Michael Youssef - Counting Stars Because God Said So
For when God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky, in the heavens, Abraham had none, no children whatsoever, but also, as you look at Abraham's journey of faith, you're gonna see it's not a smooth sailing. You're gonna find that he faced all sorts of challenges. He faced difficulties. He faced doubt and fear in his life. He faced his own demons. He faced sin and failure. He faced opposition of all sorts, and he faced many a temptation to stop counting stars when God said to him, "Count stars".
But in the long run, the reason Abraham is the central figure, make no mistake about it, Abraham is the central figure in the Old Testament, and the reason for that is because he kept on counting stars regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the discouragement. He kept on counting stars when he could see none. And all he had, basically, is God's own word. The God of power and might spoke to him, and he said, "That's it, that's enough for me". You gotta understand he did not have a Bible, he did not have a Bible study, he did not have a small group to go to, he did not have a discipleship program. He did not have a church, he did not have a preacher, maybe that's for the best, all he had is the word of the Almighty God, who said to him, "Abraham, start counting stars. I know you have none right now, but start counting".
So, I want you to turn with me, please, to Genesis 12. God commands Abraham, he says, "Abraham, go out of your country. Leave your country and get out to a land that I'm going to show you". He said, "I'll make you a great nation. I'll bless you, and through you, all the families of the earth are going to be blessed". I want you to see in Abraham's life a mirror for your life, and your life, and my life, because it is. For like Abraham, God called every single believer in the Lord Jesus Christ to come out of the old country. He called every one of us who came from the country of sin, because sin with which we are born, every one of us were in that country where we're born turning our back to God. And then, at some point, God said to every one of us, come and follow me. Get out of your life of sin. Turn away from the old ways, with all of its selfishness, with all of its stubbornness and rebellion and wanting to do your own thing.
With all of its selfish ambitions, with all of its confusion, with all of its lostness, with all of its doubt, and come and follow me. He said to every one of us, I will forgive your sins through the blood of my Son, Jesus Christ. I will heal your wounded spirit and your wounded soul. I'm gonna bind your broken heart. I will adopt you as my child. I'll give you a new identity. I will give you a heart that desires obedience to me. I will adopt you as a child of the King of kings, and you will become an heir inheritor of all that belongs to Jesus. You will no longer be lost, but you belong to me. I will bless you as you trust me, as you obey me, as you walk with me, as you serve me. From now on, I want you to start counting stars.
Here's the tragic situation, and in many ways that's what happened to Abraham. That after we come to Christ, after we surrender our life to him, after the joy and the excitement of knowing that I am a child of the living God, that God forgave me all of my sins, that he saved me eternally, that now I have this assurance of eternal life, after all the excitement has worn off, we get bogged down in our Harran. You say, "What is that"? Harran is the spiritual Las Vegas. But in that spiritual Harran, what happens in Harran does not stay in Harran. And there are many believers who get to Harran, the land of compromise and the land of confusion, and they never move to greater heights. The very thing that God called you for, the very thing that God saved you for, the very thing that God redeemed you for, we never move to this greater land of promise and blessing, what the Bible calls moving from one point of glory into another.
We begin well and we start well when we say yes to Jesus, but then, before long, we begin to mix the old with the new. I am really praying to the Lord that he will use this series of messages for us as a body of believers, and many of those who are watching around the world, to challenge us like he's never challenged us before. Challenge us to do what? Challenges us to give up mediocrity, to throw away half-hearted faith, to throw away Harran living, to throw away the temptation of going into Egypt and staying in Egypt. To throw away doubt and disobedience, and begin to move to higher plains of God's power and might and glory, amen? Don't ever forget that when God called Abraham, Abraham and his whole family were idolaters. They were worshiping idols.
In fact, many, many, many years later, his grandson, Jacob, goes back to Abraham's ancestors, and there his uncle, Laban, kept idols. In fact, his wife, Rachel, stole them. They're idol worshipers. There is nothing more offensive to God than when his own children, who claim to know him, who claim to love him, those whom he redeemed, and those whom he saved, begin to mix the old life with the new life. And when Abraham got halfway to Canaan, he decided to stay in Harran. But Harran is always a symbol of compromise. And when God had to come and get him out of Harran, God was a zealous God, and he wanted him to leave that life of half-heartedness.
