Charles Stanley - When Faith Gives Way to Fear
Have you ever felt like God told you to do something, and you started out that way, and then somewhere along the way, you either got discouraged, something happened, and you just decided you would do it some other way? And you realized shortly thereafter, you may have made a wrong turn. That maybe you decided to do it another way because it looked easier, because your future looked difficult, because that's not exactly what you wanted in life. And so what happens? You probably didn't stop to ask yourself the question—why would I change routes that God has given me? And I think one of the primary reasons is that our faith gives away to our fears.
That's what I want to talk about in this message. "When Our Faith Gives Way to Our Fears". When that happens, we lose. When that happens, we disobey God. When that happens, we oftentimes never get back to where God intended for us to be. So, a perfect example of that is in Geneses chapter twelve. And I want you to turn there, if you will, then we'll talk about what it says. And Genesis chapter twelve, beginning in verse ten. Now, while you have it there, let's go back to the first few verses of twelve, and remember what God said. Here's His unconditional promise to Abraham. "Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go forth from your country, from your relatives, from your father's house, To the land which I'll show you.'"
Here's a seven-fold unconditional promise God made to Abraham, "I'll make you a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed". Period. Did you see any if, ands, and buts in that? No. That's an unconditional promise of God. If it's unconditional, that means that nothing is going to alter it. So, Abraham in the seventh and eighth verse, he's on his way to Canaan out of the Ur of the Chaldees. That is, he's come up north and around heading toward Canaan, and the scripture says, "The Lord appeared to Abraham and said, 'To your descendants I will give this land.' So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him. Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord".
So twice, here's what he does. When he stops and prays, that means he not only is honoring God, but he's claiming that land. He's claiming a land that God said He was going to give him. And then, if you'll notice in verse nine, "Abraham journeyed on, continuing toward the Negev". That is, going south, now. "Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. It came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarah his wife, 'See now, I know that you're a beautiful woman; And when the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife'; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say that you're my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.'"
Too bad for you, but I may live on account of you. "It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. Pharaoh's officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep, oxen, donkeys, male and female servants, and female donkeys and camels". That is, he swapped off this beautiful woman for oxen, donkeys, camels, and sheep. Now, today that would be a Mercedes, a Bentley, and a Rolls Royce. Had to be something.
"But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarah, Abram's wife. Then Pharaoh called Abraham and said, 'What is this that you've done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, "She's my sister," so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here's your wife, take her and go.' Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they escorted him away, and his wife and all that belonged to him". You say, "Well what's that got to do with me today"? A whole lot, so listen carefully, 'cause the theme of this is simply this: when faith gives way and you start becoming fearful of doing the will of God, the first thing I would say is simply this, and that is when that happens, it's because our focus has moved from God to our circumstances.
Remember that twice he built an altar, claimed that land for the Lord, moved on to Canaan, which is promise of Almighty God. And the scripture says that he moved there and naturally he would build altars there. And when he got there, he got surprised. There was a famine in the land, he started out with faith, but when circumstances changed, he had a change of mind, a change of heart. He'd built an altar twice, and so, think about this. God's never caught by surprises, so God knew that there was going to be a famine. He knew before Abraham ever started, that Abraham was going to walk into a big situation that was going to demand him to trust the Lord. And so, I think about when I look at that, we reason obeying God and say, "Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord". And then when things don't turn out the way we expect them to, our "Yes, Lord; yes, Lord" is "Maybe, Lord; maybe, Lord; mm-mm; no, Lord; no, Lord".
So what happens is our focus moves from God to the circumstances. Whenever we allow that to happen, we're going to get in trouble. Circumstances are always changing. Our focus has to stay on who God is, what He promised. He always keep His promise. So what he did, took his eyes off God, forgot all about these two times he'd built altars before the Lord and worshipped Him. Then when things are not going so well, he chooses to go by reason. Reason is there's food in Egypt, there is a famine in Canaan. And so he moves in the opposite direction.
