Talk 5:

 

BO SANCHEZ: I want you to say this with me: “You never graduate from trusting God.”

We never graduate from trusting God. There is no point in your future where you say, “Trusting God, kayang-kaya ko na ‘yan. Been there, done that. That’s something I’m an expert in.”

There is no point in your life, in your future, where you say, “Yeah, I’ve handled that already. I’m okay.”

Because I believe for the rest of our life, we will always struggle with trusting God. And that’s okay. It really is. I don’t care if you’re 300 years old following the Lord, or you have four Ph. D.s in Theology from Rome. You know, you will still have a battle with trusting God.

My belief is trusting God is so important. Why? Because our obedience to God depends on it.

We don’t obey God because we don’t trust Him. That an obedience problem is always a trust problem.

5 Lessons To Be Happy

Let me take a pause and tell you a story.

I attended a birthday party in my neighborhood.

The birthday celebrator is very young—only 95 years old. She is a woman who had a stroke 30 years ago. So, for the past 30 years, she has been stuck in a wheelchair. And so, she should have been miserable. But when I entered the gate, she had this beautiful smile, waved at me, and said, “Bro. Bo, I’m 95 and I’m happy!”

And so she started telling me her life story. Sitting beside her was so beautiful and so wonderful to listen to.

And I was able to pick out five lessons about why she is happy.

1.Give and expect nothing in return. I mean, I preach this, right? But listening to a 95-year-old woman say that—”give without expecting anything in return” —I really believe that a lot of people are in pain and it is useless pain. Why? Because they give

with expectations. And so, that was refreshing to hear.

2.See blessings everywhere. I was talking to her and in every sentence, she said, “Thank You, Lord, Thank You, ” On and on. Grateful people are happy people. Yes? You know what? My belief is that grateful people are not only happy people. Grateful people are rich   people. Because wealth is not measured by how much money you have. It’s measured by how grateful you are.

3.Put people over things. She was not materialistic. She would say, “You know, I’d rather help You know there are so many people who are suffering more than I am suffering.”

4.This, whoa, this surprised She prepared financially. She did. For 40 years, she was a schoolteacher. And with her sister, she kept on saving. Her sister is 80+. They’ve been retired for the longest time. They’re just living off the interest of their investments. Ang galing. Very good. Being a financial teacher, I was saying, ”Wow, these things work!”

5.She lets God keep her company the whole Stuck in a wheelchair–30 years– what does she do? She told me, “You know, Bro. Bo, I pray. I pray for others. So many people to pray for.”

She trusts in God. If there’s an old person that you meet and that old person has been following God, sit beside that person and you will hear story after story of how this person knows God and knows that He is trustworthy. Not because the person read a book but because the person experiencing God’s trustworthiness.

And so, we go to our series today. Welcome to our series on Genesis. Welcome to this particular talk about this guy, by the name of Abram, who later on becomes Abraham. And according to Galatians, according to James, according to the New Testament, in Genesis 15:6, he is described as a man of faith.

Are you familiar with the song Father Abraham?

Father Abraham, has many children, many children has Father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you. So, let us praise the Lord.

You know, we look at Abraham and say, “Good guy, a holy man.”

Yes? But when you examine really– not just read a children’s book about Abraham– but really look at the Bible and read the story, this is your reaction: “Huh, si Abraham ba ito?—Is this Abraham?”

He cheated. He lied. He raped Sarai’s slave. Yes! He’s a humble man but he’s a horrible man. But then the Bible says he was a man of faith.

How is that? It’s very, very confusing. You read the story: Seven times, God shows up in his life. And the Genesis author highlights the fact that God shows up.

One time, He appears in the trees of Mamre. Mamre in Hebrew means sight.

And then another time, God appears to Abraham on Mount Moriah—that place where Abraham sacrificed Isaac—supposed to be. Guess what Moriah means? Moriah means also sight.

It’s like the Genesis author was trying to say Abraham kept seeing God.

He failed here, he failed there. He did this horrible thing. He messed up his life. And yet God insisted on showing up for him.

