TEXT: Genesis 15:1
One of the most frustrating and confusing things we encounter in our earthly journey is those times when we seem to be moving…without making progress. You have a dream but not really accomplishing or achieving it…You understand, those times in your life when you have motion but no momentum to propel you forward, to cause you to advance and move to the next level of the abundant life that God has for you.
The Bible although not directly but certainly indirectly indicates that God’s desire for His Kingdom People is for us to be growing, advancing, moving from one level of grace to the next level of grace; from one level of victory to the next level of victory and from one level of abundant living to the next level of abundant living, from dreaming to achieving that dream…There is nothing static, stale or stationary about our God and thus there should be nothing static, stale or stationary about your Christian journey. We are to grow from glory to glory and from faith to faith.
However many believers and certainly all unbelievers are frustrated to some degree or another by the fact that as they look back over their lives in the 21st century or in the present, they realize that they have made very little, if any progress…that their God-given dream has never been realized or had taken placed…You may have been busy but made no progress. You may have been moving but there has been not advancement. You have given effort but there has been no improvement. You have been diligent but there is still no development. You may have received that dream but have not achieved it!
William Carrey, considered by many to be the human catalyst behind the modern missions’ movement, used to say, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
In God’s Word there are a lot of people who lived this very way of life; PEOPLE WHO LIVE AN ABUNDANT, SUCCESSFUL LIFE…people who dreamed big for God…AND PEOPLE WHO ACHIEVED THEIR GOD-GIVEN DREAM. By pondering these biblical examples, upon reading on their own life, I hope each of us will become big dreamers for God. If you once dreamed big for God but have become discouraged about whether or not those dreams can still be realized, these scriptural models should help you dream again.
Our text verse is unique because it contains the first mention in the Bible of two very important words: “vision” and “reward”. Genesis 15:1 (NLT) “Afterward the LORD spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, ’Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.’”
This verse contains 3 ESSENTIAL ATTITUDES FOR FULFILLING OR ACHIEVING YOUR GOD-GIVEN DREAM:
1. REALIZE THAT YOUR DREAM WILL BE TESTED.
The first word of our text verse deserves further investigation. “Afterward”. After what? What had been happening in the life of Abram up to this point? Let’s quickly review the three preceding chapters of scripture.
In Genesis chapter twelve God calls Abram to leave his home at age 75. So he sets out, not even knowing the precise location of the Promised Land to which God is sending him. Shortly thereafter Abram finds himself in the midst of a famine. He’s forced to take his family, servants, flocks and herds into Egypt. While he’s there he lies about his wife being his sister so that Pharaoh won’t kill him. Pharaoh takes Sarai into his harem but God protects her in spite of Abram’s deception and she is returned to Abram untouched.
This character flaw of Abram’s is not covered up in Scripture. One of the many reasons we know the Bible is true and therefore trustworthy is that it “tells it like it is”. Abram was weak. He lied. There’s no excuse for his lying. One can claim, as Abram did, that Sarai was his sister, the daughter of his father but not his mother. (Gen. 20:12) But when she became his wife, this was the relationship by which they were to be known. There’s no excuse for his lying. Yet Abram did not stop his journey to obey God because of his own sinful failure.
So we see in Genesis twelve that Abram’s dream was tested by FAMINE and FAILURE.
In Genesis chapter thirteen, Abram separates from his nephew Lot because of a range war that erupts between their herdsmen. There wasn’t enough grazing land for both their sets of herds and flocks. So Abram lets Lot take his pick of land on which to graze and Lot chooses foolishly. Sure, he picked the lush land, but it was also connected to the wicked city of Sodom. Eventually, Lot inches his way into the city. His family life is devastated because he chose the wrong priorities in life.
Abram could have taken first pick due to seniority. Instead he was selfless.
So in Genesis thirteen we see that Abram’s vision was tested by CONFLICT.
In Genesis chapter fourteen Abram rescues Lot from being taken captive. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, where Lot and his family had been living, lost their battle to a group of Babylonian kings. As a consequence Lot and his family were among the people taken hostage – probably to become slaves.
Uncle Abram puts together an army of his servants and rescues Lot and his family and all the other people and goods claimed by the heathen kings.