So here's the truth. And full of truth, so I want you to get them. And that is, because my circumstances change does not mean that I should change. If God shows you His will on a certain thing and tells you to do it, He intends for us to walk in it. So remember this. When we step out of the will of God, the plan of God, the purpose of God, the Word of God, we're going to get in trouble. Secondly, faith gives way to fear when we begin making decisions based on human reasoning rather than on faith in God. And that's what he did. Human reason said there's a famine in the land. I don't want my family to starve and I lose all my servants and my cattle and all the rest.
And so, based on human reason, he did what human reason would tell him to do: just find out where is the food and go there. That's not what God said. That promise of God was a sevenfold unconditional promise. But it was a reasonable thing to do. He had a big family with all of his servants and every, attle and so forth. And so here's what he reasoned. He reasoned was, now he's forgetting what God said. He reasoned, "Well, I go down to Egypt for a very short period of time and I'll get enough food and we'll just come on back and do what God told us to do". Listen, the reasonable thing to do is not always the right thing. The third point I want you to get is this: when we forget that God is both provider and protector, we take things in our own hands.
Now, what should he have done? He should have gotten on his knees or, as we would say, or built another altar right there in Canaan where the food was so scarce and everything was looking bad, and gotten on his knees and said, "God, here's what You told me to do. Here's the promise You made me. Now Lord, look at this mess. Lord, we don't have enough food. Now God, You're my provider, You're my protector, what am I to do"? God is never at a loss as to what to do. He should have stayed right where he was and trusted God, even in a famine, to provide for him, but he didn't do that. He did what human reason said to do because he forgot that God was his provider as well as his protector. And we do the same thing. We look around, look at our circumstances and say, "Well, I know that's what God said, but".
And this always gets us in trouble. When we make a substitute for the Word of God, the will of God, the plan of God, we get in trouble. Well, here's what I'm going to do. Is that what God said? No, but what God said won't work. Listen carefully, God doesn't make any mistakes. There's no such thing as what God says won't work. Now, He won't work if you're living in sin and choose to disobey God. But whatever God calls us to do, God will see to it that it works out. But here's what he did. He looked around and said, "You know, things look bad here and I don't want to lose all my servants and all my cattle and all my things". So the question is: What should he have done? He should have trusted God and, knowing and remembering sevenfold unconditional promise. Not if there's a famine or if I'm attacked or if this.
God said, "Here's what I'm going to do". And so he decided to look around and ask himself the question: "What should I do? What can I do at this point"? And what happens is this. When God tells us to do something and we start looking to see what we can do, we get in trouble. We'll always come up, "Well, I can't this and I can't that and I can't the other". Forgetting the fact that sometimes God withholds, withdraws, or puts us in a place where we are absolutely, totally dependent upon Him, not realizing that He wants to teach us something, that He wanted to teach Abraham. "I made you a promise that I'd provide for you, protect you no matter what, unconditionally, that's My Word".
Instead of believing that, he forgot what God said, or he looked at his circumstances and said, "This is not going to work". And he probably said, "I am sure God understands". Have you ever said that? I know God will understand. No, He's going to stick with the best. And so, he should have just stopped right there, made himself an altar and said, "God, I've come this far. What do You want me to do next"? He forgot that God was the provider, God is the One who called him, God is the One who made this awesome promise, God is the One who had taken care of them so far. God is the One who'd given him servants, his beautiful wife, and everything. And now because circumstances are not very good, he decides to take a step, watch this, you take one wrong step, you're prone to take a second wrong step, and a third wrong step. Obedience is doing what God says do, when He says do it, how He says do it, and if we don't, what happens is we pay the penalty.
