Trust and Obey
From beginning to end the Christian life is a life of faith. ‘We live’, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, ‘by faith and not by sight’ (2 Cor. 5:7). But what did Paul mean? What does it mean to live by faith and not by sight? To live by faith is to live your life on the basis of the faithful character of God and the absolute trustworthiness of his promises. This is what it means to live as a Christian, refusing to believe what your eyes tell you when what you see appears to oppose what God has promised and challenge the essential goodness of his character.
This life-principle is perhaps nowhere more graphically and dramatically illustrated than in the life of Abraham. God commanded Abraham to take his son, his only son, Isaac whom he loved, and offer him as a burnt offering (Gen. 22). Apart from God’s command seeming to conflict with his character, Isaac was not only Abraham’s only son, he was the son in whom God’s promise to bless all the nations was established Gen. 12:2-3). What was Abraham to do? He believed God: ‘No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised’ (Rom. 4:20-21).
Christian faith always has a direct object, the absolute trustworthiness of God’s character and the absolute inviolability of his promises. As Abraham faced this un-nerving and soul-searching test, he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God. In other words faith is nurtured and nourished as it ponders who God is and rejoices in who he is. This is what it means to live by faith. The faithful Christian is the trusting Christian. The faithful Christian is the Christian who obeys God even when her circumstances are all against her. Too often we allow ourselves to be dispirited by the shallowness and variableness of our faith. I do not mean that our shallow and variable faith should not humble us. But too often we spend more time looking in to ourselves than looking out to our God and nourishing our faith in the glory of who he is and what he has done for us in our Lord Jesus Christ. The primary focus of faith, and what most strengthens faith, is faith’s direct object, the unfailingly good and gracious God who spared not his only Son but gave him up for us all.
One of Satan’s well-rehearsed strategies is to turn us in upon ourselves, to absorb us with our failings and weaknesses and sinful failures. Too often we fall into this quagmire and find it hard to extricate ourselves. When the Lord convicts us of our sinful failures and failings, he immediately points us away from ourselves to himself. This is what nurtures and nourishes our faith – not dwelling on our sins, but dwelling on the One who freely and fully forgives our sins and who delights to embrace us in his unfailing love.
Are your circumstances shouting out to you that God doesn’t care, that he has forgotten you? Do your circumstances seem to mock God’s promises? Be like Abraham, give glory to God. As the old hymn so well puts it,
Trust and obey
for there’s no other way,
to be happy in Jesus,
than to trust and obey.
Theologically, if not always grammatically, faith takes a direct object. And faith’s direct object is the God who cannot lie, whose promises are all ‘Yes and yes again in Christ Jesus’ (2 Cor. 1:20). Live by faith and you will die a conqueror.
For more on this subject, see the author’s The Faith-shaped Life.
Ian Hamilton is Pastor of Cambridge Presbyterian Church, now worshipping God on Sunday mornings in All Saints’ Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge and in Resurrection Lutheran Church, Huntingdon Road, on Sunday evenings.
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