MENU

Where the world comes to study the Bible

Report Inappropriate Ad

6. How to Strengthen Our Faith (Genesis 15:7–21)

Related Media

He also said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” So the LORD said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:7–21)

How can we strengthen our faith in God and his promises?

Scripture calls Abraham the father of those who believe (Gal 3:7). He is our father of faith. However, even though Abraham was an example of faith, he still struggled with doubt. In Genesis 15:1, God spoke to him and said, “Do not be afraid. I am your shield and your great reward.” In the previous chapter, Abraham conquered four armies from the east while saving his nephew, Lot, and after, he was probably afraid of retaliation. However, God comforts Abraham by sharing that he would protect and provide for him (i.e. shield and great reward).

In reply to God’s assurance, Abraham said, “‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir’” (Gen 15:3). In considering his own mortality, Abraham started to think about his future heir. At that time, Abraham’s chief servant was his heir because he had no son, and Lot had left him. God comforts Abraham by saying that he will have a son from his own body and his descendants will be like the stars (Gen 15:4–5).

Even though Abraham was the father of faith, he struggled with fear and doubt. In the second half of Genesis 15, God begins to strengthen Abraham’s faith, even more. He says, “‘I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it” (v. 7). Not only did God want to comfort Abraham about his future child, but God also wanted to confirm his future possession of the land.

In Genesis 12, Abraham left Haran for Canaan, in order to inherit the land, but when he got there, ten tribes were dwelling in it (cf. v. 19–20). How was God going to fulfill this promise? In fact, Abraham honestly asks God the question. He says, “‘O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?’” (v. 8). God dramatically assures Abraham and strengthens his faith by cutting a covenant with him and giving him a prophecy about his future children, Israel.

Have you ever struggled with doubt? Have you ever doubted God’s love for you? Have you ever doubted whether the Christian life was even worth living? Many great saints struggled with doubt. Asaph, in Psalm 73, looked at the prosperity of the wicked and said, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence” (v. 13). He doubted and wavered in his faith.

One of the apostles doubted the resurrection. Thomas declared, “I will not believe, unless I see him with my own eyes, touch his hands, and put my hand in his side” (John 20:25, paraphrase). Thomas doubted. Have you ever doubted God?

How do we deal with doubt? In Ephesians 6:16, as Paul talks about spiritual warfare, he says that we must take up the shield of faith to quench the enemy’s fiery darts. If we don’t have strong faith, we are vulnerable to the lies and attacks of the enemy. Many Christians live in doubt and fear; they are doubtful and fearful about their past, present, and future, instead of living in faith.

Not only, do we need strong faith to protect ourselves in spiritual warfare but also to see God move powerfully in our lives and others. Jesus said that if we had the faith of a mustard seed we could move mountains (Matt 17:20). To see the kingdom of God advance in lives, churches, and nations, mountains must be moved. How do we strengthen our faith?

In this text, Abraham struggles with doubt and God strengthens his faith. We can learn a great deal about strengthening our faith through God’s ministry to Abraham.

Big Question: What principles can we learn about strengthening our faith from God’s response to a doubting Abraham?

To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Be Transparent with God

He also said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” (Genesis 15:7–8)

The first thing we can discern about strengthening our faith is our need to be transparent. Abraham openly shares his struggle with God. He says, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

We must understand that it is OK for us to struggle before God. It is OK to tell him our fears and worries. He already knows anyway. First Peter 5:7 says, “Cast your cares before the Lord for he cares for you.” The word “cares” can be translated “anxieties.” It literally means “to divide” or “to pull into parts.” We should bring everything to God that divides our mind and keeps us from fully trusting him. Peter said to “cast”—to throw all our worries before God and leave them there. When God called Moses to be the leader of his people, Moses freely shared his anxieties and doubts. He said, “Lord, I have a slow tongue” and in response God encouraged him. If we are going to strengthen our faith, we must be open and transparent with God.

Many Christians, however, never do this. They keep their struggles to themselves. They only bring their “big” problems before God. Some even walk around with a chip on their shoulder towards God. They boastfully declare, “God and I aren’t talking right now! I’m angry with God!”

This is not the way to respond to God. We humbly share our struggles and pains with him, and allow him to strengthen our faith and encourage our hearts.

Application Question: What are common hindrances that keep people from sharing their struggles with God?

