Today I am thrilled to welcome Jennifer Slattery as today’s guest writer. Jennifer and I first met at last year’s Writing for the Soul Conference, and since then I’ve come to know her as one of the kindest, most caring, and compassionate people I’ve ever met. She is an excellent writer, and her blog is one of my favorites to read. Jennifer has also started something called the “Reach Out to Live Out Campaign”- a campaign that focuses on sharing true stories to make acts of love contagious. To share your story and be entered to win a free gift basket, you can find more information here: http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com/reach-out-donors/.
But now, please join me in welcoming Jennifer!
From Fear to Faith
by Jennifer Slattery
If I were to ask a group of believers for their favorite Bible stories, I suspect a few would rise to the top: David and Goliath, Daniel and the Lion’s Den … Abraham and Isaac. We love to hear stories of courageous men and women following God with unhindered obedience. If only we had their courage and unwavering faith!
And yet, I can’t help but wonder what happened in the “back story.” Were these heroes of old always courageous, or was their courage learned through experience?
We like to think these Bible heroes are somehow more than human, but the truth is, they likely struggled with the same emotions as you and I: fear, sadness, anger, discontentment. What made them great was not their super-human spirituality, but instead, a superior God who continued to mold, guide, strengthen and transform their hearts.
I love the story of Abraham because it demonstrates a steady progression from fear to faith. I’m tempted to start and end on Mount Moriah, where God tested Abraham’s faith and Abraham came forth as gold, but if I skip over his times of struggle, I miss out on crucial growth steps.
In Genesis chapter 12, God promised to bless Abraham (called Abram). God repeats the blessing once Abraham arrives in Canaan, but with more details.
Abraham’s offspring will inherit the land. Only there’s a problem–Abraham and Sarah don’t have any children. This means, God’s going to have to grant them children in order to make good on His promise.
And yet, a few verses later, once Abraham gets to Egypt, he fears for his life. Faith would say, “God said He would bless me. God promised I would have offspring. Dead men don’t have children, therefore, God will protect Sarah and I in this foreign land.”
Abraham didn’t say that. Fear took hold instead, and motivated him to take matters into his own hands. Perhaps he thought God needed a little help. And so, Abraham came up with a plan.
Before entering Egypt, Abraham told Sarah, “I know what a beautiful woman you are.
12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13
Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” (Genesis 12:11-12)
And what happens when we allow fear to control our actions and take matters into our own hands? We make a mess! Which is exactly what happened here. Because of Abraham’s sin and lack of faith, countless Egyptians suffered.
17But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. (Genesis 12:17)
Abraham takes Sarah, and a large amount of riches from Egypt, and moves on. God is gracious, and in Genesis 15, He repeats the blessing. This time He’s even more specific, telling Abraham his child will be his own flesh and blood.
6Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.(Genesis 15:1-6)
So now, God has spoken to Abraham on three separate occasions, promising to bless him, protect him, and give him a son. And Abraham believes God … at least, during the miraculous moment when God speaks. But notice what happens in the very next chapter:
1Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. (Genesis 16:1-2)
God promised Abraham a son. Abraham’s married to Sarah. Sarah’s not having children, so Abraham decides he needs to help God out … again. He takes Hagar, Sarah’s handmaden, and sleeps with her. The result? Another mess. Tension fills the home, to the point that Abraham sends his own son and Hagar away.
By the time we join Abraham on Mount Moriah, he and God have quite a history, don’t they? Time and time again, God’s promised to bless Abraham, yet when difficulties arise, fear takes hold and Abraham takes matters into his own hands. Each time, his actions create chaos and pain. I’m thinking by the time God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, he’s finally learned that God’s ways are indeed better.
So basically, Abraham’s faith grew through experience, by watching God show up again and again, by hearing God’s promises again and again. With each failure, Abraham learned God’s grace wasn’t dependent on Him.
The same is true for us. I believe our faith starts once we get to the end of ourselves, when we realize that we are incapable of going it alone. When we’re tired of creating messes.
It is hard to have unshakable faith straight out of the gate, but as we continue to walk with God, He shows us day after day and year after year that He is good, and strong, and wise. Then, when new difficulties arise, we can remember God’s faithfulness and derive courage from our past experiences.
Are you struggling with fear today? God wants to replace your fear with unshakable faith. Spend a moment in His presence, and remember times He’s proven Himself faithful in the past.
Jennifer Slattery lives in the Midwest with her husband of 16 years and their 14-year-old daughter. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Internet Café Devotions, Jewels of Encouragement, the Christian Pulse, and maintains a devotional blog at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com.