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Obedience and Progressive Revelation
In our last lesson, we talked about a listening ear and an obedient heart. We saw that to be able to hear God clearly, we must be prepared to obey Him when He speaks to us. We must be faithful to obey Him when He directs. If you are not faithful in the small things, you will not be faithful in the big things and God's not going to give you bigger things until you learn to be faithful with the small ones.
Your obedience will open the door to further understanding. In other words, when you are faithful with what you have, then God will give you more. In the parable of the talents, Jesus says this: "The master answered, "You did well. You are good servants. You can be trusted. You did well with small things so I will let you care for much greater things. Come and share my happiness with me. When you're faithful with small things, I will put you in charge of more things."
And so many of us ask God to give us the big picture or the road map, or we ask Him to give us the blueprint. But God does not do it that way, He doesn't usually give it to us all at once. He gives it to us as we are obedient with what He's already given us. Are you faithful with the little bit He has given you? God wants your obedience and He wants your obedience first. He doesn't always want your understanding, He just wants your obedience.
Look at what God did with Abraham? All He said was, "Go. Leave where you are and go." He gave no other direction, just Go and Leave. All Abraham knew was that he couldn't stay there. God did not tell him precisely where to go. God didn't say north or east. He said, "Leave". That's all the direction they had. Abraham could have said, "God, could You please be a little bit more specific? Could you give just a few more details here? Then I'll go." On that condition he never would have left. He had to be obedient to what God had already told him to do before he was going to get anymore.
God's looking for a willing heart and it doesn't have to know the end result. That your just satisfied with the direction and you'll obey that. That is what God is looking for. God doesn't show you the whole thing. He only shows you a little bit at a time. It's progressive in revelation. As you're faithful with what God has already shown you to do, He will give you more. And one reason you may not have more is because you may not be faithful to what He has already told you to do. Are you faithful? Have you completed what He has already spoken to you? Some of us need to quit badgering God and start being obedient. Some of us say to God, "Lord, show me more and then I'll obey". But God says, "Obey, then I'll show you more."
We can see this principle in Abraham's life. Look at Genesis 12:1 -- "Then the Lord told Abraham, 'Leave your country, your relatives, and your father's house, and go to the land that I will show you.'" There is no direction. It's just "Leave. Leave where you are and go." But then God adds, "I'm going to bless you." Abraham didn't have any descendants at this time, He had no children. Yet God told him, in verse 2, that he was going to become a father of great nations." This is all he had, and it was very vague.
Look at verses 6 and 7: "Traveling through Canaan they came to a place near Sichem and set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time the area was inhabited by Canaanites and the Lord appeared to Abraham and said, 'I'm going to give this land to your offspring.' And Abraham built an altar there to commemorate the Lord's visit."
Suddenly, a bit more becomes clear. Now Abraham knew which land God was giving to him. He didn't know before because God had said the "land I will show you." After Abraham walked in obedience and he had already left his home and came to the land, then God gave him a bit more revelation. God told him which land He will give to his descendants. As they went further on, God gave further clarification. Yet this is still a part of this which must have been very confusing to Abraham. God told him he would be a father of great nations, but Abraham had no children. He probably wondered how to carry this out, and wondered who his hier would be. And he was probably going through all the stuff in his brain trying to figure out how to fulfill this calling that God has on his life because God hasn't given him the full story of how to fulfill it.
We get all the way to Genesis chapter 15 before God gave him a clearer revelation. Abraham and God ended up in a dialogue addressing this issue. Abraham suggested he make his servant Eleazar of Damascus his hier. Then God gave him further clarification. God told him that the heir would not be adopted, but he would have a son from his own body. As he was obedient, the revelation became clearer to him.
God will give you what you need to carry for the moment. God will give you what you need to get you to the next step. If it's not all laid out, that's okay, God will get you there. He will give you just enough to obey and He will usually send you in a direction. And He may not lay it out very clear, but as you walk in that direction that God has laid out before you then it will become clearer and clearer.
Now there are bound to be some obstacles along the way. God wants us to activate our faith to push past the obstacles and obey Him. And we must often learn to be patient. Many of us still have to overcome our lack of patience. If we don't have patience, we will run ahead of God. So, like Abraham, we have to learn how to wait on the Lord. And we've got to resist the temptation to "help God out."