After the battle Abram meets Melchizedek, king of Salem. (v.18) King Mechizedek possessed a couple of very unique qualites.
Number one, he was also a priest. The only other priest-king in the Bible is Jesus.
Secondly, no one could trace his human origin. (Hebrews 7:3) That’s why Hebrews 5:6 (Quoting Psalms 110:4), emphasizes that Jesus was a priest after the “order of Melchizedek”. He wasn’t from the normal high-priestly line of Aaron. Jesus was a priest-king of Supernatural origin. He was the only priest without human sin – which is the only way Jesus could be our Savior.
So what does Abram do when he meets this Christ-like figure? He pays him tithes. (v.20) In fact, this is the first mention of someone giving ten percent as an act of worship in the Bible. It occurs 400 years before the law of Moses established tithing. So you see, tithing is not under the law. It actually pre-dates the law.
Abraham worshipped God by giving – by tithing. But this wasn’t the end of his mastery of stewardship. The King of Sodom offers for Abram to keep the spoils of the battle he had just won. (v.21) (It seems haughty to me that this king offers Abram something he lost in battle and Abram regained.)
The neat thing is Abram refused the offer because he did not want the King of Sodom to ever be able to say, “I made Abram rich.” (v.23)
Abram wanted everyone to know that it was his God, not any man, that blessed him. He was able to refuse material goods based on principle.
So we see, Abram’s vision was not only tested by FAMINE, FAILURE, and CONFLICT, but also by WARFARE and PROSPERITY.
That’s the stuff that comes before the AFTERWARD. (AFTERWARD, the LORD spoke to Abram in a vision…)
Do you see the pattern?
- AFTER Abram stepped out by faith and left his homeland.
- AFTER he’d been through the famine.
- AFTER he’d embarrassed himself by lying to the King of Egypt.
- AFTER he’d had the dissension with his family member, Lot.
- AFTER he’d fought and won the battle with the Babylonian kings.
- AFTER he passed the test with his possessions.
- AFTER THOSE TESTS…God appeared to him in a vision.
A lot of us would have given up AFTER having gone through just one of these tests. And that is the reason why many dreams from God never materialize – we give up too soon.
Illustration: Story of Novaliches’ dream and Pastor Dave’s vision about the two auditoriums.
When we realize our dreams must be tested we can have a better attitude about those tests and a positive attitude is essential for realizing our dreams. Those who see their God-given dreams fulfilled are the ones who persevere through tough times. They are the people who refuse to quit. Their tenacity and perseverance win out. They’re like Jacob wrestling with God, refusing to quit until they’ve received God’s blessing.
This is the biggest difference between winners and losers in every field. In business, sports, marriage and family life – many succeed because they have a superior attitude about their tests. You are erring if you’re thinking that intelligent and brilliant people are the only people that can achieve their dreams…let me tell you this: People who fulfill their God-given dreams aren’t always the most brilliant, not always the most talented, not always the better skilled. They don’t always have the best resources at their disposal. They’re just people who refuse to let go of their dream.
Walls are there for a reason. They are there to keep the people out that don’t really need to get in. If we are persistent, we earn the entrance…
This is the thing a lot of people don’t know. They wonder why there is rejection and they give up easily. Persistence works.
- Walt Disney – was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of ideas. Walt also went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland.
- Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace, flunked out of college. He was described as “both unable and unwilling to learn.”
- Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time, did not make his high school basketball team his sophomore year.
- Beethoven’s teacher called him hopeless as a composer.
- Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade. He did not become Prime Minister until he was 62. His greatest contributions came when he was a “senior citizen.”
- Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he finally succeeded.
Just look at the life of the greatest example of a person who achieved his dream…Jesus…and what’s the dream? The dream of saving mankind from its sin…the salvation of man…Jesus though God in nature, knew for a fact that it’s not easy…that He and His mission will be tested, tested by Satan himself, tested by the unbelief of the disciples, tested by the people surrounding Him and would be even tested in the Garden of Gethsemane…but what made Jesus the ultimate achiever of dream or of a purpose…He never quit! He knew that it would not be easy, so therefore He prepared himself from all of the obstacles that would come His way. And the result of Him not quitting is your salvation, my salvation, the salvation of mankind and the gift of eternal life!
