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Once Upon a Marriage - Week 3

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Once there was a man named Abraham. "Hello." Who was married to a woman named Sarah. "Hi!" One day, God told Abraham, "You will become the father of a great nation." But, Sarah could not bear children. "And I'm like old!" "No problem" God said, "Just wait and I will give you as many children as there are stars in the sky." So, Abraham and Sarah waited....and waited....and waited....and waited. Join us for the exciting conclusion this week in Once Upon a Marriage. Well, we are so glad to have all of you with us. Today, we welcome one of our newest Network Churches from Nairobi, Kenya. We are thrilled and honored to partner with you as well as all of our Network Churches. For those of you all over the world at Church Online, welcome today; and of course, our Life Church campuses. If you have your Bibles with you, or your mobile phones and want to turn on your YouVersion Bible to Genesis, Chapter 12. That is where we are going to start today as we are looking at some Old Testament couples, and letting their marriages speak into our lives. Today, we are going to look at a guy named Abram; who God later changed his name to Abraham and his wife Sarai; who later became Sarah. As you are turning there in your Bibles, for those of you that are not yet married, I want to ask you, if you do get married one day, what do you want out of your marriage? Or for those of you that are married, if you just kind of rewind all the way back to your pre-marriage days, as you were looking ahead to your marriage, what did you think that it would be like? Chances are pretty good that your story went something like this: You were massively in love with this other person and you had a serious case of the tingly winglys. As you were in love, you assumed you would get married and the tingly winglys would follow you all of the way through your blissful marriage! One day, you would have the perfect little home, maybe with a white picket fence; a dog and not a cat (could I get an amen from someone in the house!). Chances are, you might have a couple of kids probably, maybe a boy first and then a girl. You'd have a great career, you might travel some. You would grow older together; again, with the tingly winglys following you all of the way through your marriage. If you fast forwarded maybe five years into your marriage, eight years in, twelve years in, seventeen years, twenty nine years in, thirty four years in; if someone would ask you at that point, what do you want out of your marriage? If you are like many people, you might say, "We are just trying to stay married! We are just trying to pay the bills! We are just trying to keep the kids out of jail!" You know, it's interesting how your expectations don't always line up with reality. Sometimes midway into a marriage or relationship you end up saying, "This isn't anything like I thought it would be!" Sometimes it's better, sometimes it's worse, but rarely is like you expected. I think back to about 20 years ago when I met Amy, and I've got to tell you that when I met this gal I was like, "Oh God, you are so good! I mean, you are good! This gal is awesome!" And I was really trying to win her. The problem is, Amy was playing very hard to get, which was very frustrating, she was keeping the cards close to her. I didn't know if she liked me or not. I didn't think she really like me until one day she got me a gift that was a sure sign, the girl dug me! She got me a puppy! There she is, with her 1980's Flash Dance hair, sporting the dog! Immediately I knew she liked me, so I proposed. We got married and there I am with my Southern Baptist preacher hair! Our wedding, and we got our very first house together and had our matching hats! I don't know what was up with my shirt, that was like a bad day or something! Maybe the shirt was free! So, we decided we would have two kids, a boy and then a girl; the only thing is, we had a girl first. There we are with our little girl, a couple of kids, here is another one. There's two kids with a kid. We just knew beyond a shadow of a doubt we would have a boy and then a girl. Problem is, we had a girl, then we had another girl, then we had another girl! So we like turned upside down, and then we had a boy! We just tried something different! We just, you know, mixed it up! Some of you are going, "ha? Did he say that?" Yes, we turned upside down! We did, honestly, we heard! So, we had a boy! It's hot in here! Pants on the ground! Anyway! We had a boy, then we had another boy, and then to wrap it off we had a girl. All I can say is like, it was nothing like what we had planned. We thought we'd be like United Methodist pastors in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma. As I look back, some things are much better, everything is much different than we had planned. Many of you right now, you are going to look at your life and go, this is nothing like I had planned. Some of you are going to think, by this time I thought I would be married. Some of you are going to say, I am married and I thought my marriage would be much different. If you look at your life and you are thinking this is much, much different than I had planned; I believe that this story about