“After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’ But Abram said, ‘Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ Then Abram said, ‘Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!’ And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, ‘This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.’ Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Then He said to him, ‘I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.’”
God said to Abraham, our ancestor of faith, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Today I want to share the Word with you about “What kind of faith should we have?” In other words, I want to share with you about faith that leads you to the blessing of God, and I want this faith to become your shield and your exceedingly great reward. I know that faith in God that becomes one’s shield and exceedingly great reward is a blessed and great faith. Let us now look in detail about how Abraham was able to attain such faith.
In the Book of Genesis chapter 12 we read of an account of Abraham selling his wife due to his weaknesses, but afterwards coming to attain much wealth because of it. After becoming wealthy like this, Abraham separated from his nephew Lot. Lot became jealous of Abraham and left for the land of Sodom that God forbade them to go. However Abraham did not leave but instead stayed on in that land. Lot made a fleshly choice, while Abraham on the other hand followed after the Word of God.
In the Book of Genesis chapter 14 we read about Abraham plunging into war with his warriors to rescue Lot. He won that war and brought back the people who were taken as well as many spoils of the war. And the king of Sodom who went out to greet Abraham said to Abraham, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself” (Genesis 14:21). He said, “I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’—except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion” (Genesis 14:23-24).
Today’s Scripture passage is about the Word that follows this incident. God manifested Himself to Abraham who became his shield, who did not cling to material wealth and gave to him an exceedingly great reward. Abraham did not request this, but God promised this first from His standpoint, saying, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” (Genesis 15:1).
How Does Such Faith and Such Belief Manifest Itself before the Presence of God?
Starting from the Book of Genesis chapter 12 we read how Abraham did not seek material wealth for himself but instead followed after the Word of God. Even when he separated from his nephew Lot he said, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left” (Genesis 13:8-9). When a dispute on material concern arose between Abraham and his nephew, Abraham told Lot to leave him without hesitation. Abraham said that he could not dwell together with him anymore. Then his nephew Lot left Abraham and embarked on a journey towards the land of Sodom. At that time only all the evil people who opposed God lived in the land of Sodom, but Lot nevertheless left God and went into this region which was full of evil people. After that, as it shows in the Book of Genesis chapter 14, Chedorlaomer and his allies attacked the king of Sodom and his allies and drove out the king of Sodom. They took all the people that were living in the land of Sodom and confiscated all their wealth as spoils.
When Abraham heard this news he went after them with 318 of his trained servants who were born and raised in his house and rescued Lot and everything they took. He brought back not only the people, but also brought back the wealth and material things that was taken away. Greeting Abraham who was returning from the war victoriously, the king of Sodom said, “Give me back the persons, and take the goods for yourself.” How did Abraham respond to this? Abraham refused this request from the king of Sodom, saying, “I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich. So we see here that Abraham did not stick to material greed even when he had a chance to take the spoils that were as big as a mountain. God appeared to Abraham immediately after this incident and said to him, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
Like this, Abraham was always conscious of God whilst he was living in this world. He was not like this always but he acknowledged the fact that “God protects me and blesses me when I follow after God.” Even if God had not given such blessings to Abraham, he would still have followed the Word of God from the beginning, and that is the reason why he is praised as the greatest ancestor of faith among so many people that have lived on this earth. Abraham truly was the person who was most faithful. He faced and instead chose to follow after God at every turn. And because of this God became his shield and a reward. God made this promise personally even before Abraham requested this.
You and I must also cast away the greed of the flesh and material things and follow after God with a pure spirit if we want to become a person of sincere faith like Abraham, and also become someone who follows after God properly. When we become like this, I believe that Jehovah God will become our shield and the reward in our faith and make us the righteous people. A person of faith cannot follow the Lord properly if he has a heart full of material greed. God tells us this truth today through the events between Abraham and Lot.
What is the outcome of Lot who left God and went out into the world with a heart chasing after material things? He lost all his material wealth and everything he had and was ruined. But on the other hand God came personally to Abraham and blessed him because he followed after the Word of God instead of material things. God gave Abraham the blessing by faith that He would become his shield and reward and become Abraham’s security. Abraham’s faith became even more formidable after receiving such blessing by faith from God. The faith of his heart became more firmly rooted by his faith of believing in God and who became his shield and his reward.
We Cannot Serve God and Mammon Together
Actually, we cannot easily have perfect faith by throwing away the greed for material things completely and following only after God because we are still fleshly beings. God said, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13), but how are we really? We try to amass material things while believing in God at the same time. But you and I must always remember this Word of the Lord that we cannot serve God and mammon at the same time. Although we are not perfect, we must know that we cannot follow after God if we lean towards material things.
