By John Faris, Reverend, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Cork, Ireland.

Summary: Faith does not give up after failure; it gets up after failing to find God again. When you fail, don’t give up. Get back to the altars--get back to the place where you once found the presence of God very near.

Introduction

It was memorable for me to swim a length of a pool for the first time--out of my depth and not drowning! I knew I could swim for I had swum fearlessly at the shallow end many a time. And I knew there were people nearby to rescue me just in case something happened. Yet, it required a commitment of faith to begin swimming across the pool. It took even greater faith to go those last few exhilarating yards.

F-A-l-T-H, as an acrostic, says, Forsaking All I Trust Him. Faith says, Forsaking all, I trust Him to go beyond what is seen and secure. Faith is trusting in the Lord with all your heart without leaning on your own understanding. Faith is following God in every part of your life. That doesn’t mean we undervalue the mind, understanding, and common sense; it means we do not base our life on what we can figure out or feel strongly; it means God is at the center--and that is not always easy.

Abraham found a life of implicit faith to be exhilarating! Genesis chapters 13 and 14 tell us at least four things about faith.

Faith goes back to God after failure

In Genesis chapter 12 we see that Abraham had really messed things up. Fear in Egypt had replaced faith. It was no credit to him that Pharaoh threw him out. What does Abraham do? He goes back to where he had first built an altar (Gen 13:4). While in Egypt there were no altars, no mention of God. After his display of lack of faith, and after facing the consequences of it, Abraham approaches God again. Now we see his desire to return from disgrace to grace, to be quit of life’s compromises and breathe again the clean air of the place where faith had once been fresh and strong--J C L Gibson.

Faith does not give up after failure; it gets up after failing to find God again. When you fail, don’t give up. Get back to the altars--get back to the place where you once found the presence of God very near. Search Him in prayer, Bible study, fellowship, and regular worship. Get back in touch with God. You may have failed Him, but He still loves you.

And once you restore your relationship with God, it is much easier to sort out difficulties with other people.

Faith gives way to others and works through love

The new wealth of Abraham and Lot created some logistic problems: They need more room to accommodate their family, their herds, and their staff. Abraham’s faith, restored by contact with the Lord, enables him to be at ease with himself and deal graciously towards his nephew. He doesn’t pull rank as head of the tribe; he doesn’t fight for first place. As far as Abraham was concerned, he didn’t have to show Lot who was senior partner, he didn’t have to make a statement of power. As far as Abraham was concerned, it was God who was in control.

Lot, by contrast, chooses for himself (Gen 13:11). He takes the fertile valley of Sodom, in spite of the moral and spiritual danger. Sodom was wicked and sinning greatly against God. Abraham chose to take the higher ground, both morally as well as literally. Abraham was willing to defer, to work harder to remain close to God.

Was Abraham a wimp, a doormat, for not standing up for himself? Chapter 14 shows that Abraham was no wimp. Here we see him as a skilled military general defeating a far greater army to rescue Lot from the trouble he has gotten himself into. In deferring to Lot, Abraham illustrates true servanthood. In Philippians 2 Paul urges Christians to imitate the meekness and servanthood of Christ. The meekness of Christ is not weakness—there is none stronger than Jesus. Only faith that can strengthen us to be like Abraham, to serve others joyfully.

Faith brings God’s approval and assurance

In Genesis 13:14-17, God repeats and extends his promise to Abraham not simply to make him a great nation (as in chapter 12), but to multiply his offspring to be as numerous as the dust of the earth.

Choices made for God may mean an immediate material loss (obedience to God means we pay our tithe even when others save money and think us stupid). Yet all our material losses are more than compensated spiritually. We may not always feel so at the time, but afterwards as with Abraham, God confirms it.

A minister was asked to consider pastoring a new congregation where the membership was larger, the income was more than liberal, where the future looked brighter. It was a tempting offer for he was not happy where he was. As he contemplated on the offer, he simply could not find any peace from God to apply for the position. So he decided to remain where he was. Not long after that decision was made, he felt the blessing of God in his spirit for that decision, for exercising his faith.

Faith produces generosity and wisdom

In Genesis 14 Abraham meets with the kings of Salem and Sodom. Melchizedek, the king of Salem, who was also a priest, feeds Abraham and pronounces a blessing on him. Abraham responds by presenting to Melchizedek a tithe of all that he had captured.

The King of Sodom doesn’t bother to bring God into it at all and makes an abrupt, businesslike offer to Abraham. Give me the people but keep the goods for yourself, says the King of Sodom to Abraham. Abraham does not accept the offer; instead he only takes his expenses and the share belonging to the men who fought with him. What is going on here? Why does he give one tenth to one and refuses to take advantage of the other? In the one case Abraham responds to the blessing and gives without looking for return --an act that can only be done with faith in a generous God. In the other case, Abraham’s faith makes him shrewd and wise enough not to be beholden to the King of Sodom. I have raised my hand to the Lord, God most high, creator of heaven and earth and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you so that you will never be able to say? I made Abraham rich’ (Gen 14:22-23).

Faith made Abraham generous to those who honor God and cautious in dealing with those far from God lest they would boast that Abraham was in some way in their debt. A minister had a lot of grass to cut but could not afford a lawnmower. Next door lived a man who did not go to church much, but who had a lawnmower. When asked why he did not borrow his neighbor’s lawnmower, the minister said I don’t want him to get the impression that he has done his bit for God by doing me a favor with the loan of his mower. That man’s spiritual needs were more important than the minister’s grass. Does the Church sometimes ask outsiders for too many favors? Perhaps that’s why people are sometimes cynical about us. The word goes round: They’re always begging, always looking for our money. A faith like Abraham’s will seek to be generous and to serve the outsider, taking care not to give the impression that it is the other way round. Faith goes back to God after failure Faith is willing to give way to others and works through love Faith brings God’s approval and assurance Faith produces generosity and wisdom

Conclusion

Our faith must be very strong like the faith of Abraham. Have you let God down? Faith gets up and goes back to him. Do you have problems in the family? Faith works through love. Do you have a difficult decision to make? Find out what God wants and in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path. May a living faith make you both generous and wise. May God keep you in perfect peace as you stay your minds on Him as you trust in Him.

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October–December, 1998

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