Long ago, as a new believer, I learned from an older believer that keeping a record of answered prayer reminds us of God’s faithfulness. This record will provide evidence to encourage us when we struggle with trusting God.
When I reread my record, I realised that God’s faithfulness in my life grew my faith in him. Since I became a believer in late 1975, God has been faithful in providing and protecting me. And, although I have learned to trust him more, there is still room for growth in faith.
God understands that trusting an invisible God is not easy. In Genesis 12:1-3, God called Abraham with a promise to bless him. The call required Abraham to leave his country, tribe, and father’s household to the land that God would show him. Abraham responded to the call by leaving his country and tribe. However, Abraham brought Lot along (Gen 12:4).
While Abraham showed his trust by leaving his country and tribe, his faith was incomplete because he took Lot along. He did not leave his father’s household entirely. Despite his incomplete faith, God brought him to the land of Canaan and appeared to him with a confirmation, “To your offspring, I will give this land” (Gen 12:7). God remained faithful to him.
During a famine, Abraham brought his family to Egypt. Lacking trust and driven by fear, he lied about Sarah’s relationship with him (Gen 12:11-13). Since he lied, Pharaoh took Sarah. God protected Abraham and Sarah’s marital integrity by rescuing her from Pharaoh (Gen 12:17-20). Thus, God showed himself faithful.
After Lot and Abraham went their separate ways, God showed Abraham the land he and his offspring would receive. God also promised to make his offspring as numerous as the dust of the earth (Gen 13:14-15). When God instructed him to walk through the length and breadth of the land that he would receive, Abraham did not walk through the land. Instead, he only moved a short distance from a place near Bethel and Ai to the oaks of Mamre, Hebron (Gen 13:3, 17-18).
Later, when Lot was taken hostage by invading armies, Abraham probably called out to God to aid him in rescuing Lot. He promised God that he would not take any reward for his victory from the king of Sodom. Abraham succeeded in delivering Lot and refused all material rewards from the king of Sodom. He also offered a tenth of everything to God through Melchizedek, king of Salem (Gen 15:13-24). God was faithful to him despite not following God’s earlier instruction to him.
Abraham’s faith journey did not take a few days but a few years (Gen 12:5; 16:16). After experiencing God’s faithfulness over the years, Abraham’s faith gave him the boldness to ask God for something he desperately needed, a son. He complained that having material blessings was useless since he had no son (Gen 15:1-3).
God heard him and promised to give him a son. During the night, God asked him to number the stars in heaven. God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in heaven (Gen 15:5). When Abraham heard these two promises, Abraham trusted God to keep his promises. God considered Abraham’s faith in him as righteousness (Gen 15:6).
Although Abraham trusted God, he did not wait for God. Abraham and Sarah took the matter into their hand. Through Sarah’s arrangement, Abraham had a son with Hagar. Abraham did not realise that Ishmael was not God’s promise to him (Gen 17:17-19). While Abraham enjoyed his life with Ishmael, his faith stagnated for thirteen years (Gen 16:16; 17:1).
Despite this stagnation, God continued to be faithful to him. God appeared to Abraham to renew his original promise to Abraham. God elaborated on his original promise to Abraham. Specifically, Abraham would have a son with Sarah. God named Abraham’s son Isaac (Gen 17:1-8, 15-19). When Abraham heard this renewed promise, he did not immediately believe God. Abraham thought that God was joking (Gen 17:17). At the end of this conversation, Abraham’s faith was rekindled when he obeyed God’s instruction to circumcise all the males in his household.
While God restarted Abraham’s faith journey, his faith still needed God’s faithfulness to nurture it. Soon after God renewed his promise, Abraham’s faith crashed. Abraham lied again about his relationship with Sarah to Abimelech, who took her. This lie jeopardised God’s promise to him. However, God’s faithfulness protected his promise to Abraham and Sarah when God rescued Sarah (Gen 20:1-18).
When the time came, God gave Abraham and Sarah a son (Gen 21:1-7). Since Abraham had received what God promised, his faith became more robust. Did God know that Abraham’s faith has matured? Was there a need to test Abraham’s faith?
A few years after the birth of Isaac, God tested Abraham. God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son on a mountain in Moriah (Gen 22:1-2). Abraham obeyed immediately and set out early the next day (Gen 22:3). When Isaac asked him where the sacrificial lamb was, Abraham answered God would provide for himself the burnt offering (Gen 22:8). When the time came to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham bound Isaac and raised the knife to slaughter his son (Gen 22:9-19). However, God stopped him at the last moment
Why did God test Abraham? God did not need to know about Abraham’s faith. However, God desires to show us how his faithfulness grows Abraham’s faith (cf. Rom 4:23-25). The outcome of growth in faith is that Abraham obeyed God even when he did not understand how God could keep his promise to him. Abraham knew that God could be trusted to keep his promises because God had been faithful to him (Heb 11:17-19).
God’s faithfulness in our lives grows our faith in him. Our growing faith will glorify God when our faith matures to the same level as Abraham’s faith. Let’s obey God in the same manner as Abraham.
Cheng Eng Hwa