The Doubting Father of Our Faith
Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old?” (Gen. 17:17)
We’ve all heard how Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness (see Rom. 4:3, 9). He’s referred to as the father of those of faith (see Rom. 4:12; Gal. 3:9), and he had great faith when he trekked up Mount Moriah to sacrifice Isaac. Hebrews 11 describes him this way: “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. . . . He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead” (vv. 17, 19).
When asked to sacrifice the one on whom all the promises of God were fixed, Abraham thought, God gave me this son; if he dies, God will raise him up. Abraham seems like a man who never struggled with doubt, doesn’t he?
Thankfully, the Bible never paints false portraits of God’s children. Sure, there were times when Abraham’s faith shone, but . . .
- Abraham doubted God’s protection, so he told his wife to lie . . . twice (see Gen. 12:11–13; 20:2).
- Abraham doubted that God would give him a son, so he suggested that God use his servant instead (see Gen. 15:2–3).
- after believing the promise of a land as an inheritance, Abraham doubted and demanded a sign (see Gen. 15:8).
- Abraham gave in to Sarah’s unbelief and fathered a son, Ishmael, by her servant (see Gen. 16). Again he tried to substitute Ishmael for the promised one (see Gen. 17:18).
- both Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s word and laughed at his promise (see Gen. 17:17; 18:12).
While Abraham did have shining moments of certainty, most of the time he was trying to fight off doubt and unbelief. In fact, it wasn’t until after the birth of Isaac that his faith grew strong. Both Abraham and Sarah seem to have had a much easier time walking by sight than by faith. Did they believe? Yes. Did they doubt? Yes. They were just like us. Doubt didn’t disqualify them, and it won’t disqualify you, either.
Think back over the story of Abraham and Sarah’s life. If you’re not familiar with it, take time to skim Genesis 12–20. Perhaps you’ve heard sermons about Abraham’s great faith and you’ve surmised that there’s something innately wrong with you because you can’t picture yourself sacrificing to God like that. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Even if God is asking a difficult obedience from you, he has also promised to be with you. Perhaps part of your doubting has to do with what you fear God might ask of you. Don’t test the strength of your faith in imagined scenarios. If God calls you to a difficult time of sacrifice, he will strengthen you for it.
Make a list of the steps of faith that God is actually calling you to take today, and then pray for grace to begin to obey. What he wants from you today is simply a heart that says, I’d like to believe and obey. Please help me.