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The Faith of Our Father

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, … to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. (Romans 4:16)

What is faith?  More specifically, what is Biblical faith?  Faith can be a tricky and sometimes illusive concept.

When the Biblical writers want to talk about faith, they most often talk about one man, described as “the father of those who have faith.”  His name is Abraham.  His descendants are described in this passage as those who “share the faith of Abraham.”  What can he teach us about it?

First, Abraham knew his own insufficiency. All faith begins with a sense of need.  It is an awareness that God has something more for us, something which we do not yet have and cannot attain by ourselves.  It may begin with a sense of longing, a vague sense that something is missing or there may be some specific vision of what we could or should be.  And there is always the realization of our own inability to achieve it.  God came to Abraham and Sarah with an utterly crazy idea (humanly speaking).  In their old age Sarah would have a son, an heir.  Impossible, they knew and yet God said it was his plan for them.  He hoped against hope.

What does God want for you?  What sin does he want to deliver you from,  what quality does he want you to have in your life?  Yes, I know.  You’ve tried all too often–it’s impossible.  You can’t do it.  And sometimes you even wonder if God is able to do that too?

Well, Abraham had his doubts too, but he overcame them and became strong. If you’ve never had questions, you’ve probably never faced yourself and the real issues of life.  One of the reasons for our inability to get over doubts is sometimes that we try to believe certain things, rather, than believing God.  The difference is crucial–it is not so much what we believe but who we believe.  One of my favorite Peanuts scenes, repeated periodically, features Lucy, Charlie Brown, and a football.  Lucy tells CB she will hold the football for him to kick it.  But CB has seen this before and knows that just as he is about to kick it, Lucy will pull it away and he will fall flat on his back.  So He refused.  But Lucy is persuasive and finally convinces him to try again.  Of course with the same result.  Then she says, “I admire you CB.  You have such faith in human nature.”

To act on our faith is a lesson Abraham had learned early in life and that becomes the real secret.  To live by our faith rather than our doubts.  When Abraham did this the Bible says he “was strengthened in his faith.”   Just as physical exercise increases physical strength so “faith” exercise strengthens faith.  Then follows a critical step–Abraham “gave glory to God.”    What we want from faith is sometimes an unworthy goal and it fails.  We want success, or health, or happiness.  But in the phrase Rick Warren made popular “it’s not about you.”  We should understand that the goal of faith is always that God be honored and glorified.

So– Abraham believed what God said,
did what God asked,
received what God promised.

May it be so with you.

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