Abraham and Sarah will speak to you in a really profound way. Genesis, Chapter 12; we will start in verse 1-2, when God speaks to Abram and says this, God says: "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." And then God makes this phenomenal promise to Abram, He says: "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." God says that you are going to have to leave all of that that makes you comfortable and you are going to have to go into another place. I believe that God will speak to many of you in one way or another, and God is going to say that you are going to have to by faith follow me when I call you into the unknown zone. You are going to have to leave the things that are most comfortable to you and follow me by faith, into the blessings. In fact, if you look into the New Testament, you are going to see in Hebrews, Chapter 11:8, that he was characterized Abram, by faith. Here's what the Bible says: Hebrews 11:8; By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he followed the voice of God. You can only imagine if he came home to his wife and said, Check it out, I've been talking to God and God told us to move! She's like going, I may not want to move! But she did because she believed that he was a man of faith and moving is very difficult anyway, especially if you are moving by camel back, right? I mean, think about it, he couldn't call ahead and say, hey could you get me a realtor and find us a nice three bedroom, two bath house. I mean, we are talking leaving everything that they knew, and by faith just ventured out. God will often call you into the life of blessing and the only road there is the faith road. But chances are, you like me, are going to say; God before I go, I want some details, give me some details. God will rarely give you details; one, because you may not be able to handle the details. Because if you knew everything that was going to happen, you may choose not to obey. Secondly, God may say, I am not going to give you the details because if you have the details, then it wouldn't take faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. So, Abram and Sarai get this promise, you are going to be a great nation. In other words, you are going to have lots of kids, and lots of grandkids. You are going to be massively blessed with children and descendants. But first, you have to go. Now, what is really interesting to me and ministers to me about their story, is if you look at their marriage in the New Testament, they are characterized by being a couple of faith. But, if you look at their life very carefully, you are going to find that they didn't always have faith. Which blesses me, because I often will waiver in my faith, but yet I find comfort that I can still be characterized by a man of faith. In fact, if you watch, we are going to look at their story. We are going to first see Abram mess up and falter in his faith. Then we are going to see his wife mess up and falter in her faith. Then we are going to watch, as they both together mess up and falter in their faith. But the good news is, that even when they were faithless, God was always faithful; and the same will be true in our lives as we get to know the goodness and faithfulness of God. What typically happens when life doesn't go as planned? Rather than being strengthened in our faith, many of us falter in our faith. We don't want to do it, but that is what they did and that is what we can do if we are not careful. Let's look at three things in their marriage that happened when life didn't go as planned. 1) We can fall victim to fear. That is what Abram did when there was a famine in the land. Basically, the economy tanked and so he moved his family to Egypt, but he ran into some fear and made some sinful decisions based out of fear. Verses 11-13 say this: As Abram was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, "I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me but will let you live." (So, basically in verse 13, he says, I want you to tell a lie.) "Say you are my sister," (which is a half truth, because she was his half sister which is wholly gross, but that is a whole other deal and that's the way they did it then!) He says, "Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you." Now you may be going, what is that? Well during this time, when you entered into enemy territory, if the enemies liked the wife, they could kill the husband to get to the wife, which is precisely why if I lived at that time I would never enter into enemy territory with my wife. They'd say we want her, they'd kill him; I would be a dead man walking. What's interesting about this story though, is that God had promised, you're going to have kids, which according to my biology class takes a living man and a living woman. All of a sudden he is afraid he is going to die, which tells us that at that moment, he was doubting the promise of God. By fear, he made a sinful decision and said let's lie, because I really don't trust God to do what He said He was going to do. Sadly, we see this happening all of the time in lives today. So many people are afraid and taken off the track of the blessings of God by fear. For example, I don't know how many people today are not getting married. They are postponing marriage, or not entering into the blessings of a godly