Writing is a curious thing. Sometimes I’m easily inspired. Ideas burst forth out of nowhere and are strong enough to carry me through a writing blitz. Other times, an idea ferments slowly in my mind and only reaches the page when ripe and ready.
Today’s message has its roots in the former. Recently, I read a post from one of my colleagues talking about Abraham’s great faith.
In Christianity Abraham is known for being the Father of the Faith because of his willingness to leave His own people and for being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac.“I asked myself, ‘how faithful was Abraham, really?'”
However, while I was content to bask in the glow of Abraham’s example, the gears in my brain began to turn in another direction entirely. I asked myself, “how faithful was Abraham, really?”
The Faults of the Heroes of the Faith
According to the Bible God counted Abraham’s faithfulness to him as righteousness, a necessary condition for all of the Heroes of the Faith who are found listed in Hebrews 11. (Gen. 15:6)
Still, what is lost is the journey Abraham took to reach this point of faith, the point where he was willing to sacrifice his only son that God promised him. He didn’t get to that point overnight.
Abraham killing his son seemed counterintuitive to God’s great plan, to God’s covenant, and the promise He made to him, but Abraham followed through until the Lord stopped him. We applaud him for such great faith, yet the times he stumbled are often forgotten.
From the very beginning, Abram, later known as Abraham, was slow in following God’s direction.“No one was perfect in the Bible except for Christ.”
Unlike Peter, Andrew, James, John, Levi (Matthew), and other disciples that left everything and followed Jesus, Abraham took some time to leave it all behind.
He was supposed to leave his family, his people, and his country (his home). We find the details of this in Genesis 12.
Though Abram did leave his home, he had his family come with him and possibly other people as well. So… he kind of followed God’s plan. But isn’t that what most of us do too?
Then, in Genesis 11, Abram possibly made a pit stop at Haran depending on the chronological order of the story.
Either way, Abram kept his nephew, Lot, with him, which was an issue because he needed to leave his family behind.
In Egypt, he lied about his wife being his sister, which was only partly true. This happened twice, showing Abram did not trust God’s protection during this part of the journey nor had he learned this lesson the first time he lied about her.
Furthermore, Abram allowed himself to sleep with his wife’s servant to have a child. Ultimately, we see in these instances that Abraham tended to take matters into his own hands.“Throughout history the Bible reveals God’s faithfulness in the midst of His people being unfaithful.”
Please do not get me wrong. Abraham showed great faith, but he also failed at times.
The issue I am bringing forth is not that Abraham did not have faith, but that we as people forget about the faults of the biblical characters that we admire, look to, and at times are encouraged to imitate (which is a problem since the only person we should strive to be like is Christ).
However, many other characters are placed on a podium such as David. While he was “a man after God’s own heart,” he also had so much blood on his hands by the end of his life that he was not permitted to build God’s temple. God reserved that privilege for his son Solomon. (1 Kings 8:19)
Also, David had an affair with a man’s wife and murdered him to cover for his sins.
What about Gideon who might be portrayed as a warrior but was a scared guy? He tested God three times. (Judges 6-8)
What about Samuel? Yes, he worked for God for his entire life but failed to discipline his own children in the faith. (1 Samuel 3:13)
What about Solomon? He was the wisest man ever known but ended up with more wives and concubines than there were days in a year! (1 Kings 11:3)“God’s faithfulness doesn’t depend on our faithfulness. He is faithful even when we are not.”
What about the New Testament? Peter denied Christ three times, and the disciples all ran away.
Paul who is known for the majority of the New Testament writings had a thorn in his side.
The women of the faith struggled as well. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is often placed high and holy, but she was still a human. She did not fully understand the full work of her Son as seen in the scene when Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem.
Sari, later known as Sarah, doubted the promise of a son to her. Mary Magdalene who had demons was blinded to recognizing Christ and Mary and Martha could not see the big picture when their brother Lazarus died.
Each of these folks had their own struggles, they were not any better on their own than any of us.
At times we forget how imperfect the Church in Acts really was, but it should not take long for readers to realize that letters were sent to the people of the church because of issues of sins and conflict.
Let me now get to my point. The first is that no one was perfect in the Bible except for Christ.
All the heroes of the Bible had flaws, they all doubted at times, and fell away from God.“It is only through God that people are enabled to do mighty works for Him.”
The second point is that throughout history the Bible reveals God’s faithfulness in the midst of His people being unfaithful.
The principle is that God’s faithfulness doesn’t depend on our faithfulness. He is faithful even when we are not.
The second principle is this: it is only through God that people are enabled to do mighty works for Him.
Examples include Abraham having children as numerous as the stars in the sky, Sarah giving birth to a child in her old age, David being a man after God’s own heart, Solomon the wisest man who built the first temple, Mary who was granted the privilege of giving birth to Jesus, Mary Magdalene who saw the risen Christ first, Peter who became the rock of the church, and Paul who witnessed to the Gentiles.
As such, the same is true for you and me, it is God who works in us for His glory.
In fact, the faults of the those in the Bible are a great apologetic for the authenticity of Christianity. If God’s Word was fabricated, why would its authors portray themselves in such negative ways? Wouldn’t they want to look their best to us as strong examples of a false religion?
Also, God working despite our flaws confirms his majesty, glory and power. Ultimately, there is much good to glean from the realistic and fully human lives of those in scripture.
We fall, but through God’s grace He calls us out. He calls us to be different. But it’s not just a one-day commitment – it’s a process of change over the journey of our life.
Just like Abraham, we’re called, and we take detours, but God is still faithful, leading us to become faithful to Him.
Just like Abraham being asked to do the unthinkable, we are often asked to do the same.
However, God is patient with us. He allows us to take small steps as He reveals His faithfulness to us.“We’re called, and we take detours, but God is still faithful, leading us to become faithful to Him.”
Do not become discouraged when you fall off the path, when you stumble, or when you backslide to your old ways.
Remember God is faithful, and if you are alive and breathing then He is still working within you. He is sanctifying you so that you will be holy just as He is holy.
He has called those who follow Him to be different, to leave the world behind them, to live in ways that seems counterintuitive sometimes, and to fully embrace the faithfulness that God has with His people.
Are you ready to follow that call?
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Ruins of the Eastern Portico of the Temple of Baalbec, 1839. David Roberts (Scottish, 1796–1864). Color lithograph; The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of the Ohio C. Barber Estate through Andrew C. Squire 1927.82