Summary: One way to know the Bible is to become familiar with those who walk up and down in its pages. As we think about Abraham, the one word that comes to mind is faith. In the pages of Scripture, Abraham moves before us as the man through whom faith, the living
Abraham: Man of Faith
Text: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed” (Heb. 11:8).
One way to know the Bible is to become familiar with those who walk up and down in its pages. As we think about Abraham, the one word that comes to mind is faith. In the pages of Scripture, Abraham moves before us as the man through whom faith, the living principle of true religion, becomes a force in human life. Abraham’s faith went beyond mere belief to action. We can learn three lessons from him.
I. Abraham illustrates that the man of faith interprets his life in terms of mission.
When Abraham was called (Gen. 12:1-3; Acts 7:1-4), he did not try to bargain with God. He allowed himself no backward glance. The Genesis account summarizes Abraham’s act of faith in words of simplicity: “So Abram left, as the LORD had told him” (12:4NIV). Faith opened up the long view and revealed the far horizon, because it lifted one isolated human being out of his hopelessness and meaninglessness and made him a part of the ongoing purpose of God.
Abraham viewed his life in terms of mission. He regarded himself as a person sent by God. This same sense of mission is found in that select com¬pany of the faithful through the centuries. The supreme example of this is Jesus, who was conscious of a unique relationship with the Father at the age of twelve (Luke 2:49) and who, when he was grown up, said again and again, “He sent me” (John 7:29 NIV).
Here is a frame in which every Christian can put his or her own picture. Such a sense of mission is not reserved for a few like Abraham and Moses, Jesus and Paul. Our faith has failed unless it has helped us to interpret our lives in terms of God’s will and to know that, like Abraham, we have been called for a specific purpose. Such a sense of mission does two things for us.
A. This sense of mission gives purpose and meaning to our daily work. A cook in a . certain household spoke the truth when she said, “Life around here is so daily.” Many people would echo that sentiment. Multitudes move along in a treadmill kind of existence, bored to tears. The solution to this problem can be found in going back to Abraham and learning from him a sense of mission. This door stands open to every Christian.
B. This sense of mission offers not only purpose but power. Faith in God is not sim¬ply an exalted philosophy of life, a savior from the darkness of unbelief, and a sustaining motive for patient service; it is also a source of power for positive achievement. When people are doing what they are convinced is God’s will, they can count on God’s power and feel that they are in har¬mony with his purpose for them.
||. Abraham demonstrates that the man of faith is not always a man of perfect character.
When God told Abraham, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Gen. 17:1), he was urging his servant to live in close touch with him and thus live a life of moral perfection. But Abraham did not always do this.
A. Note the lapses of faith for Abraham. In both Egypt (Gen. 12:10-20) and later in Gerar (Gen. 20), Abraham, to save his own life, introduced his wife, Sarah, as his sister. The fact that she was his half-sister (Gen. 20:12) did not excuse this weak and sinful act. Sarah was taken into the harems of Pharaoh and Abimelech respectively. In both instances, disaster was averted by God’s intervention. What a sad scene to see this man of God being rebuked by pagan rulers.
Another lapse of faith occurred when, upon Sarah’s suggestion, Abra¬ham took her Egyptian slave woman, Hagar, as a secondary wife hoping that she might bear the promised heir. According to the accepted cus¬tom of the time, a child born in this relationship was considered the child of the real wife. Not only did this violate God’s ideal of monogamy in marriage, but it was also a failure of faith on the part of both Sarah and Abraham when they attempted to take matters into their own hands instead of waiting on God’s promise.
B. Note the lesson for us from Abraham’s failures. Some years ago a book was pub¬lished with the title For Sinners Only. That would be a good motto for a church, for Christians are not persons without sin; rather, they are sin¬ners saved by grace.
David, described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14), was not without failure. He was so described, yet we can’t help but think of his dark sins. In the New Testament, the people who are called “saints” were not perfect. The thing that marked them as God’s people is this: When they fell down they got up and tried again. The cross we are to carry is the daily battle with sin (Luke 9:23).