Secrets for Successful Missions: Give God Credit


Our journey with Abraham’s servant is almost at its end. He’s given us two secrets for successful missions—pray in faith and stay laser-focused—and today he’s got one final secret for us before we part ways. Let’s re-orient ourselves in Genesis 24. Abe’s servant’s mission was to find a wife for Abe’s son, Isaac who meets these criteria: 1. She must be a relative of Abraham’s. 2. She must be willing to go. He’s traveled to where Abe’s relatives live and stopped at a well where he asks God to single out Isaac’s wife by fulfilling a specific sign. A young woman named Rebekah fulfills this sign and reveals that she is a relative of Abe’s—check that off the list! The servant is invited to stay with her family overnight, where he tells of his quest and Rebekah’s completion of his desired “sign.” Her family agrees that she should go and become Isaac’s wife, so he sets our to return to Abe with Rebekah the very next morning. Her family would like her to stay with them another ten days, but he insists that they not delay.

Here we pick up the narrative in verse 57. At the servant’s desire to head back home with the bride-to-be ASAP, Rebekah’s mother and brother call Rebekah and ask her if she’s ready to go. She says, “Yes, I will go.” Her willingness to go checks the second item off of Abe’s prescribed must-be list for Isaac’s wifey—in case there was any remnant of doubt, the servant’s mission has been 100% successful! They head back to Abe’s place, meeting Isaac in the fields on their way. The servant retells the whole story to Isaac, and the chapter ends with this sweet verse: “And Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent, and she became his wife. He loved her very deeply, and she was a special comfort to him after the death of his mother” (Gen. 24:67). In a time of arranged marriages, I imagine that deep love and “special comfort” like Isaac and Rebekah experienced were icing on the cake! Once again we see God going above and beyond in blessing His children.

Now let’s double back and zoom in on the third secret for successful missions, something that the servant has done numerous times throughout this venture:

Give God credit.

Though Abraham—a human—has entrusted this awesome mission to his servant—another human--one cannot read this story and walk away with the impression that the success of this mission belongs to humans. On the contrary it is blatantly obvious that God is the real hero here, in part due to the providential way that circumstances unfold and in large measure because of how frequently and intentionally the servant gives God credit. I see him doing so in two primary ways:

          1. He worships God. The text specifically tells us that the servant “bowed low” or “bowed down to the ground” and worshiped the Lord at two times—once when he realized that the young woman who had fulfilled his requested sign at the well was indeed his master’s relative and once when Rebekah’s family agreed that Rebekah should go with him to become Isaac’s wife. Both of these times the servant stopped right in the middle of a conversation with other people in order to physically bow down, to acknowledge God’s provision, to humbly thank Him, and to give Him the glory for how things were falling into place. I’ve never been in a conversation which was interrupted by someone actually bowing down in worship to God, but I have been around those people who lift a hand in the air and say, “Praise God,” in response to a good report or answer to prayer that has been shared. Whatever it looks like physically, I think that the posture of the heart is one of expectancy—awareness that God is the giver of all good gifts and the only one who can truly fix life’s messes, asking Him for help, and then looking for His provision with anticipation.

          2. He tells other people what God has done. Before the servant asks Rebekah’s relatives for their blessing to take Rebekah to be Isaac’s wife, he tells them in great detail the whole story of his initial commission by Abraham, his prayer at the well, and his subsequent encounter with Rebekah there. This retelling takes up fifteen verses of the chapter (Gen. 24:34-48), and I think the repetition is somewhat comical! Why did the servant spend so much time repeating every detail of what happened, and why was it important that the reader also revisit these details? Couldn’t those fifteen verses be replaced with one verse that said simply, “The servant recounted to them all that the Lord had done?” Sure, but here’s why I believe it is the way it is: Greater detail, more nuance, and sharper specificity give God more glory because with each additional occurrence of God’s providence, no matter how “little,” the chances diminish that humans could have accomplished this on their own. I wonder if the servant’s lengthy account of distinct “serendipities” influenced Rebekah’s family’s response: “The Lord has obviously brought you here, so there is nothing we can say. Here is Rebekah; take her and go. Yes, let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed” (Gen. 24:50-51). And I wonder if this amazing story also influenced Rebekah; in 24 hours she went from going about her daily activities among her family to willingly leaving all that behind to move to a different place and become a man’s wife. I can’t help but think that she too was convinced that this was “as the Lord has directed” in part because of the servant’s amazing story. Verse 66 of the chapter tells us, “Then the servant told Isaac everything he had done,” and I guarantee you he reported the whole detailed thing to his master, Abraham, as well. He gave God credit, and I bet everyone who heard it received an infusion of faith. That’s the thing—when we give God credit by sharing in detail what He’s done in our lives, we’re not only giving credit where credit is due, but we’re also pointing other people to Him and challenging and encouraging them on their own faith journeys.

Check in with your own “mission.” How are you doing at giving God credit in the midst of it? Sure, sometimes it might look like nothing is happening, but I challenge you to—like the servant—get in the habit of looking for God’s provision even in small ways and worshiping Him for it. Then tell someone about it! The more detail the better, and it will encourage them and you too! I’m praying God gives you great success in all your missions.

