Abram, even before he was called Abraham, had following faith…
Genesis 12:1-3 (ESV)
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, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
GEOGRAPHICAL ANOINTING LIKE ABRAM
As creatures of habit, most of us are not nomads. We live in a stable, comfortable place, we like it. It’s safe, we understand it, it feels normal and stable in our comfort zone. We resist uprooting ourselves and becoming unstable.
And Abram was like that too. He was already successful, comfortable, rich and influential in his home city of Ur in Mesopotamia. Ur was a pagan city, a place everyone wanted to be, cosmopolitan, and according to several ancient stone tablets, it was a powerful, successful, desirable city.
Yet with all that comfort, Abram was restless. He sensed there was more. Though he did not as yet know God, the Lord spoke to Him and gave Abram a promise, to make him and his descendants great.
However, like many of God’s promises, they are dependant upon an act of obedience. Don’t ever think God will lead you into His destiny for you if you refuse to be obedient. Why should He? Ever tried leading a horse that refuses to obey? It’s like herding chickens!
Abram’s prophecy was totally dependant upon his obedience in moving from where he was when God spoke to him, to a new place. He couldn’t say God, I’m not moving, just pour your blessing in me here, he had to follow.
I believe in something I like to call geographical anointing. You may have experienced it. I know I have. It occurs when blessing or Anointing is intensified by physically moving in obedience to God to a new place.
When Fiona and I moved to Queensland we experienced exactly this. We had a good life and ministry on the Central Coast of NSW, but both our blessings and our ministry increased dramatically when we moved. We had decided to move, sold our house and we’re packing up when I first ministered with Bill Newman, and the key to a 25 year ministry starting with him hinged on us being in SEQ.
Abram was the same. He had to be open to a geographical move, but deciding to leave what he knew and was comfortable in was just the start. It was then that Abram’s great journey into his destiny began.
So today I want to examine how physically moving in obedience to God’s Word is rewarded by progressing us towards our destiny. I want to apply this to where we are at as a church. We are full, crammed and it is not possible to extend, so our only option is to move and follow the Lord, like Abram.
1. GOD’S WORD LEADS TO FAITH
God spoke to Abram when he was an idolater, like his father. He didn’t know God, but God knew him, and spoke to him, calling him to greatness.
Joshua 24:2-3 (ESV)
And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and 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 made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac.
Despite not knowing God, God saw fit to revealed His glory to him (Acts 7:2), and spoke to him. Abram turned from vain idols to follow the Lord, leaving all his conforts and successes and provisions to head towards he knew not what.
Romans 10:17 (ESV)
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Over recent months God has spoken to me about moving the location of Ignite. It’s scary, and it looks at first glance impossible. Council tell us they won’t change our zoning here to help us sell, and without selling we are unlikely to be able to move. Then we have to identify a place to go to, and council has to change that zoning, and we have to find hundreds of thousands of dollars. We’ve tried to do it twice already, and it still looks impossible.
We almost moved into the Clark Centre 18 months ago but God emphatically closed the door. I was disappointed, but I can see God’s protection as COVID hit.
It disappointed me, but never stopped me trusting God. I have asked Him for a better and far cheaper place.
And God keeps speaking His Word to me from passages like
Genesis 12:1 (ESV)
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.
2. FAITH LEADS TO OBEDIENCE LIKE ABRAM
The New Testament states, “By faith Abraham obeyed” (Heb. 11:8). “I will show you, I will make you, I will bless you!” were God’s promises, and Abram believed.
It has well been said that faith is not believing in spite of evidence; it is obeying in spite of consequences. The proof of faith is obedience, for true faith always leads to works (James 2:14ff.). Hearing leads to heeding. When God speaks so clearly to me from His Word as He is doing, I want to obey by faith.
Interestingly we are told that God spoke to Abram in Ur, then Abram moved only as far as Haran with his entourage, including his father.
Acts 7:2-4 (ESV)
And Stephen said:
“Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living.
Haran is half way there. According to Genesis, his father Terah wanted to stay there, and Abram and family were comfortable there.
Genesis 11:31 (ESV)
Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there.
And when you are on a journey of faith, there will always be those who are content to not follow it through to the end. They say, “hey, this place is ok, it’s not what God promised us, what He has planned for us, but it’s pretty good. We’re doing ok. Let’s stay.”
As a church, we are doing ok here. We are full sure, but finances are ok, services are doing ok, and at least it is air-conditioned. We are ok and some would argue let’s stay here, continue being ok and blessed.
When you start to look around and ask yourself “Is it safe?” and not “Is it right?” you have stopped living by faith.
But God had so much more for Abram, and I believe God has more for us.
3. OBEDIENCE LEADS TO BLESSING LIKE ABRAM
We are told nothing about Haran, because it is irrelevant to the story. We are told nothing about the journey, which must have been very difficult and taxing, because that’s not the important bit.
What we are told is that God met Abram when he arrived in the Promised Land of Canaan, and gave him a new promise. God always goes before us and has His Word ready to encourage us. Time and again God speaks His promise to Abram,
Genesis 13:15-16 (ESV)
for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.
4. BLESSING LEADS TO TESTING
Faith requires obedience, and is always tested for at least three reasons:
To prove to us whether our faith is real;
To help our faith grow; and
To bring glory the Lord (1 Pet. 1:6–9; James 1:1–8).
Imagine Abram’s feelings when God has spoken, he steps out, God leads him to a new, promised land, and the first thing he encounters there is a famine, in the very so called Promised Land where God led him! We can be right in the will of God and still suffer tests and trials.
