“By Faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. “
(Hebrews 11:17-19 ESV)
What does it mean to have faith? The writer of Hebrews, in 11:1 describes it this way. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” For Abraham, it meant that He believed God could, if necessary, raise Isaac back from the dead. That may seem like pretty amazing faith, but it had been developed over more than 25 years of walking with God. God had come to him in the land of Haran, and told him to go to a land “I will show you”. God then made some specific promises to Abraham: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:2-3)
Over the course of that period of time, Abraham had heard from God on a number of occasions, and most importantly, Abraham knew that God planned to fulfill the promised made to him through Isaac in particular and thus far, God had kept all the promises He had made with Him. So in spite of the fact that God’s most recent instruction to go and offer Isaac as a sacrifice would mean Isaac’s death, and the end of any possibility of those promises being fulfilled through him, Abraham believed that somehow God could still keep His promises, even if that meant raising Isaac from the dead. That was the faith that had developed to this point.
Though he could not see how God would keep His promise, and he did not know how it would come to pass, he believed that it would, based upon his relationship with God up to that time. To use the language of the writer of Hebrews, he was assured of something he had placed his hope in—the surety of the promise of God, and he was convinced that though he could not presently see it, that it would in fact fulfill His promises through Isaac.
The faith that we have in God works in the same manner. Our faith in God began when we began to establish a knowledge base about Him based upon a wide variety of things including, but not limited to, things we learned from our parents, through our own study of the Bible, and through our experiences in the church setting. If we’ve had conversations with those much older than us about their faith experiences, and how God had been faithful to them; those conversations help build our knowledge base, and increase our own faith in God.
There are times when our faith has been dramatically tested, perhaps not to the point of being willing to offer a child to God as a sacrifice, but through times of loss, of uncertainty about health, a job, getting married, having children, moving out of state, or other significantly challenging times. These times are able to cause our faith in God to increase as we personally learn that we are able to trust Him more and more.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1Peter 1:3-9)
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen