We may not always understand why God requires us to live by faith, but it is the key to living a life that is pleasing in His sight.
In the previous post on True Faith we saw that Hebrews 11 hails Moses as a faith-hero. In addition to Moses, Hebrews 11 gives other examples of biblical heroes who also lived by faith, like Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham. Going back to the original historical accounts in Genesis, let’s look at the faith of two more of the patriarchs mentioned in Hebrews 11 – Noah and Abraham.
Noah: Used Against All Odds
Be solely responsible for preventing the extinction of the entire human race (no pressure)
Build an ark in which to escape the flood
The story of Noah is an incredible story in more than one way. However, what is intriguing about Noah is how God was able to use him against all the odds.
As we read the Bible, we find no record that Noah had any special skills. He wasn’t an engineer, or a carpenter, or even a vet! We don’t know if he was a negotiator, animal lover, organiser or if he was born with any of the many qualities required to take on the humongous task of building an ark big enough for him and all the animals.
If Noah didn’t look like the best man for the job, what qualified him? The Bible says Noah walked in habitual fellowship with God, and this is what qualified him for the task at hand. While everybody else was indulging in the evil practices of that time, Noah remained upright and in right-standing with God.
God wasn’t looking for someone with the right qualifications in the natural. Rather, He was looking for someone with the right qualification in the spirit. Noah remained faithful and upright in his walk with God, refusing to give in to the evil temptations of his generation. 2 Peter 2:5 says that Noah was a “preacher of righteousness.”
Noah was also a man of faith, and embarking on the task of building the ark and seeing it through to the end would have required faith that was alive. No doubt the opposition must have been great as well. Surely the mockery and ridicule was endless. After all, which of the godless people at the time would have been able to see what God was doing?
Hebrews 11:7 says, “[Prompted] by faith Noah, being forewarned by God concerning events of which as yet there was no visible sign, took heed and diligently and reverently constructed and prepared an ark for the deliverance of his own family. By this [his faith which relied on God] he passed judgment and sentence on the world’s unbelief and became an heir and possessor of righteousness (that relation of being right into which God puts the person who has faith).”
When we receive divine revelation from the Lord, we only have to look at Noah to see what impact we can make in this world. Apart from the fact that Noah was successful in his venture and through him preserved the whole human race, he also revolutionised the shipbuilding industry. In 1609, P. Jansen from Hoorn in Holland proved the dimensions of the ark could be used to build vessels well adapted for floating that could carry cargo greater than other floating vessels. As verified by ‘Lloyd’s Register of Shipping’, The World Almanac, every large sea vessel was inclined toward the proportions of the ark of Noah by 1900.
When God calls us to a specific task, we should not look at our natural qualifications and we should not allow our insecurities to stand in the way of the plans God has in store for us. Rather, like Noah, we should stay in habitual fellowship with God instead, as it is our faith and our righteousness in Christ that qualify us for the task at hand.
Because of Noah’s close fellowship with God, he was able to hear the Lord’s voice and receive precise instruction. Without the precise measurements and plans for the ark, the project would have been a failure. If the ark was built out of proportion, or if the wrong materials were used, the ark would not have been able to sustain the load and endure the flood.
Since this was the first project of its kind, Noah had to be absolutely certain he had heard from the Lord. There were no past similar projects for him to learn from and no second chances if he messed anything up. Yet he was dedicated and God gave him the ability to follow through. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]”
Abraham: Our Example Of Faith
1) To become the father of nations
2) Through his lineage all the nations would be blessed (through the coming of the Messiah)
At the age of 100, make Sarah pregnant who was already 90 years old, who had a deadened womb and who was already beyond her child-bearing years (no pressure)
In Genesis 12:2-3 we see the vision God had for Abraham, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you [with abundant increase of favors] and make your name famous and distinguished, and you will be a blessing [dispensing good to others]. 3And I will bless those who bless you [who confer prosperity or happiness upon you] and curse him who curses or uses insolent language toward you; in you will all the families and kindred of the earth be blessed [and by you they will bless themselves].”
If we look at Noah and Abraham, it is clear we should not place any limit on the calling God might have on our lives. To understand what qualified Abraham to become the father of nations, we need to understand that God saw someone who would, like Noah, operate in faith once the vision was given him.
Initially, Abraham was not perfect in his faith. Time and time again we see how he struggled with his conviction of what God wanted for him compared to what he was seeing in the natural. At times his faith was strong, other times he failed miserably.
While the Bible doesn’t say much about the family that Abraham came from, there are a few conclusions that can be made. In Genesis 11:31, we see Abraham’s father, Terah, took his family and went forth from their hometown Ur to go into the land of Canaan. However, while on their way they settled in Haran where Terah eventually died. In Genesis 12 we see that God promised to give Canaan to Abraham. It would seem that God originally intended to give the land to Abraham’s father, Terah. For whatever reason, Terah had given up on the journey to Canaan and settled for second best in Haran.