You know, when you read the Old Testament now—I’ve been reading it for 40+ years– but every time you read it, you’re just like, “Whoa!”

You know, when people say that the Old Testament God is a God who’s cruel and a God who’s really punishing… and then the New Testament God is a God who is now gentle and now kind… That’s totally wrong!

Because if you read the book of Genesis, the story of Abraham, you’d wonder:

Why would God deal with this man who fails so many times and yet God is there showing up Himself for him?

The first encounter of Abraham with God was a very dark period of his life. His father, Terah, died. And then his brother Haran died.

And then Sarai, his wife, was barren. During that ancient time, in that ancient culture, if you did not have children or descendants, you were a nobody. And it was during that dark time, that struggle in Abraham’s life, that’s when the first time God appears to him. Why?

It’s in our struggles that we encounter God. It’s in your struggles that you encounter God.

So, this is what God tells Abraham:

Why this? Why this special call? Why this very special blessing– that he will become the blessing of many nations? Is it because Abraham was good? No.

Is it because Abraham earned it? No. Is it because Abraham deserved it? No.

The reason God blesses Abraham is God is a blesser. That’s it. It’s He.

And so, my dear friends, I just want you to know that. Why will God bless you? Why does God always show up in your life?

I love looking back at my life. You know, 50+ years of looking back and seeing how God showed up in my life – despite my failures, despite all my sins, despite I’d been messing up my life with my wrong, stupid, foolish decisions— God was still there showing up.

Showing up. I see Him, I see Him. Why? It’s not because I earned it.

It’s not because I’m good. It’s not because I’m deserving.

But because He is a blesser. He cannot help Himself. He cannot stop Himself. For you, too, He will always show up. He will always bless you.

DIDOY LUBATON: As Bro. Bo said, when we are in the struggles, that’s when we really encounter God. I will show to you Abraham’s struggles—just like you and I have struggles.

But Abraham’s struggles were very, very particular. Bo was saying Abraham was a man of faith.

Yeah, that’s really good. Some parts of the Bible even call him a friend of God. But sorry to say, he’s a jerk. Yeah, and I have the hard part of saying that to you.

We need to read the Bible without our rose-colored eyeglasses and we need to see what the Bible authors, the Genesis authors, were really trying to say. But first, let me echo what Bro. Bo said earlier.

God blessed Abraham so he could become a blessing. And there’s a purpose – He wanted Abraham—you and I—to be a blesser too—as we read in Genesis 12:3 (above).

And it did not come without pain. The encounter of Abraham with God was through pain—losing loved ones, his wife being barren. And yet, even in his pain, God had a purpose.

Even in your pain, God has a purpose. And what is that purpose? To bless you, so that you can bless others too.

If you notice, week per week, we’re trying to show the Bible story and see the purpose of the authors. As we mentioned in last week’s talk, everything is

connected. There are patterns and there are hyperlinks. We cannot fully understand the story of Abraham without relating it to the other parts of the Bible.

Last week, we talked about the Tower of Babel. And you know, when the people of Babel rejected God’s call for them to spread all throughout the Earth, God chose one man – Abraham— to respond to that call. And in Genesis 12:4-5 (above) that’s how Abraham responded.

Abraham responded with trust. Followed with trust, followed through the call of God, and, “Okay, we will go.”

And you know what Abraham did? He did not build the tower for his glory.

He built an altar. So, unlike the people in Babel, he trusted God.

Point of reflection: When we follow God, there are fruits, beautiful things in following God. Yes? Are we building altars, or are we building towers?

But you will see: Life is not just a linear thing. When you start following God, everything is beautiful, everything is nice, you’re good. No. It’s an everyday struggle. Trusting God is sometimes not easy. Trusting God is also a slap on the face – you did this wrong thing and yet you say you trust God? It’s hard.

Abraham, again and again, failed to trust God – that’s why I was saying earlier that he was a jerk. There was a lot of disobedience. And as Bro. Bo was saying earlier, disobedience is a lack of trust.

And I’ll share with you some of Abraham’s failures along the way. Despite being blessed by the Lord– He gave him blessings– that he will have descendants, he will have this land, and he will be the father of many nations– and yet, he committed disobedience. He had, failures one over the other– and they were very, very bad.

