Broadcast

Learning to Give God What He Wants the Most

From the series Momentum

Do you ever feel like God isn’t happy with you? Like He's frustrated, wishing you would get your act together, but you’re not really sure exactly what it is He wants you to do, or how to do it? Chip explains what scripture says about what God wants from each of us and how you can begin giving that to Him, starting today.

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Message Transcript

Here’s my question for you. If I gave you a 3x5 card and on one side it was printed very boldly: Dear, your name. What do you think I, God, really want from you? And you flip over the card and then you pull out a pen and you tell God, This is what I think.

Now, don’t tell me, even in your mind right now, don’t write on the back of the card what you ought to say. And don’t write what you think might be the right answer. If you looked at your own behavior, if you could get inside your mind and looked at how you think and how you behave and how you feel, what does your life say, reveals, what God wants the most from you? Because it’s probably getting played out in some way. What would you put? You got it?

I want to spend the rest of our time asking and answering the question how to give God what He wants the most.

If you’ll open those notes, we’re going to dig in together.

Abraham’s journey reveals what God wants most from each of us. He is called The Father of the Faith. We are going to study his life, and as we study his life, it’s going to unfold exactly what God wants from you and wants from me.

If you have your Bible, open it to Genesis chapter 12. If you don’t have one, there should be one in front of you. It’s the very first book in the Bible. And what we’re going to do is we are going to go on a journey from Genesis 12 all the way through chapter 22. So I’m going to hit the mountain peaks and just give you an overview because you have to see what Abraham’s life is like.

Because we tend to think that these people were in stained glass and they never made a mistake and they are these super holy people and we are these regular, ordinary, cruddy people that have these terrible thoughts and God could never use us.

And you’re going to learn from Abraham, it’s a journey. And he has some really nice marks and, boy, he really blows it at times. It begins in Genesis chapter 12, where he is called by God to follow Him. Listen.

It says, “Then the Lord told Abraham, ‘Leave your country, your relatives, your father’s house and go to a land that I will show you. I will cause you to become the father of a great nation, I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse those who curse you; all the families of the earth will be blessed through you.’”

Now, is this, like, not only a big call, but a big promise. And you know what He is really saying is, “You know what? Will you trust Me with your future?” On a certain day, at a certain time, in one of the greatest cities, Ur, of the time, God speaks to one man and says, “Abraham, I want you to leave the security, the geography, and the family and I want you to follow Me, but I’m not going to tell you where right now. Just follow.”

This is getting scary already. But here’s the promise, “I want to make you great. I want to bless you. I don’t want you to surrender or sacrifice so I can get something from you. I want you to surrender or sacrifice so I can give you something greater and bigger and better than you could ever think or imagine.”

The first step is to follow. Now, notice, we’re going to go through some tests and I’ll give you the passage so on the left side, test number one, is famine. And you can write, Chapter 12, just write in the little notes on the left.

And the question here is, “Will you trust Me to protect you?” He says, “Okay, God, I hear You!” And then the very next verse says, “And Abraham departed.” And, by the way, he happens to be seventy-five years old. For those of you thinking you’re too old for this, well, you’re not.

And here’s what I want you to get. Often, when you step out, when you surrender to get God’s biggest and best blessings, we unconsciously think, Wow, I’m taking a step of faith. Boy, it’s going to get better. Usually it gets worse before it gets better. Because God will test.

And so we learn that there is a famine in chapter 12. And so it was a severe famine so Abraham goes down to Egypt and as he goes down, he says to his wife, who happens to be very, very beautiful, he says, “Sarai, we’re going to go down to Egypt, and you’re a very good looking babe.” This is a very loose translation.

“And they are going to see you and they are going to take you and they are going to kill me. So, here’s the plan. Just say you’re my sister and then they will treat you well and they’ll treat me well because of you.”

Well, they go down, the Pharaoh sees her, takes her into his harem, before he gets to sleep with her, God steps in and, I mean, there’s some real judgment and Pharaoh goes, “What? [And he says to Abraham,] “Why didn’t you tell me about this?” And he says, “This isn’t your sister! This is your wife!” And so Pharaoh basically says, “Here are some sheep, and here are some camels, and here’s some gold, and here’s some silver, now get out of my hair!”

So test number one, Abraham fails. God asked him, “Will you trust Me to protect you?” And Abraham, instead, manipulates, tries to work it out himself. Test number two is greed. “Will you trust Me to provide for you?” This is going to be chapter 13.

Well, you’ll notice, chapter 13 opens, “So they left Egypt and they traveled north into the Negev,” and then as you skip down you’ll see that his nephew is with him, it’s Lot, and over time, God has blessed them both. So Lot has all kinds of camels and all kinds of animals and he is wealthy. And Abraham has this. And they get to the land and it’s like, “There’s not enough room for both of us.”

