of us should do the same. God uses the burden to shape our heart and life’s decisions.

I remember God putting revival on my heart early on. Where did it come from? I am not sure. Perhaps it was from my grandfather who prayed and prayed for revival. Perhaps it was a pastor who had a early morning revival prayer meeting. Or perhaps it was from reading Jonathan Edward’s books associated with revival. But somehow, this deep burden for revival was carefully placed on my heart so that it has impacted my life in a number of ways.

God entrusts us with special truths so that we can respond in a special way to particular needs revealed to us. Truths enable us to respond in faith and so are able to take up the challenge.When God asked Abraham to offer up his only son, Abraham had to go through a series of deep questions on what his life purposes were. If his true life purpose was to have a son or many sons, then he would not give up the son he had. But if behind this one purpose, he had a greater, more foundational goal, such as to obey and serve God no matter what the costs, then, he could offer up his son. He could trust God with His plan even if it meant that God would have to raise Isaac up from the dead (cf. Hebrew 11:19).  

These severe trials are carefully placed in our lives, probably more after times of success and victory. Abraham was tested on giving up his son only after he finally had a son. These testings give us occasion to choose to worship God rather than the things that God gives. Abraham’s offering up of A still moves the hearts of God’s people throughout the earth. Here was a man who lived for the life beyond. He was willing to give up that for which he lived so long to gain.

We will face all sorts of confrontations in life as God’s word enters our lives.

• There are the first words we hear when He calls us to follow Him. That is the beginning of the journey of life. We must not think that is the end when it is only the beginning!

• There are the special words to guide us. It is critical that we fully obey Him and pay attention to what He has already told us. It is interesting how many people, when seeking God’s will, act as if God has not already spoken to them.

• Thirdly, we need to be ready to give up all in order to obey God’s Word. Life truly can be held onto only when we give up our own life’s pursuits. Life’s most exciting highlights come at these critical points.

Behind all of this, is God’s training program. He is giving us opportunity to grow and be like Him. He is testing us to see if we really want to obey Him. It is a journey with purpose. God is encountering us along the way. We must pay careful attention to what He says to us. We must refuse all attempts to comparing what God has said to us with others. Each of us are on a different mission. In order to more closely observe the typical trials of life, we will look at three mistakes that Abraham made. Next =>

This is the third session of the ADT 3-Day Seminar on Renewal

Revive Your Faith | Deepening Our Reflections | Tracing Our Life's Journey | Pursuing Our God 

The Heart of Discipleship (Isaiah 50:4) | The Heart of Discipleship ( Isaiah 50:5-9)

Exodus: Overview Christ in Exodus 3 Whys in Exodus

Titus: Overview Pastoral Overview Called into His Service (Titus 1:1-4) Church Planting (Titus 1:5-9)

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Biblical Foundations for Freedom

By Paul J. Bucknell

NASB used

1 We, of course, are not speaking about those despicable selfish ambitions created from our lusts.