When God appeared to Abraham in Genesis 12, God clearly instructed Abraham to move away from his relatives. Why would this have been? Genesis 12:1 says, “Now [in Haran] the Lord said to Abram, Go for yourself [for your own advantage] away from your country, from your relatives and your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.”
For Abraham’s own advantage, he had to get away from his relatives and from his father’s house. It could be that the same spirit that prevented Abraham’s father from reaching the Promised Land would have prevented Abraham from reaching the Promised Land too. Abraham had to distance himself from those circumstances and environment he was finding himself in.
Abraham also struggled to come to terms with who God said Abraham would be. We see in the opening verses of Genesis 12 God promising Abraham would become a great nation. Abraham would also be blessed, famous and distinguished. The Lord’s hand of protection would be over Abraham as God would bless those who blessed him and would curse those who attempted to curse him. This was an incredible promise from the Lord. What more could Abraham have wanted? And yet, as we read through Genesis we see Abraham walking in doubt, fearing man instead of God.
When Abraham was forced to go temporarily to Egypt because of the oppressing famine that was in the land, he was afraid the Egyptians would kill him for his beautiful wife. Abraham pretended Sarah was his sister for the sake of his own life, and Pharaoh took her into his house. However, the Lord scourged Pharaoh and his household with plagues because of this, and Pharaoh released Sarah back to Abraham and commanded him to go away from there.
Not only did God give Abraham his wife back, he also blessed him abundantly with blessings. Abraham was a very rich man. All of this gave Abraham confidence in the Lord. When there was quarrelling between Abraham and Lot’s servants (see Genesis 13), we can see how Abraham started to grow in his faith. Abraham was willing to trust the Lord and let Lot decide which way he would go. Lot chose the more beautiful and watered pastures for himself, leaving Abraham with the dry and less favourable land. Yet Abraham was willing to do this because he had come to learn to trust the Lord.
After Abraham and Lot separated, we see how his nephew, Lot, was captured during a war. By this time Abraham was so full of faith and confident in who the Lord had said Abraham would be, that he pursued the enemy and rescued his nephew and his entire household (see Genesis 14).
Nevertheless, in spite of the Lord’s strong hand that was evidently with Abraham, Abraham began to fear and doubt again. Genesis 15:1 says, “After these things, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram, I am your Shield, your abundant compensation, and your reward shall be exceedingly great.”
In Genesis 15 we see God making a blood-covenant with Abraham regarding the promises He had given Abraham. However, in Genesis 16 we see Abraham operating again in fear and doubt when he tried to bring into fulfilment the promise of the Lord by sleeping with Sarah’s Egyptian maid. She became pregnant and bore a child, but this was not the plan God had had for Abraham.
Up to this point a lot had happened in Abraham’s life, but he still had to see the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise regarding a son. Notwithstanding the fact that God’s timing is perfect, how much sooner could the promise have possibly come into fulfilment had Abraham fully trusted the Lord all the time, instead of taking matters into his own hands? Or, how much pain could Abraham have spared himself if only he had waited patiently for the Lord’s perfect timing? Yet God remains faithful, even if we are unfaithful. 2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless [do not believe and are untrue to Him], He remains true (faithful to His Word and His righteous character), for He cannot deny Himself.”
So the Lord visited Abraham again, and in Genesis 17:1-2 we read, “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, I am the Almighty God; walk and live habitually before Me and be perfect (blameless, wholehearted, complete). 2And I will make My covenant (solemn pledge) between Me and you and will multiply you exceedingly.”
In Genesis 18, God told Abraham and Sarah again they would bear a child. This time, it would be within the following year. Abraham was old and Sarah was beyond childbearing years. Now even greater faith was required as things had become completely hopeless in the natural.
Regardless of all the encounters Abraham had had with the Lord, and in spite of all the victories he had experienced, still he walked in fear instead of faith. Still he doubted the Lord instead of trusting Him wholeheartedly. In Genesis 20 Abraham did the same with the King of Gerar as he had done with the Pharaoh of Egypt. Again Abraham said Sarah was his sister, and King Abimelech of Gerar took Sarah into his harem. God had to personally speak to King Abimelech, warning him he would die if he touched Sarah. The fear of the Lord came upon King Abimelech and his household. In Genesis 20:11 Abraham confessed to the King that he had presented Sarah as his sister and not as his wife because he had feared for his life, while he should have trusted the Lord instead.
