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What does God want? 

We struggle over knowing what God wants. We ask for signs. Some people in scripture had an advantage, sort of, they get to speak to God or at least hear God’s voice. What about us today?

Today we are going to be focusing on Hebrews 11:8-19

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”

Hebrews 11:8-19 NKJV

You know, I have a pretty hard time knowing what I want some times. I can get caught up in all kinds of simple dilemmas; it can be a simple as choosing something for lunch when there are lots of interesting things to try. In more important situations perhaps some decision over a family purchase, what I want can be even harder. 

I often find it hard to especially know what other people want. An example, Amanda says “choose a place to have dinner”, I will say, “How about this place… Amanda will say, no not that place.” Or recent events like our anniversary or her birthday What does she want as a gift….I don’t seem to have a clue. No that’s not quite true, I mostly know what she would like but you know what I am trying to say.

But how about the big one as people of faith, What does God want?

Oh how many times have I asked God for some kind of a sign?

Ok God, If you want me to do this or that, let so and so call or this to happen or some other simple action…..

Why does it seem so hard to know what God wants?

Is this feeling of doubt a hint that something is wrong with me, my faith, my salvation?

Why do We struggle over what GOD wants?

In our reading today, the author takes a series of well known Characters from the Old testament and focuses on how they demonstrated faith. We are focused on Abraham and the highlights we read about this morning in Hebrews come from Genesis 12 through to 22. The writer condenses information from 10 chapters into a very focused 11 verses.

The focus is trimmed down to just 1 subject. One main idea. The FAITH of Abraham.

Lets read the beginning of Genesis 12 where Abram’s event starts:

Genesis 12: The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

The Lord Said. Not a very detailed description of how God let Abram know what he wanted. Even the Genesis account seems to only carry the highlight. A statement of action and some general promises. And a few facts about Abram follow in Genesis, he is 75 years old, he and Sarah and Lot his nephew will take off on a journey.

In Chapter 11 of Hebrews we heard Abraham’s faithful reply to this initial call of God over a period of over 20 years.

Abraham’s statements tend to make it sound pretty easy to respond to what God tells you to do.

By Faith Abraham packed up all his worldly possessions and headed off to a place that he would somehow inherit. 

That does not sound too bad.

God seems to ask him to go some place so that he can prosper him and his family. But there was a catch; he was going to live in the land as a foreigner.

No rights or privileges. He was going to live as a nomad going from place to place living in tents.

God “speaks” to Abraham and tells him to leave his family, Mum and Dad and brothers. A family where he was the oldest son and by culture had responsibilities and rights in the family. He is in a position where is already sure of an inheritance. 

In genesis it describes getting ready to move and they had a lot of stuff. So he really doesn’t need anything.

If he is 75 then how hold is his dad? His real inheritance was to be the leader of the family.

The voice of God must be pretty inspiring for him to pack up all he has and head into the unknown.

God calls him to an unknown place and he goes. That sounds like faith in God to me.

Abraham trusts God enough to leave a sure thing and do something that he has never done before. God wants him to take a really big Risk and trust Him.

Then another faith event was brought up, Abraham and Sarah were childless and while it is not directly stated, the promises indicate that he and Sarah will have at least one child. Genesis uses the phrase make “him a great nation.”

You can’t be a nation without kids. So, it is implied. But nothing seems to be happening. 10 years pass and while they keep asking God to keep his promise nothing seems to be happening. They aren’t getting any younger. They are already way too old to have a normal expectation of children.

You will probably remember that during that time Abraham and Sarah got a little impatient and Hagar, Sarah’s maid servant and Abraham were paired up to help God with his promise and Ishmael is born.

Whoa, who would ever consider doing that, trying to help God?

While they were successful in having a child, things got very tense and even mean at home. As you could probably expect. More time passed and God kept His promise in His way. When Abraham is 100 Isaac is borne to Sarah. 25 years after leaving his family and 14 years after the birth of Ishmael. Abraham’s faith is affirmed in the one tangible sign that he would not really die. He would live on through his children.

