Most of us who have spent some years in church have heard people teach about the importance of faith – often we hear Abraham’s story used. Faith is one of the central themes of the Bible.
But most of what we have heard about faith comes primarily from the writings of Paul in the NT. Paul uses a verse from the story of Abraham ( Gen. 15:6 ) but he uses it to make a different point. Paul is arguing with Jewish Christians who are saying that in order to be Christian you have to keep the law – be circumcised, etc. So Paul is talking about having faith vs. having good works. In his world, people are keeping lists of all the good works they’ve done and thinking that that’s what makes them acceptable to God. Paul, correctly, argues that it’s not about having good works, it’s about having faith…which, of course, is one of the most central and unique aspects of Christianity. The problem comes when we begin to think of faith exclusively as something we have… Faith is a noun. Faith as possession.
Paul uses the story of Abraham for his purpose – and it’s a really important argument. But Evangelicals have focused on it so much that when we think of “faith” we think of it as a possession. So we say things like, “If I just had more faith.” “I don’t have enough faith.”
But in the story of Abraham the context is totally different. It’s not about faith vs. works. It’s about faith vs. giving up. It’s about believing or not believing. It’s faith as a verb. It’s faith as fight.
What Abraham is applauded for (originally) is not that he possessed such great amounts of faith, but that he chose to believe God. What’s so inspiring about Abraham is this he fights for faith. Faith, for Abraham, is a verb. It’s not something he has. It’s something he does.
He’s in crises. He’s ready to toss the towel. He’s like, “What’s the point?” God says, “Look at the stars.” And Abraham fights back the disillusionment and believes. He holds on; doesn’t give up. And God says, “That’s what I’m talking about. That’s righteousness.”