What does authentic faith look like? For a clue, check out the pic above and the story of Abraham in Genesis. We sometimes hope for a rocket trajectory, that we always climb spiritually. Without a doubt, Abraham acted on his faith, and God confirmed that.
Hebrews 11 records “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (verse 8). No clue where to go, except God said go, and he went. And when uncomfortable as an alien in that land, he hung in there, “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents” (verse 9).
Faith continued to inform his life, “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age…was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise” (verse 11). He had faith that God would faithfully keep his promise of a son.
A pretty good example of faith, he set out blindly following God, and became the father of the Jewish people, who in turn gave us Jesus. But his journey included some missteps. Serious ones. Sometimes repeated ones. So, let’s look back at Genesis.
In chapter 12 a famine drove him to Egypt and he lied to Pharaoh that his wife Sarah was just his sister, to save his own life. And although Hebrews said he trusted God to be faithful, God didn’t provide him and Sarah the child when he wanted, so he once doubted so much in Genesis 16 that he impregnated a servant girl to have a son. Chapter 20 gives us a rerun, he again lied to a king about his wife being just his sister. And to be fair, we find many faith examples during his life.
So, back to our question about the look of faith. Two principles emerge. First, yield to God, even when it doesn’t make sense. God said go, and Abraham went. He had no clue what to do, except go. Our faith will look like his when we don’t rationalize, when we don’t let culture and laws and popularity and ease and wealth and our own desires determine our actions. Honestly, a lot of what God asks hasn’t made sense to me at the time. Looking back, however, I can often see what he had in mind. Not always, but he’s God and I’m not. I’m down with that, and hope you are as well.
Second, our faith journeys will look like the Sierra Nevada mountains--a lot of peaks, a lot of valleys. We will lose heart, we will cave in, we will yield to our desires instead of God’s. Like Abraham. So we get back on track. We acknowledge we made a mistake, ask forgiveness, practice restoration when relevant, and start moving upward. Again.
I’ve found our expectations have a huge impact on the look of our faith. Fulfilled ones bring more courage, unmet ones bring discouragement. So, expect that we can yield to God’s clear direction. Like Abram, and take courage from that. But also learn from Abraham that you’ll take some wrong turns on the journey. Don’t expect perfection, and you can avoid some discouragement.
Kick Starting the Application
Think back to a time when God clearly spoke to you and you obeyed. Think of another example when you refused. How did each impact your faith? What do some of your peaks look like? Your valleys? Is God asking you to obey in a particular area now that you’ve been struggling with? If so, how can you better obey?