Michael Youssef - Counting Stars Turns You Into Rambo
Fear of failure keeps many a person from reaching their full potential for God. Fear of criticism holds people back from accomplishing great things for God. Fear of the unknown, my goodness, I mean, it chains some people into what is comfortable and into what is familiar, and they refuse to be challenged and they refuse to take steps of faith. But do you know that there is a type of fear that only manifests itself after a great victory, after a great success, after a great blessing? I'm gonna explain that. There is a type of fear that only moves in on us after a great achievement or a great accomplishment. And the Bible gives us many examples of this. Whenever you see God saying to someone, "Fear not," it's because that person is fearful.
He may not have said it, he might not have verbalized it, but God does not waste words. God does not use words superfluously. And I want you to turn with me to Genesis chapter 15, verse 1. Here comes God in a vision to Abraham, and he said to him, "Fear not, I am your shield; and your great reward". Now, just to take a moment and bring you up to speed, we saw first of all, Abraham left the Ur of Chaldeans, his home. Then, due to the influence of his moon-worshiping father, they get to Haran. There they stayed. They took a detour from where God told them to go. And then, when his father, Terah, dies, Abraham continues on his way to where God promised him to go, the land of Canaan. And when he gets to Canaan, not only that the Canaanites were there, sitting there smiling at him, but there was a shortage of food. There was no food in Canaan.
So, Abraham takes matters into his own hands, doesn't go back to the Lord and ask for help. He goes to Egypt. Egypt was not dependent on rain like Canaan is. Egypt is dependent on the River Nile, so they always had food. And so, he goes to Egypt, but he goes there, in order to survive, he schemes, he lies, he plans, and he plots. But God supernaturally deliver and keep Sarah's honor by striking Pharaoh. And finally, Pharaoh says to him, "Get out of here and leave. You lied to me and you told me Sarah was your sister when she is your wife". And so, they get out, go back to Canaan. When they get to Canaan, they look over the land, and his greedy nephew who has been tagging along on his journey, Lot, looks at the land and he sees the lush one. He sees the fertile land and he said, "I want that one".
The magnanimous, generous, gracious Uncle Abraham was contented to take the land that is less productive, and he gave him what he wanted. That land was the land of Sodom and Gomorrah. Now you can look at chapter 14. Here, you're gonna find that the promise of counting stars has turned Abraham into an Old Testament Rambo. There were terrorists in the area, and these terrorists came to Sodom and Gomorrah, to these little towns down in the Dead Sea, and they not only ransacked the whole town, but they took some hostages with them. These gunmen took these hostages by force. Look at verse 12. Among those were taken hostage was Abraham's nephew, Lot. These terrorists from Shinar, Ellasar, Elam, and Goyim. They kidnapped Lot and his family for a ransom. One of the kidnapped boys cuts loose, runs back, goes to Uncle Abraham, and he said, "Your nephew Lot and his family, he has been taken hostage". And so, magnanimous, generous, loving Uncle Abraham springs to action.
Now, I want you to remember, he was 85. Okay, just keep that in your head, all right? Armed with the promise of God to count stars when there are none, imbued by God's supernatural intervention and delivering him from the consequences of his own sin, empowered by genuine compassion, Abraham takes 318 Green Berets, rescue squad, and he storms the place. Now, it's not in your Bible. Just like a friend of mine said, I'm not exaggerating, I'm just blowing it up so you can see it. But that's really what happened. I'd like to have those boys around. Hear me right, please.
You can be absolutely sure that when Abraham and his 318 Green Beret commandos came back to town, they received a hero's welcome, because they came with all the hostages, and all the goodies that were stolen, and they marched through the town, and there they received a hero's welcome. That excitement was so impactful that the King of Sodom who lost his country and got it back got so excited that he hands Abraham a blank check with only his signature on it. He said, "Fill in the amount".
Now, here's an important point. Don't miss this. Had Abraham accepted this offer, he would've been what kids say, a gazillionaire. His empire stretched from sea to sea, and there is no doubt the offer was tempting. He's made of flesh and blood, right? It was tempting. But here, Abraham remembers the promise of God, counting stars without seeing any, because God is the one who's gonna bless him, and he turns that generous offer flat down. Look at verses 22 and 23, chapter 14, "I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth". Not a gazillion dollars, but possessor of all of heaven and all of earth. "I will not take a thread of anything from you, lest you should say, 'I made Abraham rich.'"