To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Respond to God in Faith

He also said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” (Genesis 15:7–8)

Right after God confirms to Abraham that he will have a child from his own body (v. 4), God tells him that he will possess the land of Canaan as well. Again, Abraham questions God and says, “How can I know that I will gain possession of it?” Like Gideon asking for a sign with the fleece (Judg 6:36–40) or Hezekiah asking for God to do a miracle with the sun dial (2 Kgs 20:8–11), Abraham asks for confirmation from God.

Here, we learn our second principle. If we are going to strengthen our faith, we must first have faith. Now this may seem strange because it looks like Abraham has no faith at all and in fact doubts God. However, even though Abraham asks for confirmation, his question comes from belief. Abraham wants to believe God and more fully understand God’s promises and, therefore, asks for confirmation. Abraham’s faith is like the man who wanted Christ to heal his son (Mark 9:23–24). Jesus said to him, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” The man replied, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!” This man believed but was struggling to believe God and so was Abraham.

Interpretation Question: How do we know Abraham believed God, even though he clearly struggled with doubt?

We can tell Abraham still has faith in God, primarily, by God’s response. He doesn’t rebuke him or discipline him. Remember when Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, questioned the angel about him having a child in old age? Because of his lack of belief, God struck him with muteness (Luke 1:18–20). Sarah, Abraham’s wife, doubted and questioned God in her heart saying, “‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’” and was rebuked (Gen 18:13). However, when Mary asked how she could give birth to a child, being a virgin, God simply answers her question (Luke 1:34–35). Like Abraham, Mary questioned God in faith, and therefore, God graciously strengthened her faith.

Because Abraham believes, God strengthens his faith by giving him a prophecy and a covenant. This is true for us as well. In order to strengthen our faith, we must first believe.

This might seem like a paradox or an unfair situation. It’s kind of like applying for a job, and being told that you need experience; however, you can’t really get experience unless you have a job. How does that work? Similarly, Scripture teaches that God only assures and strengthens those who come to him in belief and not unbelief. Consider what Christ said to the Jews who doubted him:

Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. (John 17:16–17)

Essentially, he says that those who believe and want to obey God, will be given more. He will give them assurance and revelation that Jesus is the messiah. But for the unbelieving and disobedient, God will not assure or confirm them.

Matthew 13:12 says, “Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” Whoever has faith, God strengthens their faith and gives them further understanding. But, he who does not have, God takes away—he disciplines by hardening and removing understanding.

Certainly, this is a difficult doctrine; however, this is exactly what Scripture teaches. When Herod questioned Christ and entreated him to perform miracles, Christ remained quiet and said nothing (Luke 23:8–9). Herod didn’t have any faith and didn’t desire to believe. But, when Gideon and Hezekiah asked for a miracle, God answered. What’s the difference? Some approach God with pride and say, “Prove yourself!” While others humbly approach God and say, “I believe! Lord, help my unbelief!”

How are you approaching God? For those who come to him in faith, he gives more. For others, he removes even what little they have. The Lord wants to answer your questions. He wants to remove your doubts. But you must bring your doubts and struggles to him in faith.

Yes, let us cast our anxieties, worries, doubts, and fears before the Lord, but let us bring them before God in faith, because he cares for us (1 Pet 5:7).

Application Question: What do you think of the Scriptural requirement of needing faith in order for God to assure us or answer our questions? How do we know if we are approaching God in faith or in unbelief?

To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Be Obedient to God

So the LORD said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. (Genesis 15:9–10)

Next, God commands Abraham to gather five different animals in order to make a covenant. Abraham immediately obeys God, even though struggling with his faith. In contrast, many times when struggling with our faith, our obedience to God falters. We stop going to church, stop reading our Bible, stop praying, and drop out of fellowship. This is not the way to strengthen our faith; it is the path way to destroying our faith. Abraham does not do that. Even though Abraham is struggling, he immediately obeys God.

Often Scripture teaches that genuine faith always produces works. This is true, but in a sense walking in obedience increases our faith. Just as, in the same way, disobedience weakens our faith.

Jesus said this in Mark 4:24: “‘Consider carefully what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more.’” He said if we faithfully use what God teaches us, if we obey and share it, then God will give us even more. When we’re obedient, God gives us more faith, and when disobedient, we lose it.

