Summer has unofficially “officially” arrived. The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend is historically “low attendance” Sunday, rivaled only by the Sunday following Christmas in terms of church attendance. This past Sunday was in keeping with that tradition at FUMC, Monroe. With that thought in mind, I thought it might be helpful if I posted a synopsis of this past Sunday’s message just for all those who missed it.
The Bible is rich with examples of godly people doing some pretty ungodly things. We like to think we’re godly people, too. We want to do the right thing, but sometimes, try as we might, we fail to honor God with our actions. Our failures, though, rather than pointing to our ungodliness, point more to our humanity, and our need for forgiveness and grace. So, rather than pointing fingers, let’s discover some lessons that might help us in our own struggles to live faithfully in the grace and forgiveness of God.
Surely we can learn a few lessons of faith from “the” one God chose to bless the nations. Abraham has such a prominent place in biblical history that few would doubt that he was a godly person, but we discover very early in his life that even godly people can do some pretty ungodly things. Perhaps that is the first lesson we can learn—that human nature is human nature no matter the century. Let’s see what else we can learn from Abraham.
We pick up his story in Genesis 12:10-20:
At that time there was a severe famine in the land, so Abram went down to Egypt to wait it out.  As he was approaching the borders of Egypt, Abram said to Sarah, “You are a very beautiful woman.  When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ’This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’  But if you say you are my sister, then the Egyptians will treat me well because of their interest in you, and they will spare my life.”
 And sure enough, when they arrived in Egypt, everyone spoke of her beauty.  When the palace officials saw her, they sang her praises to their king, the pharaoh, and she was taken into his harem.  Then Pharaoh gave Abram many gifts because of her—sheep, cattle, donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.  But the Lord sent a terrible plague upon Pharaoh’s household because of Sarah, Abram’s wife.  So Pharaoh called for Abram and accused him sharply. “What is this you have done to me?” he demanded. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife?  Why were you willing to let me marry her, saying she was your sister? Here is your wife! Take her and be gone!”  Pharaoh then sent them out of the country under armed escort—Abram and his wife, with all their household and belongings.
Briefly, here are a few more lessons I learn as I reflect on Abraham and Sarah’s experience:
- Challenging times make even godly people vulnerable to doing ungodly things.Difficult circumstances open the door to spiritual temptation, and the greatest temptation we can have in our lives is to doubt God’s faithfulness.
- We are most vulnerable to temptation after a spiritual high point. The reality is we have a long way to fall after a mountaintop moment. Satan will use his mightiest forces against us when we are closest to God because that is when we are the most threatening to him.
- Relying on our own resources only causes us more problems. We dig a deeper hole when we step outside of God’s provision for our lives.
- Just because a person is blessed financially or materially does not necessarily indicate divine favor. Some preachers tell us if we’re not blessed financially we are outside of God’s will, but Proverbs 21: 6 says, “Wealth created by lying is a vanishing mist and a deadly trap.”
- Our failure sometimes impacts others far more than it impacts us.
Those are a few lessons I learned from Abraham’s actions, but most importantly, I learn that God always pursues us no matter how ungodly the actions we take. This is not a story about our failure—not a story about Abraham’s failure. It’s about a God who restored Abraham and kept his promise in spite of his failure. And, God pursues us. He has pursued us all the way to the cross in Jesus Christ, and he continues to pursue us through His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moves in us to confront us, to convict us, and to call us back to Himself so He can fulfill His promise in our lives. The reality is that His pursuit of us might be through the conviction we feel at having failed, but the conviction is not for purpose of judgment. His purpose is for our restoration.
We become like the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel, who wandered away from home, and the judgment for him came as the consequence of his decisions, and the son found himself eating with pigs. But the Father in the story didn’t judge the son, he simply welcomed him home, and restored him to his place in the family. That is an image of God pursuing us so that He can welcome us back home and restore us to the place of His favor. There is my hope, and the most important lesson for me. God has called us, He has, in fact, chosen us in His son Jesus Christ. We are godly, but even when we do ungodly things, God pursues us. Have we found the hope he offers in Jesus Christ? If we’ve found forgiveness, perhaps it behooves us to practice forgiveness, too. Forgiveness. That’s about the most godly thing we can do.
Until next time, keep looking up…