Faith of Our Fathers.
Genesis 15-16, Matthew 8
When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israelhave I found such faith.” – Matthew 8:10 ESV
The writer of Hebrews tells us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). In that chapter, known as the “Hall of Faith,” the author looks back at the faith of Old Testament saints like Abraham, Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Joseph and states, “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” (Hebrews 11:13 ESV). They died in faith. They took the hope and confidence they had placed in God with them to their graves, knowing that the real reward was awaiting them after this life, not during it. Abraham would never get to see the fulfillment of all of God’s promises regarding his offspring or the land. He would not live to see God bless the nations through his descendant, Jesus. But he kept believing. He kept trusting. He placed his faith in the promises of God. “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (Hebrew 11:39 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about God?
Faith must have an object and, for Abraham, the object of his faith was God. He knew that the promises he had received were only as good as the One who had given them. His ability to believe that God would do what He said He would do was based on what he knew about God. There is no question that Abraham had moments of doubt and there were numerous times when he took matters into his own hands. Chapter 16 of Genesis records the less-than-flattering story of Abram eagerly accepting Sarai’s plan for him to fulfill the promise of God through human means.
But the story of Genesis is really about the faithfulness of God as juxtaposed with the unfaithfulness of mankind. God refused to accept Abram and Sarai’s substitute plan. He was going to fulfill His promises His way. God doesn’t need our help. He doesn’t ask for our advice. He simply asks that we trust Him. What makes faith difficult is not God’s ability to do what He says He will do, but it is our ability to wait patiently until He does. Abram had to wait and God was not in a hurry. Delay usually leads to doubt. Having to wait makes us uncomfortable. Faith is based on confidence and conviction – in God and His ability to deliver on His promises. There is no doubt that when God told Abram that He would give him more descendants than there are stars in the heavens, Abram wrestled with the believability of that promise. After all, he and Sarai were not spring chickens and, on top of that, Sarai was barren. The odds were stacked against them. But a big part of faith is learning to trust God in the midst of difficult circumstances. Impossibilities are the fertile ground in which faith grows. It is when everything is looking down that we tend to see God show up.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Doubt is a natural and normal part of our human nature. But faith is unnatural, because it is spiritual. It requires a trust in the unknown, and it is something we do every day of our lives, whether we believe in God or not. It requires faith to sit in a chair. You may believe that a chair will support your weight if you sit in it, but until you physically place yourself in the chair, your beliefs remain untested and unproven. Part of Abram’s faith was the continued waiting. He had to keep on putting the full weight of his life in the hands of God, trusting that He would hold Him up. Refusing to sit in a chair because you doubt its ability to hold you up says nothing about the integrity of the chair. But it speaks volumes about your faith in the chair. Refusing to trust God’s promises because you doubt they may come true isn’t an indictment on God’s strength, but it certainly reveals the weakness of your faith.
When God had told Abram that He would give him a son, Abram’s response was, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (Genesis 15:2 ESV). When God assured him Eliezer was NOT the heir He had in mind, Abram stubbornly responded, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” (Genesis 15:3 ESV). When Sarai considered the likelihood of her getting pregnant well past possible, she told Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” (Genesis 16:2 ESV).
They doubted. They feared. Their convictions and confidence wavered. But God showed up. He proved Himself trustworthy and reliable time and time again. And over time, both Abram and Sarai learned to place their faith in God – regardless of the circumstances. We see this same kind of faith displayed in the gospel of Matthew in the life of the Centurion. When Jesus offers to come and heal his paralyzed servant, the Centurion replies, “But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8 ESV). Jesus commends the man’s faith. Why? Because he was placing his hope and confidence in the unknown and unseen. He had no way of knowing that Jesus could do what he was asking. But he exhibited faith – the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. In the same chapter, the leper revealed the same kind of faith, saying to Jesus, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2 ESV). This man had no track record with Jesus. He had not been healed by Jesus before. But He had a confidence and conviction in Jesus. Jesus was the object of his faith. The healing was the benefit.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
Faith is not some nebulous, ethereal thing. It should a highly practical and applicable part of the life of every believer. But the world assaults our faith. It tempts us to doubt God’s Word and deny His ability to do what He has promised to do. Abram would have his faith tested daily. So will we. But we must keep going back to the object of our faith. We must ask ourselves the question, “Has he ever given me good reason to doubt Him?” Just because we can’t see the outcome does not mean God lacks the ability to bring it about. Our faith must be in His unlimited power, impeccable character, unwavering love, and unquestionable faithfulness.
Father, You can be trusted. But the problem is not You, it’s me. I am the one who struggles, not You. My doubt has no basis in reality. It is circumstantial and unsubstantiated. You have never given me reason to doubt You. Help me keep my eyes focused on You and trust in Your proven character rather than in any particular circumstance. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men