Week of June 13
By Dr. Michael Youssef
Have you ever experienced a setback in your faith journey? We all experience failure and discouragement and spiritual stagnation at some point in our lives. We may feel shame or embarrassment over our weaknesses, but the Bible does not hide the failures of the faithful. We not only read about their great acts of faith, but we can also learn from their mistakes. We can find encouragement, knowing that the spiritual giants of the Bible were humans with faults and sins and disappointments; even in their weaknesses and amidst their failures, they continued to follow God in faith. Whatever setbacks we encounter on our faith walk, we can take heart that it is never too late to trust and obey God.
Abraham is a man known for his faith and his friendship with God. Read Hebrews 11:8-19. In this passage, the Bible mentions several great acts of faith by Abraham. "By faith Abraham…obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.…By faith he made his home in the promised land.…By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.… By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice" (Hebrews 11: 8, 9, 11, 17).
Abraham sacrificed much in his obedience to God; yet the Scriptures also reveal his many missteps and detours along the way. The greatest lesson that we can learn from Abraham is that our faith is a journey. We cannot expect to be faith giants upon our first moment of salvation or without constant forward motion. Great faith requires time to develop trust in God and to develop a willingness to serve Him wholeheartedly. Great faith requires hard work and commitment to God. We must walk in obedience to God and follow where He leads. We need to maintain an active and fervent prayer life to know God's voice. We must daily study His Word to strengthen our faith in His promises.
Abraham's faith did not happen instantaneously; in his story we see a slow progression of faith with many setbacks. In Genesis 12, God called Abraham out of his pagan lifestyle and told him to move to Canaan. Abraham started the journey, but before he reached God's destination for him, Abraham settled along the way in Haran. Eventually Abraham arrived in Canaan, but as soon as things got tough during a famine, Abraham abandoned God's plan and left for Egypt. Then out of fear for his own life, he lied and allowed his wife Sarah to be taken into Pharaoh's household. In Genesis 16 and 17, Abraham followed Sarah's scheme to conceive a child instead of waiting upon God's promise. In Genesis 20 and 21, Abraham again lied to save himself while putting Sarah in harm's way. It took many years of faith development for Abraham to reach the point where he could trust God enough to be willing to sacrifice his own son.
When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, God calls us out of whatever pagan and sinful place we are living in and leads us in a walk with Him. Ideally, our journey to become more and more like Christ will remain straight and focused. However, for most of us, our journey will look more like Abraham's. We will stagnate in our spiritual growth and stop our journey at places that are comfortable and easy. We will run when God's calling becomes too difficult. We will compromise our beliefs and hurt people we love in order to save ourselves. We will face many opportunities to give in to temptations, pride, indifference, and stubbornness.
Abraham did not wallow in his failures or give up on his relationship with God—he always returned to the right path. As God continued to show Himself faithful, Abraham's trust in God grew. Abraham's faith development was a daily process, always learning how to trust God more and more. During the early years of his faith walk, Abraham did not even trust God for his daily bread during the famine. Yet years later, after learning lesson after lesson of how to trust in God, Abraham was willing to trust the very life of his precious and beloved son to Him.
Each one of us will experience failure and setbacks in life. We should never allow our failures to become excuses for giving up on God's plans or running from our relationship with God. Has your spiritual journey come to a halt? If so, seek God's forgiveness for your doubts or indifference or fears that keep you from following His plan for your life. Write down the obstacles that keep you from fully developing your faith, whether it is an old sin, doubt in God's promises, or anxiety over the future. Pray for God's strength to help you overcome those hurdles so that you can continue your faith journey.