The Incredible Faith of Abraham

man on camelWe often talk about Abraham as being the “father of the faithful,” but have we ever thought about just how faithful Abraham really was? Usually, faith is built on trust and trust is developed from prior experience. But, when we read of the initial encounter the Lord had with Abraham, it seems that there was not much of a track record between the Lord and Abraham prior to that time! In Genesis 12:1-4a, we read: “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ So Abram went, as the LORD had told him.” (ESV)  Abraham or Abram as he was known at that time, left home in obedience to the word of a God he had only recently met and had had no prior experience with! In our day and time and in our culture, it is considered foolish and ill-advised to trust someone you don’t know or someone you just recently met! (However, we do this all the time, every time we get on an airplane and into a taxicab!) Yet! Abram believed God and left home based on the promises of a God he hardly knew and just had recently met! That was incredible faith!

But if you think that was incredible, look at the text again! Not only did Abraham leave all that he was familiar with for the unfamiliar, the Lord told him to go to a land that he would be shown! In other words, not only did Abraham leave home in obedience to a God he hardly knew and had no real experience with, he left home, not knowing where he was going! The Lord didn’t tell him a specific place to go! No! The Lord told him to leave and the Lord promised to show him where he was going as he was going! Oh my! Most of us wouldn’t dare leave home until we at least knew where we were going! But the incredible faith of Abraham is shown in the last words of the passage we selected: “So, Abram went, as the LORD had told him!” Wow!

Now, when we look at the faith of Abraham, it is incredible in its own time and context, but it is even more incredible when we compare it with the faith we should have in our day and time! Abraham had little or no prior experience with the Lord, yet Abraham believed God! We have the witness of Abraham, and many other biblical examples, in addition to the authority of Scripture, yet many of us struggle to believe God! Abraham trusted a God he hardly knew and had little experience with, yet we know the Lord through the testimony of the Bible, the testimony of the saints of old, and through our own personal experiences, yet often, we still struggle to believe God! In addition to all of that, we have the witness and the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within!

We struggle today with the simple elementary stuff when it comes to the things of God! But the Lord is looking for people of strong faith so that mighty exploits might be done through them! But, it’s hard to do big things with people who have little or no faith! We have the witness of Abraham and all the saints of old! We have the witness of those who have gone on before us in our lifetimes! We have the witness of the Bible! We have the redemption from sin, purchased by the life of Jesus! We have the indwelling witness and power of the Holy Spirit within! Abraham had none of that, yet the faith that Abraham had back then, still far exceeds the faith that many of us have today! Abraham had incredible faith! But, with the advantages of historical witnesses, biblical revelation, salvific redemption, and spiritual infusion, our faith today should be even more incredible than Abraham’s!  

The Blessing of Abraham: Blessed to be a Blessing

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him . . .  (Gen 12:1-4 ESV)

I am writing this post in response to the overwhelming obsession people in the American Church world have today with the idea of being blessed. And I want to suggest that, in many cases, it is really not a desire to be blessed in a true biblical sense, but more so a desire to be comfortable and in most cases to be prosperous and affluent! I say this because when I hear most people talk about wanting to be blessed, they are not talking about wanting to be blessed with the blessings of love, joy and peace; they are talking about being blessed with houses, cars, money, and other material possessions. In other words, being blessed to them is having more of the “stuff” of life! In their minds, blessings equal possessions! They must not have read where Jesus warned: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15 ESV). At any rate, since being blessed is such an obsession, I thought it would be good to take a true “biblical” look at the subject by taking a closer look at the blessing of Abraham.

Now this is by no means an attempt to do an exhaustive and intensive exegetical study, that endeavor would require more time than most are willing to invest in reading this post. So, I shall restrict myself to a summary of the text cited: Genesis 12:1-4. For those who are familiar with the biblical text, this text contains what is known as the Abrahamic Covenant. I hear a lot of people today talk about being blessed with the blessing of Abraham, but many don’t realize that the blessing of Abraham was in a covenant context. The LORD made a covenant with Abraham with the following stipulations:

Abraham’s part: Leave his father’s country and all of his kindred and go to a land that the LORD would show him.

The LORD’s part: Make Abraham a great nation, bless him, make Abraham’s name great, make Abraham (to be) a blessing.

Note that the LORD called Abram to leave everything that was familiar to him; his homeland, his father’s house, his father, and the rest of his relatives! The LORD called Abram out of his comfort zone! And not only that, Abraham was not even told where he was going!  Therefore, the covenant was not totally unconditional: The fulfillment of the LORD’s covenant obligations required Abraham’s faithful obedience! And it took a great deal of faith to leave everything he had ever known, not even knowing where he was going! We want to be blessed, but are we obedient? Are we willing to move out of our “comfort zone?” Are we willing to step out on faith, and start without any discernible assurances of the outcome? We want the blessing of Abraham, but are we faithful and are we obedient as Abraham was?

We also might point out at this point, that the blessing of Abraham was really not just about Abraham! Dr. Henry Blackaby says in his work, On Mission With God: “When the LORD came to Abraham, he was on his way to the world!” In other words, when the LORD blessed Abraham, he had much more than just Abraham on his mind! God idea was not such much just to get the blessing “to” Abraham; it was to get the blessing to go “through” Abraham! That is why he said to Abraham: “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” The problem with many who want to be blessed today is that they want to be a “pool” for blessings while God is actively seeking to bless people who are willing to be a “channel” of blessings! Most of us want the blessings to flow “to” us, but it is God desire for the blessings to flow “through” us! The principle is this: If we are faithful in distributing the blessings, God will make sure we have more than enough! But if we seek to keep it all for ourselves, not only will it not prosper and the supply will also be limited!

The purpose of our being blessed is not just to consume it with our own selfish desires! That is what James was talking about when he said: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3 KJV) We are blessed to be a blessing! The blessings are not just about or for us! God blesses us so that we might be in a position to be a blessing to someone else! The “blessed” of us are to help and be a blessing to the “rest” of us!

So, the next time you hear someone express a desire to be blessed, ask them why are they seeking to be blessed. Is it so that they might be more “comfortable” in life? (By the way, God’s ultimate concern is not our comfort, but rather the formation of righteous character within us!) Is it just the desire to have more of the “stuff” of life? If that is the case, they are asking and seeking “amiss!” But if they and we would concern ourselves with doing God’s will, if we would seek to do God’s will as much or even more so than we seek blessings, blessings would automatically flow into our lives. As Jesus said: “Your Heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things, but seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you!” (Matthew 6: 32-33)