Thus far we have discussed many facets of what it means to live by faith. We have seen that the faith we possess is not a blind faith, but rather is based upon the acts of God in history. We have also seen how faith is instrumental in our salvation and how faith relates to the hope of resurrection.
Though we know that we have good reasons for placing our faith in God, that does not mean that the life of faith is always an easy one. Sometimes when God calls us to act, we cannot be sure of what He is planning to do through us. Sometimes we have to trust Him in hard places.
The life of Abraham is a good example of this. Remember that Abraham was promised a nation of many descendants (Gen. 15:1–6). But when God delayed giving a son to Abraham, Abraham took it upon himself to father Ishmael with his maid Hagar (16:1–16). Though God did promise to make a nation of Ishmael, he was not the child of the promise. Finally, after a long wait, the child of the promise, Isaac, was born to Abraham and Sarah (21:1–7).
Imagine what joy there was to see the birth of the promised son. God did the impossible and gave a child to a couple who were advanced in years — a couple, we should keep in mind, who had never before conceived. Trusting God brought them this great reward.
But the story did not end there. In today’s passage, Abraham is called to sacrifice this promised son (22:1–2). Though we will never be called to do this, we can only imagine how hard this must have been for Abraham to do. After all, God was calling him to give up His beloved son and heir that had finally been born.
As we read the rest of the story we know that Abraham obeyed. But we should not think that this obedience was something that came easily. For Abraham did not get up right away — he delayed the journey until morning (v. 3). Moreover, though Abraham told Isaac that God would provide a lamb (v. 8), we wonder how easy it was for him to believe this, especially since God never told him that he would do so. God did come through with the lamb — seemingly at the last moment (vv. 9–14) — but, until then, Abraham had to trust God in the midst of difficult circumstances.
Dr. Sproul says that “living by faith means that sometimes we hold on to a barren cliff with our fingernails with all our strength as we trust in an invisible God.” This is what Abraham did when he was commanded to sacrifice Isaac. When your life reflects this statement, remember that you must hold on to your trust in God.