God’s will through the Patriarchs or any other saint, was not realized overnight. It took years of testing and molding and refining.
The question you might ask me is this: “But why do I have to be tested to realize God’s dream?”
Because God can’t give his dreams to people whose minds are cluttered with other things. He needs our undivided attention. Our tests and trials are not meant to discourage us – they are meant to draw us closer to God. MENTRAS DUMADAAN KA SA PAGSUBOK TINUTURUAN TAYO NITO NA MAGTIWALA SA PANGINOON…NA MANANGAN HINDI SA ATING KAKAYANAN KUNDI SA KANYANG KAPANGYARIHAN! MAGING ANG MGA MAPAPAIT NA PAGBAGSAK AY GINAGAMIT AT KAYANG GAMITIN NG PANGINOON UPANG LALO TAYONG TUMATAG AT MAPALAPIT SA KANYA! A.W. Tozer said, “It’s doubtful God can use any man greatly until he’s hurt him deeply.”
Also, tests can be God’s pruning shears.
John 15:1-2 (CEV) “Jesus said to his disciples:’I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts away every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit. But he trims clean every branch that does produce fruit, so that it will produce even more fruit.’” Then Jesus went on to say in John 15:5 (CEV) “I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me.”
It’s tempting when the road is smooth and the sun is shining to think you’re doing it all without God’s help. But of course, you’re not. Without Him we couldn’t do anything. Having our dreams tested helps us remember that.
Abram was to the point where God could say, “Abram, I want to talk to you about something”, and Abram was prepared to listen.
It was AFTERWARD. After the storms of life.
A young naval student was being put through the paces by an old sea captain. “What would you do if a sudden storm sprang up on the starboard?”
“Throw out the anchor, sir.”
“What would you do if another storm sprang up aft?”
“Throw out another anchor, sir.”
“And if another terrific storm sprang up forward, what would you do?”
“Throw out another anchor.”
“Hold on”, said the captain. “Where are you getting all your anchors from?”
“From the same place you’re getting your storms, sir.”
You don’t have to worry whether or not God has enough anchors for your storms! Abram passed the tests so God gave him vision. The first attitude to realizing your God-given dream: realize your dream will be tested. And then…
2. REPLACE FEAR WITH FAITH. “Do not be afraid, Abram, I will protect you.”
What might Abram be afraid of at this point in his life? The retribution of the Babylonian kings he had defeated in battle? The wrath of the King of Egypt for lying about his wife? No, Abram had already survived those tests.
The greatest of Abram’s tests was the test of his faith.
God had promised to make him great and make him the head of a great nation. (Gen. 12:2) You know the problem…Abram and Sarai were old and childless. How could God possibly hope to fulfill His promise to Abram now?
Abram believed the Lord (Genesis 15:6), but he still wondered “how” God was going to fulfill His promise.
Abram suggested to God that his trusted servant Eliezer of Damascus become his heir. (Genesis 15:3) Sarai’s plan was for Abram to father a child by her Egyptian servant Hagar. (Genesis 16:1-2)
Both plans missed the mark. Both alternatives were motivated by fear.
But God wanted Abram’s child to be a child of faith, not fear.
“Don’t be afraid, Abram. Just because it is humanly impossible doesn’t mean it is Divinely impossible!” George Muller once said, “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.”
The Bible tells us that nothing is impossible with God. We have a God who delights in impossibilities! Hallelujah!
You might tell me, “Pastor, I can’t see God working on my dreams in life, in my situation or even circumstance that I’m into right now.” Let me share with you a story…
A boy was once flying a kite and a passerby, looking up in the sky and not able to see the kite because of its height, asked him, “What are you doing?” “Flying my kite.” “How do you know it’s there? You can’t see it.” “I can feel the tug on the string.”
You may not always see him present and visible in your dream or circumstance but He’s always there…you know that He’s there! We can’t see God, but we can feel the tug of conviction He puts in our hearts, and we can go on faith believing His promises.
Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a village in northern India. Everyone brought their wares to the village to trade and sell. One old farmer brought a whole covey of quail. He had tied a string around one leg of each bird. The other ends of all the strings were tied to a ring which fit loosely over a central stick. He had taught the quail to walk dolefully in a circle, around and around, like mules in a sugarcane mill. Nobody seemed interested in buying the birds until a devout Brahman came along. His Hindu religion taught him respect for all life, so he believed the birds should be set free.
