The Walk Of Faith Part 1 of 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Abraham's Faith was Great Faith
When most of us think about how we are doing spiritually, we think about surface things. We zero in on behavior patterns, such as, have we been gossiping, have we been honest with our friends, have we been reading our Bibles, have we been tithing? We concentrate on outward works, while forgetting that they are simply the fruit of a deeper spiritual factor. In the church, too many preachers are interested in attendance alone, which has nothing to do with a church’s health. What matters is not how many people are showing up, but how active and excited their faith is in the God they serve. You can easily pack a building without pleasing God, because crowds do not equal spirituality. In today’s churches, the new ABC’s of Christianity are Attendance, Building’s and Contribution.
When Paul sent Timothy to check up on the new Thessalonian church you’d think he would have asked first about the church’s growth. Did they have a building of their own yet? How many people were attending on Sundays? Were the offerings enough to cover the bills? And what about the individual people: Had they stopped swearing, drinking, carousing? Going to see bad entertainment? Sleeping around? But Paul didn’t mention any of those things. Instead, in 1 Thessalonians 3, the apostle Paul made known that his primary concern is for the faith level of his precious converts. He wants to take a temperature reading of their spiritual health, and faith is what he is looking for. He doesn’t just assume that because they are Christians, they are automatically walking in strong, hearty faith. Listen to his words and see how unfamiliar his approach is to our modern ears: "We sent Timothy. . . to strengthen and encourage you in your faith" (v. 2). "When I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith " (v. 5). "But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love" (v. 6). "Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith " (v. 7). "Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith” (v. 10). Throughout this chapter, Paul is churned up about one simple word. In fact, this is more than a checkup. He has sent Timothy to "strengthen and encourage" the people in their faith.
Notice that nothing is said about the Thessalonian's building, nothing about the sound system or the lights or the carpet. Instead, there’s a lot of attention given to their faith. But even that isn’t enough for Paul. In verse 10 he says he wants to make another trip there himself to "see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith." Why this emphasis? What Paul knew, but what we seem to have forgotten, is that when people break down in their behavior, backslide into sinful living, or grow cold in the Lord, it is because their faith has broken down first. When someone’s temper keeps flaring out of control, that is not the real problem; down underneath is a weakness of faith. So it is with all our going away from right living. Our ministry goal should not be to fill the building, but to teach the Word of God in such a way that people’s faith in Christ is built up. What God is really after are a people who show a strong, personal faith in him.
Have you ever read in Scripture about "Father David"? Or "Father Moses"? What about "Father Daniel"? These were all mighty men of God, to be sure. They rank among the greatest warriors, kings, prophets, and leaders of history. But none of them achieved the special honor bestowed upon "the father of all who believe, . . . the father of those who also walk in the footsteps of faith, . . . our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed, . . . the father of many nations" His name is Abraham. Abraham was obviously the great example when it comes to faith. How did he ever develop such towering trust in God? What can we do to develop the same type of Faith?
HE LIVED BY PROMISES, NOT COMMANDS.
On the day when God first spoke to Abram, God said, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” Now listen to the promises found in Genesis 12:1-3.
I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you
God directed Abram to do only one thing-"Leave"-and in return; God would do eight wonderful things for him. But it did require Abram to leave his country, his people, and his relatives-in other words, his comfort zone. He had to give up the land he knew best, the culture he had grown up in, the familiar sights and sounds. People who walk by faith often hear God’s voice telling them, "You need to leave now. It’s time to move on to something new." Sometimes that word has to do with geography, as in Abram’s case. At other times, God directs his people to leave certain work situations, sever pleasant relationships, or make other difficult changes. When you walk by faith, God never lets you settle into some area of stability. Just when you reach a certain place spiritually and decide to pitch your tent and relax for the rest of your life, God says, "Leave. " This was the story of Abram. In fact, he was never allowed to settle down permanently as long as he lived.
So, Abram’s family caravan left town in a mode of living off the promises of God. That was their source, and it must be ours as well. We cannot live off the commands of God, but rather the promises. The commands of God reveal his holy character to us, but they hold no related power. Instead, the grace of God flows through the channel of his promises. God must first do for us what he promised, and only then will we be able to walk in obedience to his commands. Remember, he is our Source-everything must start from him. It is true that God’s moral commands teach us where we fall short, but it doesn’t bring a solution to our human dilemma. Only the promises bring us hope, if we respond in faith, as Abram did. That is what sustained him throughout his life.
By the time Abram arrived in Canaan, God was already adding more promises to the original group. He said, "To your offspring, I will give this land". His abundance kept flowing. But the great majority of us are command-oriented. Every day we wake up conscious of God’s moral law and try to do right so He will approve of us at the end of the day. Yet this is a great struggle. We would do far better to wake up thinking about God’s wonderful promises; what he has said he will do for us today. Then his power working in us will tenderly direct us in the way of obedience and right living. The tender love of God toward us, as revealed in his gracious promises, is the only thing that draws us to a closer walk with the Lord. Abram felt so close to God that "he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD" there between the towns of Bethel and Ai. Abram’s heart reached out to God in worship. This God had been so good to him, so generous, so encouraging. Abram had not earned any promise or blessing by previous conduct; it was all because of grace. He could not help lifting up his heart and hands to God in adoration.