Each June, we set aside a Sunday to honor our fathers and the impact they have had our lives. Regardless of your relationship with your father, a father has had some impact on your life. Not all have experienced the love of a godly father. Some may have never had a father in their life at all. Others may have painful experiences of their childhood fathers.
No matter what relationship you share with your earthly father, there is a common trend that we all face in that the way we view our heavenly father is often shaped by the way we view our earthly father. If our earthly father was loving, we view God, our heavenly father, as loving. If our earthly father was distant and uncaring, we view God as distant and uncaring. If our father was harsh and strict, we will view God as being harsh and strict as well.
So, what makes a good father? You don’t have to look far into our world to see examples of fathers that are glamorized in pop culture. However, fathers in our media and television are portrayed as aloof, clueless, and bumbling through life. It seems that there aren’t many great prominent examples of fathers who are strong godly leaders in American culture today.
Over the next month, we will look at biblical examples of fathers and how their example can reflect to us the nature and character of God, our father. This week, we begin by looking at the example of perhaps one of the most famous fathers in the Bible, father Abraham.
Faith Despite Weakness
When we pick up the story of father Abraham in Genesis, he is named Abram and has no sons. In fact, he was well beyond the age that we would see fatherhood as a feasible option. Additionally, his wife was barren and had been unable to have children. So, the notion that Abraham would one day become the father of nations seemed laughable. And that is exactly what happened when God told Abraham and his wife, Sarah that he would become the father of nations and have offspring as numerous as the stars, they laughed.
Before you criticize Abraham, how many times have you heard the promises of God, looked at your circumstances, and laughed in disbelief? What excuses have you offered to God as to why his promises could never come true?
One of the main things that we learn from the life of Abraham is this principle: God can and will use you in spite of your weaknesses. Abraham’s list of weaknesses was extensive. There were many reasons for him to doubt what God had promised him. On the surface, it seemed impossible. However, Abraham was not limited by the circumstances in his response of faith to God.
Romans 4 gives us a description of Abraham having a trusting relationship with God despite the weakness of his faith and despite the circumstances he found himself in.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him “so shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promises. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:18-22
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed. Abraham defied his circumstances and what made sense because he trusted in the promise of God. Despite everything he knew and understood, Abraham trusted and believed God. Because of his faith, the promises of God came true in his life. The real test of what you truly believe isn’t what you say you believe. It’s not even what you think you believe. It’s what you do.
Faith is active; it is an action. A belief doesn’t become faith until it is acted upon. Abraham could say that he believed God and trusted God, but until he acted upon it, it wasn’t faith. There are times when it is easy to have faith in God. However, nothing proves what we believe more than what we do during crisis, difficulty, and disasters.
A Journey of Faith
We often think that Abraham was always a perfect example of faith, however, that is not the case. Life is a journey of faith that finds us at times following boldly and obediently the call of God, yet, at other times we are cowering, crippled in a state of fear and faithlessness. We see this in Abraham as well. There are times where he is full of faith then suddenly something happens and he is doubting everything he once believed about God.
When Abraham first receives God’s promise for him to become the father of many nations, God tells him to leave his home and take his family to a place that God will show him. Abraham follows in obedience, acting out his faith.
In that very same chapter (Genesis 12), Abraham and his family travel through Egypt. Abraham is filled with fear and doubt and thinks to himself, “my wife is beautiful and these Egyptians will want to take her as one of their wives and will kill me in the process.” So, he tells Sarah to lie and say that she is his sister so that they will not kill him to get to her.
Abraham acted upon the faith to leave his homeland to follow the promise of God. When the promise of God met with uncertainty and doubt, Abraham acted in fear. Quickly he forgot the promise of God to lead and protect him and began to doubt that God would fulfill this promise. Faith grows through testing.
Romans 5 tells us that faith produces perseverance, which produces character, which gives us hope. Faith does not grow without being tested. Nothing tests and forms our faith more than situations of crisis. Crisis is the crucible in which our faith is forged.