We can follow after God properly and possess this precious faith before the presence of God, in other words, to possess the same faith that Abraham had we must separate ourselves from material things and seek after God spiritually. Abraham believed in God and confessed, “The Lord is my shield, my exceedingly great reward.” I want this faith that God gave to Abraham to be fulfilled in you and me also. If we desire to have this faith that only God is my God and who will protect me, who will bless me, and who will reward me, we must first leave the material world and follow after the Lord only. We must first throw away material greed in order to have this precious faith like Abraham.
The truth is that it is very difficult for us who still live in the flesh to leave material things completely behind while living in this world. But nevertheless we can at least depart from it in our hearts. We can keep our hearts away from material things and look to God only. I believe that God will manifest Himself in our hearts, and also take root in our hearts and will protect and reward us when we keep our hearts away from material things and follow after God properly. I believe that God will grant you the same faith like Abraham had only if you throw away material things from your heart.
But what would happen if we tried to attain material things whilst following God at the same time? Today God is telling us clearly that such a person would become like Lot. Such a person would eventually end up being destroyed like the way Lot lost all his material wealth. In the Book of Genesis chapter 13, there is an account of Lot leaving Abraham after disputing with him. Of course God appeared to Abraham many times, but this was the first time when God appeared to Abraham personally like this and spoke to him. Immediately after Lot left Abraham, God appeared to Abraham and said, “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever” (Genesis 13:14-15). As we can see in the Word, God appeared to Abraham who gave up all the spoils that the king of Sodom suggested to give him. And God said that He would become the shield and the reward for Abraham. God knew very well that Abraham did not cling to material things. Therefore God was pleased whenever He saw such upright faith of Abraham, and therefore He appeared to him and spoke these comforting Words of benediction.
It is impossible for us to live apart from material things because we are still fleshly beings who live in this world. But nevertheless, we can at least be like that with our hearts. We can keep our hearts away from material things and follow after God properly. You and I can also have this precious faith that God had given to Abraham when we keep our hearts away from the material world, follow after God only with such a heart and spirit, love God only, and follow Him only. We come to have such a blessed faith when we cast away material greed from our hearts completely. Dear fellow believers, I want you to remember this. Our hearts must depart from material things. Only then can we surely follow after the Lord. The Scriptures tells us clearly that it is possible for a human heart to follow only after the Lord, by not following after mammon.
Therefore, you and I must cast all greed for material things out from our hearts. Only then can we possess upright faith and belief. I want you to remember that we can always become a person of upright faith just like Abraham and also receive the same precious blessings that Abraham had received if we do not follow after material things.
Let’s Separate the Spirit from the Flesh
We must live the spiritual life after clearly dividing the spirit and the flesh because we are still fleshly beings who possess both the spirit and the flesh. We cannot possess proper faith if the spirit and the flesh are mixed together. We must not allow our fleshly thoughts of following after material things be mixed in with our pure spirit. We must keep our hearts distant from the desire of trying to also attain material things if we want to follow God properly. Dear fellow believers, there must be a clear distinction in our hearts and we should stay far away from material things. Only then can we really have this upright faith and pure faith. Only then can we believe and follow after God and receive blessings from God and become a person of faith because of God.
Our hearts must depart from following after Mammon. However, it is not easy for us who are still in the flesh to throw away our material greed. Do you think that we could do this, if we were to go into a mountain range where there are not any material temptations and practice asceticism? No, that is not true. We cannot completely sweep away our material greed even if these things are not around us, and only natural created things surround us. It is impossible as long as we are still in the flesh.
However, we cannot completely depart from greed of following after material things in our hearts. Although we cannot do this at least our hearts can become distant from trying to attain material things. Please remember: Our hearts must always keep its distance from material things. Only then can we have this precious faith like that of Abraham. We can possess the faith that only God is our God, and only God shall protect us, and only God shall bless us only when our hearts become distant from material things. We can become someone who seeks only after God properly and receive happiness and blessing if we have such a heart.
True faith manifests itself when our hearts have departed from material things. We can have faith like Abraham when we from the heart keep our distance from material things. This genuine faith is possible when our hearts at least have left material things although our flesh still lives in this world. Our hearts must depart from material things. How can we really believe in and follow after God if our hearts keep following after material things? If we do this then we will continue to cling onto material things and live as slaves to them just like Abraham’s nephew Lot.
If a person can profess his faith before the presence of God like Abraham by saying, “The Lord is my shield, my exceedingly great reward,” then he is a person whose heart has already departed from following after material things. When such a person should receive material things, it means that he has received these things because God has blessed him, and not because he has sought after these material things. We must therefore desire to have faith like Abraham had. And our hearts must depart from material things first in order to have such faith. Although our flesh cannot depart from material things, at least our hearts must depart from these things. Although we live in the world of material things, and it is obvious that we need material things, but we must not make these material things to be our all in all. We must not have a heart of seeking after material things. We must have such a faith.
