Throughout the Bible, Abraham is celebrated for his faith. But how is it that during long periods of waiting and silence from God, Abraham’s faith did not waver? The Rev. Chris Myers of All Saints Dallas uncovers ways Abraham lived out his faith in his daily circumstances—and how we can do the same.
“No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:20-21)
On a recent Sunday at All Saints, I heard a sermon on the perfection of Abraham’s faith in the binding of Isaac, and that same week’s Daily Office readings included Romans 4, which is an extended reflection on Abraham’s faith. So I began to reflect on Abraham and the nature of his faith.
The New Testament makes a very big deal of Abraham. For Paul, James, the writer of Hebrews, and even Jesus, Abraham is an exemplar of faith. Indeed, Paul calls him the father of all who have faith. This is an amazing legacy, but when we read Abraham’s story in Genesis, and when we encounter him in the midst of his everyday, I don’t imagine that Abraham often felt like he was an exemplar of faith. He, like the rest of us, often lived with uncertainty and with doubt. But because we sit on the other side of the story, we have the benefit of the flash forward; we know how the story ends. And on the one hand, this is a good thing (knowing that God was faithful to his promises and that Abraham persevered in his faith). But on the other hand, knowing how the story ends sometimes takes us out of the day to day, out of the grind of his circumstances, out of the the actual story of his life.
Photo credit: Zionhears.blogspot.com
As we read Genesis, we can’t forget that Abraham lived for a very long time in the space between God’s promise and its fulfillment. The promise of a son, a land, a heritage were met with stretches of years and silence. No doubt there were many dark and lonely nights, many conversations with Sarah about when God would come through for them. And yet Paul tells us he did not waver, even though his body was old, even though he was as good as dead, even though Sarah was old and barren. Even in the face of all this he did not waver. That is when we see that his faith was truly extraordinary. In the day to day, moment to moment living of his life, he did not waver.
If you have been following Jesus for any length of time, you have undoubtedly been in that place of angst, where what you know God has promised and what you are experiencing clash with each other. To live by faith means that we sometimes live in a place of dissonance, where we experience the grinding friction between what feels real in the moment and what God has said is real. So how is it that Abraham did not waver? In the verses quoted above, we learn two amazing things about Abraham’s faith. One, we learn that Abraham’s faith grew. Faith is not a static, once and for all, mental assent to certain facts. It is a living, growing, dynamic reality that responds to life as it comes to us. Two, we learn that Abraham’s faith grew as a result of giving glory to God. In other words, worshipping God is a catalyst for the growth of our faith. Worship pulls us through moments of dissonance and darkness. Worship, not information, is the true antidote to doubt and faithlessness.
As you reflect on Abraham’s greatest test of faith, the sacrificing of his son, Isaac, try not to flash forward to the end of the story. Try to dwell in the moment and experience along with Abraham what it would mean to offer up the very person who is the fulfillment of all that God has promised. And as we inhabit that space with Abraham, let us not simply marvel at Abraham’s unwavering faith, but may we come to worship the God who Abraham worshipped, the God who did not spare his son, and as we worship, may we grow in faith.