Following God’s Will
By Dr. Charles Stanley
Abraham knew how to listen to God and follow Him—even when His commands were difficult or painful to obey. Although the patriarch made some mistakes, his life demonstrated remarkable faith and obedience.
The Lord revealed His plans for Abraham. He will be faithful to show us what He wants us to do as well. Listening to God is essential to walking with God (Life Principle #13).
1. The Lord revealed Abraham’s future and guided his steps.
Note: Abraham (“father of a multitude”) and Sarah (“princess”) were originally named Abram and Sarai. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll use the names God gave them, which indicate their destiny as patriarch and matriarch of the Jewish people.
- What did the Lord reveal to Abraham about his future (Gen. 12:1-3)?
- How did he respond to the command to “go forth from your country” (Gen. 12:4)?
What fact makes this particularly impressive (v. 4)?
- What details does Genesis 13:14-18 add to the original promise?
Why do you think God reiterated His pledge at this particular time?
- God promised Abraham—a man with a barren wife—that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. How did He view Abraham’s belief (Gen. 15:1-6)?
- In Genesis 17:8, what new dimension does God add to His promise?
2. The Lord redirected Abraham when he made mistakes.
- Why does Abraham father a child through Hagar, Sarah’s servant (Gen. 16:1-3)?
- Name some consequences of Abraham’s attempt to fulfill God’s promise on his own (Gen. 16:4-6, 11-12).
The passage doesn’t record whether or not God directly rebuked Abraham for his disobedience with Hagar. Perhaps the natural consequences of his sin were enough to cause the patriarch to repent.
- Between Ishmael’s birth and the next time the Scripture records the Lord speaking to Abraham, how many years pass (Gen. 16:16; 17:1)?
- What new detail does the promise include this time (Gen. 17:16)?
- What was Abraham’s reaction to the news that Sarah would bear a son at age 90 (Gen. 17:17)?
- Why do you think Isaac needed to be the son of promise, rather than Ishmael (Gen. 18-21)?
- When the time came, Sarah bore Abraham a son, just as the Lord had promised. Why did they name the baby “Isaac” (Gen. 21:6-7)?
3. God tested Abraham’s devotion.
In Abraham’s day, the Lord had yet to specifically forbid child sacrifice. (See Leviticus 20:1-5.) However, the godly did not practice it.
- How quickly does Abraham respond when God asks him to kill Isaac (Gen. 22:3)?
- Abraham was confident that both he and the child would return from the sacrifice (v. 5). Why (Heb. 11:17-19)?
- Given that “fear” can mean “to reverence,” what was the Lord’s intention in asking him to give up Isaac (Gen. 22:12)?
- Once again, God repeats His promise (vv. 15-18). Explain verse 18: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” (See Matthew 1:1 and Galatians 3:8 if necessary).
Application: God gave Abraham an amazing promise that became more specific over time. We should expect the Father’s guidance to come in stages, rather than all at once (Isa. 30:21).
- Has God ever given you a promise that was hard to believe? Or has He asked you to take a step of obedience that required a lot of faith? Explain what happened.
- What is your next step of obedience?
Although the Father promises to provide for us, we can get impatient. Then, like Abraham, we manipulate circumstances and experience the painful consequences of disobedience.
- Think about the last time you took action instead of waiting on God’s provision. What were the results?
Abraham’s disobedience affected not just him and his family, but also generations to follow. Our rebellion might not have the same far-reaching consequences, yet other people sometimes pay a high price for our wrongdoing. Even so-called “private” sins cause us to be less attentive to the needs of others.
- Think about a way you commonly disobey God. How does that sin affect those around you?
- The Lord dealt with Abraham’s faulty thinking by redirecting the patriarch’s attention to the divine promise and its fulfillment. When we wander from Him, He will remind us of Scripture verses, spiritual principles, or the peace and joy we once knew as faithful followers. What generally motivates you to repent?
Once the Lord fulfills a promise, He may test us—as He did Abraham—to see if we love Him more than we love His gifts.
- Has the Lord ever given you something and then asked you to surrender it to Him? Explain.
- Read Revelation 2:1-5. What is the solution for regaining your “first love” for God (v. 5)?
Closing: Although disagreements are a part of life, believers can learn how to rely on God in the midst of conflict. By depending on His guidance and strength, we can respond to conflict with integrity and avoid the poison of unforgiveness.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I don’t want anything to hurt my relationship with You. Help me to address disagreements directly—making peace with others so I will have peace with You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.