Monday, March 11, 2019
True faith involves obedience, even when it hurts. Let’s see how that lesson is taught to us in this story of Abram’s life. Here’s how the story ends.
Genesis 17:23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him.
Here’s what has just happened. God has confirmed his covenant with Abram by giving him a new name – Abraham (which means father of many) – and promising him a son with his wife Sarai, whose name is also changed to Sarah. God asks Abraham for a step of obedience to become a participant in the covenant. It was to be a painful step that would require days of healing. It would put the entire household at risk of attack by enemies. It would mean that daily chores would not get done. Animals would be unprotected. Women would have extra responsibilities added to their already busy schedules. This would take some planning and preparation, right? Wrong! Abraham obeyed immediately. He did not ask for time to make sure everything would work out right and that all the administrative issues could be resolved. He simply immediately obeyed.
When I discovered that I would require hernia surgery years ago, I made plans to have it at a time that would least interfere with my church schedule and personal plans. I knew I would be laid up and in pain for a while, and that my activities would be limited. I chose a date for the surgery that best fit my perspective of life. Now granted, my hernia surgery was not a step of faith that God was asking me to take, but I wonder how many other times I have delayed immediate obedience because I needed obedience to be convenient for me.
Complete faith does not take partial ownership in the outcome. Read that statement again carefully. Complete faith does not take partial ownership in the outcome. Sometimes God may give us responsibilities in determining the outcome, but when He clearly commands an activity we must obey immediately as Abraham did.
That’s what the teaching of James affirms in his New Testament letter:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does. What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
God has ownership of the outcome: we are obligated to obedience. Not to earn anything from God, but to joyfully participate in His covenant promises. We are obligated by love, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14 – “Christ’s love compels us.”
By faith we are saved. By faith we continue to live. By faith we obey, and trust the next step to God.