Greetings everyone! Blessings to you in Christ Jesus our Lord, and welcome to Tuesday’s edition of EDiBS. I’m glad you could join in for our time together today, and I pray that your week so far has been one sustained by the presence of the Lord and the promises of His Word. Remember, He is with you, and He has promised never to leave you or forsake you…regardless of your circumstances! Today our study time has us moving deeper into Genesis 12, so let’s pray and go to our Bibles.
Lord Jesus, we ask that you would lavish your grace on each person opening your Word right now. Forgive our sins, for they are many; restore our hearts, for they are broken; give us new hope, for without you we are nothing. Bless the study of your Word today, in your precious name we pray. Amen.
As we get started today, we’ve come to what can only be called an astounding Word from God to Abram, not only for its far-reaching implications but also for its shocking brevity. Our focus this session: Abram is chosen.
2"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. 3I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
I want to do some setting up with you today. I want to get you thinking about what makes someone great. Is it about achievement or attitude? Both or neither? Is it about laud and honor and the glory of men or is it something on the quieter side that doesn’t care much for accolades? Here’s another question: does greatness come from within, or is it something poured in from the outside? And lastly, at the end of the day, does it come down to perception or reality?
What makes someone great?
What I’m about to say, I say with a great amount of embarrassment, the wisdom of years, and the benefit of hindsight…and I also say it with a heart that has often been humbled. When I was a very young pastor, I entertained visions of greatness.
Allow me, if you would, to qualify that statement.
Without question, I was absolutely committed to my call. Without question, I was serious as serious could be about the need to preach Christ. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, I loved the Lord, loved His people, and loved those yet to become His people. I was all in. But you know what? In those early years I also had a lot of youthful idealism — and that idealism often crossed a line from me focusing on what was true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable to me just focusing on me.
I was going to make a name for myself (with the air of proper humility, of course), and as such, I was going to be the go-to preacher, the much sought-after conference speaker, the best-selling author, and the well-known minister everyone wanted to have as their own pastor. I was going to be and do all of those things because I thought I was really good at what I did — good enough to hold my own in the rarified air of all the other quasi-celebrity denominational preachers and evangelists of the 1990s.
How foolish I was. How full of myself. How grotesque.
Today, 25 years later, I’ve learned a thing or two on my journey. I don’t mind telling you, for example, that my days as a go-to preacher never seemed to materialize. Shocking, I know. The same goes for the whole “sought-after conference speaker” idea. I did do a few keynote presentations over the years, but I bombed just about every one of them, and after a while, the invitations dried up. When I received an offer to write a series of books, I was initially very excited because it was the realization of a long-held dream, but I ended up declining it, and why? Because at that particular point in my life I was finally growing old enough and finally gaining enough wisdom and self-awareness to realize that I didn’t really have anything to say, and that I probably shouldn’t be writing until I did. Finally, as for being that well-known minister that everyone would love to have as their own pastor? Not only did I learn very quickly the painful double edged sword which fills that space, I eventually learned that no such minister exists.
These days, those early, grand visions of greatness from my youth are pretty much gone, and so is the prideful striving and spiritual angst that went with them. These days, my life as a person who shares Christ is a pretty simple one. These days, I’m far from any kind of pulpit, stage, or book cover. I’m still committed to my call, I’m still serious as can be about the need to preach Christ, and I still so deeply love the Lord, His people, and those yet to become His people. I’m still all in. But you know what? Over the years I’ve had to learn to be content with what God desires to make of me instead of what I desire to make of myself. And over the years, the fearsome faux pas and foibles of my humanity have served to keep my visions of grandeur in check.
Do you remember what the people on the plain of Shinar said back in Genesis 11 when they decided to build a tower to the sky? “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves…” What were they doing? Entertaining visions of greatness. What were they doing? Focusing on themselves. What were they distinctly not doing? Following the instructions which had been given to them by the Lord to go and repopulate the earth. Here was a people more intent on making something of themselves than being made into what God, for their good and for the good of the whole world had designed them to be and do. As we all know, things did not end well.
Now, however, fast forward back to Abram here in chapter 12. Don’t you find the language here fascinating in light of what we just recalled from chapter 11? Once again, greatness is the topic, yet this time it is being promised from on high instead of proclaimed from the haughtiness of the human heart. Abram won’t make Abram great; God will make Abram great. Thus, instead of Babel, there will be blessing — and because of that blessing, things, quite contrary to what we saw on the plain of Shinar, will end very well indeed.
Wrapping things up for the day, what makes someone great? It’s such an important question. Come along with us next time as we begin to peer into the life of Abram, because the answers awaiting us there will open our eyes to God’s mighty power in a fresh new way. Have a great day everyone; thanks for your time, and I’ll look forward to seeing you again soon. God’s peace!