It would be nice if this was the only time that Abraham faltered because of his fear and doubt. Eleven years later, Abraham and Sarah become impatient waiting on the promise of God and Sarah decides that Abraham should have a child with her servant, Hagar. Then, thirteen years later when God promises that Abraham will have a son, Abraham and Sarah laugh at this promise. Abraham, the great hero of faith, is clearly lacking faith.
That is because faith is more than a one-time event. It is a process that lasts a lifetime, taking us through mountains and valleys, victories and defeats, joy and pain, laughter and tears, all the while strengthening our trust in a faithful God who is a good Father, who will fulfill every promise his Word has given us no matter what we see or are experiencing in that moment.
God’s faithfulness is not dependent on our faith. We should be thankful for that. Even when we are faithless, God is still faithful.
Even though Abraham was faithless and pretended that Sarah was not his wife or that he impregnates a servant girl because he was tired of waiting on God, or that he laughed at God when he gives him the promise of a son, Paul says that Abraham didn’t waver in his belief that he believed beyond all hope. He was fully persuaded of God’s power and we know him today as the father of faith. How is that even possible? God’s view of you is never determined by the failures of your past, because it is determined by your current position in Christ.
God doesn’t define you by who you used to be or what you’ve done because He is busy making you into who he has called you to be. The Bible tells us that when we have been made new in Christ, our past, who we used to be, and the things we did are gone and we take on the identity of Christ. We are no longer seen as the person we used to be, we are seen clothed in Christ. God didn’t define Abraham by his past failures, and He does not define you that way either.
Think about it for a minute. Jesus used the phrase, “well done my good and faithful servant,” in twice in one of his parables (Matthew 25:21,23) to describe how God would settle accounts at the end of this age. If you are like me your first response might be, “from what I remember it wasn’t all that well done, nor was I all that faithful at times.” Gratefully God doesn’t see me alone, but sees me clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
Our journey of faith begins with us taking on Christ as our identity. Through Christ, we are made perfect. Our weaknesses become strength. Our failures become faith. In order for this kind of active faith to be made possible, we have to make Christ our Lord and place our hope and trust in Him.
Faith Made Perfect
Abraham demonstrates in this story that it is not the amount of faith you have, rather, it is what you have faith in. Jesus tells us that we only need the faith the size of a mustard seed to do incredible things. How is this possible? It is possible because what matters is not the size of your faith, rather, it’s about the object of your faith, the size of your God.
No greater example can be given of the power of faith than the gift of salvation that God has given us. When we place our hope and faith in Christ as Savior, it is not how much faith we have, rather it is the object of our faith, Christ, that saves us. It is not the quantity of faith that sustains us through the trials of life. It is the object of our faith, Christ, that sustains us through life.
Paul describes Abraham and Sarah as being dead, yet through God, they were brought from “as good as dead” to life. It seemed impossible that Abraham and Sarah would be able to have a son given their physical condition, however, God calls things into being that are not there yet. In the same way that God called Abraham, God is calling you to a life far beyond where you are now. The only way this is possible is because God loves you relentlessly and has sent Jesus to be the object of your faith.
Hebrews 12 instructs us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, so that we will not grow weary and lose heart. Jesus is not only the object of our faith, he is the source of our faith and what makes our faith perfect. Faith is made possible through Christ, it is placed solely on Christ, and is made perfect when we meet Jesus face to face.
Responding in Faith
So where do we go from here? Some of you may find yourself in a situation where faith seems far off. You may need the reminder of Hebrews 12 that Christ is the author of our faith, he is what makes faith possible, and he is the finisher of our faith. It is not the size of faith that matters, it is the object of your faith.
You may have never placed your trust in Christ as Savior and therefore are not able to demonstrate faith through Christ. God’s Word gives us the promise that if we surrender our lives to Christ, we take on His identity and are made new. As you live in this new identity in Christ, you become able to live a life of active faith.
Wherever you find yourself, remember that faith is active. It’s not just about what you believe, it’s about what you do. God is not limited by your circumstances or weaknesses. Step out in faith and allow God to work in your life in a powerful way that only he can.
How is God leading you to step out and respond to Him in faith today?