Let’s Prepare for the End Times and Possess Faith That Makes Us Departed from Material Things
“The Lord is my shield, my exceedingly great reward.” The writers of the Book of Psalms had strong faith like this Word. They were able to confess before the presence of God like this because they knew well that no material thing in the world is more precious than God. Even while living in this fleshly world, at least their hearts did not consider material things as more important than God. I hold Abraham in high regard for the fact that he really did not have any desire in his heart that sought after material things. I am reiterating this, but there will be times when we unknowingly follow after material things although our hearts do not seek after these things.
I thought about the following while purchasing rice for the Church, “God keeps me alive even if I do not purchase and store up rice like this. Must I really do this? Do I have to make a telephone call to our saints and inform them not to store up rice for the last days because God will keep our saints alive even if I do not do this? But this is not for me. A terrible problem will soon become a reality because of a food shortage. So it is an absolute necessity to purchase rice and store it for the saints and the Church, and therefore I am not doing this for myself. The Bible tells us that Joseph was able to live prosperously because he had stored up enough food to last for seven years? When God said there would be seven years of bountiful harvest and following that seven years of famine while other nations lived lavishly and wasted everything, but Joseph stored up food in preparation for the pending severe famine. Because Joseph followed the Word of God wisely like this, many people were able to eat and drink during those 7 years of famine, and because of this he became the Prime Minister of Egypt. This is speaking to us about the gospel ministry. It is telling us that we must prepare now to preach the gospel in these end times. I am recording my sermons and making books from them like this all to prepare for the spiritual famine when we will not be able to preach the gospel anymore, and should I not prepare for this fleshly food in a like manner also? God told us that He would make a way of escape for this pending tribulation and bless us if we just endure for those three and a half years. Then we would meet the Lord and live prosperously forever if we just endure for a short while. Would it not be better to prepare for it beforehand for the flesh since there will be a difficult period in the future?”
Naturally the saints would resent it if we were to purchase huge quantities of rice and store it only to be spoiled by insects. But if the saints come to know this pending time of tribulation and know that they must prepare for it by faith that will be good enough. So, I am thinking about purchasing a small amount of rice this fall. We will build a warehouse in our Discipleship Training Center at Inje and purchase some rice and store it there. I believe that God will not let the purchase go completely bad. I am thinking of applying for 50 sacks of rice at first and then after that applying for an additional 50 sacks this autumn. We do not live or die depending on whether or not we store up this rice. But we must prepare for natural calamities because it will surely come.
It is not a heart of seeking after material things. Material things are not more precious than God who is the Master of life. Even so, I think we can make a lot of money if we purchase rice now and sell it when the price increases later. I have a fleshly thinking and also a spiritual thinking, and it is all mixed up like this. But I am fully aware that I must throw away the heart of seeking after material things from this faith of preparing for the end. Therefore, I organize my thoughts as often as possible.
A human cannot live apart from material things just as a human cannot live apart from society. We should cast away the desires to follow after material things in our hearts and we must organize our hearts like this occasionally. When we depart from material things and only believe and follow after God, then He will approve our hearts as righteous and grant us such faith in our hearts that says, “The Lord is my shield and my reward.” I believe God will do this if only our hearts are upright.
Of course, none of us can depart from material things completely at the beginning of our life of faith. However, I believe that you and I will become like that some day. Abraham who is the ancestor of our faith kept his heart distant from coveting material things. In our eyes that seek to follow him, his upright faith seems truly precious. I came to the conclusion while reading the Scriptures long ago that Abraham is really the greatest ancestor of faith, and I have come to realize once again that Abraham had such an upright faith as I read this Word again today. Abraham was actually a very wealthy man even though he had not sought material things like this. He had not gained this wealth all by himself. God had given it all to Abraham. Here we can see that God gives abundant material blessings along with spiritual blessings to a person who has left material things behind. My thinking today is, “My heart must depart from material things. I must cast away the heart that is prone to cling to material things.” Although our flesh lives in this world and continually seeks after material things, I believe God will bestow blessing upon us like the blessing Abraham received if our hearts serves God only and look to God only.
God Is Our Shield and Exceedingly Great Reward
I want you to have the faith that says, “God is my shield and my exceedingly great reward.” Dear fellow believers, the way for you to have such faith is really simple. I want you to know that God gives such faith that says “Only God is my shield and only God is my reward,” if we would just throw away the heart that seeks after material things, although we live in the midst of these things.
Dear fellow believers, do you believe that only God is our shield and reward? Who besides God in this world can be our shield and reward? There can be nothing comparable to our God in this world. Only God is everything to the people who have received salvation. But we need to be wise since we live in this material world. We must cast out the heart that seeks after material things. True faith must follow only after God. We must not follow after material things even if we are very rich in these things, and we must make these things follow us instead. We who live in this material world can become the upright and righteous people of faith only if we have such faith that seeks only after the Word of God and follow only God.
