Hiking in the mountains, I encountered a sign at a trail junction that had a hand-written addition. Someone had decided the official notice was too vague, so the helpful hiker had scribbled a clarification, “Trail 1002. Stay Uphill.” Since Trail 1002 was my route, I had a choice to make, should I turn slightly downhill, as the original sign implied from the way it was positioned, or should I trust the scrawl. Putting faith in God is just one of our options—even as Christians.
In the Old Testament, those who obeyed the Law, including circumcision, considered themselves likely candidates to receive the promise given to Abraham. Everyone assumed the path of adherence to the Law was the shortest and easiest route to righteousness—that was the official version. Righteousness was the key to benefiting from the promise, so multitudes put their faith in the Law. However, in practice, the Law path was long and exhausting; no one had the stamina to reach righteousness that way.
Jesus “wrote in” His clarification. He is the only “hiker” qualified to say, “Yes, the Law is good, but I’m your righteousness.” Few Christians would argue with Jesus’ directions; putting faith in Jesus is part of basic Christianity. Paul points out that, with faith, everyone is a candidate for the inheritance, those under Old Testament Law, and those from other cultures with no concept of Old Testament Law (Gentiles—most of us). Faith broadens the playing field.
But the question often applies on a different level than salvation. What do we put our faith in when it comes to God’s promises or prophecies? Do we trust our abilities, our circumstances, or simply have faith in the special power of the prophetic word? When it comes to prayer, do we have faith in our prayer life? Is our faith that some kind of law of averages applies, “I know it can happen. I have seen it before.”
Back in Genesis, God had already inscribed a small but clear note into Israel’s history. Throughout Abraham’s long life, God taught Abraham to trust in Him. Abraham’s faith in God pointed the easy way to righteousness long before the Law added its official-looking signage to the trail.
Romans chapter 4 is where Paul explains the choice of paths leading to righteousness. He also tells us a little more about Abraham’s faith that we need to pay attention to:
For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, (as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” (Rom. 4:16-18)
You see, Abraham did not put his faith in the promise God gave Him. It had nothing to do with the way God said it. Frail and elderly Abraham had no ability of his own to trust in. No, Abraham placed his faith in God alone; God who had the ability to do what He said. Abraham recognized God as the One who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence from nothing. God’s power is unique and far beyond that of any created being.
Where do you direct your faith? Is your faith in God as Abraham discovered Him to be?
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