Michael Youssef - Counting Stars Gets You Back On Track - Part 2
From Watergate all the way to Monica Lewinsky scandal, from all the other public scandals by public officials, you remember how it's not the lying, but it's the cover up of that lying that got them into deeper trouble. While the Bible exalts us again and again and again that the confession of sin brings about God's healing, and God's forgiveness, and God's restoration. The covering up of sin, the rationalizing of sin, or blaming others for our sin, always cause us deeper pain. But perhaps there is no more powerful example of this than the life of the great patriarch Abraham.
Now, I want you to turn with me please to Genesis chapter 12, beginning in verse 10 to 20. Throughout the Scripture, we see that Egypt is a symbol of going away from God. Throughout the Scripture, you see that Egypt is a symbol of trusting in human ingenuity, and trusting in human resources, and trusting in ourselves. Egypt is always synonymous with lack of faith and living by sight and not by faith. In the Book of Isaiah, chapter 31, verse 1, "Woe to those who go down to Egypt". Has nothing to do with being geographical location. "Woe to you who got down to Egypt for help, instead of looking to the Lord".
And I think every one of us, everyone, if we're honest with ourselves, we know a time when we placed our faith in people who deeply wounded us. We know a time when we replaced our faith in somebody else, they let us down. We know that when we placed our faith in ourselves, and we were deeply disappointed. Here's what often happens when you develop this dependence on Egypt, whatever your Egypt may be. Your proverbial Egypt is very different from the person next to you. Here's what happens, instead of trusting in the Lord, you'll trust in your Egypt, whether your Egypt is your statement of network, whether your Egypt is your financial portfolio, whether your Egypt is some assets, or some people.
Whatever your Egypt may be, you're gonna find that the moment you began to place that faith and trust in whatever it may be, your intimacy with God goes by the wayside. Your personal affection toward God and toward God's people becomes cold and icy. Your walk with the Lord becomes formal and distant. Often when we are in this proverbial Egypt, we rationalize things in our head, we really do. We might not verbalize them but rationalize them in our head. "I sure want to obey God, but I have needs and I've got to meet those needs. Well, I sought God with all my heart to get me out of this terrible situation, but he didn't. I'm gonna lean on my natural instincts. I'm gonna lean on my resources. I'm gonna lean on my intellect. I'm gonna lean on my own innate ingenuity".
You might not verbalize it, but that's how you think it, that's how you operate. "After all, God gave me a mind, I've gotta use it". Abraham knew that his going away from Bethel, his going away from Canaan, he was going away from trusting in the Lord who personally appeared to him, who personally get made promises to him, who personally when he gave him these promises on the strength of these promises, he left what is near and dear in the Ur of Chaldees and went to a land that he did not know where God said, "Not only I'm gonna show it to you," he said, "I'm gonna let you possess it," and his descendants will possess it.
But before I get carried away, what I want to do is share with you six steps. These are the six things that can draw you away from the trusting in the Lord and trusting in your resources. They're things that lead you away from living by faith and begin to live by sight. The first thing when you begin to use only human logic, you notice I said only, because nothing wrong with human logic, but you cannot only use human logic. If you use only human logic, you're gonna get into trouble because human logic can show you the reality of your situation, nothing wrong with that. After all, Abraham realized that he is in a land of famine. He's in Canaan, there's a famine. And he realized that the Canaanites are in the same fix that he's in. He realized that these Canaanites are not about to go out and help a stranger and provide him with food. They're in trouble themselves.
So, Abraham's first step on this downward slope was that he did not go to the God who appeared to him, the God who made him the sevenfold promises, the God whom he trusted enough to leave home in the Ur of Chaldees and to go somewhere we he did not know where he's going. He did not seek that God's resources. He did not seek that God's provisions, and power, and strength, and he used only human logic. When you only use human logic at the time of your difficult circumstances, you're looking at your circumstances like this or like this, either circle or square. You're only seeing the circumstances. You are not able to see the whole picture and that's why use of human logic alone is gonna get you into trouble.
Because using human logic might let you see your circumstances in the reality, but also gonna show you the big picture is gonna reveal to you the God of your circumstances, and that the God of your circumstances is bigger than your circumstances, amen? You remember when the spies, hundreds of years after Abraham, were sent to spy the Promised Land? And the 12 of them go there, and the 12 come back, and they were divided, ten against two. Ten said, "There are giants in the land, and we looked like grasshoppers". And they began to doubt the promises of God. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, and that's why they will privileged to go there into that Promised Land. They said, "Yes, they might be giants. Yes, we might look like grasshoppers as far as they're concerned, but we have a greater God. We have a mighty God. We know that God promised us. Let's go and take it".