Now, some Christian believers, they cannot take being falsely accused of all sorts of false things. They are all false that we are unloving, that we are prejudiced, and that we don't believe in equality, and all of these false accusations. I have known some pastors who because they could not stand these false accusations, they decided to compromise with the world in order to be accepted. We should not be surprised that the world hates us. Jesus said it. He said, "The world will hate you because it hated me". The world hates our righteousness. The world hates our uprightness. The world hates our Biblical standards, and that should not surprise us. In fact, we should be expecting it.
Let me show you from the Scripture. In the epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 11 and verse 7, it says of Noah, "By his faith, he condemned the world". Noah didn't condemn the world, he actually was inviting people to come into the ark. He wanted to save the world. Ah, but the world felt condemned by the faith of Noah. And you don't even have to open your mouth, your uprightness is going to make those who hate God angry. Don't be surprised. In fact, you need to rejoice when you're falsely accused. That's what Jesus said in the beatitudes. Rejoice when they falsely accuse you for my sake. And God asked Abraham to leave all of his past behind, to leave what is dear and near behind. To leave it and move to the place that he's never seen, and maybe even never heard of.
And so, Abraham found himself nearly alone, but he really wasn't alone, he had Yahweh, and that's everything. You and I are privileged not to walk alone in our Christian walk. Genesis 12, look at verses 2 and 3. God made certain promises to Abraham, and God makes those promises to everyone when we repent of our sins and turn to the living God. He makes those promises, not only forgive your sins, I'm going to walk with you. You're my child, I love you, you'll never, ever be forgotten or forsaken. And here's what he says, "I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you. I will make your name great. You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you. I will curse those who curse you. I will make sure that the whole world be blessed through you". In fact, here in Genesis 12, God promised Abraham seven things to be exact, seven things. In return, all he asked Abraham to do is to walk away from his past. Let's look at these sevenfold blessings together.
The first blessing he says I will show you a land. Did you see that in the Scripture? I will show you a land. Go to the very last, the seventh and the last one, he says I will give you a land. Isn't that amazing? I will show you a land, but I'm gonna give it to you. You go from seeing to receiving, and that is why a total trust is the key. God often works that way with you and me, he really does. He begins by saying I'm gonna show you great blessings that are all yours and stored for you as you walk with me, as you serve me, as you place me first and foremost in your life, all the way to saying you're gonna possess, you're gonna rule and reign with him forever.
That always gets to me, it really does. Whenever I choose, my goodness, I get clobbered; but whenever God chooses and I follow his choice, I am totally blessed. I know many of you will testify to that, too. But please, please, please, be careful when you adamantly want your way, when you say I want this, I want this, I want this. You know, God might give it to you for a time, might let you have it for a time, but be careful, because a blessing is not on the other end. But when he takes you by the hand, and takes you to where he wants you to go, you get blessed out of your socks.
Blessing number two, I will make you a great nation. Now, this is the first of many unconditional promises that God made. These folks, I'm talking about Abraham's descendants, they messed up royally, again and again and again. In the Scripture, we see it clearly that there are conditional promises, that there are unconditional promises. Here's the problem, many Christians confuse the two, and they go and claim from God a conditional promise without meeting the condition, are you with me? When God chose us in Christ, that was his pure grace. It is unconditional. Had nothing to do with us. We had nothing that would endear us to him. We had nothing to do with it. But then, in our Christian walk, there are a number of conditional promises, and I want you to remember this.
When God made that unconditional promise to Abraham, Abraham, as I said, was 75 years old, and Sarah, his wife, was 65. When God said start counting stars, they were retirement age. They were drawing Social Security if there was such a thing over there. That is faith in the pure Biblical sense. "But God, I'm old". "Start counting stars, Abraham". "Oh, but God, what if I wander away from your will"? "Keep counting stars, Abraham". "Oh, but God, what if my descendants become idol worshipers? What if they worship Baal down the road"? "You keep on counting stars, Abraham". "But God, what will happen if this takes place or that..." "You keep counting stars," why? Because the greatness of his descendants was a spiritual greatness. Because this unconditional promise is fulfilled in his one and only descendant, the seed of Abraham in the singular, not in the plural, Jesus Christ.
And millions of people today, around the world, come to worship the living God because of Jesus, and because all of these blessings are fulfilled in Jesus. And everyone, Paul said, who is follower of Jesus is a descendant of Abraham. No wonder in John chapter 8, when Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am". They got so mad, I mean, they wanted to kill him.
Blessing number three, I will bless you, you personally, did you get that? I will bless you. That's another thing that gets to me. The promise of making him a great nation when he has no children, that in itself is mind-boggling. That in itself is absolutely mind-shattering. But God says now, in addition to that, Abraham, I'm gonna bless you personally.
