Confronting Our Doubt to Strengthen Our Faith
“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15: 1-6, NASB)
I was an only child until my brother came along. My memories of the days before he came along are limited, but I remember we lived on a busy street, so it made forming friendships with other kids on our block difficult because we couldn’t just go out and play. I remember asking my mom if she was going to have another baby so I could have a little sibling. A friend.
So when my parents told me about the promise of having my brother, of course, I was
excited. And naturally, as a kid that has no concept or expectation of what pregnancy entails, I’d ask how much longer until my little brother was going to be born. And I remember the waiting felt like ages. The knowing that something was going to happen, and yet it took so long in my childish grasp of time. I don’t remember, but I must have asked every day until the day he finally came.
And sometimes, even though we’ve matured on a much larger scale– having a better understanding of some things– we can be that way. As Christians, we can ask God a million times a day when something is going to come to fruition, whether it’s a spouse you’re dying to meet and fall in love with, a dream job that pops up and clears the way to a career path, a baby, or any other thing in between. We ask, “Lord, when will you provide? When will you come through on this?”
And you know what? No, it’s not okay to treat God like a genie in a lamp. We shouldn’t hit Him up to fill every material or personal gap we have, but you know what is okay? To bring Him our whys and our whens. It’s okay to communicate with the Lord; to ask Him to reveal to us a little more of His promise or ask Him to strengthen our faith. Do you know who else did that? Abraham, the guy whose legacy was His faith.
The passage we’re jumping into today is important. I’d even venture to say it’s a major landmark of our faith as we know it. It’s a smaller snippet of the moment we receive the Old Testament covenant God makes with Abram. Without this passage, nothing is set in motion. Jesus is not set to die on the cross for hundreds of years at this point. There would have been no shot of coming into the presence of God.
At this moment, Abram is afraid because he just defeated five kings and is expecting retaliation for his victories. But God, seeing Abram in his fear and weakness, comforts him saying, “I am your shield, and your reward will be very great.” Essentially, God is telling Abram to not worry because God Himself is going to be his protection and provision, reminding him of the promises He previously made regarding making Abram’s descendants into a nation.
But Abram’s response is so human. He points out that he has no children, and that the man that is set to inherit all the riches God has already given is not in his bloodline. Yes, even Abram, the man God chose as the patriarch to His chosen people, doubted.
The difference is this: There is a vast distinction between doubt that questions whether God can do something, and a doubt that asks God when He will do it. Abram’s concern was valid. He had no sons through which a bloodline could begin, let alone through which a nation could spring from. And not only that, but Abram and his wife, Sarai were at an age well past the point where a child was even possible.
I’m sure, looking at the facts, there were many points where Abram had the right to think that God wouldn’t come through. I’m sure he found it hard to see how God was going to get them from where they were, to where He said they would be. But Abram still trusted and believed that God would do what He said He would. So believing that Abram’s only question truly was: When Lord? When will you give me a son? When will you allow me to see your promise?
And we know this because we see it in the same conversation. God shows Abram the stars and says that his descendants will outnumber them. And in verse 6, it says that Abram believed God. There were no follow up questions. Just belief. Abram asked when it would happen, and God simply shows Abram that He will still do what He said He would do.
I think we could all use that kind of example; that when we are in moments where we ask God when He’s going to give us the promise He made, and all God does is tell us that He’s still going to do it. And we count that as comfort enough.
And we just believe.
And what’s even cooler? Abram believed, and God counted it as righteousness. That? That’s God’s salvation by grace, through faith seen in the Old Testament, in a moment that was pre-covenant between God and an uncircumcized, unclean man. Abram didn’t have to go through a religious ceremony or tradition for God to count him as righteous or worthy of receiving blessing. That’s the first time we see a believer in the Bible, and God counts that belief as virtue and reverence.
We must always remember to challenge our doubt in God’s timeline with the steadfast knowledge that God doesn’t change His mind. If He says He will do something, then there is no physical or logical fact that can take that promise from us. And He is faithful enough to repeat and remind us what He told us He would do.
And that’s not something that applies when we conjur up a promise in our flesh and call it the voice of God. This is strictly in conjunction with promises God Himself makes. But if we can hold onto the fact that He never goes back on what He says– if we believed Him, not just believed in Him– we would delight the Lord simply by the strengthening of our faith.
We can have a faith like Abram. We can have a faith that is strong and tested, but the prerequisite to that is the actual testing of our faith. If God just made a promise and gave it to us in the same day, we would never be stretched or molded. The weak spots in our belief would never be recognized and worked out.
So you have a promise from God? Awesome, but don’t allow your promise to soften you towards the hard work that is needed in order for your faith to be tested. Because in a lot of ways, the actual strengthening of your faith is worth more than the ecstasy of the realized promise.
If you’re being tested today, lean in. Count it all as joy and take Him at His word. You can do it. I know you can.