Current Challenge from Doug Knox.
Abraham's Faith Walk, Part 5
THINKING MAN'S FAITH
FAITH WITH QUESTIONS
Nagging Questions Spoken out Loud
During my lifetime, three events struck with such overwhelming force that they reoriented my thinking. One of these occurred during my college years when I felt the need to change my major from music to philosophy. For me, the decision was straightforward. I wanted to be able to defend my faith to myself and others, and the shortest route to that end was to challenge my thinking. My venture involved risk, and I knew it. I also knew that without risk, growth leading to maturity in the faith would be impossible. My pastor at the time shrank in horror at my arrogance. How dare I put God to the test? He repeatedly tried to make me reverse my decision, using every argument he could muster. At one point, he even called in one of the deacons to talk to me. My deacon friend did most of the talking. After a long monologue, he told me that we have to accept what we believe by blind faith. He kept on talking, but what little communication had taken place was now over. I understood that these two men were older and more experienced than I. Their concern for my potential to fall into error was genuine, but they missed a crucial point regarding the nature of faith itself. Yes, faith is trust. But it is not blind.
Faith Tempered by Maturity
Children exercise blind faith. They trust adults as authority figures. We have to teach them to be wary of strangers who offer them gifts or rides. How much more, then, should we be ready to challenge spiritual authorities who demand unquestioning allegiance. Without the freedom to ask questions, we run the danger of falling for any charlatan that might come around. The arguments with my pastor dragged on for months. Just before I left to continue my schooling, I vowed a vow to God. I told him that I would never ask anyone to believe without a reason, and I would never refuse to answer an honest question. I have never forgotten that vow, and now it guides the way that I teach.
Walking by Faith, but with Eyes Wide Open
One no less than Abraham, the all-time champion of faith, illustrates this practice. Genesis 15 opens with the LORD’s words. “After these things, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram. I am your shield: your reward shall be very great’” (Genesis 15:1). This is the first time that the LORD has spoken to Abram since he called him in Genesis 12. Given the events that Genesis has depicted so far—Abram’s move from Haran to Canaan, the time spent in settling there, the growth of his flocks and subsequent parting from Lot, and the battle in which he rescues his nephew—we can surmise that this second call comes fairly late in the ten-year period bracketed between Genesis 12:4 and 16:3. Abram has walked a long time under a single promise, and that walk has given him an equally long time to think about what the promise means. Given that fact, God’s words, “Your reward will be very great,” do not offer him a lot of mileage. Abram pounces with a specific question.
Genesis 15:2-3 (ESV)
2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”
3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”
Faith, Yes; Blind, No
This is far more than a practical question. It goes to the very meaning of Abram’s faith. Is his God big enough to deliver on his promise? Abram’s question shows that he will not be content to be God’s yes man. His relationship with his God is deep enough to allow him to expect deeper substance as time goes on. As the narrative shows, God honors him. In fact, God expects this exact question. First, he addresses Abram’s concern. Abram will not have to settle for an honorary title as adoptive father to a proxy nation. God’s plans are specific.
Genesis 15:4-6 (ESV)
4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”
5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
God does not rebuke his man or tell him just to believe. He answers the question. Abram himself will bear descendants that will become a multitude.
Despots Versus the Real God
Despots, whether human or god, rule by terror. They can neither stand questions nor stand up to them. They tolerate only adoration. Abram’s God, on the other hand, welcomes his questions. Why is this? On the simplest level, he does not have to preserve a false narrative. Since he is telling the truth, he has nothing to hide. His straightforward answer provides Abram with a truth-affirming tool. Abram can know what he believes.
The Transformative Nature of Faith
At the same time, God still requires his servant to walk by faith. Abram remains childless, and he must believe what he cannot see. Biblical faith is more than a leap in the dark. We are free to test God’s promises, because when we understand that he is trustworthy, we can plant our roots in his truth.
Biblical trust, then, is both childlike and mature. It is childlike insofar as we trust God completely. It is mature because God invites us to ask questions.
Most of all, though, faith is transformative. That is, it changes us on the deepest possible level. Abram’s belief results in one of the most majestic testimonies in Scripture. The conclusion of this section declares that Abram “believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” This is a truth for all time, both Old Testament and New. In Romans 4, the Apostle Paul develops this moment of transformation as one of the foundational components in the doctrine of salvation.
For additional studies click on the links below:
May 2017 - Exodus 6:1-13 - Defeat, Not Failure
June 2017 - John 9:1-7 - True Discipleship
October 2017 - Ephesians 1:9-10 - God and the Work Ethic
October 2017 - Psalm 11 - Righteousness and Evil in the Las Vegas Shooting
November 2017 - Ephesians 6:5-9 - Practicing Value in Undervalued Labor
December 2017 - Psalm 77:19 and Psalm 131- Waiting on the Lord
February 2018 - Nehemiah 8:5-8 - Thinking Man's Warfare
March 2018 - Isaiah 1:18-20 - Authority and Reason
April 2018 - Deuteronomy 17:14-20 - The Life of David, Part 1
November 2018 - February 2019 - Genesis 37, 38 - Judah's Journey To Manhood
October 2019 - Intimacy with God
December 2019 - March 2020 - Men of the Book of Judges
April 2020 - Abraham's Faith Walk