marriage because they are afraid. What if he cheats? What if she nags? What if we get divorced? What if we can't have kids. Rather than living by faith, suddenly we are living by fear. We see it in marriages all of the time. God is calling us to tithe, but what if we struggle financially, so we don't obey. God is calling us to be generous, but what if we lose our job? Or we feel like God is calling us to be foster parents, but what if we bring this child in and our kids don't do as well? Or God is calling one of us to stay at home to raise our kids, but what if we can't make it financially? Or God is calling us to start a new business, or a new ministry, or a new Life Group, but what if....what if....what if; and instead of building one another in our marriages with mutual and increasing faith, so often we tear each other down with mutual and increasing fear, what if? What if....what if? We talk ourselves out of being obedient to God. I can't tell you how many times in our marriage we've had to talk ourselves into faith, rather than tearing ourselves down with fear. Just to give you kind of a random example, when we were first married we had the most unusual thing happen. I was praying and I felt like God put it on my heart that we should homeschool our future kids and I wanted to tell Amy that. So this is weird, I don't know where this came from because we didn't know anybody, not a single person we knew home educated. We didn't a single person. I said, "God just put this on my heart that we should homeschool our kids." She looked up and said, "What? I just felt like God was telling me that!" So, it was like either we were both smoking weed, which we were not; or, God was speaking to us very, very clearly. So, we started out by faith, this must be what God wants us to do. But I am telling you, as soon as we took one step, fear entered in from everywhere! You know, what are my parents going to say? What are your parents going to say? What are our friends going to say? What if we are not any good at this at all, and they are like 35 and still in the seventh grade one day! Or you know, can't read or does that mean Amy you are going to wear a bun and sew your own long denim skirts and wear those forever! You know, and all of this fear entered in and we found ourselves talking ourselves out of what was very obviously God. Amy stopped and she said, "Wait a minute, do you think God was telling us to do this?" I was like, "Well it sure seems like it!" She said, "Well if God is telling us, has he ever not been faithful before?" I was like, "Ahh!" So we changed our language to language of faith, rather than fear. Without any role models or examples, we launched into that and I can tell you today that it is one of the most strategic decisions based on our values and our lifestyle, if we didn't I wouldn't see my kids because of my schedule. And it is one of the most strategic and important decisions that we made as a family that we had no idea 20 years ago, just how important that obedience would be. I am convinced that there are many people that God has spoken to, God has prompted you but out of fear you are not obeying the direction of God. In marriages, there is so much fear talk; what if....what if....and what if....what if....what if and we tear ourselves down rather than instead saying, God has spoken, God is leading us, and faith talk that leads us to obey the promptings of God. Abram panicked, God had already given him a promise, I am going to give you kids. He's like, they are going to kill me! He stopped believing the promise and gave in to fear. The second thing that often happens. 1) We can fall victim to fear. 2) The second thing and I bet you might see yourself here, as I do myself is that we often get ahead of God. When life isn't going as we planned, we often get ahead of God. God, you told us we are going to have kids, but we are not having kids. You are taking way too long, God. Don't you know I'm tired of waiting on you so I am going to make this happen. I am going to force it, I'm going to manipulate it. I'm going to bring some action God, because I don't like your timing. That is what Sarai did. Abram messed up and then his wife messed up. Genesis 16:1-2, the Bible says: "Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children." You're supposed to have kids, you've got no kids; big problem. The Bible says: But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, "The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant." Pause there. Some guys will be thinking, Wow! She just told me to go sleep with, that might be kind of cool. This is not cool. If you think about it, her name was Hagar! That just couldn't be good! I'm just saying! Okay, I'm picturing steroids, weight lifter, hair under the arms, nasty; Hagar. I'm just saying, you know! Anyway, I just had to say that! So she says: "Go, sleep with my maidservant." And then notice what she says, help me out, she says this, say it aloud everybody: "Perhaps I can build a family through her." What did she not say? She didn't say, God can do this, God can bring about his promises, or we can do this (whatever God led us to do); but I can take control and make this happen. God is not doing it, therefore I will get ahead of God and force it. If you read the whole story, Abraham gave in, and