In both devotion times at school and youth group lessons, we’ve started teaching the Bible chronologically, focusing on how the stories fit together into one giant saga of God’s master plan. This week, both groups encountered Abraham, an undoubtedly fundamental but often under-emphasized part of Israel’s early history.
And, just as I’ve told the kids, even if you already know a story there are always new insights to be learned.
Abraham was called as a Pagan. Have you ever thought about that? About how much faith it must have taken for him – a man with no background in or understanding of God, spoken to by a mysterious deity of whom he had no knowledge – to pack up his family and possessions and move to some yet-to-be-announced location all because he was promised impossible things?
Probably a lot more faith than I have.
But what happened to that faith when he fled a famine and traveled to Egypt?
As he was about to enter Egypt, [Abram] said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” – Gen. 12:11-13
Where was Abraham’s great faith when he failed to trust that God would protect him in this foreign land? Where was Abraham’s faith when he asked his wife to lie for him? Where was his faith in the promises God had made?
Abram’s faith was still developing.
Because, the truth is, growing faith – just like any other type of growth – is a process. Because, in spite of Abram’s great step – leap – of faith in the beginning of his story, he was still just a man; a man coming from a Pagan background called suddenly to serve the Almighty God. Is it really any wonder that there was a steep learning curve for him to develop a strong, consistent faith?
And should we expect any different from ourselves? Should we expect any different from new believers?
By the end of his life, Abraham displayed what could be considered one of the strongest faiths of any Biblical figure. Each mistake he made served to expand the foundation of his relationship with God. But he did make mistakes – particularly early on in his time with God. If we held Abram to the same standards to which we hold one another would we still see him as a hero of the faith? Probably not.
It’s about growth. It’s about cutting each other – particularly new believers (and ourselves) – some slack when we make mistakes. (Notice I said when, not if!) Because as long as we allow God to teach us in those times (just like Abraham did) our faith will grow too.
Because if we expect a new believer to change his or her entire life around and function as a perfect Christ follower instantly… we’re only setting him or her up for failure.
The period of growth (which, by the way, isn’t over until we leave this earth) is painful. But so is any other type of real growth or lasting progress. It’s hard. It hurts. But it’s worth it.
True, some periods of life contain more growth than others. Some are also more painful than others. Just looking back at my own life I can pinpoint several instances of “growing pains” like this: the night I finally recognized my own brokenness; the retreat where I came to terms with a 10-year-old case of bitterness and unfogiveness; the night I wept alone, experiencing real grief for the first time. These periods of growth were painful but I have emerged with stronger faith on the other side.
And sometimes, I need to be reminded of this too. Sometimes I need to remember that growing faith is a process; that even the worst mistakes can be turned into faith-expanding lessons as we move forward in life.
- We’re at the halfway point of the second quarter and I can only say that November has been stacked against teachers this year. Convincing kids to sit still and work quietly has become a circus act. I’m managing but I’m also looking forward to a reprieve from the holiday/election/super-moon craziness of the last few weeks.
- As worried as I was about my inexperience, my piano students are a joy to teach.
- My mouse problem has been taken care of… well… sort of. Now I just have a bigger fuzzy creature in my house that I have to feed. She killed one the other day too! It makes me wonder if I should set up cameras to catch any Tom-and-Jerry action while I’m gone…
I think that’s all for now!