All I want to say is wow. The reason so many people get squirmish, and worried, and anxious about their so-called financial security, do you know why they do that? Do you know why so many people leave God out of their finances, and they'll work diligently organizing their finances? Listen, you can spin it any which way you want to, but I'm gonna give you the bottom line, and the bottom line is because they have failed to recognize that God and only God is their provider. When you come to the realization that none but God is your provider, that he always keeps his promises, you will not be insecure. You will live in fear about financial future if you think somebody and someone or somewhere is your provider and is your blesser.
To compound this incredible trust in the provision of God, when Melchizedek shows up from nowhere, Abraham takes not 10% of his income, not 10% of his salary, 10% of his entire net worth, and he gives it to him. Melchizedek, which means, "The king of righteousness and the king of peace," Hebrews chapter 7 tells us he's a type of Christ. He's a type of Christ. Abraham gives him 10% of everything. Not only did Abraham turn down this big fortune because he's trusting in God as his provider, but he turns around and gives away a tenth of everything that he owns. And so, Melchizedek brings wine and bread and he has communion with Abraham. He's a type of Christ.
Melchizedek, Psalm 110 said, "It's the High Priest of the highest order, and his name is Jesus". This is the pre-incarnate Jesus, and he appeared many times in the Old Testament. Theologians have a big name to describe this. They call it theophany. That's when Jesus appeared. The pre-incarnate Jesus appeared in the Old Testament and we see that in a number of occasions. After this great military victory, after turning down a huge fortune, after taking 10% of everything he owns and gives it to God, Abraham gets into a funk. Have you ever been there? I have.
Some of you know what I'm talking about. I mean, when you are physically, and emotionally, and spiritually absolutely spent, wiped out. If you've ever experienced a great victory over the enemy of your soul, if you ever battled in the spiritual battle and you came on the winning side, you know what I'm talking about. You will understand the absolute drain that takes place after you made a sacrifice for the Lord. You get so wiped out because you are fighting doubt, you are fighting apprehension, and you're fighting remorse, and you're fighting all kinds of feelings inside of you.
Some of you are saying, "Wait a minute, Michael. When I experience that kind of thing, I'm on top of the world". How come Abraham feels down after he's securely home? I read something years, and years, and years ago, and it stayed with me and I'll never forget it, and it goes something like this. Cowards fear before the battle, but heroes fear after the battle. This was Abraham. This was true of Abraham. You say, "Well, how do you know that"? Well, that's where you get back to 15:1, chapter 15, verse 1. "The Word of the Lord came to Abraham in a vision, saying: 'Do not fear, Abraham.'" God doesn't waste words. "Do not fear, Abraham, I am your shield; and your great reward".
Abraham steps down from the pinnacle of victory and he was about to plunge into depression when the gracious hand of God grabbed him in mid-fall. Isn't that wonderful? That's why I love the Word of God. I really love the Word of God because it tells you everything. It doesn't give you the stuff that you just wanna know or to make you feel good. It tells you everything. So, don't miss what I'm gonna tell you. God did not say to Abraham, "Abraham, don't fear. Remember my promise of telling you to count stars when you can't even see any? Abraham, don't fear. Remember, I protected you against Pharaoh in Egypt and I got you out whole? Abraham, don't be afraid. Can't you see how I gave you the strength of a hundred men and you took on all those four armies"?
You know, that would've been fine. If the Lord said that, that would've been fine. But God said, "The reason you should not be afraid is because I am your shield". A shield completely covers you from all of the enemy's weapons. As if to say to Abraham, "Abraham, you are under my impenetrable cover. Abraham, you are under my strong care. Abraham, you are in my protection program. Abraham, your enemies will not be able to get to you before they get to me first".
He says in addition to being a shield, he said, "I am your great reward. I am your great reward". All that God is, all that God has, "I am your great reward. Not only that you are under my cover, not only you are under my protection program, but when you receive me," and this is a Word of God to everyone who's listening, and he is saying, "I will satisfy your lonely heart. I will fill your empty void. I am the only one who give joy to the joyless. I am the only one who compensate the victims. I am the only one who vindicate the righteous. I am the only one who supply all of your needs according to the riches of glory, Christ Jesus," amen.
