Summary: There are three tenses to our relationship with God. The three tenses are past, present, and future. Each one reflects a different aspect of our relationship with God.
The Tenses of Faith
"I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)."
We live in an age of immediate gratification. We are conditioned to be high on expectations, but short on patience. I wonder how many of us are willing to commit the time and the energy and the patience necessary to develop a meaningful relationship with God.
There are three tenses to our relationship with God. This is seen clearly in the life of Abraham as it was recorded in today's scripture passages. (Genesis 12:1-8). The three tenses are past, present, and future. Each one reflects a different aspect of our relationship with God.
I. Past - Covenant
When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him. “I am almighty God; walk before me and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you and will multiply you exceedingly”. Ge. 17:1-2
To a great extent, in any relationship, yesterday has a vital influence on today and tomorrow. Particularly in a relationship that requires trust, the tone for the relationship is determined by that which has already been done.
In today's scripture passage, we read of the covenant between God and Abraham. As that covenant was established, Abraham raised a question about God's promise to bless him with an heir. When God called Abraham, God promised, "I will make you a great nation; and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing" (Genesis 12:2).
Time had passed and Abraham was beginning to wonder about that promise. He was beginning to doubt. Isn't that how many of us may feel during our times of trouble? Time erodes our inner faith about the things God is doing in our lives. We get impatient. If God doesn't work fast enough to our own timing, we question whether or not God is even doing anything.
Look at how God responded to Abraham. God told Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. God assured that promise with a reminder of all that He had done for Abraham. God said, "I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess" (Genesis 15:7).
In other words, God was saying that He had already brought Abraham this far, why would Abraham lose confidence now? God reminded Abraham that in the past God had always been faithful, keeping promises and fulfilling them. That gave power and credibility to God's assurance that God would indeed bless Abraham with an heir.
Any time Israel began to wonder about whether or not God would deliver on God's promises, God would raise up a prophet or a messenger to remind God's people of all the ways God had been faithful in the past.
The earliest form of worship, for the people of Israel, focused on offering praise to God for God's many acts of faithfulness. As they worshiped, they would identify the specific acts through which God had shown faithfulness. They would remember, and they would praise God for God's faithfulness. As they did so, their faith was quickened, and their worship left them with a greater sense of hopefulness regarding what God might do in their midst. Remembering the past always empowers God's people to be hopeful about what might come next.
If we will take the time to pause and reflect on our lives, we too will see God's presence. God is faithful. When Abraham came to a point that he had doubts about God, God reminded Abraham of God's past faithfulness. When we have doubts in our own faith experiences, we too need to look back. It is when we look back that we can clearly see that God has been faithful to us.
By remembering the past, we are better able to see the blessings we now enjoy, and we are able to look to the future with a great sense of hope.
If we are tempted to doubt God's presence or His will in our lives, we must remember the past. By remembering God's faithfulness in the past, we will be able to respond in the present and the future to God's goodness to us. 2 Tim.2:13.
II. Present - Faith
Margaret Storm Jameson, the English author, once expressed the view that we all spend too much time living in the past, feeling regret for lost joys or shame for things badly done. Even when our minds turn to the future, she said, we spend an unnecessary amount of time longing for it or dreading it. She said, "The only way to live is to accept each minute as an unrepeatable miracle . . . Work at your work. Play at your play. Shed your tears. Enjoy your laughter. Now is the time of your life." - Margaret Storm Jameson