And so Abraham is starting to learn about what it looks like to trust God. And so he is now going to learn and he gets to pass this test, “Will you trust God that I will provide for you?” And so they get here and Abraham is the older one and so he has the authority. But he says to Lot, “You know, we’re up on this hill and there’s all this land where you can have this and I’ll take it down there. Or, Lot, I’ll tell you what, you can take down there and I’ll stay up here.”

And Lot looked and it looked like there were green pastures and there was some water and so Lot goes, “I’ll take that,” and Abraham says, “Okay. You get to choose.” And so he takes it. Now, what Lot didn’t know, there was Sodom and Gomorrah down there and life doesn’t get pretty later. But it’s interesting, after, instead of saying, “I’ve got to have mine, I’ve got to be in control,” he says, “God, I’ll tell you what, You choose for me.”

And then notice the text says, “After Lot was gone,” verse 14 of chapter 13, “the Lord said to Abram, ‘Look, as far as you can see in every direction, I am going to give you all this land, to you and to your offspring, as a permanent possession. And I am going to give you so many descendants that, like dust, they cannot be counted.’” And then He says, “Abraham, I want you to take a walk and every place your foot goes, it’s all yours.” Does this sound like a God who is trying to take something away from him?

Every time he responds in surrender and faith, you’re going to find God appears and, sort of, ups the ante of a bigger blessing. And so he passes this one.

Test number three is prosperity. This is chapter 14 and this is, “Will you trust Me with your possessions?” You know, it’s one thing to learn not to be greedy. You know, greed has nothing to do with what you have. You can have a lot and you always have to have more. Or, a lot of the greediest people in the world are people that don’t have very much, “Well, I’ve got to have this, I’ve got to have that.”

But it’s different once you get. Once you get a lot, now, this is statistical, this isn’t personal, most people that get a lot of stuff get less and less of God. Jesus said it’s very, very hard for rich people to trust Him, because all their needs are met.

And so that’s going to be test number three, “Will you trust Me with your possessions?” And so chapter 14 opens up and these five kings get together and they say, “We are going to attack these other kings down in Sodom and Gomorrah. They come and they wipe them out and Lot and the family and all of his resources and everything goes. And so Abraham is like doot doo doo. Dut da da da da da. He gathers his men. They go at night, dut dut da da, there are these big, five kings and they rush in, terrorist breakdown group, they take them out, and then he rescues everybody.

It’s an exciting Bible, isn’t it? And so he didn’t have any machine guns or anything like that but he did his stuff. And so he is coming back and he defeats these kings and so he’s got his men, but then he has not only all the bounty of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and a few others, but he also has, since he defeated those kings, and he’s got more camels and more gold and more silver. I mean, he’s like, he’s got it.

And as he comes back, he has a meeting. And the meeting was with the pre-incarnate Christ. Jesus shows up in the Old Testament. Most commentators see Melchizedek, he’s the king of Salem, he’s a priest of God Most High. And Abraham has all this stuff and he’s the hero and he has rescued everything. And Melchizedek blesses Abraham and he says, “‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be the God Most High, who has helped you conquer your enemies.’ Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods that he recovered.”

Now, there is no law, there are no rules, all he knew was, “Look at all this stuff I’ve got,” and he comes face-to-face with the pre-incarnate Christ and he goes, “You know, I need to remember all this stuff and the victory, it comes from You.” And so he gives the first portion of everything to this pre-incarnate Christ.

And then a little bit later, he sees the king of Sodom and he is very grateful. He says, “Abram, I’ll tell you what. That was an awesome job. I thought I had lost all those people. All the bounty, you can keep the camels and the goats and the sheep, the money, everything. Just give me the people back.”

And, you know, I think there was a little temptation there. But Abram understood that stuff can really get in your way. And he says, “I wouldn’t take one thread of one sandal from you. It’s all yours because never, ever, ever do I want anyone to say that the king of Sodom made me rich.” And he basically said, “My priorities, this test, I’m trusting the Most High God with my possessions and for my possessions.”

Test number four is the test of courage. Now we are in chapter 15. This is an interesting one because, as you find chapter 15, notice the word after, as chapter 15 opens in your Bibles. Each time he takes a step of faith and then God appears to him. And it says, “Afterward, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said,” because He knows this is his Achilles heel, “Do not be afraid, for I will protect you and reward you and you will be great.”

Each time he takes a step toward God, like, draw near to God, God draws near to him. And then Abraham has this moment of courage I think is really cool. And he begins to talk to God in a little bit different way. And he has the courage to step up and instead of praying these milquetoast, “Oh, God, will You really help me? And I’m really afraid of this and will You work this out? And life is really hard. And please, please, please, please?”

He hears this big promise for the third or fourth time and he says, “God, how can I know this is going to be true?” He said, “What is the good of all these promises and all this blessing and all this wealth? Right now, my servant is going to get it. I don’t even have a son!”

And he goes toe to toe. And he says, “I need a sign. I need You to show me.”