God has shown us that we will become like Lot if we follow after material things, this is a fixed truth. Lot was a person who sought after material things, and conversely Abraham was a person who sought after the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Dear fellow believers, will you seek after the Spirit or will you seek after the flesh? Our heart must always seek after the Spirit, seek God and seek faith. We must seek after the Word and seek God. God said, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it springs forth the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). It means that at least our hearts must seek after God, seek after the Spirit, and seek after the gospel although our flesh cannot do this. Then we can become the people whose faith is approved by God. When we need these things we should pray for it. Material things naturally follow us when our hearts follow after God properly. Remember this. You and I must become such people who believe in and follow after God only in our hearts.
We who seek to follow after God wholly must always examine ourselves. Even the servants of the Lord can follow after material things. The servants of the Lord cannot but live with the same appearance as the peoples of this world if their hearts seek after material things first rather than the Spirit. Some people look at me in this way: They consider me as someone who seeks after material things first because I say that we must store up rice and prepare for the coming difficult times. But the truth is I do not have the heart that seeks after material things. My heart wishes only to purchase rice at a cheaper price now, live without difficulties in a fleshly way, and use it as the basis of serving the gospel of the Lord more faithfully.
Dear fellow believers think about this. Can we have all these needed material things for the evangelization of this gospel all at once? No, we cannot. Acquiring these needed things for the preaching of the gospel all over the world is a huge challenge; we will face it for a long time, but saying this, how much money can each of us who have received the remission of our sins offer up to the Church? Those false pastors who have not been born again rip off their non-born again followers and receive money from them by lying to their people telling them that they will become wealthy if they were to offer up a lot of money. But we who have been truly born again cannot and will not do such a thing. Our ministers must prepare for such things because they cannot ask for these offerings forcibly. This is why our ministry workers are preparing for such things like purchasing rice and also running businesses such as, repairing houses. We the servants of God have begun a house repairing business all to teach the saints correctly, make them go forth following after the gospel, and also to serve the gospel properly without swindling the saints, instead of becoming destitute for material things. How can saints offer up a huge amount of funds when they are barely making a living for themselves with little income? They cannot do this because they have to take care of their lives also. Therefore, we are preparing this material wealth for the evangelization of the gospel by purchasing rice and running a house repairing businesses. You surely know that even the Apostle Paul supported himself by making tents during his ministry (Acts 18:1-3; 20:33-35; Philippians 4:14-16). We have every confidence that we are doing very well by following his steps.
The Road We Should Go Down Is Long, but at Least Our Hearts Desire to Follow after God
The Apostle Paul said, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24), and like Paul, I really feel the conflict between my flesh and soul. At times I want to satisfy the desires of both my flesh and my spirit. But at least my heart does not have the desire to follow after material things. I would not have such a desire in my heart even if the world were to split in half and disappear.
The faith that God keeps me alive is firm and steadfast. Even saying this I have a desire not to live in such poverty during these last days. If we have enough food, we can call on the souls who have not received salvation and feed them, and they all would receive salvation if we fed them and preached the gospel to them? I am planning ahead that we should continue the work of witnessing this gospel as long as we can until the end, and then do business and ministry with this food when Satan starts to hamper our ministry. We cannot do anything about it if Satan does not allow us to do it anymore, but if that happens, we can at least eat all we want with this food and go to God. This is what I wish in my heart.
Our bodies cannot live apart from material things completely like this. But despite this our hearts at least desire to follow after God only. At least our hearts desires to believe in God. Look at the group called the “Salvation Sect” that became spoiled and deteriorated because they coveted after money too much. We do not want to become such people who emphasize material things like them. At least our hearts seeks after God only although the road is long. We believe in God only. At least our hearts’ desire is to believe in God, professing, “The Lord is my shield and my exceedingly great reward.” I am sure that material things cannot protect us. I believe that only God gives rewards to us, makes us prosper and protects us.
I will take responsibility of preparing for the end times. You just have to take care of your family well, pray faithfully, and live prosperously. I am saying this because I am concerned that you might fall into the wrong direction like preparing for the end.
Dear fellow believers, our hearts should always seek only after God. Regardless of the fact that we still have flesh and that we cannot but live in this world with it, but at least our hearts must believe in God. The God who has saved us is the Divine Being who will protect us and will reward us. I give thanks to God for the fact that He has given us such a faith just as God gave such a precious faith and blessing to Abraham. We must also cast away a heart that seeks only after material things and the flesh like Abraham did. Although we are lacking, we must acknowledge our weaknesses in these areas, believe in God only, and depend on God in our hearts.