1 – When God calls you for a mission you cannot fulfill.
You are living your life quiet and safe. Everything is all under control, and life seems good. You come to a “corner of life,” and God finds you and calls you for a mission you cannot fulfill.
2 – Abraham, the father of faith
For a man with a name that meant “exalted father,” the most embarrassing thing was the fact that he was a childless man. The man we are talking about is Abram, later known as Abraham.
In Hebrews 11, the chapter of faith, we have 12 verses, particularly regarding Abraham’s journey and active faith. If we want to grow in faith, we definitely have to learn from him.
He is one of the most significant characters of faith, acknowledged even as the father of faith.
“and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”
3 – Readiness to respond
Faith is expressed in many ways. It could be with your words, the right confession. But one of the expressions is the readiness to respond to God’s voice.
If God says, obey.
The action of prompt obedience shows how much we believe. The more we trust the word of God, the easier it is to follow Him. That is why God develops our trust to promote His purposes as we obey Him.
I used to have a hard time protecting my kids when they were little, hurting themselves with dangerous things like putting their fingers into the outlet holes. I “developed” a method of building trust in my words. It might sound strange to you, but I would show them, in a small measure, how painful it could be if they dared to placed their little fingers in the outlet. So, I would make them have a small electrical shock (don’t be alarmed; I only used AAA batteries for that experience). After showing them what I meant with my cautions, they then gave heed to my words. They learned to trust my words, and that made such a difference in their obedience. When I said, “Kids, get away from that electrical outlet. It can give you a really big electrical shock.” Now my boys promptly obey. I wonder if some momentary pains in life happen for our greater good, to develop trust in our Father’s loving warnings.
God always protects us but also loves us enough to guard us against greater harm. He knows that some of us will only obey if we learn how to develop faith and trust in His unchanging word.
4- God works in processes, however …
Usually, God works in processes. However, at the beginning of his walk Abraham, it seems that it wasn’t like that.
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”
The Bible does not bring any record of previous development on Abraham’s trust in God’s word. When God spoke to him, the Bible says,
“Abram went, as the Lord had told him”
That is something important about Abraham. There was no previous encounter, no persuasive talk. In the development of active faith, we will have moments like that. God speaks, and your faith should be ready to go, ready to obey.
5 – No more time to waste
This principle of prompt obedience by faith is crucial for receiving some miracles. I have witnessed God perform instantaneous miracles on people that came to a faith-filled meeting. In those meetings, the preacher delivered a message of faith, and then they would pray for the sick. After praying, they would ask people to do a movement with their bodies that they were unable to move before or felt severe pain. Why would some preachers do that? Because some miracles require our prompt obedience in faith.
One day Jesus was walking by a very crowded place with sick people who were primarily blind, lame, or paralyzed. One person was there for 38 years, waiting for a miracle. That is a long time to expect something when you are suffering from an unhealthy body. God knows that, and He’s not pleased with that pain.
“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, …
Jesus went to that man and asked him, “Do you want to be healed?” The man explained that he had been waiting for so many years, but nothing happened. So it seemed there was nothing else for him. However, Jesus gives a command, an imperative word:
“… “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.“
No time to think or reason about it. It was a “take it or leave it” statement. It was as God saying, “You wasted so much time on that bed it is time for your miracle. Now take it by obeying my command of standing. Your miracle needs nothing but an act of obedient faith”.
“And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked…”
Jesus is telling you to act now. Not later, or when you understand all the implications. Obey His words in your heart now.
I am not trying to encourage haste, but there are moments that you need to respond promptly, even when you act like Abraham:
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”
6 – It is crazy, but worth it
Is it insane? Yes. And why should you go? Because it’s God calling. Have you ever felt called by God to do, go, or act completely crazy from the natural perspective? If you’ve never had that experience, you might not be walking with God at all.
Those born of God, those who believe, will have these moments that they consider reckless.