It seems strange to me that Abraham was not exactly clear about how God would physically keep the promises he had been told about. It seems that some how the details were left out and left Abraham and Sarah struggling over the details.

But he trusted and believed that while it was physically impossible, God would do it. So, by faith he showed a trust if not patience.

So what would this mean to us? Faith in God, means trusting God. Faith in God means patience on our part as we wait for God to move.

It is also encouraging to know that should we have a problem with patience, and we try to make our own way, or try to help God. We won’t totally offend God, our efforts won’t be blessed, we may experience extra troubles and stress but God won’t cancel his promises. And when God moves, it will happen no matter how big and impossible it seems to be.

Then the scripture, points out that the people that he is discussing in the chapter have one hard thing in common.

They all died having faith in what God promised. For the most part only a small portion, if any, of the promises that God offered came true in the person’s life time.

It is further described that the people actually had an understanding that what they expected God to do was so big that it would only happen in a home, in the realm of God.

The people had a choice to turn back and live in the world they knew or to keep living the hard life which would lead to a better country, a heavenly existence.

The people that choose to stick with what they understood, what God wanted made God proud.

People of faith understand that God wants endurance and perseverance and NOT self reliance and independence. He wants us to keep trying and keep trusting and keep believing.

Then the scripture describes a test for Abraham. And by faith, Abraham was willing to offer Isaac the promised child. The child that God had specifically said would be the path of the great nation.

Abraham has an understanding that God is in control. That God is trustworthy. That his promises are absolutely true. And the scripture even says that he even believed that God could raise the dead.

Persons of faith understand that in good and bad times God is in control.

Folks, I don’t know about you but, it seems to me that I can’t hold a candle to the faith demonstrated by Abraham. Even the situations where he took things into his own hands, so to speak, were actions taken with the full acceptance, full faith in the promises given by God.

But, how do “we” know what God wants?

Abraham seems to have had the advantage of having a physical voice that spoke to him. He had interactions with physical beings. It seems that he had the opportunity to complain to God about what he did not like and what he wanted in a face to face situation.

Talking back and forth, that is a relationship that seems so much closer than what we have.

Let me tell you a quick story about a young man.

There was a young man that had lost his job and he was in trouble and was worried about supporting his family. He didn’t know which way to turn. So he went to see an old preacher.

Pacing about the preacher’s study, the young man ranted about his problems and fears. Finally he clenched his fist and shouted, “I’ve begged God to say something to help me. Tell me, Preacher, why doesn’t God answer?”

The old preacher, was sitting across the room, spoke something in reply, something so hushed it was indistinguishable. The young man stepped across the room. “What did you say?” he asked.

The preacher repeated himself, but again in a tone as soft as a whisper. So the young man moved closer until he was leaning on the preacher’s chair. “Sorry,” he said. “I still didn’t hear you.” With their heads bent together, the old preacher spoke once more. “God sometimes whispers, so we will move closer to hear Him.”

We all want God’s voice to thunder through the air with the answer to our problems. We want detailed statements related to His will for our lives and details for our problems.

To be direct, we want God to tell us what we want to hear.

We want to hear that He is dealing with our request right this second.

We want to hear that we can take the easy way out and not the harder road.

But, God’s voice is very small and if we think we heard something at all we just aren’t positive especially if what we heard was not what we wanted to hear.

God may be leading us to step out on faith and go to some place or someone outside of our comfort zone.

You want me to do what? Sunday School?

Go, go where?

To Who? Say What?

Now, If we are in pain, emotional, physical, accidental or intentional we want quick relief. So we cry out with a breath that originates in our faith.

Father, We want a child? Why won’t you give us a child?

Father why is my family so messed up?

Why am I so unhappy with my situation?

How can you forgive me if you really know me?

Father the loss, the pain is just too much, help me.

We tend to want quick fixes to things in this world.

The TV ads tell us that we deserve everything now, that we deserve everything our way. That it is important to do and have what everyone else does and has.

Folks, According to the news we may see a new year where people that took on too much may be evaluating living in tents again. They may be foreigners in their own country.

