It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going..It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise.
(Hebrews 11. 8&11)
When we make a promise, a commitment before God, we cannot know in what ways he may choose to test that promise, or what circumstances will try us. We promise to do things not because we believe we will always feel like doing them, but because they are the right things to do. When I professed faith in Jesus, and made promises as a new member of my congregation, I committed myself to certain actions – prayer; bible study; joining in worship; giving of my resources – not to nebulous feelings of connection with my fellow believers!
We did not put conditions on our promise, it was absolute, and made in good faith – made because we believed that it was what God was asking us to do at that time. Our promise was our obedient response to God’s leading, just as Abraham obeyed God’s call to set out for a new land. That act of obedience was like a promise to trust, to follow, and to accept God’s plan for his life.
The path of obedience for Abraham took him to some dangerous places – involving both physical danger to himself, but also moral danger. Twice we see him fall into the temptation of denying that Sara is his wife, instead of trusting God to protect their marriage and thus fulfill his word that the child of promise would be their own son. I cannot judge Abraham for his failures, because I too may find myself in difficult and unwelcome places in the course of keeping my promises, and seeking to live in obedience to God’s call on my life.
What do I do when obedience finds me in a situation which fills me with fear, or hopelessness? How do I react when the logical explanation of my difficulties is that I have utterly failed, and not acted wisely or in a godly way? Does this mean that God has lost, or forgotten me? Does he not know my need, my weakness and my longing for relief from my distress?
It may well be that, like Abraham, I have made a tricky situation into a really bad one by making some wrong decisions, and often that may be due to losing our sense of God’s greatness and power to achieve his ends. But surely the story of Abraham also demonstrates very clearly that God keeps his promises, in spite of our failures to follow through on our own commitments.
What a relief, to know that my failures, my wrong decisions, do not make God’s commitment to fulfilling his promises to me somehow invalid. The mess I find myself in may be partly of my own making, but it does not put me beyond God’s reach. I am also encouraged to know that God does not want me to give up on my own commitment to obedience, to fulfilling my vows to him. He sees my failures, sees how discouraged I get by the struggle it can be, and says,”Child, I know, you are sore and distressed by your own failures. Receive the forgiveness I offer, let my love wash away that stain and ease the ache of regret. Now, rest, and then we will go on together; I know you can do this, and you will!”
God kept faith with Abraham, as he will with me.
He knows my heart’s desire is to do his will, and that – although I fail so often – I want to trust his power in my life to sustain and enable me to do that.
There is a very old chorus that came to mind recently, which I will quote to finish today, and hope that you find it encouraging as I did.
When the road is rough and steep, fix your eyes upon Jesus;
He alone has power to keep, fix your eyes upon him.
Jesus is our gracious friend, one on whom we can depend;
He is faithful to the end, fix your eyes upon him!