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The world will never understand us. We have peace in the middle of a battle. We rejoice in suffering. We praise despite the trials. We count the difficulties of this life as a great reason for joy.
Those with active faith are indiscernible by the world.
1 Corinthians 2:14
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Our acts of faith will usually be misunderstood by the natural man. I remember when I was 16 and tried my first fasting experience. My father was not a born again Christian, and he got really distressed and worried about me. He thought I was struggling with some kind of eating disorder or was testing him. No explanation could make him see that I just wanted an intense time with God. But, how could he, when he himself, had never experienced a spiritual regeneration?
7 – Faith will change the way you live
Abraham left a secure, familiar and comfortable place in Ur to now follow a direction given by this invisible God. The Scripture says that Abraham’s obedience is what changed his lifestyle. He chose to live in tents to demonstrate he was looking for God’s action and timing in his life.
“By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.”
Active faith changes the way you live. Your life enters a new dimension, translated in Hebrews 11:1
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
For Noah, this is the only faith that can make sense of building a boat on dry land when it had never rained before.
For Abraham, only active faith could lead him to live in tents rather than the security of a walled city. It was faith that led him to prepare for a child when he was too old to bear a son. That’s the way faith is: it doesn’t make sense without God. But with God, it is completely the right thing to do.
8 – Is there something in your life that can only be explained by God alone?
So ask yourself, “Is there something in your life that can only be explained by God alone? That’s a good test of your active faith.
When God called me to leave my safe position in the church that I helped plant, it was pretty frightening. I remember praying about it and asking God to, at least, send me to a place where I could provide safety for my family. It was very natural, but I had a wrong image of the goodness of God. That’s why I was afraid. I know people that are not willing to obey God because of the same wrong mentality. They struggle to see how God is really good. They think that if God would call you to do something, it can’t be enjoyable and fun.
People of active faith trust something good will come whenever God calls them out of the comfort zone. People of faith trust the Lord as their shield and protection.
But why not ask Abraham to live in a secure walled city? Because God desired to stretch Abraham’s faith to trust not only in His direction but also in His protection. How many times are we looking for a walled city? That can be a family inheritance, an academic skill, a steady job you will have for years. I know people that never prayed before moving to another city or country. Many look for the next “fortified city” instead of trusting Jehovah Nissi.
You might ask, “Is it wrong to feel insecure and seek protection?” Fear is one of the things that make us human, but it cannot dominate us to the point of deviating us from God’s purpose. The Bible calls us to develop confidence in the things of faith, not in the things we can see. This is what Hebrews 11 is all about.
9 – Don’t set deep roots on this earth
Walking by faith means you resist having a sense of security on things in this world. In your heart, don’t let anything be more reliable than God’s word and His protection. Everything the world promises is unstable and utterly unworthy of trust. Our assurance is in God’s security, His plan, His provision.
We should be like Abraham, living in the land God promised us to live, but with our hearts always in heaven:
By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land…
We live here “as in a foreign land”, we are not home yet, so don’t plant your heart here on this earth. Where you live now can be a wonderful place, a promised land, but even there, keep your heavenly “home-sickness”, keep your focus on “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”
For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
1 Corinthians 7:31-32
“and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.”
God is good and will prosper you wherever you go. The Bible says that Abraham became extremely rich.
Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.
But he kept his heart out of things. He owned things, but things never owned him. Just don’t trust the good things God blesses you. Keep trusting in God. Do you have a good job? Don’t trust it, trust in God. Do you live in a safe neighborhood? Don’t trust it, trust in God. Do you have a loving family that can back you up? Don’t trust it, trust in God.
I met a pastor who once said he wished some members of his church could lose their jobs. He explained, “When the brothers need work, they come to the service, get involved with the church life and believe in God, but soon they are financially stable, they resign their commitment.” It is sad to say, but that is the reality in so many churches. I disagree with that pastor, but I could understand him. Many brothers choose the “land of promise” that God temporally gave them, instead of looking forward to the city which has foundations, the eternal heavenly place, whose architect and builder is God.”