It has been said that “faith is living without scheming,” but Abram faith wavered and he began to scheme. We read later in chapter 12, he abandoned walking by faith and opted to walk by sight, he and Sarah deviated from the plan and went to Egypt. It was an unmitigated disaster, and it cost him his testimony—and almost his wife!
And tests will come for us, just dealing with council is test enough for me already. But we need to stay in the will of God.
To move takes faith. We need money to move, we need faith, we need commitment. Some of you need to drive 5 minutes further. There are costs. But God is showing myself and many others here that the rewards will be rich, and will be worth it.
James 1:2-4 (ESV)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
WE CAN MOVE INTO A BLESSING IN 2021
No one likes moving, especially if they are unsure if the destination. I believe the Lord is calling us to follow Him, and that when we do, despite the discomfort, the cost, the stress and the great fear of the unknown, He has a blessing for us. 2021 is our year, our moment, when we can follow the Lord and move into our destiny in Him.
God called Abram to move location and He blessed Abram, so that he might be a blessing. Through Abram and his descendants, the whole world has been blessed. Whenever God gives you a blessing, it’s so that you might be a blessing to others. God’s blessings are not luxuries; they are opportunities.
Hebrews 6:11-12 (ESV)
And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
We can sit here, comfortably over full, in our holy huddle on a hill, or when God calls, we can step out in faith, knowing He has much more for us. I believe God wants to plant us righting the middle of our community, ready to reach our people with the gospel in these dark times.
JOIN US ON A JOURNEY
So this morning, I want to invite you to join us on a journey of faith, and amazing blessing. This is like investing in Amazon shares and the start of their journey. $10,000 invested in May 1997 is worth more than $12m today.
In 2021, we have the chance to follow the Lord into something more valuable. We have the chance to journey into His destiny for us.
But it necessitates us moving from here, leaving what we know and where we are comfortable, and stepping out in faith.
Where would we be today if Abraham and Sarah had not committed themselves to obey the Lord by faith and set out upon a journey into the unknown? Where would we be if previous generations of Christians had not given themselves fully to the Lord? We who come along later must not take for granted the things that previous generations paid a great price to attain.
May the next generation that comes after us look back at us and say, “They were faithful!”
In spite of what the folk songs say, entering the Promised Land of Canaan is not a picture of dying and going to heaven. It is a picture of the believer claiming his or her inheritance by faith. It’s a picture of a believer following God into his destiny. But it requires us stepping out in faith and often geographically relocating.
Some of you here are experiencing that right now. Some have come here, moved churches to be here, because you long for a greater and more significant ministry. God called, you followed, you relocated, and God’s promise is here at Ignite for you.
God has a Promised Land for us as a church too, but like Abram’s, it is obtained only by faith, and we will move into it only by physically moving location. Claiming your inheritance involves tests and temptations, challenges and battles, but God is well able to see us through.
Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Obedience leads to new challenges and new promises from God.
Genesis 12:7 (ESV)
Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
Abram would never have discovered his destiny if he had he stayed where he was, and neither will Ignite. God stretched Abram by calling him to move location, God brought new, exciting challenges, but he also brought greatness.
WHERE GOD IS LEADING US
Over the last many months your leadership team has been diligently searching for a way ahead for our church. I specifically wanted a property in the centre of Nambour, on the ground floor, air-conditioned, with tons of parking, heaps of room to expand and I was keen on having tenants to pay for the mortgage.
Incredibly we feel we have found such a property. Our leaders are very excited about it, and it is well within our price bracket. But it needs miracles, it needs sellers to accept our offer, it needs council to change zoning, it needs someone to buy this property, which on the surface seems difficult. To move into our destiny, it will take sacrifice, money, time, discomfort and great faith, but I am convinced God is calling us as a church to follow Him to a new and better place.
Luke 9:23 (ESV)
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Come and join the journey. Next week I am going to reveal all the details and what God is showing me. It’s not easy, but it’s possible, it’s exciting, it’s scary and even a struggle, but my God is well able!
THE MOTH STRUGGLES
A man once found a cocoon of an Emperor moth and kept it with the purpose of watching the beautiful creature emerge. Finally the day came and it began to struggle through the small opening at one end of the cocoon. The struggle continued for hours, but the moth could never force its body beyond a certain point. It appeared stuck.
Finally believing that something was wrong and that the opening should have been larger, the man took a pair of scissors and carefully clipped the restraining threads. The moth then emerged easily, and crawled out onto the windowsill. Its body was large and swollen, its wings small and shrivelled.
The man thought that in a few hours the wings would develop into the beautiful objects that he had expected. But it did not happen. The moth that should have been a thing of great beauty, free to float and fly, spent its short life dragging around the swollen body and shrivelled wings.
The constricting threads and the struggle necessary to pass through the tiny opening is God’s method of forcing fluids from the body into the wings, and that’s what creates the beauty. The “merciful” snip of the threads was the most cruel thing possible.
Often God lets us struggle rather than stepping in like a big brother to do our fighting for us. No doubt he could make it all so easy and every moment of life so pleasant. But as we struggle, as we are tested, sometimes becoming exhausted almost beyond endurance, changes occur in us which could not happen otherwise: the “fluids” expand our wings, and in time we can fly. Cut the struggle short at some crucial point and we are crippled forever . . . or until God gives another opportunity for struggle that will do what the first aborted struggle should have been allowed to do.
It’s time in 2021 to answer the call of God to move into our destiny. Don’t be fearful, for we are in this together. Please pray as we seek God and follow Him in obedience.
Have you ever experienced a blessing when you have moved location? Would you have been as blessed had you refused to move?
How do struggles make you stronger? How have they made you stronger?