Tag Archives: Abraham

Rough and steep….

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!

Do you trust me?

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this; He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

(Ps 37. 1-6)

What does it mean to say that we trust someone? Sometimes it is that we respect their advice and wisdom, and would be strongly influenced by their counsel in time of decision-making. Other times it reflects a belief that a person can keep our troubles to themselves, providing us with a safe place to share our burdens.

On a deeper level, when I married, I entrusted myself to my husband, giving him access to my life and great power to affect me for good or ill. Why was I willing to do this? Because I believed then, and still do, that he loved me as well as his human frailty permitted, that he desired the best for me, and that he would be good for me. He has given me similar power in his life, and my desire always is to be good for him. I know that I have failed, and will do so again. I have been selfish, short-tempered, and unreasonable, at times unwilling to see things from his point of view because I know that he is right and I am wrong! By God’s grace, we have grown together, and will go on relying on his help to love and be faithful to one another – continuing to be open and vulnerable because we made a covenant together to trust one another in love.

It seems to me that over and over the bible reveals God asking this very same question of us, his children, “Do you trust me?….Do you trust me enough to do as I ask?” And ultimately, our answer to that question depends, as in human relationships, on whether we believe that the one asking for our trust really loves and wants the best for us. Consider Adam and Eve, stewards of paradise, with one single prohibition (given for their protection) that they refrain from eating the fruit of a certain tree. When Eve stole the fruit and persuaded Adam to eat with her, they were effectively saying that they did not trust God to be good for them, that He was unfair and unreasonable! How wrong they were…..

Consider Abraham, who was asked to trust God first of all for a new land which he had never seen; then for safe keeping in Egypt – which Abraham tried to arrange for himself by cunning, and ended up causing all sorts of trouble(Genesis 12). When God asked Abraham and Sarah to trust him for descendants, they showed that they had not learnt their lesson, and again tried to arrange it for themselves causing more trouble (Genesis 16). The hero of that sorry tale was God, who patiently and faithfully kept his promises to Abraham, allowing him more than one fresh start!

Consider David, who was anointed the future king of Israel many years before he was actually crowned, and who endured many trials along the way, when he might well have given up on God’s promise or else – like Abraham – have taken matters into his own hands. There were two occasions when David could have assassinated Saul most conveniently, but he insisted on trusting God to arrange matters, and held back.

Am I willing to trust God with my life, my children, my work and my church family? Do I really believe that God wants the best for us and that, unlike human promise-makers, He is able to deliver it?

What does this kind of trust look like in daily life? When changes come, do I fret and worry over things I cannot control, or do I strive to act and think in ways which reflect my belief that God’s ways for my life will always be the best – even though at times they may be painful and difficult? Am I willing not to interfere with God’s timing, not to grab the things I think He has promised but wait until they are poured into my lap?

If I truly believe that God has and will always keep faith with me, fulfilling His promises, then I must walk in daily obedience, not fretting over what I do not know and cannot control. I must do the present task, even when I see no clear path ahead.

It is my faithful obedience in all the small things, and my calm, joyful acceptance of God’s directing of my life which will speak most loudly of the love which I receive from Him, and demonstrate most clearly His trustworthiness. May I be given daily strength and courage to glorify Him in this way!