November 27, 2015
The Journey from Fear to Faith
By Skip Heitzig
Genesis 15:1-6 is the story of a man named Abram and his journey from fear to faith. This passage is crucial to understanding the rest of the Bible, because it shows how an unrighteous, unholy, sinful person can be made righteous before a holy God. So let's take a look at Abram's journey, which has four stages: the fear of man, fading hope, faithful promises, and faith in God.
First is the fear of man: "After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward'" (v. 1). The fact that God said "Don't be afraid" indicates that there was fear in Abram's heart. And I believe he was afraid of man. In the previous chapter, Abram went out with 318 of his trained-for-war servants and launched an attack against four superpower kings. He recovered the POWs and spoils of war and was very courageous, but maybe he was thinking, What happens if they retaliate? I'm toast. And it was in this moment that God said, "I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward."
The second stage is fading hope. Abram responded to God's promise with a rebuttal: "But Abram said, 'Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?'" (v. 2). Over and over again, God had told Abram, "I will make you a great nation." Okay, but you've got to have kids for that, and Abram didn't have any. And he was getting really old. By this point, it had probably been close to ten years that he had waited for God to fulfill His promise. You can imagine Abram's fading hope.
But he wasn't shaking his fist at God—he was honest: "God, help me to understand. I don't get how this is all going to work." There's a lesson here: What do you do when your hope is fading and the promises of God are losing their luster? Make prayer your first resort. And when you talk to God, be honest with Him—and specific. Abram told God exactly what was going on. It's not that God needed the information, but I think the more specific you are in your prayer, the more specific the results are.
The third phase is faithful promises. "And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 'This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.' Then He brought him outside and said, 'Look now toward heaven, and count the starts if you are able to number them.' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be'" (vv. 4-5). This is to me the most interesting thing: God answered Abram's rebuttal with what—an explanation or a reason? No—another promise. Notice that Abram had heard this promise before, but God didn't say, "You idiot, are you deaf?" He came and repeated the promise all over again, and this time He clarified and expanded it: "You're going to have a son out of your own body, Abram. Look up at the stars; so shall your descendants be."
The final stage is faith in God: "And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness" (v. 6). The idea here is that Abram leaned fully on and was nourished by God's promise. That's what it means to have faith. And what was the result? God counted it as righteousness. A lot of people think that you get to heaven by trying hard. But there's only one way to be right before God, and that is by faith. Abram was spiritually bankrupt before God; he came from Paganville! But God called him for His own purposes. And the moment Abram said, "I believe You, God," God credited that as righteousness.
So it is with us: we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (see Romans 3:23). But when you believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ and you trust in God, God says, "You're in. You're My child. I receive you; I justify you; I declare you righteous." It doesn't mean you act it all the time, but He has made a declaration; sovereign God has declared that sinful man is righteous before Him through His Son. That's His decision—and I'm glad He made it.
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