See the Marriage Series Description for more information on this lesson. (Note: This lesson below is a different version and a reteaching of the same passage as the previous lesson in this series.)
Anything we put at the core of our beings to give us significance apart from the Lord Jesus Christ is an idol!
We commit idolatry when we put something other than the Lord Jesus Christ at the core of our lives to gain our identity.
When we depend on our careers, our accomplishments, our sense of power and control and influence to make us somebody, we become idolaters.
I do not only say this to marketplace men and women. Later this week I will speak to missions leaders from around the world and I will make this very same point to them.
What we depend on for our identity becomes our god. If we depend on the Lord Jesus Christ and trust Him for our success, He is our God, and we worship Him. If we depend on our own wit and wisdom to make it, that wit and wisdom become our god.
It is possible for us to know the Lord Jesus Christ, to love Him, and to want to serve Him and still be idolaters when it comes to our careers.
We can be completely dedicated to Christ, totally sold out to Him as far as we know, wanting His will in our own minds, and be blind to the idolatry of careerism. We can take great steps of faith for God; we can give up significant desires because God calls us to; we can be as committed as possible to God as one could ever be, and still turn out to be a careerist, a career idolater, i.e., we can make our careers our idols and not even know it.
This happens when times of pressure hit.
We trust God as long as things are going the way we think they should. We make sacrifices because He calls us to. We make decisions others think are ridiculous because He calls us to. We move away from things that we once built our entire lives around because He calls us to.
But then trouble hits, and our idolatry comes out.
And we turn to our own wit and wisdom to make it.
There may be legitimate reasons for our fears, but we feel we must act for ourselves to provide and also to protect our careers.
This is the lesson we are learning from Abraham in these days.
Abraham gave up just about everything in the world he could to follow God.
He gave up his country,
at God’s direction.
The New Testament uses this decision as a model of faith. It was great faith to do what he did. Yet, when stress came, when pressure pressed in on him, he chose to go to Egypt and use his own wit and wisdom to get what he would not trust God to do.
At heart Abraham was an idolater. He put his own thinking where he should have put trust in God’s provision.
This is the very thing that many believers do in our day.
We are committed to Christ for everything, including our careers, as long as we are getting what we want. We are getting the promotions we seek. We are getting the opportunities we desire. We are making the progress we aimed to make. We are providing in ways that give us the lifestyle we long to have. And then it all stops just like that, and we are in trouble. There’s a new boss or an industry change or the company is sold or the economy forces a downsizing, and we are facing a famine.
What we do then reveals who our true God is, as we see in Abraham’s life.
And what we do then has a defining impact on our families, as we also see in Abraham’s life.
So this morning we return to principle #2 in our study of MARRIAGE GOD’S WAY. This morning I am raising and seeking to answer the question
Now we see principle #2.
Today we come to a major event in Abraham’s life that shows us that even for men and women of faith, career and financial success are more important than trusting God. Come to Genesis 12:10 where we shall make four observations that show what happens when we reject this principle. Our first observation shows that
1. God’s will is rarely easy and virtually never trouble free.
a. Sometimes, often, doing God’s will seem to be more trouble than it’s worth
b. Just let me be in trouble; I certainly can do a better job than God can.
c. It’s just so much easier to take over for ourselves and make sure things get done right.
d. God leads us into famine and expects us to trust Him, and this after we’ve trusted Him by giving up everything we have ever known.
2. Abraham takes God’s will into his own hands.
a. Abraham acts rather than trusts.
b. We all know he acted out of need for the good of his family, but his action did not come out of faith.
c. He raised no prayers.
d. He built no altar.
e. He reviewed no promises.
f. He just kept on going because when it came to his financial he was still in control.
g. He had not yet learned what kind of a mess he could make.
h. He only considered his need and what he could do about it.
1. Now not all of us do this.
a. Some of us are ahead of Abraham at this point in our lives.
b. We’ve learned what happens when we pursue our careers under our own control.
c. We’ve learned we can be successful everywhere but at home.
d. We’ve learned we can make money and move forward out there, but we’ve also learned that success and money are not enough to build a family.
e. There’s no doubt that success and money benefit a family greatly, but more is needed than that.
2. Some of us are learning this.
a. Like Abraham, we’ve gone our own way and gained what we could--and found out how much this costs.
b. Some wives are learning this.
c. Wives can send mixed signals, signals for success in the world and security at home, but you can’t have both.
d. Like husbands, wives will have to make choices.
3. Some of us are still pursuing our own way because we have not yet learned Abraham’s lesson.
Next we see that
Under the stress of famine, Abraham’s true character comes out.
1. Once Abraham decided to act rather than trust he was on his own, dependent on his own devices.
2. Life was up to him, and he would have to act accordingly.
3. So he uses the world’s means, the means of the half truth which is really a deceptive lie.
4. And so, too often, must we when we make this same decision.
a. We must mislead and deceive when we choose to control our careers rather than trusting God and His goodness toward us.
b. Our sales presentations, our reports to superiors, our contracts, our promises, everything we do will be marked when we act rather than trust God to act.
c. If it’s all up to us, we’ll do whatever we can to make it.