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Secrets for Successful Missions: Stay Laser-Focused


Last week we began journeying with Abraham’s servant as he seeks a wife for Isaac. He’s traveled to the town where Abe’s brother lives and has just stopped at a well where the local young women are coming out to draw water. Here he takes a moment to pray in faith, the first secret for successful missions. He asks God to lead him to Isaac’s wife in this way:

          If he asks one of the young women at the well to give him a drink and she says, “Sure, and I’ll water your camels too,”

          Then she’s the one God has chosen to be Isaac’s wife, and this is how the servant will know that God has made his mission successful.

Before he’s done praying he sees Rebekah, and here we resume our story beginning at Genesis 24:15. The text goes ahead and tells us that she is a relative of Abraham’s—one of Abe’s requirements!—but the servant doesn’t know that just yet. All he sees is that Rebekah is very beautiful and old enough to be married. We’re not told that physical beauty is on Abraham’s list of must-haves for his son’s bride-to-be, and it doesn’t enter the servant’s prayer regarding the situation, at least not that we’re told. I like to think that just as the servant expects God to answer his prayer, he also expects God to go above and beyond in blessing those involved. He’s observed God’s faithfulness to Abe’s family for years and likely experienced it in his own life as well. It would be just like God to not only provide a relative of Abe’s willing to go and become Isaac’s wife but also a very beautiful one at that!

Whatever the reason Rebekah stands out to him, the servant runs to her and asks her for a drink. Just as he’d hoped, she gives him a drink and then waters his camels as well. She has fulfilled the sign from God he requested! As she’s working, the servant watches her, the text tells us “wondering whether or not the Lord had given him success in his mission” (Gen. 24:21). I see myself here in the servant’s musings; he’s asked God for something specific to happen, that specific thing has happened, and he’s wondering if God really did it or if it’s a coincidence or something that would have happened anyway.

Remember, the servant still needs to confirm two crucial matters to determine that Rebekah is the one God has chosen to be Isaac’s wife: 1. She must be a relative of Abraham’s. 2. She must be willing to go. He wastes no time in gathering the next piece of info—“Whose daughter are you?”—and finding out if her father would be willing to host him and his traveling companions overnight. She names her family and affirms that they would be glad to have them as guests. The servant’s response is to bow down in worship to God because Rebekah’s family is none other than Abe’s relatives!—another confirmation that Rebekah is very likely God’s pick for Isaac.

Rebekah runs home to tell her family about all this, and her brother, Laban, runs back to invite the servant to come stay with them. (Have you noticed that there’s been a lot of running going on?) He does so, Laban gets the camels settled, and the servant and camel drivers wash their feet. Then a meal is served, but Abe’s servant says, “I don’t want to eat until I have told you why I have come” (Gen. 24:33). We’ve arrived at the second secret for successful missions:  

Stay laser-focused.

You know the feeling the servant must have been having in that moment—it’s been a long, eventful day, you’ve just gotten cleaned up, and a hot meal has been placed in front of you. Ah, finally! Yet he is so laser-focused on his mission, determined to perform his part with excellence, he doesn’t taste a bite until he’s moved the needle forward on this endeavor. Wow! I’m impressed by this guy’s single-mindedness, being unable to imagine very many conversations I wouldn’t postpone for the sake of a hard-earned supper!

Why push the issue? Wouldn’t it have been offensive to his host and fellow diners to make them wait to eat? What would be the harm in relaxing a bit and then returning to the business at hand? The text doesn’t tell us the servant’s motives, but I suspect that one or more of the following truths influenced his decision:

          1. There are no perfect circumstances for action. I bet you’ve noticed this while on your own various life missions as I certainly have. Suddenly you’ve got clarity regarding what God wants you to do next or at least a general sense of the direction you should go, and just as your heart begins to beat faster with the thrill of a new mission, it drops as you notice the 27 obstacles in your way—time, money, naysayers, etc. Circumstances will likely never be perfect for you or I to take our next step, but as the servant did, we’ve got to do it anyway.

          2. There is wisdom in “picking your moment.” Though there are no perfect circumstances for action, I do believe that there are better and worse circumstances for action. The servant chose to have his needed discussion with Rebekah’s family while they were likely hangry—yikes! This is definitely not a preferred mood to which to introduce a weighty topic! However, after dinner they might have been sleepy due to the big meal or slightly intoxicated by wine—even worse conditions in which to attempt to cement a betrothal, I’d say. A moment of prayer and thoughtfulness can help us to pick our moment wisely.

          3. Delayed action often becomes partial action or inaction. Been there too; how about you? I know I need to have a hard conversation with a friend, so I set up a meeting with them. When we’re together I know it would probably work best to get the tough topic out of the way, but I decide that we need to “catch up” for awhile first. I’m enjoying my friend’s company, and I’d hate to disturb the peace, so I convince myself to modify my original spiel so it’s not so abrupt… Soon I’ve talked myself out of it entirely! It would have been better if I’d brought up that difficult thing right away. Perhaps the servant knew this tendency in himself as well, and that’s why he forged ahead.