10 – Here, all things are “vapor”
Salomon was a remarkably wealthy king. He is considered the author of three books of the Old Testament, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. The second wisest man who ever lived (surely Jesus is the number one) had the chance to experience what most of us only envy in the celebrities’ lifestyle. However, at the end of his life, Salomon writes:
“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
The word “vanity” here is “havel” in the original Hebrew. That word can be translated as emptiness, something unsatisfactory. Also, it can be translated as “vapor.” One of the most wealthy and affluent characters in the Bible finds out that everything “under the sun” is like trying to grab on to vapor. You probably felt like that before, didn’t you? You just got that new thing (a car, a house, a trip, a promised land, so to speak). For a while, you really enjoyed it, thinking that this thrill will endure forever, but you are frustrated and bored again in a few days. Why? Because nothing, and I mean, nothing on this earth has eternal content and essence. Even the most fantastic promise land. To put all your heart in these things just brings frustration. Our final goal it’s not here, period.
Jesus illustrates that with the metaphor about building the foundations of your life on the sand, it will always crumble. Life without God’s purpose is chasing after the wind. We can firmly assert that all the ways people try to find meaning and purpose apart from God are fleeting.
Only our trust in God’s control, even when we cannot understand it, can make life enjoyable. So, adopt a total trust in God’s control and give Him the right to sovereignly direct how your life ought to be. Even here, many get frustrated because they want to determine how life should be, and they never give God control of things.
When I was trying to teach my boys how to drive, I had them in my lap and kept control of the car, at all times. I slowly encouraged them to take driving control. They loved to feel like they were steering and accelerating the vehicle. However, their frustration was driving in reverse. They could not understand the logic of it. To drive the car out of the parking lot to the left, in reverse, you first have to steer to the right. So, I tried to change their perspective and show the logic of driving in reverse. When they understood, I could give them the driving control again. I wonder if God does the same with us. If we keep the wrong perspective of things, we’ll lose control of them, life is frustrating and ineffective.
You can hurt yourself and others on the road. But if we set our perspective on God’s ways, if we focus on the things of heaven, life will be fun again.
The wise Salomon poetically summarizes:
“He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end;” (Ecclesiastes 3:11-12)
10 – Promises that lead to greater promises
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”
When God gives you a promise, He intends to stir faith and expectation on something beyond our natural capacity to achieve. These promises are fertilizers for our faith. We always need them.
However, the thing that’s better than a promise is the fulfillment of them. When you experience the reality of a promise, it’s extremely encouraging for the next challenge. Sometimes, that challenge is a test that involves the very promise that was recently fulfilled. Which is very hard for some people to understand.
Abraham and Sarah received a promise of a son in their old age. They desired that child for so long that they even tried to make that happen with their own hands, in that case, making Abraham conceive a son with one of their servants. But now they had a promise.
The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.
After a while, the son of the promise was born. They called him Isaac, which means laughter. That is what this child meant for that elderly couple, joy and a lot of laughter.
Every promised fulfilled brings comfort for those who believe. For Abraham, Isaac’s birth was more than that. It was a step higher toward greater faith. Faith on that which was never seen before. Faith that God could defeat death itself in order to fulfill another promise.
God needs men and women of faith to bring His purpose to earth. He needed Abraham to grow to another level of faith. A faith that would later be shared by everyone who was saved.
Today, as children of faith, we are saved because we believe that God sacrificed His Son. Like Isaac, Jesus came back to life, defeating death and giving His life to all who believe. God’s test of faith is to push us forward in His purpose. That purpose generates faith in others even through generations ahead. So never take the last promise fulfilled as your finish line. It can actually be the starting point for your divine purpose.