Let me tell you about waiting on the Lord. I challenge you to do this sometime. Go through the book of Psalms and underline and circle the word, "Wait." You'll find that the King David spent a lot of his time waiting. He wasn't crowned king immediately as soon as he was set aside as king. It took another 25 years or so. It took a long time. He spent some time waiting in caves. He spent some time serving King Saul. He spent a lot of time before he became king. In fact the whole united kingdom didn't even come under him until he was close to 40 years old. He became king in his early thirties. He understood a lot about waiting. We also need to understand about waiting. We must not get ahead of God.. because we will end up trying to help God out. Abraham got in trouble trying to do that. He and Sarah were wondering how to have children since Sarah was barren. So they tried Hagar, and she produced Ishmael. Ishmael was not the chosen one. Ishmael was simply man's intent to manipulate the circumstances to fulfill God's will. Ishmael is man trying to rush the will of God. And Ishmael has been a thorn in the flesh to the descendants of Isaac ever since. Even today the Ishmaels and the Issacs are still fighting. That conflict is still going on there today. Why? Because they got ahead of God. And oftentimes we will do this. Ishmael is simply something we produce in the flesh. It can even be based on the promises of God. They did it with the right attitude, wanting to fulfill the promises of God. But it was still the ingenuity of man trying to fulfill the vision of God by human power and human efforts.
And I want to tell you from personal experience, I've produced a lot of Ishmaels in my life. I've done a lot of things in ministry that I thought God had called me to. I began to push those things ahead of God's timing and they felt flat on their face because it wasn't God. It was man. It was me. It was flesh. It was the call of God. I was operating on the vision that God had given me but it was out of God's timing. Those are hard lessons to learn. God will let you make those mistakes to teach you. You've got to be patient.
In addition to learning patience, we also have to endure God's testing. Abraham was always tested. He never got to a place where he wasn't tested. even leaving for the first time was a test. When God said "Get up and leave," that was a test. Did he pass the test? Yes he passed. Then God tested whether or not Abraham trusted Him. Do you trust God? God put him in a couple of situations that made him wonder if was God going to protect him to fulfill the promise. Abraham failed a couple of those tests. He said that his wife was his sister because he was afraid that he would be murdered if people knew she was his wife. He didn't just do that once, he did it a couple of times. And he messed up. But he began to get these things right. And eventually he passed the test and then God gave him the promise. He gave him the son, Isaac. Then God told him to take Isaac and sacrifice him. Isaac was the fulfillment of the promise. Yet God asked him to take him up and sacrifice him. That tells me this: if God gives you a vision, God may require to have you sacrifice that vision for him. Let me assure you that God will test you. You will always experience a testing of God. There will be seasons where you seem to move from crisis to crisis, because God is seeing if you will hang in there with the vision He has given you.
God tests us it for three reasons:
God has a call on your life. God has a plan for you. And the way you're going to understand that plan is first of all you have to have a listening ear. Today, do you have a heart that says, "God I want to hear your voice. Today, God, I want to hear what you have to say. Today, Lord I want to hear You." Do you really want to? Do you have an obedient heart? Is it a willing heart or do you have a conditional heart? A conditional heart says, "Lord I'll obey you once you explain this to me and lay out the terms." A wiling heart says, "Lord whatever you want."
Let me ask you this. Have you been obedient to everything that God has already told you? Have you been doing everything that you already know to do? If you have, you can expect God to give you more. If you haven't, He may not give you anything else until you are obedient to what He has already given you. Do you have an obedient heart? A willing heart?
Maybe God's been bringing you through some situations to help you develop that wiling heart. If so, you may feel like you're in the belly of the whale. Maybe you are in a place of darkness and it's all crowded in there and you're not able to look out. Don't panic. God is just bring you to a place of just breaking your spirit so you'll say, "Yes, Lord, whatever You want I will do it." Maybe God is getting you ready. I believe the Lord is not going to let you go. Whatever it takes for you to fulfill His plan, He's going to be very tenacious in hanging on to you to create that willing heart. Maybe today is the day that you'll give up and surrender to His will.
Some of you that are on God's path have to be careful that you don't give in to these preconceptions of what it should be like. When God made you, He made you unique. He made you individual. He made you just like your finger print. Different to anybody else. Don't look at somebody else and look at their path. God has one uniquely designed for you. Don't give in to preconceptions.
But also, don't give in to hurrying. God will work it in you. Be patient. Cooperate with the Spirit and be faithful to the Lord, regardless of how many tests He puts you through God has a plan. He desires to give you a vision for that plan.