A Better Land
(Preached at Ivory Independent Baptist Church… July 2012)
Good morning. While the whole Bible is God-breathed… inspired… and is valuable to all of us, I
believe it is true that all of us have passages that seem to speak more directly to us than they do to
others. A passage that I find especially meaningful is Hebrews 11: 13-16. This is in the great chapter of
faith. Please open your Bibles to Hebrews 11: 13-16. This passage is primarily referring to Abraham
and his family.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them
from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had an
opportunity to return.
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be
called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. <LET’S PRAY>
As you may remember, God spoke to Abraham as he was living in Mesopotamia. God told him to “Go
from your country and your kindred… I will make your name great… I will make of you a great
nation. I will make you a blessing for others.”
This is inspiring… and we know that it is true. Looking at the life of Abraham close to 4000 years later,
we can say “Praise God, God is true, God is righteous, God keeps His promises!!”
But if I were Abraham… I might feel a bit differently. At the end of my life what did I have?
1. Have I become “GREAT”? Not particularly. I am still a sheep farmer.
2. Have I become a great nation? Not really, I head a relatively small family, some workers,
and a lot of sheep. I don’t even own any land. The only land I actually own is a cave that I
buried my wife, Sarah. All I have is grazing rights for my animals… and even there, I
allowed my nephew Lot to get even the best of that.
3. Have I become a blessing? Maybe, maybe not.
It almost seems like God tricked Abraham, what we sometimes call “BAIT and SWITCH.” Promise
BIG things. Give little things. Let’s hold that thought for a moment.
Back in the mid-1990s, I was encouraged to read a book. You may have heard of it, it was called “The
Prayer of Jabez.” Many people thought it was a great book, but I had some problems with it. The book
is based on a single passage in the Old Testament, I Chronicles 4:9-10.
“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying,
‘Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless
me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me
from evil, that I may not cause pain.’ So God granted him what he requested” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10).
There is nothing wrong with that PRAYER… and I suppose that there was nothing wrong with that
book… but many people interpreted that verse and that book in a strange way. Many latched onto the
idea… “Enlarge my territory.” They would say, “OHHH, I want God to “enlarge my territory.” I want
more land, more money, more power, more prestige.
“Their understanding was that God intends to bless us with things, such as career
success, financial gains, and other outward signs of prosperity– all we have to do is
ask. For many, in fact, the book became a celebration of the “prosperity gospel”– the
belief that God rewards faithful and sincere Christians with success, good health, and
This is a misuse of the passage. Jabez was named Jabez because he had put his mother
through so much agony, so much pain at childbirth. Jabez prayed that he would never
again cause pain to anyone in his family but prayed that he would be a blessing… for
Let’s call this OPTION #1. The HUMAN PERSPECTIVE. The human perspective
says that God is like… oh… like a giant Claw machine. You’ve seen these I am sure.
You put coins in the machine and then you operate the claw to try to pull stuff animals
, or perhaps other prizes out of the big glass case. So in the Human Perspective… God
is like this Giant Claw machine. You give God some of your money, you start to
manipulate God, perhaps you say a little prayer, and hopefully, if you do everything
right, God gives you what you want… money, fame, success.
… Listen to what really happened to Paul when God expanded his territory. This is
found in II Cor. 11:23-27.
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more
severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews
the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three
times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been
constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in
danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in
danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have
labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst
and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” <II Cor. 11:23-27>
God certainly expanded his territory… but not necessarily in a way that you or I
would seek out. Many here probably know Joni Eareckson Tada. As a teenager she
dove into a body of water and came up paralyzed, a quadriplegic. Some people today
still think that Joni is a quadriplegic because she doesn’t have enough faith for God to
heal her. Or maybe she has sin in her life that she has not been healed. After all, if you
can’t walk, God is obviously not blessing you…. Human Perspective.
But we have another option. Just because we are human does not mean that we only
have the option of the Human Perspective. We have the possibility of choosing the
Divine Perspective. Human perspective or Divine perspective. God has used her
immensely to minister to people around the world. She ministers to those with
disabilities. She has a radio ministry. Leads retreats… all from a wheelchair. I believe
that God has indeed enlarged her territory… given her better land. I don’t believe that
this came from trying to manipulate God to give her wealth, health, power, and fame.
This last week, we worked at a camp. It is called Good News Camp, and it is run by
Child Evangelism Fellowship, CEF. The camp was built by Dr. James Teeter. Our
family had a chance to meet him four years ago. Decades ago, we was a surgeon in
Waynesboro. He had four sons. The youngest son was named Mark. When Mark was
three years old, he rode his tricycle out into the street and was run over… he died.
Dr. Teeter was a rich man, a powerful man in his community. A godly man. A personal
friend of Billy Graham… Yet God took away his son… or at least did not prevent it.
Dr. Teeter and his wife made a decision. They would turn their land into a park in his
son’s memory… the Mark Victor Teeter Memorial Park, and use the park as a summer
camp for children to learn about Jesus. So for decades it has served that purpose. Dr.
Teeter would schedule his surgeries in the morning during summertime just so that he
could drive the tractor for the wagon rides at Good News Camp in the afternoon. Dr.
Teeter died two years ago, but his vision has continued. We served as camp staff last
week and tomorrow morning another 150 children will show up for a week of fun and
learning about Jesus.
I called this sermon “A Better Land.” Most people are looking for “a better land.” By this, they mean
more land, better and more stuff. The American Dream is often put in this perspective. More money,
nicer house, better job. This is the Human Perspective.
But Abraham and his family chose a different “Better Land.” They did not focus on where they had
been. If they had, they could have returned. They did not focus on where they were now. Abraham let
Lot even have the better grazing land. Abraham sought a better land… a heavenly land.
I don’t know what God is doing in your life, nor do I know what God will do in your future. My
prayer is that you will seek “A Better Land” but not from a human perspective… rather a
1. Be like Abraham, who did not focus on the past, nor even the present, but kept his eyes on the
future, and trusting God in His promise.
2. Be like Paul, who recognized that his sacrifices for the cause of Christ are nothing compared to
what he gains.
3. Be like Jabez, who did not seek God’s blessing for his own selfish benefit, but for the benefit of
4. Be like Joni Eareckson Tada who did not see her disability as a punishment from God, but an
opportunity to serve Him in new and exciting ways.
5. Be like Dr. Jim Teeder who used personal tragedy as inspiration to spread joy.
Looking back at Hebrews 11, it says that Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared for them a city.