Now beloved, I can testify to the fact that in the last few decades, with all of my heart, I sought the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Every waking moment, I seek to serve and glorify Jesus. And to my utter, overwhelming amazement, I get blessed in the process. I did not expect it, but that's the way God works. Hear me right, please. There is nothing wrong with you, anyone, whether you're watching or here in this room, to ask God to bless you. Did you get that? There is nothing wrong with it. I just happened not to ask God for it, I just asked God to bless the ministry and the work of my hand. I spend my time praying for others and praying for the kingdom of God. That's been my way every waking moment, seeking first the kingdom of God. But in the process, I get blessed out of my socks.
Blessing number four, I will make your name great, and you will bless the world, or the world will be blessed by you. To be sure, for 4,000 years, Christians, Jews first, Christians and Muslims, they all claim Abraham for their father. But what's the name of Abraham stands for? That name stands for immovable faith and trust in the living God. The name stands for what God promised. That name stands for what God had done. That name stands for God's faithfulness.
And so, God changed his name from Abram to Abraham, which means the father of many. Galatians chapter 3 verse 14, write it down, study it when you go home. Galatians 3:14 tells us that Abraham's greatest descendant, by far, is the Lord Jesus Christ. And the world is blessed by coming to Jesus. Today, the whole world is blessed by that one descendant of Abraham. People from every nation, from every tongue, from every tribe, they are saved and they are redeemed and they are rejoicing in their salvation, even in the midst of persecution, because of that one descendant of Abraham, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessing five and six, he says I will bless those who bless you, then he said I will curse those who curse you. Throughout history, we see that, in the Old Testament, particularly. God fulfilled that promise again and again and again and again. I wish I had time to give you a lot of examples, but a couple of examples. When Joseph, the great-grandson of Abraham, was sold into slavery in Egypt, the Bible said that God blessed Egypt because of Joseph. Rahab, the prostitute, when they were finally returning, going into the Promised Land, into Canaan, the Bible said that God blessed her and her family because of what she did for Israel, and on and on and on I could go on how God fulfilled this promise literally and then spiritually and every other way.
Now, as believers, and if you stand up in any way for your faith, there are gonna be enemies. You don't make enemies. I can tell you, as the Lord my witness, I have no enemies. There's nobody who's my enemy from my point of view. It doesn't matter what they... they're not my enemies. But they set themselves as our enemies. We don't do it, but they do. They view themselves as our enemies. And we don't have to fight them in any way whatsoever.
In fact, we stand still and he will fight the battles for us. For God promised if they continue in their enmity, he will take care of them, and he does a far better job than any of us can. "Vengeance is mine," says the Lord. I was talking to a young man, he was so angry over some injustice that had happened to him, and he was angry, and he wants to do something. I said the blessing of living a little longer is I watch God to a much better job. Be patient, and sure enough, a few weeks later, God took care of that problem for him and proved his faithfulness.
Blessing number seven, I will give your offspring this land. At the time when this promise was given, Abraham had no offspring and he had no land. But that's not all, Abraham and Sarah died, and they were buried without owning land. Isn't that amazing? Isn't that amazing? And yet, 400-plus years later, God fulfills his promise to the descendants of Abraham, and they received the land of promise. God's promises, beloved, listen to me, God's promise, it will be fulfilled in the third and the fourth and the fifth and the sixth and the tenth generation.
God's promises are more real than I'm standing right here in front of you. Jesus made a number of promises that you can literally take to the bank. In Matthew 11:28 and 29, he said, "Come unto me". "Come unto me all who are weary and burdened. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, and you will find rest for your souls". And I don't know about you, and I don't know where you are in your walk, you may be walking in here in this place, or watching around the world, carrying a refrigerator on your back. And you might be feeling so burdened and so weary and so tired, but this is a promise of God to you. You come to him, and he will unload that load on himself. He already has done that on the cross anyway.
In Matthew 19:21, Jesus's word to the rich young man, he said, "If you want what is eternal, give up your idols. Give them away, and come and follow me". And there you're gonna have untold treasures in heaven. This, my beloved friends, is the principal of God's calling to Abraham. Leave behind your country, leave behind your people, leave behind your land, leave behind your household, and go to the land that you cannot see, but I will show you, and I'll make you a great nation, and I'll bless you. I will make your name great, and I'll bless those who bless you, I will curse those who curse you, and I will give you the land.