Abraham’s Failures

When God told Abraham to leave his country, He gave him specific instructions to bring only his immediate family. But what did Abraham do? He brought along Lot, his nephew. And this nephew caused a whole bunch of problems for Abraham. Lot’s men quarreled with Abraham’s men. At another time, warlords kidnapped Lot—Abraham had to go to war to rescue him. Later still, Lot ended up living in Sodom, the wicked city.

Lessons:

First, when you don’t obey God, people suffer—even you, people around you, people you love.

Second, partial obedience is still disobedience. If it’s not full obedience, it is still disobedience.

Third, you need to be careful who you bring along on your journey– your travel buddies. Because they can build you or they can also break you. You don’t have to look at the people around you. I’m talking about daily choices. What do you follow? Who are you always calling up? Choose your travel buddies well. We’re on a life journey—Yes? It will matter who you are journeying with.

Okay, that’s an idiom and I have to explain it. When you throw somebody under the bus, that means – in Tagalog, nilaglag mo ang isang tao—you do something harmful to a person to gain an advantage for yourself.

In the story, a huge famine swept the land and the Israelites had to go to Egypt:

Abraham became a foreigner, an immigrant. And that’s where the problem happened. Pharaoh took interest in Abraham’s wife Sarai.

And you could just imagine what was going on in Abraham’s mind: “Oh, no.

If Pharaoh finds out that Sarai is my wife, he’ll kill me to get her. But if I tell him she’s my sister, he’ll treat me well.”

Self-preservation is a very powerful force indeed. And it was cowardly of Abraham to throw his wife under the bus.

That’s not trust. Just a chapter ago, God promised Abraham many descendants. Yet at a drop of a hat, to save himself, he threw his wife under the bus–thereby throwing away God’s promise too.

But you know what? God kept on showing up. God kept on intervening:

And Pharaoh returned Sarai to Abraham.

I repeat: When we sin, we cause people around us to suffer. Abraham’s original calling was to be a blessing to the nations– but because of his disobedience, he brought a curse upon Egypt. Terrible. This is Abraham we are still talking about.

Before I say more about that, I must point out: Rape is rape – it’s wrong. Okay?

After many decades of still having no child– Sarai was barren, remember? — Abraham and Sarai were desperate. So desperate, they took matters into their own hands. The problem is, when we take matters into our hands, that is the failure. Sarai told Abraham to take her servant Hagar and have a baby with her.

There’s parallelism here—there’s a pattern. Abraham and Sarai–Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve saw the fruit and Eve told Adam, “There’s a fruit—let’s take it.” And then the fall of man. Yeah?

Abraham and Sarai saw the fruit: Hagar, child bearer, potential child.

And then Sarai told Abraham, “Take her so we can have a child.”

They took matters into their hands. They did not trust God—that God will provide the descendant. And because of that, Ishmael was born—Abraham’s firstborn. It was fine at the start. But you know the story: Sarai became pregnant and had Isaac.

And then came the problem. Abraham and Sarai now have Isaac. What are they going to do with Hagar and Ishmael?

Which brings us to Failure No. 4.

Now that they had Isaac, Abraham and Sarai had no more purpose for Hagar or Ishmael. They wanted to get rid of them. Horrible. And so, Abraham and Sarai abandoned Hagar and Ishmael in the desert. They left them there to die.

It’s like a series of horrible decisions Abraham was making. And he was being called a man of faith. A friend of God. A hero of our faith.

But again, God showed up. God intervened and saved Hagar and her son Ishmael from the wilderness. And God gave them the same blessing He gave to Abraham.

Looking at the story of Abraham, I remember my wife, my daughter — and my three-year-old son, Hosea. Hosea is Hosea—a toddler. What do toddlers do?

They build Legos and they break them, right? They eat and they mess themselves up. Yes? And what happens? The mother, the carer, comes, cleans the children up.

Toddler. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. And yet the mother always cleans up after her child—like God always cleans up after our mess. Do you relate to that?