If Abraham had not obeyed God by preparing for the covenant, then he would have lost the opportunity for God to increase and strengthen his faith. And many people do this: they doubt God and stop reading their Bibles, stop attending worship, etc., and therefore lose the blessing of God.

Are you walking in obedience to God? If so, God will give you more. He will give you more of himself and more faith to believe and receive his promises. If you disobey God, your faith will decrease and you will incur the discipline of God instead of his blessing (cf. Heb 12:6).

Application Question: How can we respond obediently to God, even when struggling with doubt?

To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Persevere through Struggle

Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Genesis 15:11–16)

Abraham gathers five animals and cuts them into halves, except for the birds. He makes a pathway between them. In those days, written contracts were uncommon. People instead made covenants by killing animals and walking through the remains. When doing this, they said, “Let this be done to me if I fail to keep the covenant.” No doubt, Abraham expects that both God and him would somehow make this covenant.

However, while waiting on God, birds flew down and began to attack the carcasses. Since they were scavengers, they tried to eat the dead bodies and fly away with some of the meat. In response, Abraham drives them away. No doubt, this would be confusing to Abraham. He was probably tempted to think, “If I’m being obedient, why are you allowing the birds to try to steal the meat? In fact, where are you?” However, struggle and trial was one of the ways that God strengthened his faith, and this is true for us as well.

Romans 5:3–4 says, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. What is hope? Hope is really just another name for faith. Hope is faith in future promises. After suffering produces the fruit of perseverance and character, it leads us to hope. Through suffering, we begin to trust and hope in God and his Word more. It is a necessary process in the strengthening of our faith.

Similarly, James said,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:3–4)

These birds were part of the “trials of many kinds” God allowed, as a part of strengthening Abraham’s faith. As we see in the following prophecy, trials would also be used to strengthen Abraham’s seed’s faith.

Many commentators see the attack of these birds as a visual picture of the prophecy that God was about to make. Kent Hughes said, “The assault by the carrion-eating birds of prey and Abram’s driving them away foreshadowed the attacks that would come upon Abram’s offspring from the nations and God’s protection.”1 Abraham’s descendants would be slaves in Egypt for 400 years, and then God would return them to the land. There would be attacks and threats towards God’s promise; there would be struggle to help strengthen and purify the Israelites’ faith.

Don’t we see this commonly throughout Scripture? Joseph dreamed his parents bowed down before him but, soon after, was thrown into slavery and later prison. Most scholars believe that Joseph was in Egypt, as a slave and prisoner, for some fifteen years. Suffering strengthened his faith for the promise. While in slavery and prison, he, no doubt, was tempted to question the promise of God. However, he persevered to receive it.

Moses did as well. Stephen tells us that when Moses killed the Egyptian, he thought the Israelites would know that he was called to be their deliverer. However, right after, he runs for his life and becomes a shepherd in the wilderness for forty years before God calls him to deliver Israel (cf. Acts 7:23–30). Suffering and trial came to strengthen his faith. In fact, when Moses leads Israel out of Egypt, they still needed to persevere through the wilderness to get to the promised land.

Suffering always comes to strengthen one’s faith. God allowed Joseph to suffer to strengthen his faith for his calling. It was the same with Moses, Israel, and even Abraham.

Let us understand this: If we are a Christian whose faith wavers, then we must realize that God will strengthen it through trial and suffering. Here, Abraham runs off the birds that tried to threaten God’s work. Then in the vision, Abraham learns that the fulfillment of the promise would not happen without suffering. The Israelites would go through suffering before experiencing God’s promise.

Suffering always precedes glory, and it is always the pathway to a stronger faith. Therefore, we must faithfully persevere through suffering. Those who do not, those who complain, quit, or run away from God in trials, only weaken their faith.

How are you responding to the trials, even small ones, sent to strengthen your faith? Are you persevering or quitting? Are you trusting or doubting? Are you praising or complaining? Let us remember that God is faithful and that he has a purpose in the trial—our maturity and the strengthening of our faith.

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced suffering that strengthened your faith? What is your typical response to God’s trials—even minor annoying ones? How is God calling you to respond better?

To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Be Patient

As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. (Genesis 15:12–13)

We cannot but notice that when God called Abraham to prepare for a covenant, not only does he struggle with birds, but he has to wait until night fall. In fact, he waited so long that he fell asleep. God didn’t immediately give Abraham a vision when he finished preparations. God allowed Abraham to not only struggle but wait.