he was with Hagar and she gave him a son. It nasty, I mean like cat fight, jealousy, and years and years of trouble because they tried to force something before it was God's will. This happens all of the time. I can't tell you how many times, they'll be a sweet, young Christian gal and all of her friends are getting married and there's nobody there and so she's got some guy who is not a Christian at all, and instead of waiting on God's best, she compromises and settles for a guy with a pulse and a wallet. Right? I mean he's there, and so she gets ahead of God and compromises. Or, you see it in so many different ways in marriages. Young couples want the financial and material blessings of God and so they are in their 20's, their parent's are in their 50's and they think, we want to live like Mom and Dad. So, instead of waiting and managing money wisely like God's Word says, they go out and put a financial noose around their neck getting into debt trying to accumulate all of these blessings before the right time and spend the next 20 years strangling themselves because they got ahead of God. Or you might see a woman who is married to a non-christian guy, and she wants so desperately to share her Savior with her husband. So, instead of winning him with godliness and humility and gentleness and patience, she decides to get all up in his business; you've got to get to church, and you're not this and you're not this, and shoves religion down his throat and pushes him away from God, rather than waiting on God. I mean, the list could go on and on. Someone doesn't like their job and they panic, I hate my boss! So, instead of waiting on God to provide a job, they quit and nine months later they are unemployed, wondering why they can't pay the bills, because they forced it. They panicked, they got ahead of God, which is so common and so dangerous. God, you said and you're not, so I will, where are you? I'm going to force this. Here's what we have to remember. God is rarely early, but He is never late. That's just good preaching. Every now and then, you've just got to say, that's good preaching! I mean, that just really, I'll do that to myself if you want, I mean, you guys just leave me hanging there, you're sitting there like? I mean, that's just good preaching! I will just say it again, I will say amen to myself! God, He is rarely early, but I'm telling you, His timing is perfect! He is the God of the perfect timing. So, a lot of times we panic, this isn't happening and where is he? God what are you doing? We feel like we've got to do something to force it. Well, waiting on God is not passive living. Waiting on God can be the most active, faith-filled living ever. It's a little bit like, what is a waiter or a waitress do? They serve people, they wait tables. As we are waiting on God, we are actively, aggressively serving God. Serving Him, believing that what He said will come to pass. Even when we are faithless, He is always faithful. Sarai panics, it's not coming down the way she wants, so she gets ahead of God. When things don't go as we planned, it's so easy to start making decisions based on fear. 2) It's so easy to get ahead of God. 3) If you're taking notes, it's so easy that we don't believe God will do it for us. We simply don't believe that God will do it for us. He may do it for someone else, he may answer your prayers, he may do a miracle in your life, but I just don't think he's going to do it in my life. And quite honestly, I can understand why Abram and Sarai would feel this way. Because the verses we are going to look at, quite honestly are about 30 years after the promise. Think about this; you guys are going to have kids, like great, they're probably decorating the nursery. A year later they are going; oh, thought it would be by now, but it's not. Six months later, it's like, maybe we should go to the doctor and maybe get checked out. Why is this not happening? Two years later, four years later, eight years later; like going, God, did you remember? Twelve years later, twenty years later, and all of a sudden you can start to realize, this would be easy ground to lose faith, which is what so many of us do. It's interesting what Abraham and Sarah both did. Genesis 17:17, when God comes to them again some 30 years later and says now very specifically, I am going to give you a son. The Bible says: Abraham fell face down; he laughed and said to himself, "Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?" In other words, God this is centuries before Viagra and I'm an old man! Things don't work like they used to God! He's like, are you kidding me? I would have believed this awhile back, but God I'm just not seeing in now! Interestingly, Sarah responded the exact same way. She overheard God talking, verse 12 of Genesis 18, the Bible says: So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?" She's being very sarcastic because the Lord asked this question: Then the Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?'" Verse 14, God asked this question that must have pierced their souls, just as I pray it would pierce ours today. God asks this question, help me out. God says: "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" I can't prove this, but I believe at that moment there was something that shifted in their faith. Is anything