Like Abraham, sometimes, you have your tantrums and sometimes you just keep breaking stuff. Sometimes you are missing the point– and yet God still shows up in your life, saves you from your mess, even puts into the pain a beautiful purpose.

The culmination of Abraham’s story was on a mountain. Bro. Bo mentioned it earlier. It’s a mountain called Moriah. And again, Moriah is sight in Hebrew— because that was where God was showing up again.

And after his disobedience, and all the catastrophes he caused to himself and to others, Abraham finally learned to trust – with a question mark.

God gave Abraham a test. He asked him to take Isaac on a journey and Isaac would become a burnt offering— a sacrifice. It is one of the craziest parts of the Bible.

But walk with me, and I’m sure you’ll be asking: How does a God like that who promised that this couple would have descendants — and yet ask that their one and only child be offered as a sacrifice?

And that was intense. Yes, even in that ancient culture, that was so unheard of. Actually, the Bible says God hates human sacrifices. That’s what their neighbors were doing in their pagan religion.

But in the law of Moses, God said human sacrifices were detestable to Him.

Please do not take this literally. What we’re trying to say here is that the test was so intense. Why? Because it was intensely dealing with Abraham because of his intense stubbornness. He did not trust God’s promise. It was God’s grave

response to Abraham’s grave failures. And this is where you will see that God kept showing up. This is also where you will see Abraham started trusting God. From the very start of the test, we will notice in the Bible that Abraham’s trust was finally growing and pushing through. He trusted God that his son will live.

So, let’s look at the Bible verse:

“We will come right back.” Expectant faith. Abraham knew. He saw it in His word—and he believed it that he and his son—together– would come back. He believed that he would go home with his son. You know, his trust in God was growing. He believed that God would make a way—God would provide.

In Genesis 22:7-8, the boy, Isaac, asked his father: “But where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”

What was Abraham’s response to Isaac? “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son.”

That is trust.

This is crucial. Abraham wasn’t just climbing up the mountain thinking, “Oh, where is it going to come from? Oh, no, I’m going to sacrifice my son.”

No. He was climbing up the mountain — the mountain of sight.

He knew God would show up, so he told his servants, “We’ll come back. We’ll be back.”

He was climbing up the mountain not with blind faith. He was climbing up the mountain with expectant faith—with reasonable faith. His trust was growing based on the repeated experience— again and again—that despite his failures, God continued to show up.

Oh, my, Lord! Thank You, Lord!

Even with the terrible decisions that he made, God still showed up. You never graduate from trusting God. And when Abraham reached the top, there it was—God really provided a ram for the burnt offering. And so, Abraham called this place:

Remember, Fr. Albert mentioned it earlier in his homily. Yes! And on Mount Moriah – the mountain of sight—God will provide. You never graduate from trusting God.

It is not something that you say, “Been there, done that. I’m okay.”

No. In whatever season and whatever phase of your life—you know, just like in Abraham’s case, the testing will come to us. But I hope the trusting will continue. You will keep on seeing God still in whatever season, or time in your life. He will show up.

Will you see him? Will you be there recognizing him?

Trusting God is really hard— especially when the signs are not there, especially when your human nature wants to preserve yourself. But when we look at Jesus—Jesus wasn’t in self- preservation. He was in self-sacrifice—so that others may live.

So, step by step, one day at a time, we get to grow our trust in God more. And so, remember that every time that God shows up in your life, you know that He is trustworthy. You can give your full trust in Him. Why?

Because He is ever-faithful—again and again. No matter what happens, God will show up.

Are you in that crisis now? Are you in a difficult situation? That means you are climbing the mountain of sight. That means keep on climbing, keep on struggling, and trust that God will show up. God will meet you. God will give you what you need. God will provide for you.

Not according to how we want Him to show up, but according to how He wants to show up again and again.

The story of Abraham’s life is very, very powerful. We do not agree with his failures. No, no, no… But the point here is the power of Abraham’s story is not because of Abraham. But because of that powerful God who remained faithful to him, no matter what.

Oh, yes, thank You, Lord.

God remained faithful to His human partner. Even if Abraham was a jerk, even with his grave failures.

