Today begins a new series on missions. The idea of missions is much greater than any church or denomination. It’s much greater than the missionaries that are sent overseas to reach other people for Christ. The idea of missions goes throughout the Bible, from Genesis all the way to Revelation. Missions is a part of God’s very nature. The word missions comes from the Latin, which means “the act or an instance of sending.” For God to send, and for His people to go in response to that sending, goes deep within the Scriptures. So this morning I’m beginning a series on missions throughout the Bible. For the next several weeks I’ll take one Biblical personality after another that responded to the mission, or the sending, of God. This morning the focus is on Abram in Genesis 12:1-5. God called Abram, whom he would later rename Abraham, to go to a land he would show him. There is a two-part combination here there that runs throughout all the incidents of missions in the Bible: there is the calling of God to go, and there is the obedient response of going. The principle is God calls, someone goes.
When God called Abram to go, he sacrificed. It cost him something to be obedient. Genesis 12:1 says,
“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.’”
There are three sacrifices that Abram makes here.
First, he leaves his country. All the familiar surroundings to which he had grown accustomed he leaves behind him. God draws him from his comfort zone.
Second, he leaves his family. “Go … from your kindred.”
Third, he leaves his career and his livelihood. “Go…from your father’s house.” So in leaving these three things, he departs from the social and economic ties that had bound him all his life. The sacrifice he is making is huge. There’s still one more part of this sacrifice, and that’s exchanging the tangible for the intangible. He’s leaving behind what he can see for what he can’t see. “Go to the land I will show you.”
Can you imagine the conversation Abram had with Sarah after God had called him?
“Honey, we’re moving from our home and leaving all our relatives. I’ve already quit my job.”
“Great Abram. Could we have discussed this first? Where are we headed anyway?”
“I don’t know. God is going to show me.”
So suffice it to say there’s a sense of uncertainty about the future. Previously his life was fairly predictable. Now everything has turned upside down, and he’s looking to God for things that formerly had been right in front of him. When God called Abram to go, he sacrificed.
Then when God called Abram to go, he trusted. Genesis 12:2-3 says,
“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 dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” He’s leaving behind all these things, and he’s trusting in God to do what He has promised. God not only called him, he promised to take care of him. Whenever God guides, he provides. You can see that principle throughout the Bible. If God calls someone, he takes of whatever that person needs in answering the call. God promises not only to provide, but to bless. When you go forth in obedience to God, whether it be across the street or around the world, there is a tremendous blessing involved. While its not likely to be on the scale of blessing to Abram, there’s a blessing of you, and there’s a blessing of others. I’m convinced the blessing you receive is always greater than whatever you may give. When you feel a Divine urge to go and visit a shut-in, there’s more of a blessing for you than for the one you visit. When you go and visit someone in a hospital or nursing home, the blessing you receive is greater than what you give. When you go and visit with someone around the world, such as in Russia or somewhere else, the blessing you receive is greater than what you give. You go, you trust in God’s leading and provision, and he blesses.
Then, when God called Abram to go, he persevered. Genesis 12:4-5 says,
“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan.” Now its easy to read in two verses what was a long-term effort for Abram. First of all, he’s 75 years old. Abram is advanced in years when God called him. God’s call to you is not confined by your age. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God only calls young people to serve him. It’s very likely that at 75, Abram had some aches and pains that he didn’t have in his youth. God still chose to use him, and despite his age, Abram persevered. How many times have you thought, “I’m too old to work with the children.” “I’ve served my time. Let the younger folks go and be active in the ministries of the church.” There is no such thing as retirement from service of the Lord. You will be serving him until the day you die, then when you step into eternity you’ll serve him forever. Your life as a believer is all about serving God. So despite his age, Abram perseveres. Abram also perseveres with a lot of people who make the journey with him. There are Sarai, Lot, all their possessions, and all their people, most likely family and servants. Can you imagine how much patience it took to travel with that many people and possessions? Have you ever taken a long road trip in a car full of people, including children, and luggage? Many of you here this morning are church leaders. If you were just following the Lord alone, your life might be simpler. God has called you however, to work with a large number of other people who have different personalities and often different opinions than you do. It takes perseverance to serve as a church leader. I have a special respect and appreciation for the Trustees of any church. This church is no exception. They have to make hard judgment calls regarding buildings, budgets and bank balances. Regardless of their best efforts, others still clash with their decisions. It’s a hard job, but they persevere. Because of their efforts, the church is in much better shape than it would be without what they do. Finally, Abram here perseveres for the long haul. Traveling from Haran to Canaan wasn’t a short trip. It was over 500 miles from Haran to Canaan. He’s covering that distance on foot with a 75 year old body, a large group of people, and several carts of possessions. So that’s about 10 to 20 miles a day, if you’re making really good progress. You’ve got to find food and water all along the journey for all the people and the livestock. You’ve got to deal with the weather, and with the threat of bandits. Some of the people through whose lands you passed could also be hostile. Through all of this journey however, God was with Abram, and because God was with him, he persevered. When you go in response to God’s call, whether the destination is near or far, you’ll be able to persevere as well.
In verse 3 God said to Abram, “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Abram was the father of the Jewish people. Jesus was a Jews. From Abram, Jesus would be born years later. Through him, all families of the earth are blessed. Through Jesus, you and I are blessed. In just a few moments I’ll lead you in the Lord’s Supper. We’ll remember the death of Jesus in your place, for your sin. It’s only through what Jesus has done that we have a relationship with God. It’s only through what Jesus has done that we remain in a relationship with God. Do you know Jesus this morning? God’s first call to everyone is through Jesus. Jesus says to you, “Come, follow me.” The very first step of being a Christian is following Jesus. Following Jesus is the heart of what it means to be a Christian. Will you follow him through a prayer of salvation, a commitment to baptism, or an indication that you’d like to join this church family? The choice is yours. Will you go with Jesus, or will you stay?