And then God says, “Abraham? Look, are you ready? This is how clear this is. We talked about sand, look at the stars.” And remember there are no city lights. Imagine being out in the desert in Montana or somewhere in the summer. He says, “Now, look at the sky. You see all those stars? I’m telling you, Abraham, out of you, your descendants, they will be like that many stars.”
And it says, “And Abraham believed God. And it was reckoned,” or, “accounted to him as righteousness.” Don’t forget that. The writer of Hebrews, in chapter 10, will bring this back. An Old Testament prophet, later, will say the same thing. The way, the only way any man, any woman, at any time is ever made righteous before a pure and holy God, is by faith.

Does anybody think that this might be God’s agenda for Abraham? Anybody starting to think, as you sit in your seat right now, “I bet this is God’s agenda for me”? So he is courageous. He steps into it. He trusts Him.

And now we get to step – test number five. This is chapter 16. And this has to do with timing. And so God promises things and you really want to do life God’s way and then some people come and they say, “You know what? I think God is a little slow. Let me help you out with this.”

So his wife comes to him and she’s thinking, That biological clock is really running on me, and if we are going to fulfill God’s promise, He just needs a little help. So I’ve got this maidservant and I think it would be a good idea, Abraham, you have sex with her and she will have a baby. And since she is our servant, then we will make him our son. And we will get this thing rolling, because we have been waiting on God a long time.

And the test here is, Are you willing to patiently endure when God has shown you, “This is what I want to do in your life, this is where I want you to go,” but, hold on, wait a second, it’s not happening.

During that time, this is when God does this in your life. This is when God builds character. This is when you’re lonely. This is when you cry out to Him. This is when, instead of leaning on people, leaning on money, leaning on a job, “God, what about, where are You? Where are You?” And you dig in and you get in the Bible like you have never been in it before and you cry some tears and you get desperate. And something happens in you that doesn’t happen any other way.

And he fails this test. And so he has sex with the handmaid, she has a baby, Ishmael is born, and we have had problems ever since. It’s true. I mean, there is conflict in the family. Now, God honors and makes a nation of him. But he fails miserably.

You need to understand, it is a journey. And you’re going to pass a test, pass a test, and you’re going to fail.

And, you know what I like about this reality of Scripture is God doesn’t say, “Gosh, this is the second time. Hey, Gabriel! Gabriel! Gabe, Gabe! Yo! Gabe! Abraham is not really doing very well. You know, he didn’t do good with the security one and he’s not doing good with this one. Let’s throw him out and start with someone new.” Does the text say that? Or is God understanding when you blow it and when he blows it?

And out of His mercy and His grace when you come back and say, “Lord, I should have waited on You, but I didn’t. I’m sorry.” You meet a God who is Most High and merciful.

And so he flunks test number four, or –  number five and then we go to test number six. And this is the test of obedience. And you might jot chapter 17. And chapter 17 is pretty interesting and those of you that have been around church for a while, you have heard this word a lot, and you just skim right over it.

And some of you, like me, that never opened the Bible until you’re eighteen or twenty-five or whatever, God asked him, again, He makes this covenant, and God again reaffirms Abraham, “I’m with you and I’m going to do this,” and so then God says, “Let’s seal the deal in a very special way.”

And the test here is: Are you willing to trust Him when He asks you to do something that doesn’t make any sense? And so, let’s get all the biblical thinking out of the room just for a minute. And imagine being Abraham. And you’re following and you’re learning.

And He says, “Okay, Abraham, now, here’s what we’re going to do. I want you to circumcise yourself, all your servants, all the men, and your boy.” “What?” “Yeah.” “Could You give a little instruction on this one?” “Yeah!” “That would hurt!” “Yep.”

I mean, we kind of gloss over, I don’t want to get too graphic here. But think how weird that that would, like, are you kidding me? I mean, what does this have to do with worship?

I’m telling you, God, on your journey of faith, will ask you to do some things that don’t make sense and He will make it clear. That may not be His will for anyone else, but for you it is. Will you trust Him?

Chapter 20, he goes back and revisits test number one on security and he fails that one. And are you getting to see it? It’s a journey, it’s a human, it’s a God who loves.

And then, finally, we get to the final exam. And the question is, Will you trust Me with everything and everyone in your life? And, by the way, you don’t get to the final exam like this until you realize that all these things have been leading up to it.

And so God makes an outrageous, absolutely outrageous request. And from the culture of the day and the way that other deities were worshipped, this was not too bizarre because many of the Canaanites and others were practicing these kinds of things.

And so the outrageous request is, “Okay, Abraham, I want you to take your son, your only son, and I want you to sacrifice him, I’ll show you, on a mountain that I will show you.” And then it’s very interesting, he has really grown. The boy is about thirteen now. He has seen that God keeps His promises.

We’ll learn, from the book of Hebrews a little bit later, that he believed that if God promised it’s going to come through Isaac, that if he does this, God would actually raise him from the dead. And then he takes, after his obedient response, he takes a long walk. It’ a three day journey.