Then in the vision, he discovers that he would not inherit the land in his lifetime and that his descendants would inherit it after 400 years of slavery. God’s timing is not our timing, and if we do not understand that, our faith will falter. Second Peter 3:8 says this in the context of waiting on the promise of Christ’s second coming: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” We often want God to be on our time schedule, but he is not. Our God is eternal and all-powerful, and therefore, time is different to him. He waits till Abraham is 100 years old before he gives him a son, fifteen years after this promise and twenty-five after the original. Abraham waits and waits and waits. However, God strengthened his faith through the waiting.

This is true for us, as well. God often strengthens our faith by delay. By delaying a promise or a desire in our heart, we are forced to trust in God and not ourselves. God often allows the delay to last long enough that we know the desire or promise can only be accomplished by him. In waiting for a child, Abraham waited until his body was figuratively dead. The child of promise could only come from God—not Abraham’s strength or wisdom.

God made Abraham, Joseph, and Moses wait. He made the Israelites and David wait. In the vision, God tells Abraham that he must continue to wait. Hebrews 11:13 says this about Abraham and other men of faith:

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.

Waiting is the pathway to strong faith. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” In order to see God move, we must often wait, and in this waiting, God works on our faith. He weakens our flesh, fortifies our faith, and builds hopeful anticipation.

Are you waiting on God’s direction? Are you waiting for a godly spouse? Are you waiting for some dream he put in your heart? Take joy, so did the great men and women of God before you. God is worth waiting on. Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength and strengthen their faith (cf. Is 40:31).

Application Question: In what ways has God made you wait for something that he put in your heart? What does God have you waiting on now? How can we better wait on the Lord without becoming anxious, impatient, or angry?

To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Know God’s Word

Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Genesis 15:13–16)

As mentioned, God prophesied to Abraham about Israel’s 400 years of slavery in Egypt before they returned to Canaan. Exodus 12:40 actually says 430 years, so it seems that God rounded the number. Also, when it says in verse 16, “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here,” this obviously refers to the lifespan of the patriarchs. Since the patriarchs typically lived over 100 years there is no contradiction in this prophecy. God tells Abraham all this so he would know his inheriting the land would not happen in his lifetime but his descendants.

God’s words were given to strengthen Abraham’s faith so it would not waver while waiting in the land. It is the same for us. Scripture says that one of the primary ways our faith is strengthened is by knowing God’s Word. Romans 10:17 in the KJV says, “so faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”

As Abraham listened to the words of God, it would immediately begin to fortify his faith, and it’s no different for us. One of the reasons that many of us have so little faith is because it is not built on God’s Word and his promises.

Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” The stories and doctrines in the Scripture were written to give us hope and faith. If we do not know the stories of Abraham, Moses, and Joseph, if we don’t know the teachings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul, and Peter, our faith will be weak.

It is through God’s Word that he matures and builds our faith. First Peter 2:2 says, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” Literally it reads “so that it may grow you.” The word “grow” is passive. The more we read the Word of God, the more it makes us grow.

We must plant our roots deep in Scripture if we are going to faithfully stand in trials and waiting seasons. We must constantly read, study, memorize, and speak Scripture.

Are you constantly feasting on God’s Word? It will strengthen your faith and enable you to take hold of God’s promises.

Application Question: In what ways has God strengthened your faith through studying his Word? What are your primary hindrances to spending time in God’s Word, and how is God calling you to overcome them?

To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Continually Experience God’s Presence

When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:17–20)

God appears to Abraham through a smoking firepot and a blazing torch. These were theophanies—temporary manifestations of God to his people. The smoking firepot reminds us of the pillar of cloud that led Israel by day in the wilderness (Exod 13:21). The blazing torch reminds us of the pillar of fire that led them by night (Exod 13:21). It seems that Abraham is still asleep when this happens, but somehow, he is still aware.

Through this, God strengthens Abraham’s faith. This was possibly the first-time Abraham ever saw God, and therefore, this would greatly strengthen his faith. Certainly, it was an awesome and scary sight. When this happened, there was great darkness. Similarly, when God revealed himself to Israel on Mt. Sinai, a great darkness appeared (cf. Exod 19:16–18). Also, when Christ died on the cross, a great darkness came over the land (cf. Mark 15:33). God was manifesting himself and his glory.

