When Faith Falters Part 3
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
When our faith falters and we take things into our own hands, you can be assured that our problems will not be solved.
We only exchange one challenging circumstance for another challenging circumstance.
The greatest enemy to the life of faith is unhealthy fear.
Fear can either draw us closer to God or draw us far from God.
It is the latter that is the greatest enemy of God.
When fear begins to draw us away from God it does so by speaking louder than the promises of God.
When fear speaks louder than the Father then we will be tempted to take things into our own hands.
When we take things into our own hands we will do things in the flesh.
All of this is a result of fear that causes our faith to falter.
But all is not lost when our faith falters.
We must also realize that when our faith falters we can be assured that our faithful God will not.
In verse seventeen we see the faithful Lord intervening when Abram’s faith falters.
Here’s what it says, “But the Lord sent a terrible plague upon Pharaoh's household on account of her being there.”
“But the Lord…”
Those three words are a declaration of God’s faithfulness.
In fact, this story of Abram’s faltering faith is more about a faithful God than it is about a faithless servant.
Although Abram’s faltering faith would jeopardize the promise of God, God’s faithfulness to his word would bring the promise about.
In making sure that His promise would be fulfilled, we see God’s faithfulness revealed in three different ways.
The first thing we see is God’s faithfulness to intervene and discipline the faltering faith.
Our passage stated, “But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. Then Pharaoh Called Abram and said, ‘What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife?’”
If we are tempted in any way to think that the Lord approves of Abram’s behavior, then these verses should dispel any such notions.
Abram left one challenging circumstance and found himself in another.
It would seem that trouble was on the horizon.
Abram was helpless to be able to save his wife Sarai, but God was not.
God would intervene by first bringing discipline upon Pharaoh and then by using Pharaoh to discipline Abram’s faltering faith.
We are told in verse seventeen that the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with a plague or disease.
Without any question, Pharaoh understood that the disease was the consequence of taking Sarai into his household.
In the ancient world, the assumption was that when disease or sickness occurred it was always a direct result of displeasure on the part of a god.
The pagan religions saw disease and sickness as a direct result of sin.
The Lord revealed to Pharaoh that Sarai was Abram’s wife and as a result, the Lord struck Pharaoh and his household with a disease.
Pharaoh then calls Abram to him and he begins to rebuke him for his faltering faith, but don’t think for a minute that the source of the rebuke is Pharaoh.
It is the Lord using a pagan ruler to rebuke his servant.
Twice Pharaoh asks Abram why he lied to him.
This rebuke is indicative of just how far out of fellowship with the Lord Abram is.
Before Abram left for Egypt the Lord was speaking to him personally, the Lord was appearing to him, and Abram was worshiping and calling upon the name of the Lord.
But in Egypt the Lord is silent and worship is absent, and the Lord will use an ungodly man to rebuke the man of God.
Listen to Pharaoh’s questions once again, but this time see them as coming from the very mouth of the Lord, “Why did you not tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife?”
The Lord is confronting Abram on his faltering faith, and if Abram is honest with God, he would have to say that he lied because his faith faltered back in Canaan.
He lied because he failed to trust God.
In the Promised Land, he took things into his own hands, and he resorted to doing things in the flesh to try to take care of himself; when really all Abram had to do was to trust the Lord in the land of promise.
This rebuke on the part of Pharaoh and ultimately on the part of the Lord is God’s faithfulness to discipline his straying children.
God is intervening in the life of his child because His Word is at stake.
God is intervening on
the part of His child because his character is at stake.
The Lord deals with all of His children the same way he deals with Abram.
He is faithful to discipline when His people’s faith falters.
Faithful to Deliver
Verse twenty shows us that not only is the Lord faithful to discipline, but he is also faithful to deliver, “Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they escorted him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him.”
It's amazing, Abram puts himself and his wife in a predicament; one that could bring harm on both of them, and the Lord delivers them both unharmed.
This is God’s faithfulness to deliver his people.
But we must be very careful when we understand God’s deliverance.
God delivered Abram from the consequences of his faltering faith, but God does not always do that.
We can be assured that the Lord will deliver us spiritually by providing forgiveness and cleansing of our sins, but God often times does not deliver us from the consequences of our sins.
We see that taking place time and time again with the people of Israel.
We especially see that taking place in the life of King David.
David, committed adultery and murder, the Lord forgave him, but he did not deliver him from the consequences of his sin.
A while back, a story came out about a pharmacist who was watering down chemo treatments for the purpose of making money.
Come to find out, this pharmacist was a Christian man who was trying to make money to pay off taxes and a financial commitment he made to his church.
This Christian brother confessed his faltering faith and the Lord has forgiven him, but the Lord has not delivered him from the consequences of his faltering faith, which is prison time.
The final observation we notice about God’s faithfulness when faith is faltering is found in the first four verses of chapter thirteen: “So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot with him. Now Abram was very rich in livestock in silver and gold. He went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.”
What is taking place in these verses is God’s faithfulness to direct the faltering faith.
We are told that Abram went as far as Bethel.
Bethel means “house of God.”
Furthermore, we are told that Abram went back to where he was in the beginning.
That is, Abram went back to where he was before his faith faltered.
Compare this with verse eight of chapter twelve: “Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.”
God was faithful to forgive Abram’s faltering faith and direct him into full fellowship once again.
Abram has come full circle, his faltering faith has led him away from the Lord, away from worshiping him, away from calling upon him, and listening to him, but the Lord is faithful, and He leads Abram back to where he started.
The Lord leads Abram back to the place he should have never left: the presence of the Lord.
A pastor went to visit one of his church members who happened to be a farmer.
When he got out of his car he noticed an inscription on the farmer’s windmill.
What he saw was the words; “God is faithful,” inscribed in the farmer’s windmill.
The pastor asked a farmer, “Is that to mean that depending on what direction the wind is blowing God is faithful?”
The farmer said, “Absolutely not! I put that there to remind me that no matter what the direction the wind blows or whether the wind blows or not, God is always faithful.”
The lesson for keeping our faith from faltering should not be centered on the faithlessness of Abram.
If we are truly going to keep our faith from faltering, then we need to focus on the faithfulness of God that is revealed in this passage.
When fear comes our way, we don’t need more faith, but instead, we need a greater understanding of the object of our faith, that the Lord is always faithful, in feast or famine, when the wind blows or does not blow.
Because our God is absolutely faithful when challenging circumstances come our way, and when fear is creeping at our door, we can be assured that the Lord is faithful and he will take care of us.