He’s got a lot of time to think about, Do I really want to follow this God or not? This is way too hard. I mean, this is the pinnacle. See, what God knew is that that boy that he longed for, little by little by little, was usurping the place and the role that only God can have, for us to be healthy. And that boy, just like can happen in our marriages or with our kids or with our jobs or with our money, it becomes an idol.

And God knows that anytime you have an idol, anything or anyone that takes His rightful place as the King and Master and Lord and CEO in your life, what He knows is it will destroy the idol, it will destroy you, and destroy your relationship with Him.

So He brings a test and says, “Hey, I want the boy.” And then they built an altar, and the moment of truth, he takes the knife, and he brings it up, that’s where God comes through, when we surrender everything and everyone.

And then listen to the reason, “Then the Lord said, ‘Because you have obeyed Me, and have not withheld even your beloved son, I swear by My own self, that I will bless you richly. I will multiply your descendants into countless millions like the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. They will conquer their enemies and through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed, all because you have obeyed Me.”

I have a friend that has had a tremendous impact on my life who is a writer. And he wrote about this issue of obedience and faith. And he said, “When God calls us to risk, He means risk. And it can cost us all that we have. But when we take risks with God, we gain all that He has. We can never know God in His power and love without taking risks with Him. It’s impossible.

“Risk demands trust. In fact, risk is another word for trust. A trust that calls for us to give up our control and our security to rest in His control and His security before we fully know what that means. It wouldn’t be trust if we knew what the risk means for us.” And then Bill Lawrence writes, “That’s the key to knowing God. We have to trust Him before we know what trusting Him means.”

What did Abraham know? What happened in his heart? What happened in his journey where he actually came to the point that he could believe that God is so good and so powerful and so kind and so faithful to His promises that it was safe to even sacrifice his son?

And I want to suggest, as you look on your notes, that Abraham’s confidence in God’s promises and God’s character were the secret to his surrender and reward. It wasn’t that he was better. It wasn’t that he was higher. It wasn’t that he’s different than you. It wasn’t like Abraham brought up the knife and the movie script stopped and he pulled off his robe, bum ba buum! Superman! You know, he had an “S” on his chest, he’s not really like you. He can just do it. That’s not it!

Abraham had a great God. He learned the lessons, even the ones that he failed. What he believed was, God’s promises are always true. God’s character is always trustworthy, no matter what He asks. Whether it’s about protection, whether it’s about my possessions, whether it’s about waiting, whether it’s about a relationship, whether it’s about a decision. No matter what He asks, the safest, best response is to trust Him.

The New Testament picks up the theme. Speaking of Abraham, it said, “He staggered not at the promises of God through unbelief.” In other words, he didn’t stumble. “He staggered not at the promises of God through unbelief, but he was strong in faith, giving glory to God,” notice, “being fully persuaded that what He promised, He,” God, “was able also to perform.” That’s what I need to believe. That’s what you need to believe.

When it gets scary with your finances, when it gets scary with one of your kids, when it gets scary and you’re single and you keep getting older, when it gets scary when you feel God nudging you to relocate but you don’t want to. Listen to Him!

Notice it says, “Without faith,” Hebrews 11:6 summarizes, “Without faith, it’s impossible to please God.” We have developed this phony Christianity around America and many parts of the world where we think being a Christian is being a little bit nicer than most people, being a little bit more moral than most people, and going to religious services and patting each other on the back thinking, “Now, that’s a Christian. I’m a Christian. I’m a little bit nicer. I don’t cuss, but I used to. I even went on a mission trip once. I gave some money to Haiti, aren’t I good?”

Being a follower of Christ is believing in God’s promises and God’s character to the point of risk! First and foremost, accepting the biggest risk that you are going to turn from your sin and allow Him to forgive it and receive eternal life.

And then say, “I’m going to go on a journey of actually following Him.” Without faith it’s impossible to believe Him. It’s risk, it’s trusting. But, notice that the passage goes on to explain, “For he that comes to God must believe two things: first, that He exists.” That He really exists. And not just that He exists but who He really is, that He is faithful, that He is good, that He is powerful. But not just believing that He exists but that He is, would you circle in your notes that word, a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

I dare you to read Genesis chapter 12 through 22 and every time Abraham takes a step, in fact, even when he blows it, when he messes up, God appears to him and each time, what does He do? He expands the blessing and says, “Abraham, just trust Me.”

The number one goal of God in your life is that you would learn to trust Him. It’s progressive. But with everything and everyone. And here’s the deal, here’s how this really works: surrender, here’s what we learn from Abraham, surrender is the channel through which God’s biggest and best blessings flow.

Surrender is not like, the few, the proud, the Marines, the one kid in the youth group that’s willing to really stand up for Christ and the one business guy who is willing to step out and the people that go on short-term missions and some guy that leaves the business world or some woman you go into full-time ministry.