I know I am a jerk too. Oh, my Lord.

It’s already July. Mid-year already. How was the first half of your year? Like Fr. Albert, do I look tan? I just came from a vacation—from a beach.

I actually thought about it. I had a mid-year pause. I did re-think, I looked back at the past six months– not too far because I’m going to get overwhelmed.

Yeah? But the past six months, they were all right. Not the best that I could have done. Yes?

You know what I bookmarked in my mind? I remember that when I failed to show up for my wife, when I did not have time for my kids, God made a way. When I was praying for this financial blessing– even if I did not work on it— God still provided what I needed.

If that is happening in my short history, in the next six months, I’m going to trust Him more. Not because He will eventually do something about it. No. But because I want to become like Him. Trustworthy.

He keeps on showing up, keeps on loving despite everything. Keeps on forgiving, despite me being such a jerk. When I look at myself in the mirror,

I’m not that confident—because I’m just looking at myself. But if you ask me now, reflecting on this talk, I look at myself –and I see pogi. Ha-ha.

Seriously, I’m not seeing just Didoy anymore. I look at myself and I see a husband, and a father, and a medical doctor, and a preacher, and a friend, and many, many more. I am wearing many other hats.

What I see is the faithfulness of the Lord. I can only do all these roles, and I will keep on doing them– not by my own power but by God’s Power.

Your life can be powerful too not because you are powerful but because of the Power and the Faithfulness of God, Abba, our Father. Amen.

Let’s worship God today. When we look at Abraham, we look at him, and go fast forward to Jesus, the Lamb of God.

If you go to the present-day Jerusalem – I’d been there—you will discover that just a few meters from Mount Moriah, the very site where Abraham found the ram, that is the place where Jesus, the Lamb of God, was crucified. That’s how connected the events all are. Abraham acted on self- preservation—he threw his wife under the bus, he took matters into his own hands, he left people in the wilderness by themselves. Jesus was not like that.

Abraham showed us self-preservation. Jesus showed us self-sacrifice.

My friend, God knows that we are weak.

He knows that we fall. He knows that sometimes, trusting is not easy. But He was so determined to restore us, to take care of us, to heal us—that He bound Himself. God became man, became part of that human

experience—even death. He hung on that Cross—that dirty Cross—so that He held the worst of our failures in His body. And He even showed up after His death– through His Resurrection—so that we too will rise with Him. We are not doomed to fail. We are blessed to rise with Him. God does not ask you to trust Him blindly. God asks you to trust Him completely. And if you come here not trusting God yet, this is the time that you can just declare, “Lord, okay, I will try again.”

Today, as we come into prayer, look back into your life—short, medium, and long term. See that He keeps showing up despite your failures. Despite your differences, your struggles, your difficulties, despite your sins, God keeps on showing up. He is trustworthy—even in your worst failures. He never leaves you. He is always there. So, thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your faithfulness.

Lord Jesus, unlike Abraham who always acted in self-preservation, You are showing us self-sacrifice. Lord, You showed up even after death. You resurrected so we can rise with You. And so, Lord, right now, thank You. Thank You, God for you always provide. You always save. Thank You, Lord, for always showing up in our life—even in our worst failures you never leave us. Thank You, Lord. Thank You, Lord, Thank You, You Lord. I trust in You.

BO SANCHEZ: And maybe you feel like Abraham today. Because you have stumbled, fumbled, faltered, failed, and sinned. And so, if you want to declare that you want to start trusting God, if you feel that you’re tired, tired of just taking matters into your hands, and insisting your way, now is the time to tell Him that you trust Him. Maybe this is the first time for some of you to make this kind of radical decision. Come, make this decision with me.

Or some of you, you’ve been making this decision again and again. Let’s do it now.

If you can, lift your hands and then say this prayer with me:

Jesus, I’m like Abraham. I’ve failed so many times. And I am ashamed of all my failures. And yet if I look back at my life, I will see that you kept on showing up. You kept on saving me. You kept on blessing me. And so, Lord, I give up. I give up to Your Love and I declare that today. I follow You and I trust You. And I want to trust You for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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