In the rest of our study for this quarter, we will examine the lives of some people useful to God in the Old Testament. Next quarter we will examine the lives of some people useful to God in the New Testament. In both studies your attention is called to this fact: God often used people who had major flaws to accomplish His purposes.
The fact that God could and can use people with significant flaws to achieve His purposes emphasizes several things. (1) It emphasizes the power is in God, not people. (2) The fundamental issue is not the past of the person, but the person's willingness to grow in God. (3) A person who repents should not be measured by the flaws of his/her past, but by the demonstration of his/her faith in God in serving God's purposes.
There is no individual in scripture (aside from God and Jesus) spoken of more frequently than Abraham. A multitude of nations, including Israel, trace or traced their origin to Abraham. The promise from God that resulted in Jesus Christ was given to Abraham. The nation from whom the Messiah came descended from Abraham. The greatest gift God gave a sinful world began with Abraham's faith.
Yet, God was able to use Abraham, (1) not because Abraham was without flaws from his beginning, but (2) because Abraham was willing to become a man who trusted God. It was not "who he was at the beginning" that was remarkable, but "who he became as a result of his faith in God" that is remarkable. As obedient as Abraham was, scripture does not emphasize his obedience. Scripture emphasizes his faith. He was a man of great obedience to God because he was a man who greatly trusted God.
Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him through all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac (Joshua 24:2, 3).
The point Joshua made to Israel when he spoke these words was, "You can worship and follow any idol you choose (which idol you choose will be insignificant). However, my family will worship the God who gave us this land." The observation called to your attention is this: Abraham's father, Terah, served idols. As Abraham grew up, he grew up in an idol worshipping-serving household. It is definitely possible that Abraham did not know God, did not serve God, and did not follow God prior to receiving God's call. Can you imagine listening to and believing in God's call when you first met God?
The request Abraham received from God in Haran after his father's death was anything but small. Leaving his country, his relatives, and his father's family to go to an undisclosed destination was enormous! He was leaving the people who would care for him and his immediate family in situations of distress--these people were his insurance policy, his material security! God's venture required enormous courage and confidence!
After showing great courage in leaving, Abraham encountered a severe famine in Canaan. To solve the problems brought by the famine, he went to Egypt. Before entering Egypt, Abraham asked his beautiful wife Sarah (Sarai), to tell the Egyptians she was his sister. He feared the Egyptians would kill him to marry his wife. Though she was his half-sister as well as his wife (Genesis 20:12), Abraham in this situation thought only of himself and his life.
Abraham's confidence in God, as great as it was, needed to grow. It grew beyond selfishness (consider his willingness to offer Isaac in Genesis 22), but in this situation his confidence in God competed with his selfishness. The man of great faith in God also had moments of selfish concern.
Please note these things: (1) Weakness can grow to strength. (2) At the same moment, a person is capable of doubt and confidence. (3) The objective is to diminish the doubt and increase the confidence. (4) The fact that a person has a shaky beginning does not mean the person is not capable of yielding to and encouraging great spirituality.
It is easy to conclude that a person is born to great spirituality. It is easy to conclude that the potential for great spirituality does not exist in you. It is easy to conclude there are too many difficulties in your life for you to become a deeply spiritual person of great commitment.
The spirituality of commitment to God is a matter of trust, not of birth, is a matter of confidence, not of convenience. The issue is not your obstacles. The issue is your ability to place your confidence in God.
God did not look at Abraham's background and flaws. He looked at Abraham's spiritual potential. God gave Abraham opportunity to trust. God also looks at your potential, not your past or your flaws. He, too, will grant you opportunity to trust. As with Abraham, your opportunities will be the product of your real life experiences.
For Thought and Discussion
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 4
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