Many assume a wide gap between those we hold up to be saints or pillars of the faith and the masses. The truth is that they are fundamentally no different from any of us. ♦
There’s this natural tendency among Christians to idolize so-called heroes of the faith, living and dead, and hold them up as models of behavior and right standards. Like Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Daniel, Isaiah, David (at least the good side of David), John, Paul, etc., etc. Of course these are all good models for us, and there are many others, even over the centuries like Polycarp, Martyr, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Tyndale, Zwingli, Calvin, Bunyan, Pascal, Wesley, Carey, Judson, Muller, Taylor, Moody, ten Boom, Lewis, and Graham, to name a few.
What’s interesting is that these people are really not supermen or superwomen. They are just normal people like any one of us. They all were born, raised as children, and then at some point in their life became exposed to the Gospel of Christ and had their internal and external lives transformed. They played out the rest of their lives holding fast to this historic and dynamic Christian faith, the story of life, origins and purpose as revealed in the Biblical Scriptures. Many stumbled, even crashed along the way, but finished strong and are noteworthy individuals to this day.
If God Can Work with Abraham…
This notion of heroes of the faith was stirred in me while studying the life of Abraham in the Old Testament (Genesis 12-23) with a group of mature Christian men this summer. For me, an overarching lesson learned is this:
All of us, including those we hold up as icons or models of behavior, are but broken and messed up people. And God loves us and patiently waits and works with us nevertheless.
As previously noted, Abraham was a mortal man who has been immortalized as the Father of Judaism, Christianity, and even Islam (think Ishmael). What’s interesting about him though can be summarized in 4 actions and responses between God and Abraham:
- God Called, Abraham Answered – God plucked him out of nowhere and Abraham stepped up and responded. Sometimes God calls us, even plucks us out of obscurity, and we don’t respond because we don’t hear it, sense it, or believe it. We’re often not dialed in enough to even be paying attention to the possibilities that God is calling out to us. Consider what we might be missing in our life.
- God Revealed, Abraham Believed – God lays out a very big scenario for Abraham, an almost outlandish future. Abraham simply believed God and moved forward with the directions he was given. He didn’t even follow all the instructions correctly, but God was pleased with his responsive obedience nevertheless. God even deemed Abraham as righteous. Despite imperfections, Abraham revealed a believing heart or spirit about him that pleased God. We too don’t have to be perfect, just believers – even with stumbling but well-intended obedience.
- God Moved Slowly, Abraham Acted Fast – God’s promise of a son that would influence future nations did not actually happen until 25 years later. Abraham thought it would happen within 9 months of hearing. All kinds of serious problems and implications happened to Abraham because of his own impatient actions as he interpreted God’s plan in his own human way. We cannot fathom what God is doing with us, nor how He is doing it, nor in what time-frame. We just should know God is moving in us (or wants to move in us), His obedient children. All the more reason for us to be paying attention and listening for next step cues.
- God Kept His Promise, Abraham Was the Vehicle – God’s promise, His Covenant with Abraham, came though, eventually, even 25 years later. Abraham just showed up as the vehicle. The timing was a nit in the context of human history. Consider Abraham’s promised son, Isaac, begat Jacob (later renamed Israel), who begat 12 sons (the tribes of the Hebrew nation) who intersected and impacted Egyptian, Canaanite, Philistine, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman peoples and nations over a 2,000 year period. Then through that Hebrew line came the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, the Redeemer of the whole world, Jews plus Gentiles, who impacted the post-Roman Empire and entire global nations over the next 2,000 years, even to this day. Yes, God is a covenant-keeping God who indeed kept His promise to Abraham that “through your offspring [Isaac through Jesus] all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”(Genesis 22:18)
Can God Work With Me?
I’m convinced that God is not looking for perfection. We make this Christianity thing too hard and complex. Because we all really do live less-than-perfect lives, we discount ourselves or even disqualify ourselves from being of any use to God. We carry our guilt and forget that God has already forgiven our sins and short-comings and mistakes and miscues and misreads and fears and doubts about our circumstances.
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. I’m not discounting the seriousness of our failings. I am calling out the brooding and lingering over our failings. We need to acknowledge our sins, and then move on. Like a 6th grader who fails a test can still become a productive and successful adult in life. We have Scriptural backup for this:
- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. – John 1:9
- Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord… – Acts 3:19
Certainly God worked wonders with a very imperfect Abraham. As well as with a very imperfect Jacob, Joseph, Daniel, David and any other hero of the faith that we hold up as pretty special. God hasn’t changed, and we today are like any man or woman of old. We too should see the forest through the trees and understand that our God is in for a long play. He needs but a few good men and women to hear His call, respond in active obedience, and patiently be content to be the vehicle for His good purposes.
It’s a noble calling. Available to any of us imperfect bumblers.
Is God working through you?
For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. – Colossians 1:13-14