Whatever his reason, the servant laid out his mission to Laban and Rebekah’s father, Bethuel, while the food sat there getting cold on the table. We’ll look at this part of the story in more detail next week, but for now we’ll simply say that after the servant re-told of his conversation with Abraham, prayer, and exchange with Rebekah at the well, Laban and Bethuel acknowledged God’s hand in all of this and agreed that she should go with him to become Isaac’s wife. The servant gave presents to all of them, and then—finally!—they ate their meal.

We see the servant’s laser-focus again as early the next morning, he’s ready to take Rebekah and go! Her brother and mother wanted her to stay with them for another ten days, but the servant said, “Don’t delay me. The Lord has made my mission successful; now send me back so I can return to my master” (Gen. 24:56). Once again we’re challenged by this fellow’s steadfastness.

We’ll wrap up this tale next week, but for now consider that mission you deeply desire to be successful. Are you laser-focused on it? If not, how could you become more single-minded? Whatever it is that you believe God wants you to do next, I challenge you to pray for wisdom to pick your moment, realize circumstances won’t be perfect, do it anyway, and do it right away!

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Secrets for Successful Missions: Pray in Faith


I’d like all of my various missions in life to be successful—wouldn’t you? For the next few weeks we’re hanging out with Abraham’s servant, a lesser-known Bible bro who’s got some secrets for successful missions to teach us. What current “mission” of yours are you most passionate to see successful? Keep that in the back of your mind, open your Bible to Genesis 24, and let’s go!

Our story starts with father of the nation of Israel, Abraham, (hereafter referred to by his favorite nickname, Abe) laying out a mission for his servant. We’re not told much about the servant, not even his name, but only that he’s Abe’s oldest servant and the man in charge of his household. His mission? To find a wife for Abe’s beloved son, Isaac, through whom God would make Abe into a great nation. Regarding the future wifey, Abe gives two qualifications:

          1. She must be a relative of his. Why? Abe is taking seriously to the nth degree God’s  promise that He’d give the land to his descendants.

          2. She must be willing to go. The servant would have to travel to where Abe’s relatives lived in order to fulfill this mission, and Abe wanted to clarify that Isaac should not go and live among his relatives for the sake of marriage, but rather she should be willing to leave her family in order to come and be Isaac’s wife.

So Abe’s servant sets out on the long journey he must make to the town where Abe’s brother settled. When he arrives, he stops beside a well outside the town, where the women are coming out to draw water. Then he does what I believe is the first secret for a successful mission:

Pray in faith.

Abe’s servant begins by acknowledging God as Lord and asking Him to give him success on his mission. Then things get interesting as he sets forth a very specific if/then type of request for God’s guidance:

          If he asks one of the young women at the well to give him a drink and she says, “Sure, and I’ll water your camels too,”

          Then she’s the one God has chosen to be Isaac’s wife, and this is how the servant will know that God has made his mission successful.

I find this prayer fascinating, primarily because—spoiler alert!—things go down exactly as the servant has petitioned. Note with me several elements of the servant’s prayer:

          It’s specific. He gives a detailed request for God’s leading, not a general “direct me.”

          It’s bold. He states unapologetically what he’d like God to do; he’s straightforward and to the point.

          It’s humble. Though bold and specific, he’s also reverent. We don’t get the sense that the servant is making a demand of God but rather that he highly respects God and is committed to performing his part in this mission well because of his deep love for his master, Abe, not because of self-interest.

          It’s faith-filled. As we’ll see next week, the servant runs to complete his part of the if—to ask a woman at the well for a drink—indicating to me that he fully expects God to come through for him.

Wow! What a power-packed prayer! I believe there’s a beautiful hand-in-hand relationship between these four elements of prayer. Boldness without humility is demanding, specificity without faith is babbling, and so on. I’m challenged to examine my prayer life and ask God to strengthen me in the areas in which I’m weak. How about you? Which of these characteristics do you sense God wants to grow in your prayer life? By the way, if you’re thinking that you’ve got to get all the elements “right” before you speak a word of prayer to God, think again! Because God’s Spirit lives in those who believe in Jesus, prayer is dynamic! So the way to mature in prayer is simply to pray. Show up and engage in conversations with God, and He will guide you to a deeper prayer life.

Now we come to one of my favorite parts of this narrative. Before the servant even finishes praying, he sees Rebekah! If you’re familiar with the story, you know that Rebekah is the one who will become Isaac’s wife. So God brings the answer to the servant’s prayer right in front of his eyes while he’s still praying! Most of the time I’ve had to do some waiting (sometimes a lot of it!) for God to answer my prayers, but on a few occasions He’s answered my prayer while I’ve been praying or immediately after I finished praying, and let me tell you, those moments are faith-builders that make me want to do a happy dance unto the Lord.

We’ll pause the story right there and return to it next week. For today I’d like you to consider that mission you’d really like to see successful; how might praying in faith influence the outcome? What are you waiting for? Start praying about that mission today, and see what God does.

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