“He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform.” Romans 4:19,20
Well, You still have me thinking about Abraham, Lord, and what faith looks like, or what faith acts like. When You say, “He staggered not,” it makes me think of a drunk person wandering around directionless and unsteady on their feet. Unfortunately, been there, done that. But that’s not the idea of the original word here, although maybe the whole problem in being drunk is a total lack of discernment. And faith is all about discernment.
The Greek word for staggered is “diakrino.” It has to do with separating thoroughly, withdrawing from, discriminating, judging, and doubt too. Seems like a wierd combination. But this word tells us what Abraham didn’t do with God’s promises so that I know what Abraham DID do with them and I know how Abraham handled them. According to Scripture, how did Abraham handle the promises of God to him?
Well, God told him some unbelievable stuff, like that he would make him a father of many nations. What’s a nobody supposed to believe about that? I mean, who was Abraham anyway before God chose him? Did the world even notice him? I wonder if Abraham ran around saying, “I’m gonna be a father of nations, did you hear that? Wahoo! Father of nations, that’s me!” Um, I don’t think so. I think he probably thought, “O.K. God, if that’s what You want. Don’t see how that’s gonna happen. But if you say so, I’ll do whatever You say and wait for it.”
Here’s something interesting about this idea and this word. It’s used in 1 Corinthians 4:7. Listen, “For who made you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now, if you did receive it, why do you glory, as if you had not received it?” “Diakrino”-“made you to differ”. You mean maybe Abraham was made to be different and made to be set apart to shine for God’s glory? And maybe, just maybe we were made to be different and made to be set apart to shine for God’s glory?
There’s this Hebrew word that is the parallel of “diakrino.” It’s “mishpat.” According to Skip Moen it “encompasses the entire concept of law and justice from conception to execution.” He says it’s best expressed by this question, “Who sees mishpat in you?” In other words, who sees the promises of God being lived out in my life so much that it renders me “distinctively different than those who are not followers”? God gave Himself to Abraham. Abraham received God. The world saw something different in Abraham. But it was all from God. And people knew that what Abraham had was from His God. What about me? Do I allow You to work in me in such a way that people see I’m different and that my difference is You, Lord? Am I receiving what You are giving and am I walking in it?
He could have chosen his own way instead of yours. He could have said, “This waiting and uncertainty is too much; it’s taking too long.” He could have gone back to Ur and to what he knew. But he never did. There were a couple times he made some not so great choices along his walk in faith, like pretending his wife was his sister, but what if that was actually considered faith by God because he was still heading in the direction God had started, doing the best he could to stay on the path? I mean didn’t God protect His promise, even though Abraham’s choice unwittingly endangered it? But did Abraham ever stop believing God or did he keep walking in the path God had set him on?
What if Godly wisdom, Godly discernment and judgment, is about when we make our decisions based on Your Word, Lord? James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peacable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” Maybe “diakrino”, and “mishpat” are all about living and walking in an “unwavering commitment to the truth of God’s word.” Skip Moen adds, ” Decide unwaveringly according to what God demands. ‘Buy the truth and do not sell it,’ is the way Solomon would say it. Make no decisions except those that are firmly rooted in God’s instructions. And never compromise.”
So does that mean that Abraham never struggled with doubt? Because sometimes I often struggle with doubting whether I heard correctly. But it’s more that I doubt myself. I don’t think I doubt You, Lord. Does it really matter what my thoughts tell me on some of these really rough days, if I still decide to act according to Your promises? Didn’t Paul have that struggle? Isn’t that interesting. If I jump ahead three more chapters in this letter, I’ll find Paul sharing this same trouble in his own life. Bet Abraham experienced it too. So, I may be battling cognitive doubts, but if I continue walking the way You are leading me, Paul tells me, “There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to them which are in Christ Jesus, who WALK not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
Do I get that? Abraham messed up by lying about Sarah. It’s never right to lie. But he was still staying right where God told him to be. Show me where he was ever condemned by God for that decision. Show me. I don’t see it. God, You covered him, even his flaws, because he was walking in Your promises the best he knew how. Now that doesn’t give me the right to lie, but it does tell me that You’re the One who has the plan downpat, not me. But as long as I’m trusting in You and abiding in You and walking according to Your plan for me in Your word, according to Your promises, I’m covered by Your righteousness, I’m covered by Your salvation, I’m covered by Your plan for me. That doesn’t give me license, but I am a recipient of mercy and grace and love and more.
Doubt only becomes sin when it leads to my failure to act. But the fact that I must contend with doubt just gives me every opportunity to act in faith. I have a doubt, so what, I act upon Your promise and Your word anyway. Sorry, doubt, I trust God, not you. Your name only gets the little “d”, my God’s name gets the big “G.” Did You condemn the father who cried out “I believe; help my unbelief!”? No, You cast the demon out of his son. He acted in faith even when his mind couldn’t fathom it.
I think our problem in the western world is that we have been trained to be so logically minded. But believing doesn’t have to be logical. I really appreciated this analogy that Skip Moen shared. “In the Hebraic world, the process of believing is much more like learning to swim. Hold your breath and jump in the water – and see how you like it. Your mind might be screaming that floating is impossible. You weigh more than water. Your mind tells you that you won’t be able to breathe. Your mind is shouting, ‘Danger!’ But you can’t learn to swim by thinking about it. You have to get in the water. You must do before you decide.” And isn’t that the same with faith? Do I really believe until I start walking it? Didn’t it just start with one step? And that first step will lead to many thereafter.
Well, Lord, I didn’t start out fully persuaded in You. With every step of faith I took in You, with every time I just dove into Your waters, You have been faithful. So every time I trust Your promises, I am rewarded with You! Every time I dive in as You tell me, You keep me afloat and You teach me to swim and I’m lovin’ it. And like Abraham, You are enlarging my family, so I’m not swimming alone. And You give me the opportunity to encourage others to dive in and love Your waters too. Thank You for making us strong in You as we choose to walk in You step by step, moment by moment. Lord, I want to walk in You more and more every moment. I want to choose Your promises every time. I want to handle Your promises rightly. I want You to be visible in me. Lord, work Your faithfulness out in me every step of the way. I want You more than anything.