By that time Abraham must have realised that every prophetic word is only a potential promise, and not necessarily a guarantee of the fulfilment of the promise. There is God’s part, and there is our part. The promise did come with a condition: “…walk and live habitually before Me and be perfect (blameless, wholehearted, complete).” If Abraham kept on committing spiritual abortion, he might have never seen the fulfilment of the promise-child. It would have been his own fault, not God’s. Chances are the same had happened to Abraham’s father, Terah. Abraham must have realised he was standing in the way of what God was trying to do, just like his father before him had.
Years later, the same happened when God delivered Israel from slavery and bondage in Egypt. God took them out of bondage with great signs and wonders. He also promised to take them to the Promised Land. Yet, the first generation to come out of Egypt did not see the Promised Land. Instead of staying in faith, they murmured and complained because of their difficult circumstances, and as a judgement against them they perished in the wilderness.
By grace, however, Abraham was able to revive his faith again. In Genesis 21, the promise of the Lord came into fulfilment when Sarah bore Abraham a child, Isaac. Finally Abraham was operating by and living in faith. How did Abraham begin to operate in the supernatural? There were two prominent things that caused Abraham to overcome the limitations of the natural.
Firstly, I believe that since Abraham had a personal relationship with the Lord, Abraham was able to grow in his understanding of who God is. Secondly, because of this understanding, Abraham had become stronger in his faith. The combination of an understanding of who God is, together with a growing faith resulted in praise and worship that came from the heart.
Romans 4:18-21 says, “[For Abraham, human reason for] hope being gone, hoped in faith that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been promised, So [numberless] shall your descendants be. 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered the [utter] impotence of his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or [when he considered] the barrenness of Sarah’s [deadened] womb. 20No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God, 21Fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised.” – emphasis added.
Yet, his faith was tested even more greatly in Genesis 22 when God asked Abraham to offer up Isaac. This time, however, we see Abraham as a changed man. He was steadfast in his faith, willing to do what God asked of him even if it didn’t make sense. Abraham finally knew God was able to do more than he could comprehend, and was able to raise Isaac from the dead if necessary.
This final act of faith was the proverbial nail in the coffin that sealed the promise once and for all. In Genesis 22:16-17 God said to Abraham, referring to the promise of the Christ to come, “…I have sworn by Myself, says the Lord, that since you have done this and have not withheld [from Me] or begrudged [giving Me] your son, your only son, 17In blessing I will bless you and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore. And your Seed (Heir) will possess the gate of His enemies.”
Without faith, the Bible declares, it is impossible to please God (see Hebrews 11:6). This does not mean that God won’t do anything if we don’t have faith. However, to please Him, and to guarantee the fulfilment of any promises we received from the Lord, we must never forget the importance of standing strong in faith.
Faith, combined with praise and worship because of who God is and because of what God has promised, can result in the moving of mountains just like Jesus said we could in the Gospels.
In conclusion, as Abraham grew in his understanding of who God is, his faith became stronger and stronger. In the end, his faith was great enough to overcome the hindrances in the natural, as Abraham started to operate in the spiritual (or supernatural).
Faith In Spite Of Circumstances
Marc Bredenkamp is a pastor in South Africa. Many years ago he was preaching at an event in Vereeniging, South Africa. While he was preaching, someone came up to him and said he needed to leave immediately. Satanists had kidnapped his son, and they were demanding the life of the preacher in exchange for his son.
Marc responded to the messenger by saying he was going to finish his preaching first. However, this stance was not made by blind faith. God had given Marc a promise years before that He would always keep his children safe. This was the moment of truth for Marc, and the moment in which his faith was tested to the limit. Instead of being moved by what was happening in the natural, he rather trusted the Lord for His ability to work in the supernatural.
Marc’s testimony is that he believed the Lord could raise his son from the dead if needed, but he relied on the promise from years ago that no harm would come to his children. He was called by God to preach that day, and he wasn’t going to let the devil stop what God had called him to do.
Only when Marc was finished preaching did he go to where his son was held captive. Marc tells of how he came against the whole situation in the name of Jesus Christ, and how they experienced a supernatural miracle that delivered his son from the captors. One of the captors who were involved in the whole plot against Marc and his son was also delivered from Satan and became a born-again Christian. Today, she also preaches the Word of God and even wrote a book about the whole incident, including how she became a born-again child of God.
We may not always understand why God requires us to live by faith, but it is the key to living a life that is pleasing in His sight. To reflect again on the importance of living by faith, Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him.”
What promises has God given you? This is what true faith is: the ability to hold on to and act on the vision or promise God gave you, no matter how impossible things may seem in the natural. It is also the ability to hold on to your faith while trusting for God’s perfect timing to make it come to pass. Imagine the difference we can make in the world if we would only stay in faith! Unfortunately, too many people don’t develop the faith they need because they never grow in their understanding of who God is.