And so this is what he did. So instead of trusting God for everything he needed, he decided he'd do it his way. And I think here's a good example. When we're willing to sacrifice our most precious possessions in order to gain the favor of others, we get in trouble. Now, watch what happens. His fear led him into Egypt out of the will of God. Now he's facing something even greater because he said to her, "I know you are a beautiful woman". And he said that a couple of times. And she must have been a beautiful woman. "And I know if we go down to Egypt what we're going to face". And because that was the way pharaohs and the way kings often did. They just took what they wanted and who they wanted. And so, He's heading in the wrong direction.
Listen, when you take a step in the wrong direction, step number two is easier. Step number three is easier. That's why God wants us to walk in His will and trust Him that He will do what He promised to do. And so, he said to her, "I know that you are a beautiful woman". And so I want you to go back to verse twelve for a moment, in that twelfth chapter. Now, "When the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife'. and they will kill me". Watch this. You're talking about selfishness. Listen, look at this. "When the Egyptians see you, they're gonna say, 'This is his wife', and they will kill me, but they will let you live". That's what they're going to think, "Please say that you are my sister so that it may be well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you". Who is he talking about? He's thinking about himself. I'm willing to give you up to save my life.
Now, he doesn't think about what's going to happen after that. He doesn't think about what really is going to happen. He's just saying, "I'll give you up in order to save my own neck". And so what happens? He gets down there, and the fifth point I wanted to make is this. When we forget the unconditional promises of God and begin to fear man, something happens. We're in trouble. Now, I'm not saying that God makes you an unconditional promise every day in your life. There are unconditional promises in the Word of God, but after you've trusted Jesus Christ for a season of time, you should realize that He is going to keep His promise. And God made such a big deal out of this with Abraham. He gave him all those promises and, with no exceptions. Here's what I'm going to do in your life, period. And now he is in Egypt where he should not be.
And remember this. When you go where you shouldn't be, you're going to do something you shouldn't do, and you're going to feel something you shouldn't feel, and you're going to pay a price you don't want to pay. And so now, he stepped out of God's will. He's in Egypt and now he's preparing how am I going to work this thing out? And the only thing he can figure out is to be willing to sacrifice his beautiful wife. That's what he said, she was beautiful. And when Pharaoh's servants saw them, they said she was beautiful, so Pharaoh, he took her, he must have thought she was beautiful. "I'm going to sacrifice my beautiful wife to save my own neck". And when you think about that, and think about how that fits in God's plan, it doesn't fit. This is why, and you'll hear me talk about this often. Here's why we talk about the will of God. The will of God is the plan of God. It's the message of God. It's the direction of God. And God wants us to trust Him and to obey Him.
And we can stand up in church and just sing, "Trust and obey". Then walk right out and disobey God. And so, God had given him this awesome promise. And now he's in a situation where he knows what's going to happen because that was their custom. Pharaoh would take anybody he wanted, as much as he wanted. And so he took her in. Now, taking her in doesn't mean that he just set her on a platform somewhere. He treated her like his wife. And so, when we forget God's unconditional promises, we begin to fear our circumstances, we get ourselves in trouble. And this is such a perfect example of that. Faith gives way to fear when we make decisions that are ungodly, decisions that are in contradiction to God's will. He said, "You're to go to Canaan". He didn't say you would have a bypass and go to Egypt. He didn't say, "Unless there is a famine in Canaan". He said, "I'm sending you to Canaan. That's where My people are going to grow up". And he only listened as long as he was comfortable.
And so, here he is now, and he's facing a situation that he knows is going to be very difficult. The only way he'll be able to survive this, he knows, is to give up this beautiful wife. 'Cause that's just the way it was in those days. If Pharaoh said, "I want something," he got it. There was no question. So, the sixth point I want you to jot down is when we're willing to cause others pain and great harm in order to protect ourselves, when we do, we're going to face difficulty and hardship. And what happens is when faith gives way to fear, that's our response. When we stop trusting God and start fearing circumstances, we're willing to cause others pain and great harm in order to protect ourselves.