I wonder how many of us have looked at the mountains of difficulties in our lives and see ourselves as grasshopper and fail to see the God of circumstances. Using only human logic and not seeing the whole picture is the first step that will begin to take you away from the God of power and might. Secondly, ceasing to worship. And I'm not saying talking about singing on Sunday morning. No, worship includes personal worship. Worship includes offering sacrifices unto the Lord. Worship includes self-giving to God. Worship includes that place of meeting with God on a regular basis on an intimate basis. And when Abraham left Bethel, which means the house of God, where he has built an altar, he went to Egypt. And we see no evidence of him building an altar in Egypt. And he did not come back to the heart of worship until he left Egypt in humiliation. We have no record of him worshiping God in Egypt, only coming up with this cockamamie scheme and ceasing to trust in God, using human logic and failing to see the whole picture.
And the God of circumstances is gonna take you to the second step, and worship will become boring. Worship will become a chore. Worship and spending time, it becomes a drudgery. Albeit, it happens slowly. It happens gradually, and it begins by that first step. Wherever you are right now, only you and God know where you are. Only God and you know where you are. Wherever you are, you can come back and trust God again. You can come back to the heart of worship. Now, there are some people who think that they can go to church for one hour or maybe an hour-and-a-half if you stretch it, it's two hours. And they think that one hour a week or two hours a week is going to give them victory the whole week. Are you kidding yourself? Because the world is too powerful, and the devil is too conniving for you to just spend an hour with God each week. First, using human logic only, and not seeing the whole picture. Secondly, worship, personal worship goes by the wayside.
Thirdly comes the third step which is self-sufficiency. You look at your accomplishments. You look at your accumulations, and you're not necessarily verbalize what I'm going to say but do you think it inside, "Man, I'm good. Look what I did". Oh, thank God yes, you give him lip service. But then you go back and say, "I must be clever. I must be wise. I must be really, really good. Look where I came from. Look where I am now. I got myself here. Others may be falling and stumbling, but I am self-sufficient. I am financially independent. I don't owe anybody anything". Abraham probably thought to himself, "These dumb Egyptians". Now, I don't take that personally. I mean, I can out negotiate them. Sarah was not only my most important asset, she is a beautiful woman. "If Pharaoh ever finds out that Sarah is my wife, he's gonna kill me and add her to the concubines. So, I gotta scheme. I got a self-sufficient plan".
What is Abraham doing? Listen to me. He not only did not trust God to provide for him in the time of the famine in Canaan, he did not trust God to protect him from Pharaoh. He forgot the promise of God. Counting stars while you can't see any, that is the promise of God. And you want to say, "Hey, Abe, my man, didn't God say that you should be counting the stars because he's gonna give you descendants as many as the stars in the sky? Didn't God say, I'll give the land of Canaan to your descendants? Didn't God say"? "Oh, yeah, that was then, but that's now". Hello. And so, he takes matters into his own hand and concoct this scheme with Sarah.
Question: what was Abraham's number-one concern? His wife's husband, that was his number-one concern. Look at verses 11, 12 and 13. I have no doubt in my mind that Abraham probably did not think he was lying. "Well, at least it's not a black lie, it's a white lie. It's a half lie. It's not quite a full lie. Because in Genesis 20, verses 11 and 12 says that she's half sister, so it's really a half lie. It's a white lie. Back then, they did this kind of thing". And he probably reasoned in his head, he said, "You know, I really mean well, and I need to survive. I can out negotiate these Egyptians. I can drag this negotiation long enough until I leave Egypt". And it backfired.
Now, beloved, a lie is a lie, is a lie. And here's what God does. He does not wink at lie. He might not take you up on it, or you see the consequences the next day, or the next month, or the next year, but God never winks at sin. He does not. He forgives sins, but he doesn't wink at sin. Using human ingenuity and human logic, and not seeing the whole picture, stopping true worship, personal worship, becoming self-sufficient.
Fourthly, unconfessed sin will always lead to more sin, not less. And that will always happen when you cease to be a pilgrim and you become a spiritual drifter, it will always happen. God had to supernaturally intervene to protect Sarah's honor. God had to insert himself supernaturally to protect the promise that he made to Abraham of counting stars, even when he can't see any.
