Based on: Genesis 12:1-4
I am very glad to see all of you sitting and not standing. It means that all of you have faith in the pews. Right? After all, if you did not believe that the pew would hold you up then you would all still be standing up. I know most of you have been in these pews before and you know from experience that they will hold you up, but what if you go somewhere you have never been before and you see a chair? The very shape of the chair holds out a promise, “If you sit on me, I will hold you up!” The shape suggests that it was made for sitting and so you put you faith in the chair. You believe the promise of “I will hold you up!” implied by the shape of the chair. Then, your faith leads to action. Because you so firmly believe the promise the chair makes, you sit down. Now you are blessed by your action based on faith – your feet get to rest.
It may seem silly to talk about having faith in a chair, but we use that simple illustration to describe faith in God’s promises, and we will do that in the context of Abraham, the man of faith.
As we continue our look at Old Testament history this summer, let’s consider what we have heard so far. God told Adam and Eve that the one tree in the middle of the garden was not for food. Adam and Eve didn’t believe him, and from then on the whole world needed a Savior. God promised a Savior who would be a descendant of Adam and Eve. God told Noah to build a boat because a flood was coming. Noah believed and built the ark. God preserved Noah and and the Savior would be one of his descendants. Now we continue to see God keep his promise as Abraham becomes one of the people through whom our Savior would come.
Scripture calls Abraham, the man of faith, and we see his faith in his actions. But first let’s talk about what faith is and what it is not.
When we talk about biblical faith we could say simply that it is trust in the promises of God. Hebrews 11:1 says, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” What are those things that we “hope for” and the things we “do not see” except the very things God promises – things like forgiveness, heaven, and blessings through our hardships.
Faith always has something that it trusts in, something it grasps with both arms and will not let go of. Beware of those who talk about faith as if it were a thing by itself – “Oh, you’ve just got to believe!” as if that was going to make things better. And your faith should be in something dependable – like the chair. You want the chair to support your weight. So beware of those who would tell you to believe and then give you something unworthy to believe in – “you just got to reach deep down inside yourself to find the strength.” And beware of those who say, “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you really believe.” That is rubbish. Anyone who has tried to sit on a broken chair can tell you that.
Look at Abraham, our example of faith. On what did he base his faith? God’s promises. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” These are promises worthy of Abraham’s full trust. These are sure and certain promises. Realize this, when God makes a promise we can say it is as good as done. Better yet, when God makes a promise then the God who is not limited by time has already done it, even if it is a future event for us. When God promised to make Abraham a great nation even though Abraham was 75 and childless, Abraham could believe it. When God told Abraham that all peoples would be blessed through him, then he could be certain the Savior would be one of his descendants.
We also have a promise from God. First, he tells us that we are sinners, and not just sinners, but sinners who are completely beyond any hope of being saved by our own means. That takes faith because we look normal when we compare ourselves to everyone else. It’s hard to see we have a problem.
Next, God promises that he has saved us without any work on our part. What was a future event for Abraham is now a past event for us. Jesus Christ did take away our sin and rose again as proof that it was done. One day our bodies will be changed and made perfect, and we will one day enjoy life without sin. For us, that is yet to come. For God it is already done. Those are promises strong enough to hold us up. The more we hear these promises, the stronger God makes our faith.
When you have a strong basis for faith, don’t your actions show that you believe it? It isn’t a conscious thought, “Oh, I believe this chair will hold me up so I will go sit in it.” No, it just happens. You usually don’t think twice about sitting in a chair.
Look at Abraham again. God gave him these wonderful promises, and God gave him faith that trusted in these promises, so what did he do? When God told him to leave his home and family and go somewhere he had never been before, Abraham left. We don’t hear about any hesitation or any deliberation. Abraham just did what God told him.
When we believe God’s promises, what will we do? Our actions will show that spiritual things are more important than worldly things, we know heavenly riches are waiting for us. We will want to follow God’s will for our lives, and we will expect God’s blessings.
Someone told me a story about an 85 year old woman who came face to face with an armed man who wanted to rob her. What did she do? She asked if the man knew Jesus. She believed God’s promise that his Word can change hearts and it was the best weapon she could have used. The two of them talked and she shared the Gospel with him. The man did not rob her and eventually gave himself up.
Faith shows itself by what it does. It can’t help but do that. God promises that the chair he supplies will hold us up. He is the one who even creates trust in his promises. As we look to God’s Word our faith will grow stronger and we will find ourselves acting on that faith – going over to the chair and sitting on it.