“I want to buy them all,” he told the merchant, who was elated. After receiving the money, he was surprised to hear the buyer say, “Now, I want you to set them all free.”
“What’s that sir?”
“You heard me. Cut the strings from their legs and turn them loose. Set all of them free!”
With a shrug, the old farmer bent down and snipped the strings off the quail. They were freed at last. What happened? The birds simply continued marching around and around in a circle. Finally, the man had to shoo them off. But when they landed some distance away, they resumed their predictable march. Free, unfettered, released…yet they kept going around in circles as if still tied.
Don’t go around and around in circles of fear and insecurity and timidity! “If the Son has made you free you are free indeed!” BAKIT KA KAILANGANG MATAKOT GAYUNG ALAM MO AT ALAM KO NA MAY MAKAPANGYARIHAN TAYONG DIYOS NA KAYANG GAWIN ANG LAHAT NG BAGAY…NA KUNG TAYO MAN AY LIMITADO, HINDI SIYA LIMITADO, NA KUNG TAYO MAN AY MAHINA, LABIS ANG KANYANG KALAKASAN, NA KUNG TAYO MAN AY DUMADAAN SA KADILIMAN, SIYA ANG ATING LIWANAG…MATAKOT? HINDI, DAHIL ANG DIYOS MO AT ANG DIYOS KO AY ANG LUMIKHA NG LANGIT AT NG LUPA! NA NANGAKONG HINDI TAYO IIWAN NI PABABAYAAN MAN!
The last essential attitude for realizing your God-given dreams…
3. RECOGNIZE THAT A GREAT REWARD AWAITS YOU.
How did Abraham move? “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” Hebrews 11:9-10. KJV “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.”
Abraham obeyed God; he believed God. Let’s see exactly the kind of faith he had. He had a decisive, obedient faith. He obeyed, and he went out not knowing where he was going. When God called he acted immediately. He did not hesitate, argue, question, or waver back and forth. He obeyed. Abraham did not know where he was going. He did know where following God would lead him. He simply believed the promises of God; therefore he acted on his belief. He believed; therefore, he obeyed.
When a person truly believes God they will obey God. There is no such thing as belief without obedience, not genuine belief. Not one of us knows where our faith will lead us, but we are not to fear following God. God is good and He has only good things in store for any true follower of His. If we shrink back and do not believe and follow God, then we will miss out on the promises.
He even lived to a ripe old age, seeing both His son and grandson born, and He witnessed them become the heirs of promise. But even they were heirs of the promise not the inheritors of the land. He never even saw them receive not once piece of land, but despite it all, despite what appeared to be all kinds of odds against the promises of God from ever being fulfilled, Abraham still believed God. He still believed in the hope that God had given Him. He believed it so strongly that even taught the same promises to the son, Isaac and grandson Jacob.
When God called Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees and go into a land where he should after receive for an inheritance…. the author of Hebrews says, “Abraham obeyed….and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Heb. 11:8). This is faith. Why did he obey? BECAUSE HE KNEW FOR A FACT THAT GOD WILL NOT CALL HIM OUT OF THAT COMFORT ZONE, FOR NOTHING…HE KNEW FOR A FACT THAT GOD HAS SOMETHING WONDERFUL IN STORE FOR HIM!
Walt Disney’s widow was being interviewed after the completion of Disney World in Florida. The reporter remarked, “Isn’t it a shame that your husband never got to see this?” Mrs. Disney quickly corrected him. “He did see it. That is why it is here!”
People who keep their eyes on the prize get to see what others cannot see.
Abraham was one of those people.
Will you be one?
Remember what the Bible tells us, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9)
What dream has God given you? Do you long for family and friends to come to faith in Christ? Never stop dreaming that dream!
Can you see God helping you overcome your family problems, your financial problems…do you have educational dreams for yourself or your children? Is there a dream for your job that lies unfulfilled? Do you dream of God using you in a bigger way?
Believe these great words of God today: “Don’t be afraid, I will protect you; your reward will be great.”
Never give up on your God-given dream!