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Jell-O Christians Standing on the Promises of God

I get a bit depressed when I read {{Hebrews 11}}. Anybody who?s a long-time Christian is acquainted with the list of the Bastions of Faith. Sometimes non-Christians have heard of Hebrews 11 when we say ?By faith we understand that the world was framed by the word of God?. The way the chapter is renowned just makes it all the more depressing because I know the quality of my faith.

Imperfect faith, that?s what I got. A kind of Jell-o faith that gets all jiggly when things get turbulent. A faith that tries to ?figure it all out? before committing to anything. In one self-justifying sense it?s being responsible and a good steward of what God has given . But in the end, I know what I?m doing. I?m being Hello, Jell-O Christian.

I look at that list and say ?I?m not like Abraham!? The man who heard promises upon promises and believed God, trusting what he said and went off and did everything perfect!

Then I pause and think ?Wait a sec, Abraham didn?t do everything perfect.?

There was that incident where God told him that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan and that he would be exceedingly blessed ({{Gen 12}}). Abram, hearing God?s promise happily wandered the land until a bad famine hit and he likely thought God?s promises weren?t working out quite as good as promised. Abram went down to Egypt and stood idly by while his wife (thought to be sister) was taken into Pharoah?s house as the man?s own wife ({{Gen 12:11-15}}).
And there goes Abram, sitting quietly while plagues are falling and finally taking all of the treasure that was virtually thrown at him, including his wife and her handmaiden. Sure he went back and built an altar and was a fairly rich man but not on account of his faith. If anything, he brought home trouble with that servant girl.

Now I?m reminded of that other incident after Abram had received promises of a child of his own body ({{Gen 15:4}}). There he went, back into his tent and Sarai offering a solution to God?s problem. ?Sure, God said we?ll have a kid, but you see He?s shut my womb. Tell you what, go have relations with my Egyptian handmaiden and we?ll get God out of this fix.? ({{Gen 16:2}})
I think I?ve played that game. Do you know the rules? First you say in your head that ?all things work together for good for those who are in Christ?. Then stuff comes up, like bills or the flu or problems selling the co-op and I?m not quite so sure anymore. Suddenly I?m up and running about trying to figure it all out, coming up with Solutions! Hey, I had a seizure and don?t remember a thing of it but the medications are no fun. Neither is not being able to drive until I get the A-O-K. I might have sat down once or twice and thought {{Romans 8:28}} and might have even written some stuff, but when the tears come and I can?t think straight I?ve never smiled and said ?Well, there it goes, somehow this is working out for my good.?

Hebrews 11 has a list of memorably faithful people. Some stalwarts of faith out there, no doubt, plod on with no mention of their amazing, awe inspiring faith. Abram got mentioned because he was aiming at a promise that he didn?t understand and didn?t even see but knew he would attain it. He went about things the wrong way and God would have to narrow his thinking down further (Gen 17) telling him how His promises would come to be but in the end, he was a much better man for it.

But I?d like to take a look at those quiet people who have a bad reputation, yet in their faith they prove to be an attainable example for the everyday guy like me. Your everyday Bastions of Faith?going along and standing firm for the Lord.

That woman back there, standing right behind Sarai?s shoulder as her mistress leaves Egypt. Hagar, the maidwoman that was passed around like property (which in that day, she basically was). Sarai can?t have children, she passes along Hagar who immediately conceives and she sees herself as an equal to her mistress.

Hey, been there done that. My boss doesn?t know how to do something that I can do in my sleep; suddenly (in my mind) the playing field isn?t so crooked. We stand shoulder to shoulder?and I imagine Hagar did the same thing.
Sarai, bringing up the effrontery of the woman to her husband demands action. Abram tosses the servant back to her mistress saying ?She?s your slave.? Sarai takes the woman and abuses her sorely to the point that the young pregnant woman runs for her life into the wilderness ({{Gen 16:1}})

I don?t want to judge Abram and Sarai right now, we know their story. I just want to look at this everyday woman who has lost her job, her home, fears for her life and that of her unborn child. This lost, lonely woman is the one whom God personally approaches and speaks to.

?Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?? Kind of funny that God knows her name, her occupation, who her boss is and yet doesn?t know where she came from or where she?s going. Well, it?s only funny because God is only asking so as to direct the woman?s thoughts. She explains the abuse that she received and where she?s run from?but no mention of where she?s heading. The future isn?t so clear for her, she?s just running.
God tells her then to go back to her mistress and submit to her.

That?s huge. Go back to that place where she was abused, where she ran from, where her baby?s life is in danger? The Lord doesn?t stop there.

He goes on to reveal that He would greatly multiply her descendants so that they will be too many to count. Ignoring the fact that this sounds exactly like Abram?s promise, let?s take note who this promise is given too. A fleeing slave-woman with no direction, no cash and no options!

God tells her what she knows (you are pregnant), what she hoped for (you will bear this child), what she doesn?t know (with a boy), with a command (you will name him Ishmael), the reason (because the Lord has heard your affliction). Then he proceeds to tell her the boy?s temperament, his actions, how others receive him, and even where he?ll live.

She doesn?t ask for more. She doesn?t ask God ?How will I know?? like old Abram did ({{Gen 15}}). Instead the woman turns and becomes the only person in the Old Testament to bestow a name on God. Not like in other places where someone is praising God of a certain attribute or a certain action. She actually names him ?Elroi? or God who sees.

Why that name? Well the same reason she named the well Beer-lahai-roi: I have lived to see the God who sees me! That?s right the God who sought her out, when she was in trouble, showed her a direction and gave her a reminder in the name of her boy: Ishmael or God Who Hears.

What does this common woman do? Bravely, she obeys God and heads home knowing that she will bear a son and knowing that the boys name will be Ishmael. No mention of Sarai naming the boy, no mention of Hagar whispering the name to Abram. Just old Abram looking down and naming his newborn son of a slave woman ?Ishmael.?

Look at that, God?s not just concerned with the Abrahams or the Isaacs or the Peters or Pauls or even the Sarahs?He?s concerned about the Ishmaels and the Hagars as well. The people who have a bad reputation and just seem to keep getting things wrong. He blesses them too and why?

Because He is a God who hears and sees and seeks. He is the God who says something and makes it firm by personally working in it. He is a God who we can believe in, admittedly imperfectly, but knowing that He is faithful and just to complete what He says He?ll complete.

So when we find that Paul says that He who begun a good work in you will perfect it in the day of Christ Jesus ({{Phil 1:6}}) and start to doubt, we can push those turbulent thoughts out of mind. It?s not ? Maybe if I work extra hard?or if I believe extra hard?. It?s ?God will do it because He said He will do it?.

That?s why, in the end, {{Hebrews 11}} isn?t depressing at all. All those people, those bastions of faith, didn?t gain what was promised but gained approval through their faith. Why didn?t they gain what was promised?
Because God has provided something better for us, those common, messed up, Jell-O faithful people, that apart from us those great bastions of faith wouldn?t be made perfect ({{Heb 11:40}}).

I know I?ll mess up. I?ve done it at least ten times yesterday. Perhaps just as many this morning. But God looked at me and made salvation available to me. God looked at me and put me under His wing. I may not stand as tall as the Abrahams, but I?m right there on the firm foundation of God, the Blood of Jesus, God?s promises, God?s word and God?s character. Sometimes it?s depressing but I don?t stand on me?I stand on Him.

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