"So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s."
(Romans 4:16 NLT)
Move in the Direction of Faith
By Pastor Wally Odum
- Faith is a difficult concept for many people to understand, but it is central to all our lives. For example, we go to a doctor whose name we cannot pronounce and whose degrees we have never verified. He gives us a prescription we cannot read. We take it to a pharmacist we have never seen before. He gives us a chemical compound we do not understand. Then we go home and take the pill according to the instructions on the bottle. All in trusting, sincere faith.
In the New Testament, Paul portrays Abraham as the model of faith for all believers.
“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:16)
Abraham’s faith sets the pattern for all of us who choose to walk in faith.
By understanding Abraham’s faith, I can understand more clearly the kind of faith God wants from me. Abraham’s faith began with obedience. He obeyed God when God told him to pack up and move without telling him where he was going.
Hebrews 11:8 makes that clear:
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”
I often find it hard to obey God even when I know where I am going. Abraham’s faith enabled him to follow instructions without knowing the outcome of his decisions.
In Genesis 12, where the story of Abraham’s faith is recorded, there is an aspect of it that stands out to me. His faith was exercised against all the measurable obstacles in his life. The journey from Ur, in what is now Iraq, to the Promised Land would have led Abraham through bandit-infested country. He and his wife are promised a child, but they couldn’t have children. God promised him the land, but when his wife, Sarah, died he purchased a burial place and that is the only title deed he possessed at his death.
In addition to those challenges, he arrived at his destination during a famine. His neighbors were a variety of Canaanite tribes that were formidable and powerful. Archaeologists have uncovered massive fortresses from Abraham’s time at Hazor and Megiddo. Not only were they imposing militarily, but the morals of that society were decidedly ungodly.
Psalm 106:38 states about that culture,
“They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood.”
Here’s one of my problems with faith. I want to exercise faith in a perfect environment. I want the ones among whom I live and work to believe with me. That, however, isn’t how faith works. Faith calls for us to trust God when everything around us may be out of step with God.
That is the kind of faith Martin Luther exercised. On one occasion, he received word that his assistant, Myconius, was sick. In fact, Myconius wrote Luther a tender farewell letter. When Luther received the letter he penned a response: “I command thee in the name of God to live because I still have need of thee in the work of restoring the Church.... The Lord will never let me hear that thou art dead, but will permit thee to survive me. For this I am praying, it is my will and may my will be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God.”
Maybe we can find fault with some of the assumptions Luther made. But Myconius was healed when he read the letter. Just to verify Luther’s proclamation, “The Lord will never let me hear that thou art dead,” Myconius lived six more years and died two months after Luther’s death.
Luther’s was the faith of Abraham. It was faith that looked in the face of adversity and dared to trust God’s provision.
How can we have that kind of triumphant faith when we live in a culture that is largely secular and godless? Abraham found a solution. In the land populated by ungodly Canaanites he created his own faith-filled environment.
One of the truths of Genesis 12 has sustained me when I have been tempted to question God’s promises.
Genesis 12:8 says about Abraham,
“From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.”
Note the power of these two expressions: He “pitched his tent…he built an altar.” His tent was movable. He could fold it up, put it on his back and carry it to the next place. His altar was permanent! In a hostile environment he had an altar to which he could go and commune with God. The place where he met God was more permanent than the location of his dwelling place.
It would be wonderful if everyone around us spoke positive words and encouraged us in our walk of faith. They probably won’t; but we have an option. We can do what Abraham did. We can build an altar where we meet God. When we have an altar where we commune with God our faith can be increased even if those around us don’t believe.
The first diving bells were shown in a National Geographic magazine. They were inverted bells that trapped 20 minutes worth of air inside. If you have ever been submerged in water, you discovered that we can’t breathe water. We simply don’t have gills to separate the oxygen from the water. The earliest diving bells were the first devices that allowed divers to work underwater. The process is simple. A diver could work under water for an extended period of time by returning to the diving bell to catch his breath in the air trapped below the surface.
Our altars are our spiritual diving bells. We go there to breathe the air of heaven in the midst of the polluted atmosphere of the world that doesn’t sustain faith. Then we can leave our altars to live by faith in a world that doesn’t understand what it means to trust God.
A man by the name of Mallory led an expedition to try to conquer Mount Everest in the 1920s. Three attempts failed. On the third try an avalanche hit the team. It killed Mallory and most of the party. A member of the team, Sir Edmund Hillary, survived. He returned to a hero’s welcome in London, England, where a banquet held in his honor was attended by the lords and ladies and powerful people of the British empire. Behind the speakers’ platform were huge blown-up photographs of Mount Everest. When Hillary arose to receive the acclaim of the distinguished audience, he turned around and faced the photographs of the mountain and said, “Mount Everest, you have defeated me. But I will return. And I will defeat you. Because you can’t get any bigger and I can.”
Sir Edmund did return and he did reach the summit of Everest—at 11:30 on the morning of May 29, 1953. When a mountain seems to have mastered you, don’t give up. Build an altar. Meet with God. Let Him strengthen your faith. You will find that God is able to make you and your faith more than adequate to face any difficulty.
Send Pastor Wally your comments.
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Pastor Wally Odum is the pastor of OBX Nation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He has been in ministry for thirty years and loves to share the Gospel. He is passionate about encouraging others to grow in God through sharing scriptures, stories, and personal experiences.
© OBX Nation, Wally Odum. Used with permission.
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