‘Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.’ Genesis 15:6
Brothers and sisters, the past year and a half has been difficult for all of us. The pandemic has forced us to rethink out lives, and question the things which we thought were rock solid. And no doubt being part of the Church has helped most of us enormously. However, over the past eighteen months many of us have had our faith tested, we experienced doubt, we struggled with God, we have chosen to trust again, and find our faith strengthened in the process. Everyone who believes goes through this. Everyone who has faith also has times of doubt. People struggle to understand this —to understand how Christians can doubt— because often they don’t really understand what faith is. You see faith isn’t just believing something to be true. You can believe there is a god, just like you might believe in UFOs or you believe that Elizabeth is our Queen, without ever having faith. What Christians mean by ‘faith’ is much more like ’trust’. And when we see faith as trust rather than just belief, then we begin to see why Christians sometimes have times of doubt. Doubt is a normal part of being a Christian, so normal in fact that we find it to be part of the experience of every faithful person in the Bible. Not that that makes it a good thing, but it is a very real part of the spiritual life.
So far in our journey through Genesis, we have seen doubt, or lack of trust, pushed to the max, and it is a very bad thing. Adam and Eve didn’t trust God and we’ve seen the awful effects that this had on our world. Last week we saw God begin again as He spoke to Abram, and as Abram listened and went where God told Him. Abram’s faith is the beginning of the reversal of Adam and Eve’s lack of faith. And, of course, if this was a fairytale well, then, all would be well. But real life is never straightforward even for the the Father of Faith. Verse 2: ‘Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’’ God promised a son, back in chapter 12, but so far no son is forthcoming. The Father of Faith doubts because of delay. How very modern! We too are not accustomed to waiting. In our impatience we too often conclude that if what is promised is not given now, it will not be given at all. And Abram’s impatience reflects the same judgement, reflects the same questions, and even the same doubts. The plan of faith, it seems, is already off track, Abram is already wobbling, and if we were in charge, we might quit on Abram and try to find someone better. But not this God, verse 5: ‘[God] took [Abram] outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’’ God is patient with Abram, and asks for patience in return. Notice God doesn’t just give Abram what Abram asked for, for God is not a genie! No God is seeking a community of faith, and so He chooses to work with Abram to grow and strengthen the little faith which is already there. And it works, v6: ‘Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.’ Abram, amidst the difficulties and doubts, reaffirms his faith in God. The delay, it turns out, allows Abram’s faith to grow, and Abram is better off now, than he would have been if God has just given him a son. Once again if this was a novel or a film, then Abram would live happy ever after, but this isn’t a novel or a film, this is real life, and so again even when Abram is shown the land he will inherit He asks for proof. Even though He trusts, He still has questions. Even though He has faith, there are still lingering doubts. This is exactly what real life is like for those who have faith, we trust and we doubt; we have faith and we question. This true story, shows us the reality of being a person of faith, and also the reality of how God responds. Though Abram’s faith is shaky God graciously reassures him. But not by giving what is promised, No, the time is not yet right. No, God will reassure by binding Himself to Abram. By committing Himself to this one man and His family in such a way that if Abram doesn’t receive what is promised the whole world will know that God cannot be trusted. God puts His reputation on the line, and makes a binding promise, a covenant with Abram. God is binding Himself to Abram, and asking only that Abram trust Him. God is utterly and wonderfully gracious, amazingly generous and kind hearted. God gives Abram every reason to trust Him, even though as of yet, Abram does not have either a son, nor have the land.
How about us? Well, we are in a much better position than Abram. Why? Well for one we get to follow Abram’s story, and watch as God fulfils one promise after another. However, that is not all. No, God makes a covenant with us too. This new Covenant is greater than the one with Abram. This new covenant completes and fulfils the covenant with Abram, but also also takes it to a new and higher level. This new covenant will again be made in blood, but made not just to one man and his biological family, but rather to anyone who decides to trust, who decides to have faith, in this amazing God. At the Last Supper (Mark 14:23): ‘[Jesus] took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. ’This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many,’ A new covenant is made with all who have faith, with all who put their trust in this God who loved the world so much that He came to earth and died on a cross. And all we need to do, is put out our hand in faith and grasp the hand of the rescuer who is longing to save us. If, like Abram in our passage today we too experience times of doubt, let us keep listening and looking to God, keep putting our faith in Him, and find that as we do, our faith is strengthened to endure to the end. Amen. (from Fr. Mike).