But he said, "O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?" (Gen. 15:8).
Immediately following the commendation of Abram’s faith in Genesis 15:6, the Lord continues to express His commitment to give the patriarch a good land (Gen. 12:4–9; 13:14–18). God reminds Abram of His sovereign choice to give Canaan into the hands of his servant (15:7). Yet Abram does not respond to God’s word in exactly the same manner he did earlier (v. 6). This ought not be considered unbelief, however, for Abram’s question is based on taking God’s self-imposed obligation seriously (v. 8). Could this great man of faith now be entertaining doubt about the Almighty’s trustworthiness?
If so, we only need remember that Abram’s faith, just like ours this side of glory, is not yet perfected. Unwavering trust in God is the goal of every believer, but such will not be achieved in this lifetime. After His transfiguration, Jesus met a father whose son suffered from demonic possession (Mark 9:14–23). This father confessed trust in the Lord while at the same time asking Him to “help” him overcome his doubt (v. 24). While his faith was imperfect, Christ still exorcized the demon (vv. 25–29).
John Calvin explains in his commentary how the doubts of believers differ from those of non-believers. He writes: “The wicked, because their minds are entangled with various conflicting thoughts, do not in any way receive the promises, but the pious, who feel the impediments in their flesh, endeavor to remove them, lest they should obstruct the way to God’s word; and they seek a remedy for those evils of which they are conscious.” Abram’s request was born of a hope and trust that the Lord would be faithful to His oath.
We ought to see that the patriarch’s plea for a sign was righteous, since it stemmed from his trust in God. When we struggle to believe today, let us also turn to the divinely appointed means of confirming our faith. Receiving the sign and seal of our redemption in the sacraments, hearing the preached Word of God, and seeking encouragement from other believers, by the power of the Spirit, will sustain us in our struggle to trust God (Rom. 1:11–12; 10:14; 1 Cor. 11:17–34).
One of the most important reasons why we must gather together with other believers regularly is to find support in our struggles. We are also to exhort others to press on and persevere, seeking to hold each other accountable as disciples of the risen Savior. Do you have accountability in your life? Consider gathering for a short time each week with a few other Christians for mutual prayer, encouragement, and exhortation.
Passages for Further Study
1 Sam. 18:1–5; 20; Luke 17:5;1 Thess. 5:11; James 5:13–18
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