Learning to Give God What He Wants the Most, Part 1
From the series Momentum
Let me ask you, what does God want most from you? Any ideas? Chip shares how you can not only know what God wants from you, but also how to give it to Him.
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About this series
How to Ignite Your Faith (R12)
What's true spirituality? How do you get it? In today's culture we tend to customize our spirituality to fit our own needs. We create God in our own image rather than the other way around. In this r12 series, learn how you can give God what He wants the most. Based on timeless truths found in Romans 12, Chip journeys back to the Old Testament to learn true spirituality from the lives of Abraham, Daniel, Moses, David & Jonathan, and Joseph. They reveal to us a profile of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Momentum will Ignite Your Faith.More from this series
So what I want to do is I want to jump right in and I want to share with you, this was the first, I would call it, my first honest adult prayer. Eighteen years old, I shared a little bit about my story and in my little tiny fish bowl, I had been successful and thought that that would bring happiness and instead I found this huge emptiness.
And I found myself at about two A.M. in the morning, sitting on my bed, looking out through a window. And it was one of those star-filled skies. And feeling empty and I remember this was my prayer, God, if You exist, what do You want from me? At this point, I didn’t know if there was a God or not. I had a terrible church experience growing up. I didn’t meet any Christians that I ever wanted to be like or be around.
But I thought, There’s got to be more than setting goals and “trying to be successful to get happy.” God, if You exist…
At some point in time, if there’s a God, He must want something. But I didn’t know what it was. At Living on the Edge, we instituted a research project with the Barna Group and we asked Christians in America that question. So, what does God really want from you? What does it mean to be a “good Christian”?
And eighty percent of the Christians in America, actually, eighty-one percent, said, “Keeping the rules, especially the Ten Commandments, is what God wants most. It’s interesting, isn’t it? Since we can’t keep them. That’s kind of a bummer of a life.
“What God really wants is keep these but no one can keep them.” Okay, good luck on that one. True spirituality, we learned, is built on the principle of relationship.
Second, we learned that others indicated that faithful church attendance, Bible reading, and tithing is what God wants most. Sort of that picture of a cosmic scorekeeper who, your performance, when you do those things, you’re a good boy or girl. And if you ever miss one of those things then, oh boy, you better watch out.
Are those activities wrong or bad? Absolutely not. But done as a performance to earn God’s favor or to make you spiritual, they are a total disaster. Done as an access out of a heart to your heavenly Father, to connect with His grace, totally different story.
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?