11 – A childless father needs only faith
God’s destiny to Abraham was simply for him to have a child, his name was “Father of many nations”. But it seems cruel to call someone to have a child when that person is no longer in a healthy age, and his wife is barren. Perhaps Abraham thought, “God, ask whatever you want me to do, and I will do it, but don’t ask me for a child because I cannot generate one.”
It’s the same principle we see in the church today. God has not called us to do things but to have children. How many brothers get offended when they are asked how many people they’ve shared the gospel with? They might say, “I have no power to convert anyone, to save anyone. Why do you ask me that?” In other words, “I do not have the power to generate any children.”
But we should not be offended by that question. Like Abraham, we have been called to be spiritual fathers. We also cannot generate by ourselves. But, if we have faith like him, Isaac will come along with many other offsprings.
We all know that doing things is much easier than having children for God.
The challenge of generating children brings pressure; doing things only brings fatigue. Generating children pushes us to depend on God, but many can do things in their own strength.
I was a teacher for 9 years. I know that being a teacher for teenagers is much easier than raising a teenager. Why? Simply because I can go home after a morning of classes and forget about them. But now, as a father of a teenager, I can’t do that. My call and your call is not to do things, but to generate children for God. That is only possible with an active faith.
Generating children requires faith; doing things only involves work. When we generate children for God, we accept the challenge to do what we cannot do ourselves. It makes us dependent on God and His grace. Generating disciples requires tears and faith.
In the Bible, Abraham (Genesis 12) story comes right after the story of the Babel tower (Genesis 11). I wonder what would be easier for Abraham? Having a child or just building a greater tower? It would be much easier for him to build something or do something. However, Abraham, you and me, are called solely to generate children for God. Our faith has to come up to the level that we are able to generate an offspring of faith.
12 – An offspring of faith
“… Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”… God was able even to raise him from the dead …“
When Abraham was asked to bring Isaac as a burnt offering, he was tested at the ultimate level. When you read the story (Genesis 22), don’t think that Abraham didn’t care about his son. Remember, his whole life was about that son, the promised child. His call wasn’t to have the promised land, be one of the richest men of the ancient world. He was called to be a father of an offspring, which speaks of our primary purpose as well. Isaac was too precious, but God helped Abraham believe not just for one child but for an offspring of many children.
You can have material blessings, riches and assets, but all that should be meaningless if you do not generate children for God. I don’t necessarily mean natural children, even though that can also be part of your purpose. But, we are all called to no only be saved through the same faith of Abraham, but also to generate an offspring of spiritual children for God. The point is to be a father of faith. To share a contagious faith that would bring salvation to many.
Abraham offered the first promise, his son Isaac because he understood that only things with eternal nature, resurrection life, can please God. Abraham wasn’t called to only generate a natural son, but to generate a nation, a race, a type of people, resurrected children.
I am a father of boys, and that is part of my mission too. Not just to provide for my children with school, food. Or simply help them with their identity. My calling includes sharing faith that will generate resurrection life inside of them.
13 – Desire heaven
A practical way to stir faith in your children and in people around you is to have a life that always looks forward to heaven. Don’t think this is a hard thing to do. Everybody has moments of grief, sadness and loss on this earth. As good as it can be, apart from God’s purpose, living in this world lacks a sense of fulfillment. Abraham knew that and led his offspring to have a heavenly perspective.
Why did God name Himself after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”
Those men desired heaven more than any blessing on this earth.
“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
We often hear about faith that points to the things of this earth. Blessings for the things right now, and immediate reward. Obviously, some expressions of faith are related to these experiences. But the heroes of faith seem to indicate a faith that expects a more satisfying place than this world will ever give us.
As simple as it sounds, all we have to have in order to survive this life is to believe that God is preparing a better place for us.
That kind of faith, a faith that is prompt to obey, a faith that generates children, a faith that desires heaven above any other place; that faith would place us in God’s Facebook family page.
… Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
And there is no greater glory than that.