5. It doesn’t have to be by any means, but it was for Abraham, and it is for so many others.
1. I used to think that Sarah was simply used by Abraham.
2. As things turn out, that was the case, but there’s more to it than this.
3. As I thought about our time today, it struck me that Sarah was fully capable of resisting Abraham when she wanted to.
a. She was fully capable of getting him to do what she wanted when she wanted a son by Hagar.
b. She was fully capable of screaming a curse on him when things with Hagar did not turn out as she wanted them to.
c. She was fully capable of forcing Abraham to send his own son, Ishmael, away from their home when she felt threatened by his actions toward Isaac.
d. Sarah was not some weak, powerless, helpless woman, who could not speak up nor influence her husband.
4. Sarah could speak her mind and get her way when she so desired.
5. Apparently, Abraham and Sarah had entered into an arrangement whereby she would be his sister when they felt they were in danger . (Genesis 20:13).
6. Perhaps they saw this together as a negotiating chip, not so much to make money as to meet their needs until the famine was over.
7. Wives must make decisions as much as husbands when it comes to career management.
a. Wives must decide which they most want, success and security or godliness and His gifts.
b. You may end up with both in God’s hand--but, then again, you may not.
c. But it is not right for you to encourage your husband to go in one direction, then discover how much it costs, and blame him for a decision that is as much yours as it is his.
1. Abraham had no intention of settling permanently in Egypt.
a. He did not go there to settle there, but to sojourn there (Genesis 12:10).
b. His plan was to return to Canaan when the famine was over.
c. He never intended to disobey God in what he did.
d. He just didn’t see how he could trust God and make it.
2. Many of us make similar decisions.
a. We really do want to obey God.
b. We just haven’t yet learned how to trust Him when famine comes.
c. We’ve always acted before.
d. We’re only doing what we think we should be doing.
e. Like Abraham, we need to learn how to depend and never deceive.
Look what happens.
Our character is revealed for what it really is because our motives are revealed for what they really are: to be in control rather than to trust.
1. Abraham met someone who was bigger than he was.
2. Abraham met someone who didn’t have to negotiate.
3. Abraham met someone who simply had more power than he had.
4. Abraham never expected this to happen.
1. Again and again and again, you see the same reality: control is the key to life.
2. We are driven to be in control.
3. God is determined to move us out of control.
4. The interesting thing is that the way God gets us out of control is to let us be in control.
a. That’s fascinating to me.
b. God lets us have our head, go our way, do what we want, and make a mess of it all.
c. That’s when we pray and cry out to Him.
1. God made a promise to Abraham, and He had to act in order to keep it.
2. God had every intention of keeping His promise to Abraham, even when Abraham disobeyed Him.
3. We cannot presume that God will intervene for us.
a. God hasn’t made the same kind of promises to us.
b. God has made promises to meet our needs, to provide for us, to care for us.
c. But those promises don’t include the guaranteed blessing He gave to Abraham.
d. He has not promised to bless us in the same way He promised to bless Abraham.
e. He has not promised to make a nation out of us.
f. He has not promised a place on earth, a place in time and eternity.
g. He has not promised to protect us and our descendants in exactly the same way He did Abraham.
4. We can be certain God will not desert us.
a. But we have no claim on a house or a lifestyle or a position or power.
b. We can turn out to be quite ordinary rather than the very special person we think ourselves to be.
c. Many of us have had to deal with this in our lives.
d. We may be more of a legend in our own minds than a legend in our own times.
5. So we have no guarantee that God will intervene for us, but we can be certain God will care for us.
There is one more observation.
Once our character and motives are revealed for what they really are, they go on to bear the only fruit they can bear, the fruit of shame, a shame that ultimately comes home to roost and affect both our wives and our children, even when our children are yet unborn.
1. When we contrast the two speeches in this passage, we find that the pagan tells more truth than the believer.
2. What a shameful position in which to put ourselves.
3. How often unbelievers reject believers because they find us too much like themselves.
How much better it is to live according to our principle for this morning, principle #2:
TRUST GOD ALONE FOR CAREER
AND FINANCIAL SUCCESS.
We must turn from the idolatry of our hearts to trust the God of the universe who is utterly committed to us. He knew what Abraham would do and He wrote it down so we could see ourselves and learn the folly of idolatry. We must turn from the careerism of idolatry as our way of becoming somebody to the true God who can provide for us in ways that matter far more than what we are seeking. We will only know whether we are trusters or idolaters when we are under the pressure of losing everything we have worked to build over our lifetimes. And we can be certain that time will come.
It is then that we must
TRUST GOD ALONE FOR CAREER
AND FINANCIAL SUCCESS.