What would you have done?

During our Sunday School lesson, we studied Genesis 12 which tells how Abram followed God’s direction and moved to the land of Canaan. However, after some time, there was a severe famine which affected Abram’s situation. He eventually moved to Egypt where some negative things happened. Our lesson book made the assumption that Abram was wrong to move away from where God had told him to move. But that is not actually spelled out in the Scriptures. It left me wanting to ask the lesson’s author, “What would you have done?”

In tonight’s message, we will contemplate that question. First we will examine what Abram did and the results. Second, we will look at biblical principles that will help us to make our own decisions during difficult situations.

  1. What did Abram do? (Gen. 12:10-20)

    Genesis 12 is the inspired record of how Abram responded to a difficult situation. God gave us these stories for us to learn from so let’s take a look at what Abram did and what we can learn from his decisions. First, he made a decision based on the circumstances (10). A severe famine was affecting his ability to provide for his family, his servants, and his flocks and herds. Something had to be done and he decided to move to Egypt. Second, he preplanned how to handle a possible conflict (11-13). Abram knew what it was like in Egypt. Perhaps he had heard stories of how a man had been killed to acquire his wife. So he preplanned with Sarai how they would respond if there was a conflict. Third, he got himself into a bad situation (14-16). Despite his plan, the ruler of Egypt took Abram’s wife from him and made her part of his harem. Fourth, he escaped with God’s help (17-20). If it were not for God’s response, Abram and Sarai’s relationship would have been permanently ended. But God sent plagues that convinced the pharaoh to give her back to Abram.

    If you were to ask Abram about the decision he made, do you think he would have done things differently? Perhaps he would. But he faced a famine and the possibility of murder. He could look back and see how God protected him, but at the time, he had to make a decision and he did.

  2. What would you have done?

    Someone once disagreed with Dwight L. Moody about the way he gave the gospel. Moody responded by asking his critic how he gave the gospel. The man said that he did not, but that he still didn’t agree with Moody’s way of doing things. Moody then replied, “It is clear you don’t like my way of doing evangelism. You raise some good points. Frankly, I sometimes do not like my way of doing evangelism. But I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”

    As we consider what Abram did and the results that followed, it is easy for us to be critical of his decision making. But it would be much more difficult to make those decisions in the moment. So let’s be careful that we are not overly harsh in our criticism. Also let’s think through how we would have/could have responded in the same situation. What would you have done?

    a. The natural response

    I think it is unfair for us to judge Abram harshly for how he responded. It is far too easy to point out his lack of faith and not consider the difficulty his circumstances put him in.

    You would make a decision based on the circumstances.

    Famines are mentioned many times in the Bible: Abram (Gen. 12), Isaac (Gen. 26), Joseph (Gen. 41-45), Naomi (Ruth 1), David twice (2 Sam. 21; 1 Chron. 21), Samaria twice (1 Kings 18; 2 Kings 6), Elisha (2 Kings 8), Jerusalem under siege (2 Kings 25); and Agabus (Acts 11). During each of those times, the people were short on food and had to make a decision to provide for their families.

    If you were in the same situation, you would have to make a decision as well. As discussed this morning, several people in our church moved from another state to this area for work. When you need to provide for your family, you sometimes have to make a decision that is different than what you had originally planned. You do it in the best interest of your family.

    You would preplan how to handle a possible conflict.

    Abram and Sarai were going to be living in a land where people did not respect God or His ways. And it was a place run by a dictator named pharaoh. In that time, the pharaoh could do whatever he wanted. Knowing this fact caused Abram to preplan how they would handle the possible conflict.

    If you were in the same situation, you would have had to think about these possibilities. Since we live in a land where people often steal things, we lock our doors. Since we hear about criminal activity, we prepare ourselves in case something happens. This is not unusual. When our children were little, we taught them how to open the window and crawl onto the roof if there was a fire. These are wisdom issues and not necessarily a conflict with trusting in the Lord. We should know how to respond ahead of time.

    b. The biblical response

    While there are some natural responses that all of us would have had, there are also some responses that should result from what God teaches us in the Bible.

    You should consider what is best for everyone (Phil. 2:3-4).

    When Abram planned the half-truth about his relationship to Sarai, he only mentioned what would be best for him. As Christians, we are not called to be selfish but to care about both our needs and those of others.

    Philippians 2:3-4 – “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

    When we were considering the move to Willard, we were sure it was God’s will. However, one of the children had a hard time accepting that fact. Leaving our home of 16 years, friends at church and school, and the neighborhood we grew up in was very difficult. In the end, we made a decision based on what we felt God wanted even though it was difficult.

    Making decisions based only on what will affect one person can be described as selfish. God wants us to follow His example and to do what is best for the interests of all.

    You should ask God for wisdom (James 1:2-6).

    James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

    James begins his teaching by telling us to be joyful during trials as it is a test of our faith. As we go through the trial, we will learn patience. And once we have learned patience, we will become a mature Christian. So how should we respond the next time we face a trial? First, we should look at the trial as a challenge. God has chosen to give us the trial to test our faith. So, we should joyfully accept the challenge. Second, we should patiently trust in the Lord during that time. As we realize that it is from God, we will more easily wait for Him to work in us.

    You should rely on God (Prov. 3:5-6).

    There are sometimes where it seems that there is no right decision. While we consider what is best for all involved and ask God for wisdom, we won’t always know what the right decision is. This is where we prayerfully make a decision and then trust God to lead and provide.

    Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

    When I was the summer assistant at Peniel Bible Camp, I met a man who drove a van with part of this verse posted on the spare tire cover on the back of the van. He told me that he was surprised one day to see the driver of the car behind him getting out of his car and running up to his van. When he rolled down the window, the young man thanked him for the message on his van as he was learning to trust the Lord at that moment.

    Abram may not have learned this lesson yet. But after going through the situation in Egypt, he learned that God was trustworthy. God not only kept him safe from murder but also kept his wife from harm. When we make decisions, we should not scheme our way out of them by devious means. We shouldn’t lie about things to get out of trouble. What we should do is trust the Lord to completely, not trust in our own wisdom, acknowledge God’s part in our life, and then follow His leading.

Conclusion

Tonight, we have taken some time to critique the way Abram handled his situation. He did what he thought was best but made some decisions that don’t seem to reflect a strong trust in the Lord. Now that we’ve finished looking at him, how about we do something else. What if we were to look back on your life and judge some of the decisions you made in the past? It might be decisions regarding your children, your marriage, or your trust in the Lord. Hmm… suddenly we all want to sing the closing hymn and go home.

It is easy to look back at the past decisions of others and even of ourselves and notice how we didn’t trust the Lord. Sadly, this is true of all of us at various points in our lives. But as we learned this morning, we should follow Paul’s advice about the past.

Philippians 3:13-14 – “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

We can learn from mistakes we have made in the past. But we should not stay there. Instead, let us look toward the future goal of the Lord’s commendation. None of us is perfect and we all fail at some point. But with what we have learned tonight, let’s trust in the Lord and make the best decisions we can this week.

Bibliography

“Famines in the Bible,” as viewed at https://christiananswers.net/dictionary/famine.html on 4/23/2023.

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