by Alastair Sterne
January 23, 2020
6 min read
Imagine you’ve lived most of your years. Your hair has greyed. Lines crease your face. Your movements have slowed. Your bones creak a little. Sometimes audibly. The timbre of your voice has less range. Your recollection, well, what were you going to say about it? And imagine, for most of your years, you’ve stayed in the same place. You know the name of every road. Every neighbour. And every nook and cranny ever worth knowing.
You’re married to your same love. But there have never been any grandchildren or even children for that matter. Nevertheless, you’re reaching the end of your years. You’re old and contented.
But then God speaks.
“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
My imagination fails me when I try to put myself in old Abraham’s shoes.
Leave home? Become a great nation?
God goes on say things like, “I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted” (Gen 13:16) and “I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore” (Gen 22:17).
All this innumerable dust, stars, and sand sound nice—but it’s a promise for the young.
Doesn’t it require children?
Or even one?
Sarah laughed at the promise of God. Wouldn’t you? And when she turned 90 and finally conceived, she named the child Isaac which means laughter. Wouldn’t you?
The promise didn’t come quickly. And Abraham and Sarah never lived to see the entirety of it either. They saw the beginning of God’s great promise, but not the finale.
It all started with God speaking to an old couple. It began with God setting them off on a journey when they likely thought the season for journeys was over.
Shortly after the promise in Genesis 12, God takes Abraham on a short tour of the land he will inherit. Abraham has encountered God. He has the promise, he has seen the land, he learns how to “call upon the name of the Lord.” But after the promise was made, something unexpected comes next:
Abraham and Sarah head down to Egypt. And quickly, a scarcity mindset kicks in. Abraham becomes self-protective, understandably so. When they arrive in Egypt, he asks Sarah to lie and say she is his sister. But my intention isn’t to unpack that peculiar choice (I don’t recommend it), but to look at the circumstances that led to it.
Abraham has a promise.
He has seen the land.
Then there’s a famine.
And a scarcity mindset kicks in.
A scarcity mindset says, “This isn’t going to work, there isn’t enough—I will have to make my own way.”
If you follow Jesus, you have Abraham to thank. Or at least, you have the promise God fulfilled through Abraham. He was and is the true offspring of Abraham, the One through whom the whole world is blessed.
Jesus invites us to live as if our measure is overflowing. Because God delights in giving us the good gift of himself—the Holy Spirit.
We meet Jesus Christ and we hear that all the promises of God find their Yes in him. We hear the good news that our sins are forgiven, our debts erased, our shackles unlocked, our broken hearts restored, and our suffering temporary, because our impending deaths have been transformed into the doors of everlasting life. And to top off all these promises, Jesus assures us that he will return and make everything new—he will usher in a kingdom of perfect peace and justice.
We have great promises.
Then there’s a famine.
For those of us in the West, it’s not a literal famine. But for all of us, the famine is the reality that the promise meets us in a world aching for the promise to be fulfilled.
And it’s not yet.
The disorientation and challenge of living in what scholars call “the already not yet” of God’s promise and kingdom cannot be overstated.
We look at the promise.
Then we look at a life—unfilled desires, shattered dreams, tragic suffering, and the sting of death.
And a scarcity mindset kicks in.
We start to play it safe, because what if there isn’t enough? We strive to create the best conditions for ourselves because God has his promise, but you have the grit of life to figure out. We calculate, we strategize, we plan—because the promise is nice, but what about everything else?
I know this all too well.
Instead, God invites us to live as if there is abundance—what Jesus calls “life abundant.” Jesus invites us to live as if our measure is overflowing. Because God delights in giving us the good gift of himself—the Holy Spirit (see Jn 10:10, Lk 6:38, and Lk 11:13).
Like Abraham, God has given us a promise. Jesus invites us to follow him. It is a great journey. It is unpredictable. It is risky. And at times, we will fall into playing it safe because we focus on what we lack, or the limits around us. But when Abraham gave into this common temptation, God thwarted his self-protective efforts. The “little” deceptions were always exposed by those deceived. And all of the dire events, the anxious and fearful possibilities that Abraham imagined, that flowed freely from his scarcity mindset, didn’t end up happening after all (see Gen 12:10-20 and Gen 20).
The promise invites an abundance mindset.
But abundance doesn’t mean every dream comes true, all desires are fulfilled, along with health, wealth, and prosperity, as some falsely teach. Abundance means you have tapped into something deeper, substantial, and real—the very life of God himself.
My point is this:
When everything in you says to play it safe because reality outweighs the promise—do the opposite.
Because the promise outweighs the temporary setbacks, afflictions, and trials we face in this world. And in the midst of it all, even when famine surrounds, abundance can be found.
Because Jesus Christ is the promise.
And he walks with us on this journey toward its total fulfilment.
And when his kingdom finally arrives, I don’t know about you, but I want to have risked and truly lived as if it was already here.
And even if you fall short, God will bring you all the way home out of scarcity and into abundance.
May you find abundance in the promise.