If Only

13 years. That’s a long time to walk in the wrong direction. Ask Abraham.

Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before me and be blameless.”

These two verses from Genesis are only separated by chapter delineation (16:16-17:1). It appears for thirteen years, at least, Abram did not hear from God directly like he had previously. This time period followed he and his wife’s decision to do things their way, a way not given to them by God. This decision was a deliberate choice that could be concluded with two words: “if only.”

So Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael were acceptable to you!”

He said this in 17:18 (Read the rest of the conversation between verses 1-18 to see why his name changed, among other things). Abraham said this in response to just being told, in so many words, quite graciously, “My plan hasn’t changed. Even though you tried your way, I’m still offering you a better way.” Thankfully, we all can say Abraham followed the plan.

This scene offers us hope when we’ve followed Abram’s and Sarai’s path. At some point we all seem to face the choice to wait, or to devise our own way, or to heed questionable counsel. It’s almost as if a salesperson shows us a pair of blinders, and we knowingly reply, “Yes. I’ll have a pair.” For whatever reason, we complete the transaction, say thank you, put them on, and walk out the door…until God shows up, however long that takes.

Fortunately for us, God is gracious. And if we receive that grace and give him our blinders, we reap the benefits of faith. As he was told, Abraham received tremendous blessings that have been passed on to many generations for placing his faith in God’s way despite “if only.”

Do you have an unresolved “if only”? Are you wearing blinders? How long before you follow Abraham’s lead?

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Fruity Fridays: A Story of Faithfulness

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

post by Jeremy Nixon

“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness…and FAITHFULNESS.” Galatians 5: 22-23 

There are a lot of stories in the Bible about faithfulness that I enjoy reading. God has been faithful throughout the whole book in showing he created us for a purpose and for our purpose to be fulfilled. There is one story in particular that sticks out, and it’s found in the Old Testament. Read 1 Samuel 15-18. 

In 1 Samuel 15, God paints a picture of how important faithfulness is to Him. Saul was the king of Israel. Saul was not a king who pleased God, so God chose to give the honor of being the king to David, a young man who worked for King Saul. David spent a lot of time in the palace and became very good friends with Saul’s son Jonathan. After some time, King Saul became so jealous of David that he wanted to kill him and even though he wanted to kill him, Jonathan, Saul’s son, remained David’s best friend. In 1 Samuel 23: 16-18 you see how faithful Jonathan is to David. So faithful that the two of them made a covenant, and Jonathan promised David that his dad wouldn’t lay a hand on him. That’s pretty powerful when you are poised to be the next in line for the throne but you also know that God wants to make your best friend king. I couldn’t imagine how that would feel, but right here we see how important faithfulness is.  

Faithfulness: the words strict, truth, allegiance, reliable, and trusted come to mind. When we read about the friendship between Jonathan and David, it shows us that true friends are faithful to each other even in difficult circumstances. It shows me that being faithful means that we are willing to give up our own valuable things for what is important to God. Faithfulness means sticking by God in the easy times as well as the hard times, and He honors our sacrifices. 

God honors those who are faithful. We are faithful to God when we obey his commandments and choose to do what is right. I think about David, how he didn’t kill Saul even though Saul was trying to kill him. God rewarded David’s faithfulness by allowing David to become the king of Israel. And there was Abraham, who was faithful because he followed God’s directions to go to an unknown land far away. He believed that God would give him a son, and at an old age God was faithful to Abraham. God rewarded Abraham’s faithfulness by making his descendants many! There is story after story where God honors the faithful. 

God has shown his faithfulness time and time again in the Bible. He cared for the faithful men and women of the Bible, and we can trust that He will care for us too. God is who He says He is and does what He says He will do. God is faithful to us, and we can always trust in Him….and because He does that, He is worthy of our praise and our faithfulness.  

Go and be a faithful servant today and watch God be faithful to you. Give Him all the praise and be the faithful people God has called us to be.