"But Abram said..."
I feel for Abram [later known as Abraham]. Really. I know all too well this type of conversation with the Lord—one in which, I respond to God saying, "But God [insert any host of fears, doubts, and questions I have for Him]?" Sometimes I just can't see how God is present though I believe He is. Sometimes I don't like what He is allowing me to experience and fears and doubts begin to rise within me. Other times I've simply got questions—about God, the Bible, His people, you name it— because I’m still learning.
I believe God and I believe in Him, but as Pastor Jeff talked about in his sermon entitled “The Gospel Preached Beforehand,” there is a real tension between doubt and faith that can be seen in Abram's heart that is all too familiar. So the question, then, is how did God respond to Abram's questions and doubt?
It had been years since God initiated a relationship with Abram, telling him, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. So Abram went, as the Lord had told him..."
Abram went. He trusted God. He went though he knew few details (if any). So its not hard to see why Abram might answer God's voice with some doubts and questions as recorded in Genesis 15. After all, years had gone by and it seemed less likely, or at least less obvious how, God would fulfill His promises recorded in Genesis 12:1-3.
But as we walked through Genesis 15 on Sunday, we saw something utterly holy. We saw God’s response to his follower's raw questions and doubt mixed with faith. God didn't condemn Abram. He didn’t forsake him or the promises He had given to Abram years earlier. However, the Lord also didn't allow Abram to stay in his doubts indefinitely.
Instead, God graciously responded with assurance. God assured Abram of His continued unmerited favor and faithfulness towards the man. He assured Abram of his grace by making a one-sided covenant with him—a covenant that didn't rely on the perfection of the man's faith but in God himself. It was a covenant that God would faithfully fulfill through His Son's life, death and resurrection. This assurance is still ours today.
So how do we as gospel community respond to these tensions. Pastor Jeff reminded us that a community that doesn't allow and address questions and doubts creates flimsy faith. However, we also were challenged to consider that the other extreme of dwelling in doubt and cynicism can be just as destructive. So, how can we foster a community where the real tension in every human's heart can be continuously addressed in a way that echos’ our Saviors response? How is the Lord using you to listen to and encourage assurance in the gospel by allowing others to share their questions and doubts? How are you listening to the Lord and studying His Word so that faith may be increased in our community?
Other outlets for questions and doubts to be processed within our gospel community, includes: our Missional Communities, meeting with any of the elders or ministry team leaders, and even submitting your questions via Pastor Andrew's “Ask (almost) Anything” form on his personal blog.