Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Glen L. Gibson’s book Not the Way You Thought it Would Be: Making Sense of the Journey of Faith (WinePress Publishing, 2013).

The biblical patriarch Abraham is known as the father of faith because of the covenant God made with him to bless all people on Earth through his life. Abraham’s story is a remarkable saga of the power of faith at work.

Much of what Abraham experienced in his journey with God was unexpected. By studying Abraham’s life, you can discover how to strengthen your own faith in the midst of circumstances that are not the way you thought they would be.

Here’s how Abraham’s example can help you respond to life’s changing circumstances with the one thing you constantly rely on – faith:

Invite God into your situation. Abram (Abraham’s name before God renamed him), sought God’s direction for his life, heard God’s call to move to a new place (Canaan), and let go of what was familiar and safe to risk stepping out into the unknown. Just like Abram, you can also invite God to meet you where you are and lead you into the future he has planned for you.

Place your trust in God rather than in yourself. When a famine hit Canaan after Abram arrived there, his faith was challenged as he grappled with a situation he didn’t understand. But he chose to place his trust in God because God is always trustworthy. When you choose to trust God instead of yourself, your faith can grow like Abram’s did.

Deal wisely with relational challenges. Abram and his nephew Lot dealt with tensions in their relationship with each other, and Abram responded by working for peace between them. When you commit yourself to being a peacemaker in your own relationships, the Holy Spirit will empower you and strengthen your faith.

Keep your focus on God when you experience success. The battle success that Abram enjoyed tempted him to respond with sinful pride, but instead Abram chose to humbly recognize that God was the one who had allowed him to succeed – and he thanked God for that help. If you also keep your focus on God when you’re successful, you can avoid having sin damage your relationship with God.

Respond honestly to disappointment. Abram honestly expressed his feelings to God about a situation that disappointed him – his lack of a son – and suggested his own plan to deal with that disappointment: having his servant Eliezer inherit his estate. But after God reiterated his promise to give Abram a biological son in his old age, Abram believed God, despite unanswered questions. God welcomes you to communicate honestly with him whenever you feel disappointed – and to choose faith in the midst of that disappointment.

Expect God to fulfill his purposes in your life no matter what. God reassured Abram that, no matter where Abram was on his journey of faith, every step he took while trusting God led to good purposes being fulfilled in his life. God offers the same promise to you.

Avoid shortcuts. When Abram and his wife Sarai (later renamed Sarah) tried to take a shortcut in their walk of faith with God – by having Abram get their servant Hagar pregnant since Sarai wasn’t conceiving – their decision caused many problems. Their example shows that shortcuts aren’t worth taking in your own life.

Face your past failures. Abram faced his major mistake of sleeping with Hagar, worked through the issues it caused, and learned valuable lessons from his past failure that gave him deeper faith in the present. You can do the same.