We must continually experience God’s manifest presence as well, if our faith is to be strengthened. Christ said to the disciples in the Great Commission that he would never leave or forsake them (Matt 28:20). Scripture teaches that God indwells each believer (1 Cor 6:19). However, Scripture also declares that God wants to manifest himself more to us, and, in these manifestations, we can have, no doubt, that he strengthens our faith.

Interpretation Question: How do we experience more of God’s manifest presence in our lives?

1. God manifests his presence to those who are separated to righteousness.

Philippians 4:8–9 says,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Paul said that the God of peace will be with believers who continually think on righteousness and practice it. When we are living in righteousness, both internally and outwardly, we experience more of his manifest presence.

Are you consumed with righteousness—thinking on it and practicing it?

2. God manifests his presence to those who are separated from sin and the world.

Second Corinthians 6:14, 17–18 says,

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? ... “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

In talking about not being yoked together with unbelievers, Paul quotes some words of God from the Old Testament (cf. Isa 52:11, Lev 11:8). He says come out from them and be separate, touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters.

This seems strange in the context because Paul is already speaking to Christians. God is already their Father. However, this is not talking about salvation but intimacy with God.

Many Christians feel distant from God because “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). We can’t love and enjoy the world and, at the same time, enjoy God. For those who are yoked with the world, God separates from them. He removes his intimacy and his presence. He still indwells them, but they don’t experience his intimacy—only his discipline. In order to enjoy God’s presence, we must be separate from sin and the world.

Are you separating from sin and the world—cutting things out of your life that hinder God’s presence?

3. God manifests his presence to those who live in worship.

Psalm 22:3 says, “He inhabits the praises of Israel” (paraphrase). We see this many times in Scripture: Israel would worship and God’s presence manifested in the temple (cf. 2 Chron 7:1). Similarly, when we worship and thank him throughout the day, we experience his manifest presence.

Therefore, the complainer and the bitter person misses his blessing (cf. Phil 2:14; 1 Thess 5:18–19). He inhabits praise, not grumbling and complaining. Grumbling only brings the discipline of the Father (cf. 1 Cor 10:10), not his blessing.

4. God manifests his presence among the fellowship of the saints.

Matthew 18:20 says that where two or more are gathered in his name, he is in the midst. When we worship together at church and listen to his Word, when we gather in small groups or do ministry together, God’s presence is there. Many people miss God’s presence because they don’t faithfully fellowship with brothers and sisters in the Lord. Maybe, they were hurt or wounded by the church and, therefore, separate from God’s people. God’s people are not perfect, but by God’s grace, he meets with them when they gather in his name.

Let us not neglect gathering together with saints (Heb 10:25), for that is where God’s presence manifests. If our faith is going to be strengthened, we must continually experience the manifest presence of God. Yes, God is everywhere, but there are times when he especially shows up to meet with his people, in accordance with his promises. We need these experiences to grow in our faith.

Are you daily seeking God’s presence? He says, “Draw near him, he will draw near you” (James 4:8, paraphrase).

Application Question: At what times do you most experience God’s presence? At what times do you least experience it? How is God calling you to seek his presence in a deeper way?

To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Know God’s Character

When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:17–20)

Here, God makes a covenant with Abraham (v. 18). Literally it reads “the Lord cut a covenant.”2 In that ancient culture, both parties walked through the severed pieces of meat when making a covenant. This ceremony said, “Let this happen to me, if I do not hold my part of the deal.” However, Abraham does not walk through the pieces, only God does. God makes a unilateral covenant with Abraham, declaring that he would fulfill the promise on his own. Ancient covenants established ones’ character; people made them to prove they could be trusted.

It seems that when Abraham first followed God, it was a conditional promise. “Leave your land and I will make you great, make you a great nation, give you land, and you will be a blessing” (Gen 12:1–3, paraphrase). But here, the promise becomes unconditional. Even if Abraham fails God, God will fulfill the covenant based on his own character.

God essentially says, “This covenant will happen. It is done. You can trust me.” Abraham is not called to trust in himself but to trust in the character and faithfulness of God alone. The writer of Hebrews refers to this unilateral covenant and its reflection of God’s character in Hebrews 6. He says,

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself…. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.(Hebrews 6:13, 17–18)

This oath reflected several characteristics of God which encouraged Abraham’s faith. It reflected his immutability. This is a theological word that simply means “God is unchangeable.” He said it; therefore, he will fulfill it. He does not change like the shifting clouds (cf. James 1:17, Heb 6:17). It also reflected God’s truthfulness. God cannot tell a lie (cf. Heb 6:18, Titus 1:2). Christ called himself the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). This promise was as good as done, because God made it.

