Let me say this to women who have children and are divorced and are remarried or going to be remarried. If you do not let him father them, don’t bring him into their life. Don’t ever use the term step-dad, step-mom, you are a dad, or you are a mom. No step. If you do not let a man father your children, don’t let them be in the home. If they don’t have a Godly father and you marry a Godly one, God will bless those children because of him. God will look at those children, and if mom is Godly, but dad is not, and a new dad comes in, God says, I’m going to bless those children because of this man. If they embrace him, God will bless them. Don’t make sure he is Mr. Perfect. Make sure he is Mr. Right, not Mr right now.
God told Abraham, I want you to get rid of your son. So, Abraham took Ishmael, his buddy, his son that he loves, and took him over and set him under a tree. Can you imagine as he began to walk away, and Ishmael began to cry out, Daddy what’s wrong? Daddy, what are you doing? Daddy, did I do something wrong? Ishmael cried and said, Dad if I did something wrong, I’ll fix it. Daddy, please love me. Daddy, can I have one more hug? Daddy? Daddy, where are you going? Can you imagine a child whose father is leaving them? Imagine the emotions of Abraham saying goodbye. For all of his natural life, I bet there was not a day that went by that Ishmael did not think of his father nor that Abraham did not think of his son. Can you imagine the hurt, the pain, and the grief?
Here is the reason Abraham had to give up Ishmael; it was not because God did not love Ishmael or because God despised him. It was because Abraham had to experience that Ishmael was a product of sin and unbelief. Unbelief is simply taking sides against God’s Word. You see, Ishmael my friends, represents sin. That is why the Bible tells you to guard your heart. When you are dating and the moment you know it is someone you are not going to marry, you must break up with them. You do not want to become so attached that you give your heart only to have it crushed. I know a woman who did not want to marry a man, but her parents told her she had to, so she did, and she suffered for it. I know a man who was supposed to get married, and he went to his dad and said, Dad, I’m not supposed to marry this woman. His dad said son, you’re just nervous you need to marry her, so he did, and he suffered for it. See, sin comes with a great cost. Abraham does not see Ishmael as sin. He sees his boy, his rosy cheeks, his long dark hair. You ask someone who is trying to get delivered from a drug; they don’t see it as a drug. They see it as a companion, as a friend. You ask someone trying to get delivered from an eating disorder, and you ask what is normal about putting your finger down your throat? They don’t think of it like that. Many won’t even say putting your finger down your throat; they call it purging or letting go. They don’t see it as sin because they fall in love with it.
That is what the devil does; when he gets you to fall in love with sin, you don’t look at it the same. Some of you are struggling right now in your life because God has told you to give up things that are a sin, let go of things that are a sin, and you are in love with it. You don’t see sin; you see Ishmael. There are people that God has told to start tithing. You don’t see it as planting a seed, you see it as money lost. It is a sin when you don’t tithe. Some of you have boyfriends or girlfriends you won’t get rid of, tv shows you won’t stop watching, books you won’t stop reading, or music you won’t stop listening to. Drinking is not a problem, but God has told you that for you, it is, and you won’t give it up. Maybe even you have, but you crave it because you won’t deal with it. It is not that these things in and of itself are a sin, but they can be. Whatever it is that is keeping you from Christ is a sin. When we fall in love with our sin, that is when we get into trouble. When we settle for less than God’s best in our lives, there will be consequences that will accompany us. Abraham could have never experienced his full potential in Christ had he not let Ishmael go.
I had dinner recently with some friends that are not Christians. They are lost, but they are genuinely nice people. The woman commented on her dislike with Christians. I share it with her. I hate religion. I don’t like a lot of Christians; they give Jesus a bad name. If you are not going to live a Biblical life, please quit telling people you are a Christian. You make it difficult for those of us that have the heart to seek and save those that are lost. Once unbelievers learn that God cannot stand religion either, they will be fine. See, when Christians fall in love with their sin, it causes great turmoil because you don’t see it as sin and others do. They see you as a hypocrite, a failure, or a lost cause. When the need comes to get rid of sin and say goodbye to your Ishmael, when it’s time to tell your Ishmael you’ve got to go; you’ve got to stand up and be bold. You’ve got to make the decision that enough is enough. You’ve got to look your sin in the eye and say, I will no longer be your servant. God does not promise it is going to be easy. It is going to be difficult to say goodbye to your Ishmael. The longer Ishmael has been in your life, the more it hurts to say goodbye. The harder it will be to say, “You have to go.” God is calling you out today. God is declaring to you today to say goodbye to your Ishmael.
Regardless of your color or your age, saying goodbye to your Ishmael is not easy. While Ishmael is representative of your sin, when we personalize sin, it takes on a personality. While I know many would like to be given deep intellectual directions on how to say goodbye to your Ishmael, the answer, while easy to explain, is difficult to do. You walk away from it, while it calls your name fondly, or when it is whispering sweet nothings in your ear, you walk away.
I know a pastor’s wife who God has miraculously delivered from an eating disorder. While she was going through the process of saying goodbye to her Ishmael, many people told her, you will go back to it when times get tough. When you experience something bad, it will always be there. What they did not understand was that this woman had had enough. Her Ishmael was let go, and she never took him back. Did he call? Did he whisper to her when times were not easy, that I am willing to come back? Yes. But she never let him back.
Your Ishmael may be an adulterous relationship, an eating disorder, lying, alcoholism, drug abuse, or any number of sins. But when it is personal, when it becomes part of you, or you have made it a part of your identity, and not a one-time mistake, it is an Ismael. Trust me, my brothers and sisters; today is the day to let your Ishmael go. And determine in your heart to never welcome him back.