EXAMPLES FROM THE PAST
By Orville Freestone
ABRAHAM – THE STEPS OF FAITH
“Those who walk in the steps of that faith
of our father Abraham” Rom. 4:12.
The apostle Paul wrote that the things that happened to the ancients were written for our learning, that we should not repeat their mistakes and errors, but learn from their experiences of faith (I Cor. 10:11). Abraham is certainly one of the greatest persons of history, not just of the Bible. After four thousand years he stands tall as an example of faith and as one of the foundations of western culture and thought. His imprint is deep in history. He is especially noted in scripture for his faith. Paul challenges us to follow in the steps of Abraham’s faith. What are they?
His first step of faith is that He believed God. God made seven promises to Abraham: “I will make you a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, you shall be a blessing, I will bless those who bless you, I will curse him who curses you, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:1-3 ) Abraham believed what God said, even though it seemed impossible. This changed Abraham’s life: he became a pilgrim of faith. We, too, can believe God, and our lives will be changed.
Abraham’s second step of faith is that he obeyed God. It is difficult for us to comprehend what God’s command to Abraham meant, to leave his family and country and go to where he knew not. Our times are very different from him. To belong to a family and tribe was security. When he left Ur, he left one of the great cities of his day. But he obeyed God, went out to where he knew not, and became a pilgrim of faith. (Heb. 11:8-9) Peter assures us that we are pilgrims of faith and that we, too, can obey God. (I Peter 2:11)
The third step of Abraham’s faith is that he worshiped God. Wherever he went he build altars (Gen. 12:7; 12:8; 13:18; 22:9) and he returned to those altars to worship. (Gen. 13:4) Too often, when Christians move to a different place, or take another job, the church where they will worship is not a part of the plans. Then, when distance from their church is too great or there is none where they go, they become church drop-outs. The admonition to not forsake the assembling for worship (Heb. 10:25) is for our spiritual welfare.
The fourth step of Abraham’s faith is he trusted God. Genesis 15:6 reads “he believed in the Lord, that is he put his faith in the Lord, he trusted Him. He believed that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead, if that was necessary to fulfill His promise. (Heb. 11:18-19) This was a test of faith more severe than we are likely to have and we too, can trust the Lord for our lives. Like him, we can trust God’s promises to us. It is greatly important that we understand what are the promises of God for us. It is not true that “every promise in the Book is mine.” Some of the promises in the Bible are of judgment for the unbelieving. Other promises are to Israel and not for us. We do have “exceeding great and precious promises” on which we can trust our lives. It is important that we know what they are.
These are the steps of the faith of Abraham and we can walk in them too. But like us, at times Abraham’s faith failed. When there was a famine in the land of Canaan Abraham took his family to Egypt to survive. (Gen. 12:10) He lied about his relation to Sara causing problems all around. This was certainly not of faith, but God graciously protected them. When it became apparent that Sara could not have a child, they resorted to a common law of that time that a slave could be a surrogate mother for an heir. (Gen. 16) God soon made it clear that this was not what He had in mind. Only trouble came from this. Again in Genesis 20, Abraham lied about Sara being his wife. Again, the result was grief. It took a while for Abraham to learn that “works” are not faith. Even so, Abraham did walk by faith and became “the friend of God.” (II Chron. 20:7) These are lessons that we, too, must learn.