There are families all around the world that are in trouble for all kinds of reasons that are desperate for answers and are in so much pain and the world writes the experience off as normal.

Many times people in our communities want the earthly and the tangible solutions in the name of being happy and are not patient to wait on their personal circumstances, or God for the right time and place and acted on their own.

How about the idea of God testing us? The request for Abraham to offer his pride and joy as a sacrifice to God.

Imagine how it might have been if Abraham had lived today and he announced what he was getting ready to do.

Tomorrow morning, you might read in the paper or see on the news something that went a little bit like this: “A man was arrested today after police received an anonymous tip about a bizarre religious practice that was to take place. The man’s son was freed by police as the father was in the act of taking the boy’s life with a butcher knife. Police said the man told them he had heard the voice of God command him to sacrifice the boy. Names have been withheld to protect the juvenile boy’s identity and the father is in custody pending examinations by state psychiatrists.”

I don’t have a personal belief that God sets out to offer any of us a direct test like Abraham experienced. I think our fallen world offers us plenty of challenges to prove our faith and to do the right things.

But that does not mean that God would not ask you to give something very dear.

Perhaps where we live or who we spend time with.

Perhaps He will ask you to sacrifice some real time and energy.

Maybe He will ask you to trust Him for you needs in a seemingly dangerous way. Maybe He will actually want you to acknowledge that He, God, is really in control.

Not just in words that automatically flow from your mouth but in physical actions and responses to that soft whisper.

The idea that you will trust Him for the promises of that heavenly city in the distant future but also for the needs and blessings in this day and place.

What does God want?

By your faith, He wants you to take some actions without any guarantee of where it will end.

By your faith, He wants you to be patient and trust Him.

By your faith, He wants you to really believe that He is in control.

So how do you hear God?

There was an Australian Aboriginal visiting New York City, He turned to his friend in Time Square, tilted his head and said; “I hear a cricket.” “You’re crazy!” replied his friend. “No, I hear it,” the Aboriginal answered.

His friend replied, “It’s rush hour. The city’s full of noise, and you think you can hear a cricket? No way!”

“Yes right over here,” then walked over to a big cement planter outside a building, dug into the leaves underneath it, and pulled out a cricket.

Turning to his friend he said, “It all depends on what your ears are tuned to hear. Let me show you.”

Reaching down into his pocket he pulled out a handful of change, dropped it on the pavement, and immediately every head within earshot turned and started looking toward the ground. “See what I mean?” he said. “It all depends on what you’re listening for.”

What are you listening for when you say you want to know what God wants?

You need to know it is hard. Really hard to stay focused and listen for God’s still small voice.

But, you need to know something else. You, as a Christian, living thousands and thousands of years after Abraham have one supreme advantage.

You don’t have to wait for God to pass by to be able to have a conversation.

You don’t have to physically see him to know that you can have a conversation

Do you know why?

Because, God has promised to always be present. He says that if we will repent of our sins and pray He will hear us. He will forgive our sins.

Now here is the best part. You and I both have the ability to hear God’s voice. And we don’t even have to use our ears. We can hear God’s voice because as Christians we already have God living inside of us. When He speaks to us we can feel it in our heart and if we really are willing to listen, it is only a short distance to our minds.

But I already mentioned that it is hard to hear God’s voice. Even though He is that close.

We have another tangible way we hear God’s voice. It happens when we listen to our church family.

Each of us has the Spirit of the living God in us and we are able to share the needs to know what God wants and allow our church family to honestly and righteously speak to us.

God provides us with a special way of audibly hearing His voice. They should be willing to listen to you and pray with and for you and perhaps without even realising it. if you are listening. you will hear the actual voice of God explaining what He wants for and from you.

Folks, it is time for us, all of us to prepare ourselves to hear God’s voice and learn what he wants from us.

Do you want to know what God wants for you and your church?

Come and listen to the God within you and to your church family and I know that we will all learn something. 

Jeremiah 29 11-14

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.”

Jeremiah 29:11-14 NKJV

All Glory be to God!