No. Surrender is for every, single follower of Christ. And if you can imagine a kind and benevolent, loving God that has already demonstrated that by dying for you, and imagine an ocean full of blessings because He is your Father and He cares about you and knows you and where you have been and where you’re hurt and what you need.

And He has all these blessings because He is your Father and He wants a relationship and He wants to help you. And there is this huge PVC pipe, okay? Really big. And the blessings flow through it, errrrrrr, but you need to hook it into your heart so you receive them, you know what the PVC pipe is? Surrender. Surrender is the channel through which God’s biggest and best blessings flow.

The greatest compliment you will ever give to God and what He wants the most, is for you to say, “Dad, Papa, Abba, I trust You. I trust You with my money, I trust You with my singleness, I trust You in my marriage, I trust You with this troubled child, I trust You to give me wisdom, I trust You with this relocation, I trust You even though I am out of a job. I trust You.

“And so what I want to do is I’m not going to read two chapters to keep the devil away. I trust You. I want to know You and I want to talk to You and I want to read this book because I want my heart and Your heart to be connected. I want to know what Your promises are. I want to love You and get to know You. I want to share my life, I want to see what You want to do in me and through me. I want to fulfill Your purpose and my destiny in this world.” And God says, “The channel through which that happens is trust.”

The apostle Paul would really summarize it in one verse. He’s going to say, “I urge you, therefore, my brothers and my sisters, in view of God’s mercy,” the eleven chapters of grace and love in Romans, “to offer your body a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable. This is your spiritual service of worship.”

Would you underline in your notes offer your body? We started with the question: What does God really want from me? If there is a God, what does He really want? Here’s what He wants: you! Your actual, physical body. He wants you! Your eyes, your hands, your heart.

And then notice, what does it say? “This,” underline the word, “this is your spiritual service of worship.” And when He has all of you, the dominos will fall. He will show you what to do with your future, your time, your relationships, your money. But why? For your good! And so that you fulfill His purposes.

Jesus put it this way. He said, “Surrender is the key to true spirituality.” And He gave an agricultural example in John chapter 12. He says, “Unless a grain of wheat fall unto the earth and die, it remains by itself alone.” In other words, if you take a grain of wheat, keep it out here. But if you bury it, let it die, then it brings forth much fruit.

And He says that is a picture of the spiritual life. And then He goes on in verse 25 to say, “There are some people that even though they say, ‘God, I love You and I want to follow You,’ they say, ‘God, here’s my fists and they are clenched. I want to follow You my way, my time, my conditions, my agenda. I’m not going to move out from my girlfriend, I’m not going to let You mess with my money, and I’ve got my future pretty well laid out. But I’d really like to get into heaven and if I get into ICU, I could really use some help. But it’s on my terms, of course.’”

And you know what happens to the PVC pipe? Errrrrrrng. The valve just got shut off. See, you can either allow Him to be God or you can be God. And if you’re God, you get to rely on all the resources you have and what I would say is, “Good luck.” Or you let Him be God. And He is all-powerful.

I have a stack of emails about like that. We… And almost all of them said, in fact, I’ve got one up here. It says, “Chip, I want you to know, I’m all in. But I’m scared to death.” You know what? I think that’s being honest.

If you’re single and you’re living with someone or you know the relationship isn’t right and you know going all in means you’re going to break off that relationship, it’s scary. Isn’t it? If you’re all in and when you’re honest, your kids have captured your heart and you live for your kids and they are the little idol in your life, what if you give them to God and what if He doesn’t take good care of them? I mean, that doesn’t make sense, logically, but emotionally it does, doesn’t it?

See, I think what I see in Abraham is a man who chose to believe and he did it very imperfectly. He had good days and bad days. He passed some tests, he failed in others. But the intent of his heart was, “I want to know You, I want to trust You,” and he risked, and God honored it.

What is it that God wants from me? Number one, all I am and all I have. That’s kind of a summary, you got that one already, didn’t you? Number two, for those who love Texas Hold’em, you can probably complete this one for me. God says He wants my faith, He wants me to say, “Lord, I’m all in.”

I want you to imagine the chips of your life, every area, and push them to the center of the table. “God, I’m all in.”

I was thinking about what that really means and I came across something from Chuck Swindoll that was really encouraging. It was something that he read and passed on. And it’s the story of a man, best I can figure, he’s middle-aged. And his wife has died. Let me just read it to you.

It is told through the lens of his brother. He said, “My brother once opened the bottom drawer of his wife, Janet’s, bureau, and he lifted out a tissue wrapped package. It was an exquisite, silk, handmade piece of lingerie, with a trim of lace around the top. The price tag carried an astronomical figure and was still attached to it.

“You see, Janet had bought it on the first trip they ever went to to New York City eight or nine years ago, but she had never worn it. She was saving it for a really special occasion. Well, my brother thought to himself, I guess this is the occasion. He took the lingerie, put it on the bed along with the other clothes that he was taking to the mortician.

“His hands lingered on the soft material and then he slammed the door of the drawer shut and screamed, ‘Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion!’”