When you trust God as your true provider, true provider, when you trust God with your tithe and offerings, when you trust God, when you take tangible steps of faith and say, "Well, when this happen, I do this". No, you say, "Lord, I'm gonna take a step of faith at the front end". God not only meet all of your needs, but he's gonna give you himself. What does God mean, "I am your great reward"? It means that you will share everything that God has. Listen, Abraham received many revelations. We saw some, and we're gonna see some more. The Lord revealed himself to him in his lifetime. All of them, all of them has God's name attached to it. Abraham got to know God as Jehovah-jireh, his provider. He got to know God as El Elyon, the Most High God, Creator of all things. He got to know God as his protector. He got to know God as his defender.
Now, beloved, if you have placed your whole trust in Jesus, here's what Paul said in Romans 8:17. Memorize it. Paul is talking about the adoption, God adopting us as his children, and he said, "If we are children, then we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ". There is a world of difference between a single heir and being one of ten. A single heir inherits everything. If you're one of ten, you're gonna get only 10%, right? Am I right? But if you are co-heirs, that's very different. Even if you are one of a billion, everyone inherits the whole thing. I told you, it's mind-blowing. Everyone inherits the whole thing, undivided. That means that everything belongs to Christ is yours, all of it. And yours, and yours, and yours, all of it. We're not just gonna get a piece of the action, we're gonna get the whole enchilada.
In Genesis 15:2-3, you see Abraham yearning for assurance. Again, that's okay. You would think verse 1 would've been sufficient when he said to him, "I am your shield; I am your great reward," and yet in verses 2 and 3, particularly 2, you see a note of despair, a note of disappointment, a note of discouragement in Abraham's voice. All of us can sympathize with Abraham. I know God does and God did. See, God made him a promise ten years ago. He was 75 years old.
Now, ten years later and the biological clock, not only his, but Sarah's. And he began to say, "God, I trust you, but what's going on here? It's been ten years". And by the way, there's still more. You know what? Most of us give up in ten days, or ten weeks, or ten months. Here he is, going around introducing himself as the man who's counting stars. And probably some of his neighbors are saying, "Abe, how many kids do you have"? "Well, actually, I have none, but God promised me". They're probably snickering behind his back, and maybe people are beginning to wonder if he's okay up in the head.
Some of you who read my book, "Trust and Obey", know I was 18 when God made me a promise that he supernaturally is gonna deliver me. And I made the mistake of sharing it with some Christian friends. Be very careful what you share with Christian friends. And so, 18 months later, nothing happened. Some of them went to my older siblings and they said, "We're really, deeply concerned about Michael's state of mind". And I heard about it, I went back to the Lord, and the Lord fulfilled it to the T. Beloved, God's delay are never his denial. Can you say that with me? But you need to be absolutely sure that you are hearing God and not hearing yourself, 'cause a lot of people hear themselves and they say, "Well, God told me".
Verse 3, Abraham was doing his estate planning. I think everybody should do estate planning. And he was doing his estate planning, and he decided to share his estate plan with God. He said, "My faithful servant," this is the chief of staff, "Eliezer of Damascus, he's gonna inherit my estate". He's still looking for that assurance from God, and God was so gracious to him in response. He was so gracious to him and he renews his promise to Abraham. In verse 6 of chapter 15, it says, "Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited to him as righteousness".
I can tell you before God, I could take three sermons on that one verse. But suffice it to say, and if this is not gonna bless you and keep you on high, not just today, but for the rest of your life, I'll be surprised, because here it is. God gave him the faith to believe, and then he gives him credit for it. Isn't that like our God? Isn't that like our God? Let me tell you this as I conclude. It doesn't matter where you are, it doesn't matter the degree of your despair, it doesn't matter the length of your waiting for him, you can begin to trust him afresh now, today, this very moment.
And then, you can say with Peter... remember Peter was fishing all night and he caught nothing? And Jesus comes in, and he says, in the middle of the day, fishes go to sleep in the middle of the day, you know? "Get out there, cast the net". And Peter says, "Lord, we've been trying all night. We know when we can catch fish. But on the strength of your Word, we'll cast the nets". Even if you see no hope, even if you see no glimmer, you can say to God, "I have been fishing all night, but on the strength of your Word, I'll cast my nets".