Allow Yourself to Be Pleasantly Surprised

Give people a chance

Who Do You Want to Emulate

On Friday night I asked this on Facebook and Twitter:

If there is anyone (alive or dead) you would like to emulate, who is he/she? How are you doing? Do you care? Do you _really_ care?

The reason I posted it is because there are some people on both who I really care for…and who I know could answer the first question…but don’t really spend time pondering the other three. For instance, as Christians we all want to be like Jesus, right?

How are we doing? How are you doing?

If we are honest and (generally) answer, “Not so good”…do we care? Do we really care?

If we really care we would be actively pursuing fixing it, right?

And on social media there are tons of people who I’m pretty sure would say they want to be like X, but they don’t show it in their actions. It saddens me. Too often, I sadden me. 🙁

A Friend of God

Now, I suspect if I asked a Jew in Jesus’ day, “If there is anyone (alive or dead) you would like to emulate, who is he/she?,” a decent number of folks would say, “Abraham.”

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

And with good reason. Abraham is somebody worth looking up to. If he wasn’t, we wouldn’t read this in Hebrew’s “faith chapter”…chapter 11…Hebrews 11:8-9 to be specific:

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.

Now, if those words aren’t complimentary enough about Abraham, how about these three excerpts from God’s Word?:

#1:

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God (James 2:21-23).

#2:

And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, 6 and said, “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. 7 Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? (2 Chronicles 20:5-7).

#3:

8  But you, Israel, my servant,

Jacob, whom I have chosen,

the offspring of Abraham, my friend; (Isaiah 41:8)

What did all three of those sets of verses say Abraham was?

God’s friend!

And the last one was God directly saying it!

Would you like to be called a friend by God?

I know I would!

So, would you like to be like Abraham?

A “Liar, Liar”

Which made part of Saturday’s Bible reading all the more a head-scratcher. I’ve been through the Bible end-to-end about a half-dozen times now, and I’m sure I’ve read this chapter otherwise too, so it wasn’t a surprise…but let’s read portions of Genesis 20 together right now and see just how much we might want to emulate Abraham:

20 From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours” (Genesis 20:1-7).

What has happened in the narrative so far?

Abraham is traveling and stops in Gerar. Then, Abraham doesn’t admit that Sarah is his wife, and the king takes her. God doesn’t look to kindly on adultery, and tells Abimelech he’s going to die…at which point the king reminds the Lord that both Abraham and Sarah had not mentioned that they were married…and God basically says, “Yeah, I knew that…but you still better return her to Abraham or else.”

Let’s return to the narrative, reading verses 8-13:

8 So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” 10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?” 11 Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. 13 And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, “He is my brother” ‘ ” (Genesis 20:8-13).

So now, Abimelech says, “What the heck Abraham?! Why did you set me up?!” and Abraham answers, “I was scared and, besides, she really is my sister.”

Hmmm…

After we read the first seven verses of chapter 20, I purposely avoided saying Abraham or Sarah had lied because of that “half-sister/half-brother” technicality…but, in all honesty, did they lie to Abimelech?

Yes! Even if your words are technically accurate, if you know what a person is really asking and knowingly allow them to come away with a false perception, you are lying…and we’ve discussed before who the father of lies is (see John 8:44).

Hint, he is not someone you want to emulate.

And sadly, in this case, Abraham is not either. God, at least indirectly (see Genesis 12:1-3), promised Abraham protection and yet he said, “I [lied] because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.'”

In faith, Abraham may have left home…but he sure had some trust issues beyond that, didn’t he? I mean, this is the second time he lied and had Sarah lie about their relationship to protect himself (see Genesis 12:10-19).

Of course, just like we do if we allow it, Abraham grew in the Lord, and we see his faith in full bloom when he was willing to give up his miraculous son in Genesis 22…

Abimelech

On that note, I want to return to the second most important human in Genesis 20…Abimelech.

If you were going to summarize Abraham’s original feelings about Abimelech, what were they?

That Abimelech did not fear…did not respect…God and was willing to commit murder for lust.

Technically it was worse, because Abraham thought of it of the king’s whole country…

Was Abraham right about Abimelech?

I’ll admit that Genesis 20 does not 100% prove Abraham was incorrect…Abimelech’s righteous actions once he knew the truth may have been just to save his own skin…but it surely appears that Abraham was wrong.

Abraham did not give Abimelech a chance to act righteously, instead assuming the worst. Now, I’m not saying Abraham’s view of Abimelech and the folks in his kingdom were unwarranted, my guess is they were some pretty uncouth people.

But, in this situation, who seemed more righteous…God’s friend or the king?

The king.

Now, let me ask you this: do you ever do what Abraham did?

I’m not specifically talking about the lying…although I hope that if that is one of your lingering sins, you conquer it.

I am talking about assuming someone else will do something wrong, so you don’t give them the opportunity to do what is right.

Assuming the worst and not allowing them to show their best.

Have you done that?

Judge Rightly

Which brings us to Jesus…

And isn’t that always a great place to be? 🙂

We join our Lord when he’s at the temple, teaching the crowd. Let’s look at a single statement in John 7:24 from his exchanges with the crowds:

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Do you agree with Jesus’ command?

I mean, it is a command, not a suggestion, right?

If you assume someone won’t do something right, so you don’t give them the chance to…

Are you not judging by appearances?

And if they would have done what was right and you don’t give them a chance, did you judge with right judgement?

As You Measure

Of course, this isn’t the only time that Jesus spoke about judging…another famous (and often abused) bit of advice from Him can be found in Matthew 7:1-2:

7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

The part that is abused is verse one, which people use to claim we should not judge at all. Rebutting that isn’t within the scope of this sermon, but…what we read in John 7:24 alone proves that’s an incorrect interpretation.

Instead, we are supposed to judge fully aware that as we judge…as we measure…we will be judged and measured. Not to mention, just a little further down the page we hear Jesus say:

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12).

Have you ever been misjudged?

How did it feel?

Has anyone ever assumed you wouldn’t do something right, and didn’t give you the opportunity?

How did it feel?

Being judged negatively is never fun, but it is especially horrible when it is wrong…when you would have done something right…if only given a chance.

If you don’t like that, why would you do it to other people?

And don’t forget…you have both a command and a threat from God on top of it.

What I am saying is…

Give people a chance. Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised.

Abraham didn’t give Abimelech a chance. Abraham misjudged Abimelech.

Don’t emulate Abraham in that respect.

Give people a chance. Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised.

Don’t Be Stupid

I’ve titled this final section of my sermon, “Don’t Be Stupid.”

Yes, I’ve asked that you…

Give people a chance. Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised.

But don’t be stupid about it. As Ronald Regan said regarding Russia…using a Russian proverb, “Trust, but verify.” The same Jesus who told us to judge rightly…and to treat others as we want to be treated…knew something we should also be aware of:

But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:24-25).

Jesus know what was in man, and it’s not good. We can judge rightly that what is inside man is bad, and we should…in right ways…protect ourselves and our families against that.

Give people a chance. Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised.

But don’t walk down a dark alley in a bad part of a city…

Or a dark alley in a bad part of your life, especially when the ramifications could hurt others.

Be Like Jesus

Ultimately, be like Jesus, the quintessential second chance giver. He died so we could have a second, third, fourth…well, you see where this is going. 🙂

Jesus died on the cross to give us a chance.

And although it is impossible for God to be surprised…I know I have been pleasantly surprised at what people, given a chance, will actually do.

Especially when the light of Jesus shines on them…when the light of Jesus changes them.

Be like Jesus. Give people a chance. Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised.


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