Summary: God's promises don’t rest on your faith. They rest on his faithfulness. But how can you not have faith in One so faithful?
TODAY I WANT TO TALK WITH YOU about faithfulness—not yours, but God’s God is a promise-making God, but he is also a promise-keeping God. He is faithful in keeping his Word. Now, admittedly, it is sometimes hard to believe that. Our faith falters when it looks like God has forgotten what he promised. But listen—this is my bottom line with you today: God’s promises don’t rest on our faith—how much of it we have, how strong it is, that sort of thing. No, God’s promises don’t rest on our faith; they rest on his faithfulness.
Take Abraham for example. He is called the father of faith. But it wasn’t because his faith was always so exemplary. He had a problem. And that problem was this: he had no kids, which means he had no heir. And that troubled him no end. He says in verse 2, “I continue childless”—or even, I shall die childless. And that is of great concern to Abraham.
No heir, you see. And he isn’t getting any younger. He was seventy-five when he first heard God’s call. Now he’s what? Maybe eighty-five. This is a problem. But it’s not the real problem. The real problem is something different, something deeper, something more unsettling still. The real problem is this: God made a promise he hasn’t kept. If you go back to chapter 12, where Abraham has his first encounter with God, you’ll see. God told Abraham to leave home and set out for a land he would show him. And he promised Abraham—he said, “I will make of you a great nation” (Gen. 12:2). So, Abraham, who had no children, would have children—kind of hard to believe since he was pretty far along in the age category and Sarah, his wife, was certainly beyond the years of child-bearing. But God said it. He promised it. And when Abraham got to the land that God wanted to show him, God said, “To your offspring I will give this land” (v. 7). Pretty awesome promise!
Abraham and Sarah had fixed up the nursery—you know, over there in that corner of the tent—and they waited. And they waited. And they waited. But there was still no wailing baby to keep them up at night. Still no child to carry in their arms. Abraham began to wonder whether God was all that reliable. Maybe he wasn’t one to make good on his promises.
By the time we get to chapter 15, Abraham is looking for the celestial complaint department. He wants to register his dissatisfaction with the way God is—or isn’t—holding up his part of the bargain.
Have you ever felt that way? You experience first one disappointment and then another. You’re beset by one set-back, and before you barely get your footing and regain your balance, something else comes along to knock you down. And you think: Where is God? And you begin to doubt whether you can trust him or not. So, is God trustworthy?
Do you know how God responded to Abraham’s complaint? He made another promise. Actually, it was the same promise, but he made it again. He took Abraham outside and showed him the night sky. It looked like somebody had spilled a salt shaker and a deep, dark blue tablecloth. “Count the stars,” God said, “that is, if you can.” And then he promised, “So shall your offspring be.”
And then comes verse 6, one of the most important verses in all the Bible. It says, “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” The reason I say it’s one of the most important verses in the Bible is that Paul quotes that same verse in the New Testament, not once but twice, to underscore the fact that we don’t become righteous because of the good we do—no matter how much good we may do. We are counted as righteous—just as Abraham was—not because of what we do or don’t do but because we believe. And when we believe in Jesus Christ, his righteousness is credited to us. So Abraham “believed God.”
This is no doubt why he is regarded as the father of faith. But, as we’ve seen, Abraham’s faith wavered. Not just once or even twice but a whole lot of times. In fact, right here in chapter 15, no sooner do we read that Abraham “believed the Lord” than we read that he also doubted the Lord.
In verse 7, God said to Abraham, “I…brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land.” And now look. When the subject of the land comes up, how does Abraham react? Not with faith! He asks, “How can I know for sure?” That’s not faith’s question. In fact, faith doesn’t question. It believes. Doubt questions. It asks to be shown. It wants to see. If you live by faith, you don’t live by sight. If you live by sight, you don’t live by faith.