Over the next few weeks, I’d like to consider the lives of men and women in the Bible who have walked away from their previous lives and have followed the calling of the Lord.
Imagine growing up a certain way, spending your whole life living in a part of the world in the company of your family, and then one day all that changes. God tells you to go somewhere you don’t know and have never been to. You go with nothing but a promise to hold on to. Far from being hypothetical, this really happened. We’re talking of course about Abraham. At the time of course his name was Abram (meaning: “exalted father”), whose name God eventually changes to Abraham (meaning: “Father of many”).
Some of us might say, well what was the promise? In Genesis 12, we’re told that God appeared to Abraham and made a covenant with him. God promised that he would make Abraham into a mighty nation, he would be blessed and through him, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Pretty sweet deal huh? But would the promise be enough for you to go?
How about the fact that it was God who made the promise? If I was a person considering giving a loan, part of my considerations whether to give a person a loan is the person’s trustworthiness. Are they able to pay the loan back? The one making the promise is Creator of the heavens and the earth. Powerful? Check. Knows the future? Check. Able to make his promise come true? Check.
What would be your considerations? Would you go? To be sure, it would be a life changing experience. But would it be the kind of life changing experience that I would want? Not necessarily. Personally speaking, the life changing experience I would want is the kind in which neither I, nor the ones I care about would get hurt or feel hurt. I wouldn’t want to wait too long. Nor would I want to be just an accessory in the story. I’d want to be the center. Not only that, but I’d like prestige and respect. I’d like things to happen the way I want it, when I want it. I’d like everyone to understand and acknowledge who I am and what I am trying to do.
As you can see, the trust that God expected of Abraham is not the same kind of trust that I would want to give. If we are honest with ourselves, often when we want to know God’s will, we actually mean that we would prefer to hear God’s will, keep it as an option, and take it, tweak it, or mold it into what we want it to be.
What’s amazing about Abraham’s decision to follow God’s will is that those weren’t his motives. We’re not told much about his considerations. We’re just told, “So Abraham went, as the LORD had told him” (Gen. 12:4). To be clear, he wasn’t some sort of adventure junkie. He didn’t go because he was bored at home. He didn’t go to find himself. He didn’t go because he wanted to see the world. He went because God called him.
What is interesting is how Abraham is remembered in the Bible. Abraham is not his smarts, nor his military prowess. What Abraham is commended for over and over again is his faith. His faith was not without failure. He certainly had his own failings. There were times when he didn’t trust in God’s promises. At best Abraham had moments of great brilliance, but he also showed a propensity of forgetting God almost immediately.
In the end, Abraham is remembered for his faith. But the New Testament writers were very clear that his faith was not a work that contributed to his acceptance before God. His actions were the fruit of his faith. They were the outworking of his belief and trust in God. Paul and the writer of Hebrews call the church to imitate the faith of Abraham in trusting God. The greatest way that we are called to imitate Abraham’s faith is to believe in Jesus’ work of salvation for us. We are not called to depend on ritualistic practices, our church attendance, nor even our moral behavior to save us. We are called to trust in Christ.
This trust goes beyond just our eternal salvation. This trust goes into how we live every day of our lives. While only a few of us may receive a call to leave home and family, we are all called to “leave” the comfort of the way the world operates and trust the Lord. Faith in God affects how we live and why we live. No longer are we called to live for our own personal comforts and pleasures. Nor are we the simply the results of a cosmic accident. We have been created and redeemed in order to demonstrate the glory and the goodness of God.