The Faith of Abraham
“HAVE faith in God,” Jesus once said. Why should we? Because with faith all things are possible; that is, all things that God requires of a Christian. All things are possible because “God is love” as well as all-wise and almighty. It would therefore be difficult to exaggerate faith’s power or its importance.—Mark 11:22.
What is faith? “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” Yes, according to God’s Word faith is exercised in things still to come and therefore hoped for, such as the restoration of paradise on earth by means of God’s kingdom. And faith is also exercised in regard to realities not beheld, such as the heavenly realm and those residing in it.—Heb. 11:1.
As has well been observed, faith must have an adequate basis or it is mere superstition or credulity. The Word of God supplies an adequate basis for faith. It has the very ring of truth. Its penmen wrote with obvious candor and are in agreement in spite of their number and the differing circumstances under which they wrote. The historical accounts have been verified by archaeological discoveries many times over, and literally hundreds of its prophecies have been fulfilled or are in course of fulfillment.
Today many persons claim to have faith in God, but their religious illiteracy, as well as their daily conduct, belies their claim. As the disciple James well observes: “You believe there is one God, do you? You are doing quite well. And yet the demons believe and shudder. But do you care to know, O empty man,” that just “as the body without breath is dead, so also faith without works is dead”?—Jas. 2:19, 20, 26.
Yes, he who truly has faith will show it by his works. The patriarch Abraham, “Jehovah’s friend,” had that kind of faith. Not without good reason has he been termed “the father of all those having faith.” His entire life, as recorded in the Scriptures, was an expression of faith, even though some events stand out more strikingly than do others.—Jas. 2:23; Rom. 4:11.
Abraham first of all proved his faith by his works when he heeded God’s command for him to leave his country, in Mesopotamia, his relatives and the house of his father and go to a strange country. After an initial move to Haran, at the death of his father he went on to Canaan. How much work, breaking of ties and financial loss that step must have involved, especially in view of Abraham’s many possessions! Did he hesitate? Not at all, for we read: “At that Abram went just as Jehovah had spoken to him.” And not only did Abraham move out into Canaan when he was well along in years, seventy-five years old, but he continued to wander, in obedience to Jehovah’s command, as a stranger and temporary resident in Palestine for a hundred years!—Gen. 12:1-4; 13:2; 25:7.
To have the faith of Abraham today therefore means to put God’s will ahead of personal advantage, ahead of material considerations. All who put God first in their lives do have this faith, and in particular do those Christian ministers today who serve as missionaries in faraway lands or who, like Abraham, have left their native territory to serve where the need for Christian ministers is greater.
Abraham’s very dealings with his nephew Lot bear testimony to his faith, his faith in God’s providences. Generously Abraham let Lot choose whatever land he wanted for his flocks, and Abraham contented himself with what was left. Implicit in that generous gesture was an abiding faith in Jehovah God, that He would provide Abraham with all that was needed. Yes, to the extent one has faith in God he will allow himself the happiness of giving, according to his circumstances.—Gen. 13:5-12; Acts 20:35.
Another incident that was likewise an example of faith relates to the time Jehovah told Abraham of His purpose to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. What faith in Jehovah’s righteousness it took for Abraham to lodge the complaint: “Is the Judge of all the earth not going to do what is right?” In fact, he even kept on arguing with Jehovah. When God said, in effect, ‘I’ll spare those cities if you can find fifty righteous persons in them,’ Abraham summoned up courage to ask, ‘But suppose five were lacking? or if there are but forty? or thirty? or twenty? And suppose there are only ten?’ It took great faith in Jehovah God’s justice for Abraham to talk to him like that!—Gen. 18:23-33.
And what can Christians learn from that example of faith? The same lesson that Jesus taught by his illustration of the importunate widow, namely, that we should have faith in God’s justice and mercy and not be easily discouraged but persevere in our prayers to him.—Luke 18:1-8.
Without doubt Abraham gave his most striking example of faith when he obeyed God’s command, “Take, please, your son, your only son whom you so love, Isaac, and . . . offer him up as a burnt offering.” With what a heavy heart Abraham must have taken his son Isaac, for whom he had yearned and waited so many years, and started out on that trip! With what trembling hands he must have bound Isaac and put him on the altar! Were his eyes filled with tears as he took the knife to slaughter his son as a sacrifice to Jehovah? No doubt about it! And yet he proceeded, not at all expecting that God would prevent the sacrifice but having faith that ‘God was able to raise up Isaac from the dead.’—Gen. 22:1-14; Heb. 11:17-19.
Today God does not require his servants literally to sacrifice their sons upon altars of stone. But time and again it may be his will for them to surrender something to his cause that may be as dear to them as an only son, in fact, it may be just that, an only son. The Bible shows that God rewarded Abraham richly for this expression of faith. And so he will reward richly all who follow the example of Abraham, in keeping with the principle Jesus enunciated: “Truly I say to you men, No one has left” all “for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not get a hundredfold now . . . and in the coming system of things everlasting life.” So be wise, have the faith of Abraham. Put faith in God and his Word and prove it by your works!—Mark 10:29, 30.