My fear is the great majority of all the Christians are saving yourselves for a special occasion and the subtle lie that, Someday, someway, when finances are better, when the market is different, when our kids are a little older, when I finally get married I’m really going to step out. I’m going to have a radical faith. I’m going to really follow Jesus like never before. And someday, someway.

And you’re just like this wrapped in tissue paper with the price tag still on it. And we will bury you and you will have never had the courage or the faith to unwrap the package that God placed in your heart to become the man or the woman or the parent that God wanted you to be, because He wanted to change your world through you.

And I think that would break God’s heart. Surrender is the channel through which God’s biggest and best blessings flow.

And so, you have in your, uh, a little action step and it’s a blank check. And for some, your eyes and your body language have told me, I’ve already done this but I need to commemorate it. And for others, today is going to be one of those defining days that you will say, “I can still remember where I was, and I told God, and I was scared to death, I’m all in. And I remember, I told God, I think you could take better care of my life than me. I surrender. I signed the check. I’m all in.”
You need to understand, it is a journey. And you’re going to pass a test, pass a test, and you’re going to fail.

And, you know what I like about this reality of Scripture is God doesn’t say, “Gosh, this is the second time. Hey, Gabriel! Gabriel! Gabe, Gabe! Yo! Gabe! Abraham is not really doing very well. You know, he didn’t do good with the security one and he’s not doing good with this one. Let’s throw him out and start with someone new.” Does the text say that? Or is God understanding when you blow it and when he blows it?

And out of His mercy and His grace when you come back and say, “Lord, I should have waited on You, but I didn’t. I’m sorry.” You meet a God who is Most High and merciful.

And so he flunks test number four, or –  number five and then we go to test number six. And this is the test of obedience. And you might jot chapter 17. And chapter 17 is pretty interesting and those of you that have been around church for a while, you have heard this word a lot, and you just skim right over it.

And some of you, like me, that never opened the Bible until you’re eighteen or twenty-five or whatever, God asked him, again, He makes this covenant, and God again reaffirms Abraham, “I’m with you and I’m going to do this,” and so then God says, “Let’s seal the deal in a very special way.”

And the test here is: Are you willing to trust Him when He asks you to do something that doesn’t make any sense? And so, let’s get all the biblical thinking out of the room just for a minute. And imagine being Abraham. And you’re following and you’re learning.

And He says, “Okay, Abraham, now, here’s what we’re going to do. I want you to circumcise yourself, all your servants, all the men, and your boy.” “What?” “Yeah.” “Could You give a little instruction on this one?” “Yeah!” “That would hurt!” “Yep.”

I mean, we kind of gloss over, I don’t want to get too graphic here. But think how weird that that would, like, are you kidding me? I mean, what does this have to do with worship?

I’m telling you, God, on your journey of faith, will ask you to do some things that don’t make sense and He will make it clear. That may not be His will for anyone else, but for you it is. Will you trust Him?

Chapter 20, he goes back and revisits test number one on security and he fails that one. And are you getting to see it? It’s a journey, it’s a human, it’s a God who loves.

And then, finally, we get to the final exam. And the question is, Will you trust Me with everything and everyone in your life? And, by the way, you don’t get to the final exam like this until you realize that all these things have been leading up to it.

And so God makes an outrageous, absolutely outrageous request. And from the culture of the day and the way that other deities were worshipped, this was not too bizarre because many of the Canaanites and others were practicing these kinds of things.

And so the outrageous request is, “Okay, Abraham, I want you to take your son, your only son, and I want you to sacrifice him, I’ll show you, on a mountain that I will show you.” And then it’s very interesting, he has really grown. The boy is about thirteen now. He has seen that God keeps His promises.

We’ll learn, from the book of Hebrews a little bit later, that he believed that if God promised it’s going to come through Isaac, that if he does this, God would actually raise him from the dead. And then he takes, after his obedient response, he takes a long walk. It’ a three day journey.

He’s got a lot of time to think about, Do I really want to follow this God or not? This is way too hard. I mean, this is the pinnacle. See, what God knew is that that boy that he longed for, little by little by little, was usurping the place and the role that only God can have, for us to be healthy. And that boy, just like can happen in our marriages or with our kids or with our jobs or with our money, it becomes an idol.

And God knows that anytime you have an idol, anything or anyone that takes His rightful place as the King and Master and Lord and CEO in your life, what He knows is it will destroy the idol, it will destroy you, and destroy your relationship with Him.

So He brings a test and says, “Hey, I want the boy.” And then they built an altar, and the moment of truth, he takes the knife, and he brings it up, that’s where God comes through, when we surrender everything and everyone.

And then listen to the reason, “Then the Lord said, ‘Because you have obeyed Me, and have not withheld even your beloved son, I swear by My own self, that I will bless you richly. I will multiply your descendants into countless millions like the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. They will conquer their enemies and through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed, all because you have obeyed Me.”

