8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Abraham led a very interesting life that is marked by one very clear trait: “faith”. He left his home of safety and security with no destination in mind but with only a trust in Yahweh in his heart. When he arrived in the land that Yahweh had assured him would be his, it was already someone else’s, and they were firmly entrenched there. Yet, instead of freaking out (which likely would have been my response), he chose to trust in Yahweh’s promises and responded in a time of worship (Gen. 12:7). He continued to live as a nomad with no real home for the rest of his life. In fact, his sons were also nomads. Abraham died having never received his promised possession while living. Yet, what you see over and over and over again in Abraham’s life is trust. He trusted the one who promised descendants as many as the stars even after he was too old to have children. Then once Yahweh gave him the joy of a son and thus a hope for future, he trusted Yahweh when he was told to drive a knife into his son’s heart essentially killing all of his hopes and dreams.
This is helpful because it gets to the root of the problem. I coach baseball, and I am a big believer in learning the fundamental skills of baseball which will in turn lead to performance. What I have noticed is that players and especially their parents focus way too much on the performance: did you get a ball or a strike, was your throw to 1st base on target or not, did you get a base hit or a fly out. What they fail to understand is that it is not their lack of performance that is the issue it is their lack of fundamentals. If your fundamentals are in place, the pitch will typically be on target, the out will be recorded at 1st base and the hitter will regularly put the ball into play. Believers typically focus on the mistakes and sins in their lives and try to address these when the issue is not their tendency toward a particular sin but a lack of faith in the one who calls them to trust Him in obedience. It is a failure in that moment to believe that His ways are better than our ways.
The second key to Abraham’s faith was his hope. God had promised his descendants a spectacular land that Abraham could only see from a distance and that he would never enjoy. But His hope was not fixed on God’s earthly promises, although those were pretty great. Instead, it was fixed on God’s promise of an eternal land that was planned to the smallest detail and expertly constructed by the mind and hands of God Himself. Abraham knew nothing here could contend with that hope, so he chose to fix his eyes on eternity. He could live in a place that was not his home, in temporary shelters that lacked comfort and permanence, because he knew the end game. A little sacrifice and discomfort means nothing when your very real, utterly perfect, eternally secured home is just over the next ridge.
I don’t mind camping, but I’m not a huge fan. The one thing that keeps me sane on camping trips is hope. I know when I eat an overcooked hamburger and half warmed beans while fending off an army of flies that the next week I will have, my wife, Melissa’s nightly gourmet filling my tummy. I know when I’m rolling in my sleeping bag from one hard uncomfortable spot to the next hard uncomfortable spot, or even when I’ve upgraded to the air mattress that has the smallest of holes which is impossible to find but always succeeds in rolling Melissa and me to the middle, that next week I will be back in my king-sized, memory foam dream station. Yet, what is required for my camping perseverance is the certainty of my hope. Hope’s base requirement is faith in that coming future, and for Christians that requires complete trust in the promises and the character of God. With that we can go anywhere God wants us to go and do anything God wants us to do because it is not about securing comfort now.
Abraham’s faith should be a model for us thousands of years later. May our lives be marked by insane obedience, unwavering hope, and thus undeniable faith.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.