Kigundu Ndwiga, Stewardship Director

East Central Africa Division

Summary: In contemplating this sermon, we are reminded that trusting and obeying our eternal Father is the real secret of contentment. Peace that passes understanding is found when we put Him first.

Introduction

It had been a long, bloody day for the peace-loving diplomat, Abram. A day that had dawned like any other, but news from an escaped prisoner of war changed everything.

The escapee had come with the alarming news of the defeat and plunder of Sodom and Gomorrah and the abduction of “…Abram’s nephew Lot, and his possessions…” (Gn 14:12). Abram, with his 318 servants, pursued the mighty enemy and triumphed, rescuing the prisoners and their possessions.

As they returned from battle, Melchizedek, the King of Salem, met Abram and his band. Melchizedek brought out refreshments for the men and blessed Abram. With a heart overflowing in gratitude for God’s miraculous salvation on the battlefield, Abram worshipped the Lord by returning a tenth of everything.

However, like Elijah after the victory on Mount Carmel, when Abram’s adrenaline dropped, apprehension filled his mind as he reflected on the battle and his future, and he began asking himself “what if” questions.

The vision

God, who understands our human weakness and our roller-coaster emotions, decided to reveal Himself to Abram in a vision. And when God speaks to us, He always addresses the pertinent concerns that seize our souls. In response to Abram’s despondent plea, God uttered three wonderfully encouraging promises. In that vision, God said to Abram—

1. Do not be afraid. Abram was fearful concerning the future. That creative Word that made the world from nothing has power to melt all fear from the heart. God’s word does not return to Him empty, but does what He sent it to do (Is 55:10-11, NAS).

2. I am your shield. “Abram,” God seems to say, “Do not be afraid, because I am your Protector. All the spears and arrows of the enemy will not touch you. Anything he hurls at you will not harm you.” He echoes the words of the Psalmist: “For he rescues you from every trap and protects you from the fatal plague. He will shield you with his wings! They will shelter you. His faithful promises are your armor. Now you do not need to be afraid of the dark any more, nor fear the dangers of the day; nor dread the plagues of darkness, nor disasters in the morning. Though a thousand fall at my side, though ten thousand are dying around me, the evil will not touch me” (91:3-7, TLB).

3. Your very great reward. What an overwhelming promise to Abram! “Abram, I am all you need. I am the greatest treasure in the universe. Possessing Me is the secret of contentment in life! When you have Me—wealth, position or fame—whatever is highly esteemed among men, pale in comparison. I am sufficient for you.”

Yes, but…

Abram responds, “But …” What an anticlimax to God’s awesome revelation! Rather than rejoicing and declaring, “Yes, Lord, you are all I need, in this life and in the life to come,” he responds by reminding God he is childless. In other words, “God, you have been so good to me, but if you want me to really be content, you need to give me a child!”

God does not rebuke Abram for what sounds like ingratitude! He seems to understand that Abram’s brush with death in the battlefield has forced the issue of his own mortality to his consciousness. Instead, He challenges Abram to put His trust in Him, for He will give him the deepest desire of his heart, a child (Ps 37:4). With God’s assurance, Abram’s despondency lifts. God is so pleased with his childlike faith that it is counted to him for righteousness. Once again, the loving, understanding Father relieves his anxieties.

Abram’s obsession

Waiting is a test that many people fail, and Abram is no exception. With the passage of time, Abram’s desire for a son eclipses his trust in God’s promise. His desire becomes an obsession or idol. According to author, Ken Sande, “An idol is anything apart from God that we depend on to be happy, fulfilled or secure…. It is not what we want that is the problem, but that we want it too much.” (The Peacemaker, Baker Books, p. 104).

Where there is an idol, “We keep fighting to achieve our desire, dwelling on our disappointment and allowing our desire and disappointment to control our lives…. [Such an attitude] utterly destroys important relationships and draws us away from God” (Ibid, p. 103).

In his obsession, Abram does not notice the sorrow in Sarah’s heart as she gives him her maidservant, Hagar. What’s more, he does not even consult God! Abram’s obsession causes him to use Hagar as an object and separates him from God.

All hell breaks loose in Abram’s household with Hagar’s pregnancy. Even Ishmael’s birth falls short of Abram’s anticipated joy, as he realizes how low he has sunk in pursuit of his obsession. His idol does not bring fulfillment. Mercifully, God forgives him upon repentance, even promising blessings upon Ishmael.

Trust and obey

In His time, God gives Abraham the promised son who grows to be an obedient, dutiful son. How Abraham’s loves Isaac! Nevertheless, to bring Abraham to a point of unquestioning trust, God asks him to do the unthinkable—to sacrifice his only son.

Without hesitation, Abraham obeys God. As he raises his trembling hand on Mount Moriah, he reveals his faith and trust in God. Abraham believes God can even raise Isaac from the dead! But God provides the sacrifice and the test is complete. Again, God calls to Abraham: “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you ….” (Gn 22:15-17a).

Conclusion

Trusting and obeying our eternal Father with all our hearts is the real secret of contentment. Learning to wait upon Him and putting Him first gives us the peace that passes understanding. Possessions and status, which are temporal, cannot bring contentment to our hearts. May we pursue and embrace that which is eternal.

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April–June, 2006

Contentment