Now he said, "They will kill me and let you live. So, if you say you're my sister, I'll be treated well and my life will be spared because of you," period. Then what? Then you live with Pharaoh the rest of your life and I go on to where? Down here in Egypt where I shouldn't be. So, if you say you're my sister, I'll be treated well. My life will be spared because of you. And so, think about this. Whenever you want to do something wrong, you can usually find a pretty good reason for doing it, right? If you want to do something wrong, you can find a pretty good reason for doing it. He knew that was wrong. And he was willing to give her up. And this is what he was doing. He was, you see, what happened was, he made a decision when he got to Canaan. It wasn't what he expected, so he turned to what he thought was his only resource, which was Egypt. Wasn't God's plan. He made a choice based on human reasoning. I can't stay here and starve to death. And I can turn and go to Egypt, stay there for a little while till things are better up here, and then I'll come back.
When you step out of the will of God, your next plan's never assured. You step out of the will of God, it doesn't make any difference what your next plan is. If you're out of the will of God, you can't bet on the next step, unless you're turning around with God. And all he was saying is it'll save me. So, what happens? The scripture says, "But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues," not just one, plural, "plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife". Now one thing you'll give old Pharaoh, he was wise enough to catch on. "Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, 'What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, "She is my sister," so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her and get going.' Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they escorted him away and his wife and all that belonged to him". Listen, when God says, "I'm going to do something," He's going to do it.
So, what does He do? He sends a plague strong enough to turn the Pharaoh upside down and his whole kingdom. Take this woman and get out here. And don't come back. And all of this really simply says when faith gives way to fears, we get in awesome trouble. Did you get that? When faith gives way to fears, here's the process. Here's what happens. And naturally, God preserves Sarai. She had a son you can trace all the way to Jesus. Remember what He said? Listen to this, and I love how God said it, "I'm going to make you a great nation". I'm not going to make you a great man, I'm going to make you a great nation. What nation is it? Israel, Jews. I'm going to bless you, "and make your name great;" and we're still talking about him. So, "You're going to be a blessing," and he was. "And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed". That includes all of us.
Now, God kept His word. But the lesson is real simple. And that is, when my faith gives way to my fears, I'm going to make a mess of things, no matter what. Don't forget this lesson. When your faith gives away to fear, so that you step out of the will of God for fear of whatever it might be, all you're doing is getting in deeper trouble. You're stepping off from two feet of water into twenty feet of water, and you can't swim. That's a great story, because it's a great warning, that when we step out of the will of God, we step out of the will of God because we don't believe God. Listen to what He said, "I'm going to make you a great nation. I'm going to bless you, not entrap you, make your name great. You'll be a blessing. I'm going to bless those who bless you, curse those who curse you". That would have included Pharaoh. "And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed".
God's unconditional promise. But when my faith moves from my trust in the Word of God to what I can do, what seems better, what's the most profitable thing, the most acceptable thing, then I'm in trouble. So when you go home this afternoon, maybe tonight, you get on your knees to pray, or however you pray, maybe you ought to ask the Lord, "Lord, am I where I ought to be? Am I spiritually over here in Egypt, when I ought to be in Canaan? Obeying You, walking in Your will, walking in Your way, answering Your will for my life". It's either going to be trusting Him or making a mistake in life. And you know what, I wish I could sit down with every teenager and say, "Listen, listen carefully. If you don't ever hear anything else, listen to this. This is a divine pattern. If you sacrifice anything for sin, you're in trouble". Amen?
Father, we thank You for this story. Thank You for this truth. Thank You for this warning. And I pray that you'll sink this into the mind and heart of every person who hears it, in this room and around the world. It doesn't make any difference who, where, when, what, the principle never changes. That when we step out of Your will, we're going to find ourselves in fear, and maybe even tragedy. I pray that if there's somebody here today who's never trusted You as their Savior, give them wisdom, God, to ask You to forgive them of their sin, ask You to help them overcome their past, surrender their life to You without any question, and begin living a godly life. I pray this in Jesus's name, amen.