I have a friend that has had a tremendous impact on my life who is a writer. And he wrote about this issue of obedience and faith. And he said, “When God calls us to risk, He means risk. And it can cost us all that we have. But when we take risks with God, we gain all that He has. We can never know God in His power and love without taking risks with Him. It’s impossible.

“Risk demands trust. In fact, risk is another word for trust. A trust that calls for us to give up our control and our security to rest in His control and His security before we fully know what that means. It wouldn’t be trust if we knew what the risk means for us.” And then Bill Lawrence writes, “That’s the key to knowing God. We have to trust Him before we know what trusting Him means.”

What did Abraham know? What happened in his heart? What happened in his journey where he actually came to the point that he could believe that God is so good and so powerful and so kind and so faithful to His promises that it was safe to even sacrifice his son?

And I want to suggest, as you look on your notes, that Abraham’s confidence in God’s promises and God’s character were the secret to his surrender and reward. It wasn’t that he was better. It wasn’t that he was higher. It wasn’t that he’s different than you. It wasn’t like Abraham brought up the knife and the movie script stopped and he pulled off his robe, bum ba buum! Superman! You know, he had an “S” on his chest, he’s not really like you. He can just do it. That’s not it!

Abraham had a great God. He learned the lessons, even the ones that he failed. What he believed was, God’s promises are always true. God’s character is always trustworthy, no matter what He asks. Whether it’s about protection, whether it’s about my possessions, whether it’s about waiting, whether it’s about a relationship, whether it’s about a decision. No matter what He asks, the safest, best response is to trust Him.

The New Testament picks up the theme. Speaking of Abraham, it said, “He staggered not at the promises of God through unbelief.” In other words, he didn’t stumble. “He staggered not at the promises of God through unbelief, but he was strong in faith, giving glory to God,” notice, “being fully persuaded that what He promised, He,” God, “was able also to perform.” That’s what I need to believe. That’s what you need to believe.

When it gets scary with your finances, when it gets scary with one of your kids, when it gets scary and you’re single and you keep getting older, when it gets scary when you feel God nudging you to relocate but you don’t want to. Listen to Him!

Notice it says, “Without faith,” Hebrews 11:6 summarizes, “Without faith, it’s impossible to please God.” We have developed this phony Christianity around America and many parts of the world where we think being a Christian is being a little bit nicer than most people, being a little bit more moral than most people, and going to religious services and patting each other on the back thinking, “Now, that’s a Christian. I’m a Christian. I’m a little bit nicer. I don’t cuss, but I used to. I even went on a mission trip once. I gave some money to Haiti, aren’t I good?”

Being a follower of Christ is believing in God’s promises and God’s character to the point of risk! First and foremost, accepting the biggest risk that you are going to turn from your sin and allow Him to forgive it and receive eternal life.

And then say, “I’m going to go on a journey of actually following Him.” Without faith it’s impossible to believe Him. It’s risk, it’s trusting. But, notice that the passage goes on to explain, “For he that comes to God must believe two things: first, that He exists.” That He really exists. And not just that He exists but who He really is, that He is faithful, that He is good, that He is powerful. But not just believing that He exists but that He is, would you circle in your notes that word, a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

I dare you to read Genesis chapter 12 through 22 and every time Abraham takes a step, in fact, even when he blows it, when he messes up, God appears to him and each time, what does He do? He expands the blessing and says, “Abraham, just trust Me.”

The number one goal of God in your life is that you would learn to trust Him. It’s progressive. But with everything and everyone. And here’s the deal, here’s how this really works: surrender, here’s what we learn from Abraham, surrender is the channel through which God’s biggest and best blessings flow.

Surrender is not like, the few, the proud, the Marines, the one kid in the youth group that’s willing to really stand up for Christ and the one business guy who is willing to step out and the people that go on short-term missions and some guy that leaves the business world or some woman you go into full-time ministry.

No. Surrender is for every, single follower of Christ. And if you can imagine a kind and benevolent, loving God that has already demonstrated that by dying for you, and imagine an ocean full of blessings because He is your Father and He cares about you and knows you and where you have been and where you’re hurt and what you need.

And He has all these blessings because He is your Father and He wants a relationship and He wants to help you. And there is this huge PVC pipe, okay? Really big. And the blessings flow through it, errrrrrr, but you need to hook it into your heart so you receive them, you know what the PVC pipe is? Surrender. Surrender is the channel through which God’s biggest and best blessings flow.

The greatest compliment you will ever give to God and what He wants the most, is for you to say, “Dad, Papa, Abba, I trust You. I trust You with my money, I trust You with my singleness, I trust You in my marriage, I trust You with this troubled child, I trust You to give me wisdom, I trust You with this relocation, I trust You even though I am out of a job. I trust You.

“And so what I want to do is I’m not going to read two chapters to keep the devil away. I trust You. I want to know You and I want to talk to You and I want to read this book because I want my heart and Your heart to be connected. I want to know what Your promises are. I want to love You and get to know You. I want to share my life, I want to see what You want to do in me and through me. I want to fulfill Your purpose and my destiny in this world.” And God says, “The channel through which that happens is trust.”

