Summary: We learn from Abraham about the gift of faith.
What’s the most precious thing you have? Your CD-player? Wedding ring? House? While those things may seem quite valuable to us now they won’t last forever. Therefore the most precious thing we have is our faith, for even if we should loose everything else but still have faith, we’re guaranteed to have an awesome eternity. This morning with the help of Abram, the Father of the Faithful, we’re going to examine this multi-faceted jewel called faith.
Abram, or Abraham as he would come to be known later on, is not unfamiliar to us Christians. It was he who was chosen to be the father of God’s special people, the Jews. The Jews are special, not because they are more righteous than everyone else, but because through them God brought the Saviour into the world. How did Abram come to receive this special privilege of being the forefather of the Saviour? Let’s find out.
In the first verse of our text we hear God say to Abram: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). The way God dealt with Abram is typical of the way that he deals with all sinners. If contact between God and sinner is to be established, God has to make the first move. Therefore one facet of faith is that it is a gift from God. Had God not come to Abram, Abram would never have believed in him. The same was true of the Disciples, for Jesus declared, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16a).
Why would God choose to give faith to Abram? Was he better than everyone else around him? No, not exactly. In fact we’re told that Abram’s father, Terah, worshipped idols (Joshua 24:2)! Although we can’t say for certain that Abram too worshipped these idols, God intervened in his life so that he wouldn’t follow in his father’s footsteps. What moved God to do this? His undeserved love for sinners. Paul said it best to the Roman Christians, “[salvation] does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Rom. 9:16). The same thing, of course, can be said about us. If God had not graciously used our parents, grandparents, or friends to bring us into contact with his Word, we would still be lost and condemned sinners.
The second thing we’ll discover about faith is that it is not blind, nor is it, as the author Samuel Butler said, “a kind of a betting or speculation.” When God told Abram to go to a land he would tell him about Abram went, not because he felt this was the right thing to do, but because God had given him a cluster of awesome promises. God said to Abram, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:2, 3).
Faith is a certain confidence based on the rock solid promises of God who never lies. In that way Christianity is truly unique. When God wants to move us to action he does so not by demanding, but by promising. For example when God tells us not to be afraid he doesn’t just command it, but promises to protect and provide for us thereby giving us a reason not to be afraid. Therefore when we base our faith on our feelings we’re on thin ice. True faith is founded on God’s promises and nothing else. That’s why it’s important for us to stay connected to God’s Word because it’s there that we find those promises.
Although the promises God made to Abram may not seem like any of the promises God has given to us, the Apostle Paul pointed out in our Epistle lesson how Abram was saved in the same way we are – through faith in the Saviour. Jesus even said of Abram, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). What Jesus said of course is true because when God promised Abram that all peoples on earth would blessed through him, that was a reference to the blessings that Jesus would bring for all people. I suppose we could also say, therefore, that faith is a “classic.” It saved not only Abram, but also all Old Testament believers and it continues to lead to salvation today.
Since faith is based on God’s powerful Word it’s not surprising to see that it is active. Martin Luther once said, “Faith does not sit on the heart like foam on beer.” Abram’s faith was certainly active for he responded to God’s call. “So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there” (Gen. 12:4, 5).