A New Exercise of Faith
It is not enough to have an almighty God, but we must be able to respond to His promise and profit from His almightiness. There must be in us a faith which first recognizes and then lays hold on and proves in action the reality of all His power and promise. In Eden man lost this power and got away from the sphere of God’s supreme attraction—and ever since then has been like a wandering star out of its orbit, plunging off into the blackness of darkness forever. Faith is the law of spiritual gravitation which brings man back to God and swings his life into the orbit of trust, fellowship, and obedience.
Abraham is our great forerunner of faith. As we follow in his steps, we will find that each step is a step of faith. But Abraham’s faith still needed perfecting, and in this particular encounter God was going to give him a startling object lesson of what it really means to believe God. He does much more than simply talk to Abraham—He requires Abraham to answer back by the actions of responsive faith. And so we see in the following verses what may be the most direct example of the steps of faith to be found in the Bible.
Three Tenses of Faith
First, God gives Abraham the promise of future blessing. “I will make my covenant between me and thee.” (Genesis 17:2) Abraham meets this promise and goes down upon his face before God to claim it. Then follows the next tense of faith, which is the present tense. “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee.” (Genesis 17:4) The thing that God would do He now does. The thing that Abraham expected he now accepts and takes as a present fact. The future becomes the present tense and faith becomes action. But there is still a third tense and a third step of faith. “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.” (Genesis 17:5) It is now the perfect tense. The thing that was promised was done and is now completed. Action has become transaction and has passed even beyond the present tense, and therefore Abraham must take the position of one who has passed through all these stages and has actually received his yet unseen blessing. He must change his name—and so stand before the public to be laughed at and called a fool, an old man in his dotage, a dreamer, as his neighbors ask him the reason for the strange change in his name, and he tells them that God has made him the father of many nations. Faith must be sealed by testimony and testimony must be steeped in trial, shame, and many a waiting hour of trusting in the dark.
But at length the day of fulfillment dawns. Then the laugh is turned upon the scoffers, and Abraham’s promised heir is called the name of “laughter” because God has made him to laugh instead of them in the glorious vindication of His believing child.
Reckon on God
This, beloved, is the way in which we must meet El Shaddai and respond to His word. We must not only take the promise for the future, but we must claim it as a present reality in this moment of our lives. Then we must recognize it as an accomplished fact and call it so, nor be ashamed to have men know that we believe our God and venture even on calling the things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17). This is the commitment of faith. This is the place where so many fail to enter in, but this is the very ladder of blessing that David describes: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:5-7)
Do we want salvation? First, there is the promise, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37) There must come a moment when that promise is brought into the present and faith must say, “He does not cast out, He does receive.” And then faith must take one step further and add, “He has accepted. I am saved,” and claim the new name of child and call Him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6) That is when the Spirit witnesses to the soul and the glorious reality pours into our conscious life.
Is it sanctification and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we seek? We must take the same three steps of faith: “He will, He does, He has given the Holy Spirit.” I am His, and He is mine. Christ is within me the Hope of glory.
Is it healing we seek? We shall pray in vain, and in vain expect the promise to be fulfilled until we accept the promise as fulfilled and pronounce the word of accomplished faith, and thereby enter into a Divine transaction.
And so it is with every blessing that we may need and every promise that we may claim. Each of them must be passed through these stages of promise, appropriation, and the acknowledgment of testimony and praise. Thus we cooperate with the mighty wheels of God’s purpose and plan, and the glorious results of faith will become living realities in your life.
“He Staggered Not”
Abraham successfully passed through this pivotal moment, and henceforth we see him walking before El Shaddai upright, perfect, unwavering and triumphant in the truth of this promise. If we turn to the fourth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, we shall find a magnificent picture of the new Abraham after he met El Shaddai.
We are told that his faith was so strong that “against hope he believed in hope.” (Romans 4:18) We are told that he could look at his own body and consider it as good as dead without being discouraged, because he was not looking at himself, but at the Almighty One that could quicken his body and make it equal to the fulfillment of the promise, and in spite of Sarah’s age and infertility could supernaturally work through her for the accomplishment of His will. We are told that “he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” (Romans 4:20) He did not walk with a wobbling or unsteady gait, but stood straight up unbending beneath his mighty load of blessing. Instead of growing weak he waxed strong in faith, growing more robust the more the difficulties became apparent, glorifying God through his very insufficiency and “being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able”—abundantly able— “also to perform.” (Romans 4:21) Abraham recognized it was an easy thing for God to do all this and more beside. God was so glorified and gratified with Abraham’s confidence in Him that He holds him forth as an eternal example of the faith He expects from us who are privileged to live in the dispensation of an ascended Christ and an abiding Comforter.