But this ceremony and prophecy also revealed more about God. God declared the reason Israel would not receive the land yet was because the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete. The Amorites were one of the major tribes in Canaan, and therefore, their name was used to refer to everybody in the land. God would not give the land to Abraham’s descendants until the sins of the Amorites were complete.

In Leviticus 18:1–24, God told Israel to not participate in the sexual sins of the Canaanites because he was removing them from the land for those reasons (cf. v. 24). They were known for incest, bestiality, and all kinds of illicit sex. Therefore, God promised to judge and remove them. In fact, when Joshua goes into the land to wipe out the Canaanites, it is basically God’s justice—his wrath.

Abraham learned more about the characteristics of God through this ceremony and prophecy. He learned about God’s immutability, his truthfulness, his wrath, and specifically, his patience. God waited for hundreds of years for these people to repent. “Donald Grey Barnhouse said, ‘If the iniquity of the world had been full a hundred years ago, none of us would have been born to be born again.’”3 He waits and waits and waits for us to return to him. However, a time comes when grace runs its course because God is just and righteously angry. One day, God promised to wipe out the Canaanites because of all their sin.

This was important for Abraham’s faith. Abraham’s faith was strengthened by learning more about God’s character. God is unchangeable; he does not lie; he is patient; he is just; he is holy and wrathful. The more we know of God’s character, the stronger our faith will become. The less of God’s character we know, the more vulnerable we are.

It was God’s character that Satan attacked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. He tried to make God seem like the ultimate kill joy. He said, “Did God say you could not eat of all the trees in the garden?” He then essentially called God a liar. He said that God knew if they ate of the tree they would be like God.

The reason Eve fell was because she doubted God’s character. She didn’t know God well. I often counsel people who have listened to the lies of Satan and, therefore, have weak faith. They think God doesn’t want them to have fun. They think God doesn’t have their best interest in mind. They think God is going to whip them every time they fail. The reason their faith is weak and they are drawn into all kinds of sin is because, they don’t know God’s character.

God is all good, all-wise, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He is transcendent—there is nobody like him and nothing like him on earth. He is immortal, all-loving, and all-kind. The more we know his character, the more our faith will be strengthened. Abraham’s faith grew as he learned more about the character of God.

Are you growing in the knowledge of God’s characteristics and his teachings?

Application Question: How can we grow in the knowledge of God’s character?

1. We grow to know God’s character more by knowing his Word.

Scripture is the revelation of his character, and the more we know it, the more we know him. This is one of the reasons that the study of theology is so important. The study theology is a systematic study of God and his teachings in Scripture. It teaches us more about his person and character so our faith can grow. God wants us to be a thinking people. He wants us to love him with our whole heart, mind, and soul.

2. We grow to know God’s character more by experience.

One of the ways we grow to know his character is simply by having various experiences with God. The more God parts the seas for us, the more he disciplines us, the more he comforts us, and the more we wait on him, the more our knowledge of him develops. After walking with God for years, we develop a history with God, and that history becomes a means of strengthening our faith and knowing his character. This is one of the reasons that journaling is so important—it helps us remember how God provided for us and others. Sadly, we are prone to forget God’s faithfulness and good works.

Application Question: Why is knowing God’s character so important? What aspect of God’s character is he currently teaching and revealing to you?

Conclusion

How can we strengthen our faith, like God did Abraham’s?

  1. To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Be Transparent with God
  2. To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Respond to God in Faith
  3. To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Be Obedient to God
  4. To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Persevere through Struggle
  5. To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Be Patient
  6. To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Know God’s Word
  7. To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Continually Experience God’s Presence
  8. To Strengthen Our Faith, We Must Know God’s Character

Copyright © 2017 Gregory Brown

The primary Scriptures used are New International Version (1984) unless otherwise noted. Other versions include English Standard Version, New Living Translation, New American Standard Bible, and King James Version.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.


1 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 231). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

2 Guzik, David (2012-12-08). Genesis (Kindle Locations 2647–2651). Enduring Word Media. Kindle Edition.

3 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 233). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Related Topics: Faith

Report Inappropriate Ad