There is a world of difference between sinning and immediately repenting of your sin, and confessing and turning to the Lord, and sinning and staying in sin. There's a world of difference between the two. Because sin always, always, always adds to itself. It's like a snowball rolling down a hill. It gets bigger and bigger and bigger as it rolls down the hill. Don't ever forget what I'm gonna tell you. Sin is always bigger and stronger than you are, but it is not bigger and stronger than the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on Calvary. And that is why only the blood of Jesus Christ is the cure to all of our sins.
The fifth step in this downward direction is a terrible loss, terrible loss. Abraham's scheme turned into a disaster. Abraham thought that Sarah was his meal ticket. But alas, Abraham thought that he could stretch the negotiation with Pharaoh until he leaves, but it backfired. And I just want you to imagine Abraham at that moment of absolute shock, and absolute horror, and absolute terror and his heart pounding inside of him as they came and snatched Sarah away from his household and took her to Pharaoh. Beloved, listen to me. It may be another warning and a last warning to some of you. Whenever we choose convenience instead of obedience, we lose everything and we lose something very, very precious.
Someone said that the world might entreat us well, but that's a poor compensation for our losses. There's no altar in Egypt. There's no fellowship with God in Egypt. There's no new promise in Egypt, only desolation of his household. You remember when the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15 left home? When he left home, he said, "Give me". And then when he lost everything, he came back to his father and he said, "Make me". Whether you lost everything or you've got everything, it doesn't matter. Just say, "Make me". Say it with me, "Make me".
The downward slope begins with leaving God out of the picture, and using only human logic and stopping worship, becoming self-sufficient, which lead to an avalanche of sin and experiencing humongous loss. And finally and sixthly, unconfessed sin brings about rebuke and humiliation. The greatest blessing in the Christian faith, the greatest blessing is that God does not let go of his children. Did you get that? He never will let go of you. When he adopts you and gives you his last name, you are held in the very palms of his hands.
Jesus said, "Those whom the Father gives me, I lose none". You're a child of God, you will not be lost even if you try. Even if other try, if the world tries, Satan tries, you can never be lost. And I'm so grateful to the Lord for this. I'm so grateful that he pulled me by the back of my neck. And even now if you go to the places where I've been, you will see the mark of the heels of my feet in the sand as he dragged me back to himself. This is, my beloved friends, is the greatest news of all.
Now, some people might not see it that way because sometimes God does this by revealing, exposing our sin. Sometimes, we get rebuked by sin. Sometimes our sin can bring about deep humiliation as it happened to Abraham, but that's not bad news. That's good news because from eyes of eternity, he is saving you. He is saving your soul. Here we see a pagan Pharaoh, pagan Pharaoh, rebuking and straightening out the friend of God. Think about this, think about this. Pharaoh said, "What have you done? Why did you not tell me that she's your wife? Why did you tell me that she's your sister? Take her and get out of here".
It was a greatly subdued, humiliated and more importantly, wiser Abraham who departed from Egypt and back to Canaan. It might not be very pretty, a pretty sight, but sin is never pretty. It's never pretty. Even if society approves it, are you with me? The good news is this, Abraham is now back to Bethel worshiping again. Someone said that, had Abraham stayed in Canaan during the time of famine, no doubt he would have suffered, but his faith would have grown in leaps and bounds. He would have seen the hand of God working in a way he could never have dreamed of. He would have seen the supernatural, miraculous provision of God.
Thus the feminine that took him away from God would have been the instrument of God for his spiritual growth. When I was in my earlier days of walking with the Lord, a young Christian, and I would face an insurmountable circumstances, tough times and difficulties. My cries have always been to the Lord, "Get me out of this, God. What's happening to me, Lord? God, do you care? What happens to this, your child? Have you abandoned me"?
Now, after a few decades of walking with the Lord, when I face insurmountable difficulties, my prayer is, "Lord, I know this is another opportunity for me to trust you. Lord, this is another opportunity for me to watch your mighty hand at work. Lord, please use this opportunity to teach me, to grow me. And yes, I know you'll bless me in the process".
Abraham discovered the hard way that it takes more grace to stay in Canaan, than to run away from Canaan. Did you get that? Because God loves us, and he loves to rearrange our steps of faith to take us upward and onward, upward and onward. Can you say that with me? Upward and onward. Regardless of where you are, whether you're watching, whether you're here, regardless of whether you have gone all the six steps, or first step, or second step, or third, whatever you are, I believe with all my heart on the authority of God's Word, it's never too late to come back to the heart of worship.