too hard for the Lord? Oh yeah, you are the God who says all things are possible! And at that moment, all of their unbelief, all of their manipulation, I believe, just must have gone. Okay, we can take God at His word. I just want to say, I know a lot of people that want children and haven't been able to conceive. I just want to acknowledge, that's a very painful thing. But, I also know a lot of people who are giving up faith. I would just say to you, do you really think anything is too hard for God? Those of you that say, "We could never be blessed with children. We couldn't afford to adopt, we can't pull it off." Do you really think that there is anything too hard for the Lord? "We are in a financial mess, and we could never climb out of this, we are always going to hurt, we are always going to struggle." Do you really think that anything is too hard for the Lord? "Well, you just don't know Craig, how bad our marriage is. I mean you know, my husband will never be a godly man. I mean, he is so far from God!" Do you really not believe that in a moment, the power of God could not come upon him and drop him to his knees to a point of full surrender to the Lord, the God of the universe? "Well, you don't know my wife, she's just...." Do you not really think that the Holy Spirit could arrest her heart, and bring her into submission and surrender under Christ and His union of marriage? "Our kids, their like off, and they are just...and he or she is never going to get it right!" Do you really not think that at the pound of heaven, God's grace could not pursue the one you love and bring them into a point of total submission to God? "But our marriage, there is just no way, it's just not going to work!" Do you really not think that God could do a miracle? "We are always going to be miserable. I mean, we might stay together for the sake of the kids, but we will never have that something special." Is that how big your faith is in the God of the universe? Have you really stopped believing that it is possible? "I will never get married to a good person. I mean, all of my friends are and I'm getting old. There's just no one out there!" Do you really trust God to save your soul from hell and not trust Him to bring you the right person to serve Him with together on earth? Is anything too hard for the Lord? Let me just pause for a moment and for those of you that you have a marriage, that if you were to be really honest, it is not where it should be? If there's one piece of common advice woven through this whole series, it is this: Invite God into the center of your marriage. That's the whole deal summarized in one sentence. Just invite Him in. Do not dare play the little church thing. Go to church to check the box and go on with your life. Do not insult God in that way. Don't play Christian. Invite God in. I'm talking, just join hands and just say, God we've been distracted or we're not whatever, and we invite you to be the Lord of our marriage. Then you buckle your seat belts baby, and you start watching for God to do what only God can do! When life doesn't turn out as you plan, especially when life doesn't turn out as you plan, you embrace Him! You embrace Him! You don't need all of the things you need Him, and He alone can be enough. And whenever your faith starts faltering, as it's so easy to do, you hang on to Him. The good news is, even if your faithless right now, Abraham and Sarah were faithless, I've been faithless. But, the last season of your life, you can be characterized as they were by being faithful. Even though they messed up again and again, here's how the New Testament describes Abraham. Romans 4:19-21, the Bible says: Without weakening in his faith... Something happened, there was a transition: Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead....since he was about a hundred years old...and Sarah's womb was also dead. There is a difference between fact and truth. Facts can change, truth never changes. The fact was his body was dead. The truth was God gave a promise. Truth trumps facts. Good preaching again! I just wanted to say that! Truth always prevails! Verse 20: Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully (not partially) persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised. Do not waver in your faith! Do not waver in your faith! Be strengthened in your faith. If life does not go as you planned.... "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but the Lord's purpose will prevail." Proverbs 19:21 You do not waiver in your faith. And even if you do, here's the great news, even if you do, when you are faithless, He is still faithful. Why embrace anyone or anything else but the faithfulness of God? Invite Him to be the Lord of every area of your life. Especially your covenant union of marriage and watch as He leads you out of the comfort zone, into the place of blessings, as only He can do. It may not be in your timing, but He is never ever late. God, thank you for what you are saying to us. I ask God, that you would do a miraculous work. First, in the hurting marriages, and then God, in the lives of everyone who has got a faltering faith, which is so easy to have in this painful and sin-filled world. Praying today, I want everybody just to really focus in right now and ask yourself, are you characterized by