When Faith Falters Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Abram would not pass the test, but instead, his fear overcomes his faith, and his faith falters.
This brings us to the second lesson that will help us keep our faith from faltering: we must realize that the greatest enemy to the life of faith is fear.
Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
In the life of faith the only thing we have to fear when it comes to a faltering faith is fear itself, for fear is the greatest enemy to faith.
Now, fear can be a friend to faith when one lets fear strengthen faith, but when one gives into fear it will overcome faith.
The remainder of the text reveals how Abram gave into fear and how fear caused his faith to falter.
The first thing to notice is that fear, if not overcome with faith, will begin to speak louder than the Father.
In verse ten we are told that on the account of the famine in the land, Abram decided to leave the place where God commanded him to go and make his way into Egypt.
At first glance, this seems like the wise thing to do, but when you take a closer look at the verse you notice that something is missing.
We know that the Lord brought Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans with his Father Terah.
We know from verse one of chapter twelve that it was the Lord who commanded Abram to leave Haran and go to Canaan.
What is missing in this journey is the voice of the Lord telling Abram to go to Egypt.
The absence of God speaking to Abram is no coincidence.
The absence reveals that Abram was letting his fear speak louder than the Father.
God’s promises at this point were in the background and now it was Abram’s fears speaking to him.
Will God really take care of me?
Is he really going to bless me like he said?
These fears and doubts would begin to chip away at his trust in the Lord.
Abram’s fears would begin to overshadow the promises of God.
When fear begins to speak louder than the Father it distorts reality and causes one to lose sight of God.
But, let us not be so hard on Abram for letting fear speak louder than the Father.
There are other times in the Bible were God’s people let their fears speak louder than the promises of God.
One only has to go to the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of the book of Numbers to see God’s people letting their fears speak louder than the promises of the Father.
God commands Moses to take leaders from the twelve tribes of Israel and send them into the land of Canaan.
These twelve men spent forty days spying out the land and then they came back to give a report.
In the report they gave, they declared that the land had much to offer, but ten of them were scared to go in.
They said that the people were too great to defeat, and therefore they should not go in.
Two of the twelve, Caleb and Joshua said they should go in.
Needless to say, the ten who were afraid, scared the rest of the people and they did not want to go in.
The problem with the report given by the ten is that they forgot that God had already told them that He would take care of the people in the Promised Land.
The Lord promised to give them the land.
Their fears spoke louder than the Father’s promise.
When fear begins to speak louder than the Father, faith will begin to falter, and when our faith begins to falter, we will often fall into the same temptation that Abram fell into fear can cause us to take things into our own hands instead of trusting the Lord to take care of us.
On account of Abram listening to his fears instead of having faith, he begins to take the initiative in his journey of faith instead of following the Lord’s initiative.
Notice that in verse one it is God taking the initiative to summons Abram back to the journey of faith.
It was on his own initiative that Abram “went down to Egypt and sojourned (stayed a while)” not God’s initiative.
Abram is taking things into his own hands.
The reason is simple: his faith had faltered on account of his fears.
Abram takes things into his own hands and leaves God out of the equation.
Abram’s sojourn into Egypt was a clear indication that Abram was operating on his own terms and not the Father’s.
There are a few times in the Bible where we see the Lord commanding or allowing his people to go to Egypt.
We see this truth with both Jacob and Joseph, the adopted father of Jesus.
But for the most part, when Egypt is mentioned in the Bible it is usually referring to that which is of the world.
When Egypt is used in this sense
it often refers to that which God’s people are to avoid allegiance to.
To go to and rely on Egypt is symbolic of relying on human resources rather than trusting in the Lord.
When God’s people find themselves in Egypt it is usually because their faith has faltered, and now they have taken things into their own hands and are trusting in human resources instead of Divine resources.
When a child of God’s faith falters in this manner it usually has a downward effect.
The lack of faith on the part of God’s people usually leads to more sin committed by God’s people.
That is exactly what happens to Abram, he continues on this downward spiral of sin.
When a faith falters it can cause God’s people to do things in the flesh.
When you see the actions of Abram in verses eleven through thirteen you begin to think that Abram never responded to the summons to the life of faith.
Abram’s actions in these verses are no different than an unbeliever’s actions.
Abram is acting totally apart from God and totally without any trust in God’s ability to protect him.
It was the fear of the famine that caused Abram’s faith in God’s ability to provide him with daily sustenance, to falter; and it was the fear of the Egyptians that caused Abram’s faith in God’s ability to protect him from danger, to falter.
Therefore, Abram would resort to scheming and deception for the purpose of protecting his own life.
Notice the conversation that takes place between Abram and Sarai just before they enter Egypt, “And it came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, ‘See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; and it will come about when the Egyptians see you, that they will say ‘This is his wife;’ and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.”
There are several different understandings of how Abram knew that the Egyptians would kill him on the account of Sarai of which we will not get into.
However Abram came about this knowledge, it seems that Abram knew that if he told the Egyptians that he was Sarai’s brother then that would buy them time to escape because the Egyptians would negotiate with Abram for the right to marry his sister.
But if they knew that Abram was Sarai’s husband then they would just kill him.
Therefore, Abram, trying to buy time and to protect himself, would deceive the Egyptians by telling them a half-truth.
There is some truth in the statement that Abram is Sarai’s brother because we are told in chapter twenty that Sarai is Abram’s half-sister.
Why would Abram resort to deception and half-truths?
At this point, it was all about him.
He wanted it to go well with him, and he did not want to die.
Therefore, by taking things into his own hands and doing things in the flesh, he thought he had made a plan that would bring protection to him and also help the Lord keep his promise, by him staying alive.
Abram’s plan was to buy enough time to escape with his family and fortune intact, but his plan would fail.
We read that “It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw the woman was very beautiful. Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh, and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake, and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels.”
Abram was correct in saying that they would see that Sarai was very beautiful.
Abram was also correct that if they thought that he was Sarai’s sister that it would go well with him and his life would be spared.
But Abram was incorrect in thinking that he would have enough time to negotiate with the Egyptians, and it was this false calculation that would put both his wife and his marriage in danger.
This is where his plan failed.
Though Abram experienced the blessings given to him from Pharaoh, these blessings are not divine blessings, but instead, they were a blessing that came about through human initiative.
Just because a believer is being blessed materially, it does not indicate God’s approval.
In the case of Abraham he prospered materially, but spiritually he was bankrupt.
Furthermore, God’s promise to make Abram a great nation and bless all nations through him was based upon the seed of Abram, a promise that was now in jeopardy because of the faltering faith of Abram.
You could say that Abram left one problem only to find himself in another problem.
He left a physical famine and found himself in a spiritual famine, a famine that came upon him on the basis of his faltering faith in the Lord’s ability to take care of him.