Walter Brueggemann, eminent Old Testament scholar wrote, “The Christian life is not an accomplishment or an achievement, it’s a gift by the one who is able to give good gifts.”The thing is, this all depends on us conceding that everything originates with and is initiated by the Gift-giver. This requires radical dependence and trust. The need to wait patiently while everything inside us screams and aches for certainty, sensibility, predictability, control, and the need to make things happen.
Abraham’s known as “the father of faith”. A prototype for this kind of living. He led the life of a disciple. “… We have left everything to follow you!” (Mark 10:28). He accepted, embraced and went. He believed God’s promise without seeing any visible evidence. You might say he pioneered “…being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Abraham was a wanderer, an unsettled traveler. This is a pain and a hardship for anybody who craves settlement and security. The life of a disciple is a sojourner’s life, holding in tension praise and plea, well-being and distress. And in each, there’s a dependency on God’s goodness only.
As a sojourner, this life isn’t easy. It’s always a battle. There’s a struggle to be faithful. Paul urged Timothy to, “fight the good fight of faith” (1Timothy 6:12). Thisboils down to a couple of questions: Will God keep his promises and will I be able to trust the promise? and Can I take the risk?
Abraham and Sarah were a barren couple. God’s promise to them flew in the face of their barrenness. Their barrenness persisted even after receiving the promise. This posed a problem for Abraham. The promise was delayed, even to the point of doubt and he didn’t always respond well taking matters into his own hands. Yet they had to continue to have faith in the face continued barrenness.
It’s the same with the discipleship. The disciple of Jesus sojourns in the tension of the already and the not yet of the kingdom of God – believing the promise of a new world and seeing little or no evidence of it. The disciple believes that God was at the beginning of all things and will be at the completion of all things. The disciple knows that the beginning in the Garden was good and doesn’t question that the conclusion in New Jerusalem will be amazing. So you’d think that such a first-class beginning and mind-blowing completion would guarantee that everything in between would also be great. But it isn’t. In this middle there’s disappointment, contradictions, injustice, unexplainable foolishness, suffering and pointlessness. The road is full of twists, turns, potholes, traps and ambushes. Like Abraham, the disciple must continue on by faith, embracing the foolishness of the cross and trusting solely in Christ’s promise even when evidence against the promise is all around. This faith to which Abraham and the disciple of Christ are called is not an easy, peaceful, pious, acceptance. It’s hard-fought and must be contended for (Jude 3). It takes perseverance and grit and of course lots of grace…
As disciples we’re not forced into faith. We’re invited and permitted not bamboozled or strong-armed into it. As disciples we participate in the God’s promise with our eyes wide open to the messy, muddled middle, doing the good works God has created us to do (Eph. 2:10). This is how faith in the middle is kept alive and possible. Acting out of conviction of the promise is a concrete, tangible way of living out the promise. Good works are an essential ingredient in sustaining the promise and keeping faith alive and vibrant in a dark and despairing world. We must determine to put faith into practice despite delay, the mess, and especially in the face of doubt.
But here’s the good news: God does his best work in the messy middle, where the promises are greatest and the risks highest. So, keep fighting the good fight.