The apostle Paul would really summarize it in one verse. He’s going to say, “I urge you, therefore, my brothers and my sisters, in view of God’s mercy,” the eleven chapters of grace and love in Romans, “to offer your body a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable. This is your spiritual service of worship.”

Would you underline in your notes offer your body? We started with the question: What does God really want from me? If there is a God, what does He really want? Here’s what He wants: you! Your actual, physical body. He wants you! Your eyes, your hands, your heart.

And then notice, what does it say? “This,” underline the word, “this is your spiritual service of worship.” And when He has all of you, the dominos will fall. He will show you what to do with your future, your time, your relationships, your money. But why? For your good! And so that you fulfill His purposes.

Jesus put it this way. He said, “Surrender is the key to true spirituality.” And He gave an agricultural example in John chapter 12. He says, “Unless a grain of wheat fall unto the earth and die, it remains by itself alone.” In other words, if you take a grain of wheat, keep it out here. But if you bury it, let it die, then it brings forth much fruit.

And He says that is a picture of the spiritual life. And then He goes on in verse 25 to say, “There are some people that even though they say, ‘God, I love You and I want to follow You,’ they say, ‘God, here’s my fists and they are clenched. I want to follow You my way, my time, my conditions, my agenda. I’m not going to move out from my girlfriend, I’m not going to let You mess with my money, and I’ve got my future pretty well laid out. But I’d really like to get into heaven and if I get into ICU, I could really use some help. But it’s on my terms, of course.’”

And you know what happens to the PVC pipe? Errrrrrrng. The valve just got shut off. See, you can either allow Him to be God or you can be God. And if you’re God, you get to rely on all the resources you have and what I would say is, “Good luck.” Or you let Him be God. And He is all-powerful.

I have a stack of emails about like that. We… And almost all of them said, in fact, I’ve got one up here. It says, “Chip, I want you to know, I’m all in. But I’m scared to death.” You know what? I think that’s being honest.

If you’re single and you’re living with someone or you know the relationship isn’t right and you know going all in means you’re going to break off that relationship, it’s scary. Isn’t it? If you’re all in and when you’re honest, your kids have captured your heart and you live for your kids and they are the little idol in your life, what if you give them to God and what if He doesn’t take good care of them? I mean, that doesn’t make sense, logically, but emotionally it does, doesn’t it?

See, I think what I see in Abraham is a man who chose to believe and he did it very imperfectly. He had good days and bad days. He passed some tests, he failed in others. But the intent of his heart was, “I want to know You, I want to trust You,” and he risked, and God honored it.

What is it that God wants from me? Number one, all I am and all I have. That’s kind of a summary, you got that one already, didn’t you? Number two, for those who love Texas Hold’em, you can probably complete this one for me. God says He wants my faith, He wants me to say, “Lord, I’m all in.”

I want you to imagine the chips of your life, every area, and push them to the center of the table. “God, I’m all in.”

I was thinking about what that really means and I came across something from Chuck Swindoll that was really encouraging. It was something that he read and passed on. And it’s the story of a man, best I can figure, he’s middle-aged. And his wife has died. Let me just read it to you.

It is told through the lens of his brother. He said, “My brother once opened the bottom drawer of his wife, Janet’s, bureau, and he lifted out a tissue wrapped package. It was an exquisite, silk, handmade piece of lingerie, with a trim of lace around the top. The price tag carried an astronomical figure and was still attached to it.

“You see, Janet had bought it on the first trip they ever went to to New York City eight or nine years ago, but she had never worn it. She was saving it for a really special occasion. Well, my brother thought to himself, I guess this is the occasion. He took the lingerie, put it on the bed along with the other clothes that he was taking to the mortician.

“His hands lingered on the soft material and then he slammed the door of the drawer shut and screamed, ‘Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion!’”

My fear is the great majority of all the Christians are saving yourselves for a special occasion and the subtle lie that, Someday, someway, when finances are better, when the market is different, when our kids are a little older, when I finally get married I’m really going to step out. I’m going to have a radical faith. I’m going to really follow Jesus like never before. And someday, someway.

And you’re just like this wrapped in tissue paper with the price tag still on it. And we will bury you and you will have never had the courage or the faith to unwrap the package that God placed in your heart to become the man or the woman or the parent that God wanted you to be, because He wanted to change your world through you.

And I think that would break God’s heart. Surrender is the channel through which God’s biggest and best blessings flow.

And so, you have in your, uh, a little action step and it’s a blank check. And for some, your eyes and your body language have told me, I’ve already done this but I need to commemorate it. And for others, today is going to be one of those defining days that you will say, “I can still remember where I was, and I told God, and I was scared to death, I’m all in. And I remember, I told God, I think you could take better care of my life than me. I surrender. I signed the check. I’m all in.”