faithfulness? Are you growing in faith? Or, do you find yourself talking in fear and getting ahead of God and maybe not even believing God would do it for you. Look at your marriage, is your marriage truly characterized by faith? Or, is life just kind of taken over? For those of you that would say, quite honestly, I really want to be strengthened in my faith, I want my marriage to be strengthened in faith. I want to have an unwavering faith in the faithfulness of God, and I'm going to pray that would be so. Would you lift up your hands right now? All of our campuses, lift them up right now, lift them up. God thank you for a group of people that are truly hungry to be in an intimate relationship with you. God for those who are not married and facing maybe some fears. God I pray that their whole faith would not be in a future spouse, but their whole faith would be in you. God that right now you would be enough, you would be everything they need. God for those who have a marriage that is not what it should be, and that is so many of us God. We ask that you would be in the center of our marriages, that it would be built around you. That Christ would be the head, and that we would line up under His authority and we would seek Him first, and then God, as we seek Him first, you would add everything that matters in our lives. May we come under the authority of your Son, Jesus, and seek Him. Even when, and especially when life doesn't go as we planned, we commit to seek you God and to trust you no matter what. As you keep praying today, I just want to talk as clearly as I can and I want you all to listen very, very carefully not just to what I would say, but to what the Spirit of God would say to you. There are some of you, that you don't really know where you stand with God right now. You wonder, have I been good enough? Have I done too many bad things? Am I really right with God? If that is you, I want you to pay very careful attention, because God wants to speak to you. In the Old Testament, it says that Abraham believed God. In the New Testament, it describes his faith and it says that it was credited to him as righteousness. His belief, his faith was credited to him as righteousness. He was made right with God, not because of his works, but because of his faith. If you wonder where you stand with God, chances are you might not be in good standing. If you think, well I've got to do good works and be more religious and try harder, let me just tell you right now, you will never succeed. The Bible says in Ephesians, Chapter 2, that it's only by the grace of God that you are saved, and it is not by your works, but it is only by faith and the perfect work of God through His son, Jesus; because God loved us as sinners so much that He sent His sinless son, to become sin for us on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus died and He rose again, and now anyone, and that includes you, who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. If there are those of you here and you've tried to be a good person, tried to stop being a bad person and maybe you've done some religious things, but you don't know where you stand. Today, call on the name of Jesus and by faith you will be saved. By faith you will be forgiven, by faith you will be filled with the Spirit of God. You are here today, because God ordained for you to be here to be saved by grace through faith. At all of our locations, those of you who would say, "Yes, I want to surrender my life wholly unto Him, being fully persuaded by His promises and His truth. Today I give my life completely to Jesus by faith. I believe He will forgive me and save me and make me new." Lift up your hands right now, at all of our campuses and say, "That's me!" Just lift them up and let me just meet you eye to eye. Right up here, sir, God bless you. Right back over here in this section, and right back over here as well. Others of you say, "Yes, by faith!" Sir, right back here, God bless you! Others of you, here in this middle section, I surrender to you, right back over here, and over here as well and right back there. Yes sir, right here going, "Yes, I surrender to you!" Those of you at Church Online, just click right below me and right back over as well saying, "I surrender!" Others of you today, call on His name. Right back here in the middle section, call on His name, "Jesus take my life." He will forgive you and make you new. All of our locations would you guys pray aloud, everybody together. Pray, Heavenly Father, save me from my sins, make me brand new. My life is no longer my own, I give it to you. As you sent Jesus for me, I give my whole life to you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, so I could serve you. Give me faith to follow you always. Thank you for new life, now I give you all of mine. In Jesus name I pray. Life Church, all of our campuses, would you worship God today and would you tell Him Thank you! Would you welcome those today born into God's family!

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Duration: 36 minutes and 22 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
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Posted by: lifechurchopen on Oct 3, 2011

Once Upon a Marriage - Week 3 - Craig Groeschel -

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