Bible Focus: Genesis 24-26
From there he went up to Beer-sheba, and the LORD appeared to him that night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your offspring because of my servant Abraham.” So he built an altar there, called on the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there. Isaac’s servants also dug a well there.Genesis 26:23-25 CSB
One day, during my freshman year at the University of Georgia, I had an extended conversation with a friend about religion. The weather was pleasant and we decided to eat in the courtyard just outside the student center. At one point in our talk, my friend earnestly tried to convince me that my Christian beliefs were merely a product of my upbringing. He argued that I had believed in Jesus simply because I had grown up in a heavily Christian environment.
I could see his point. My parents were believers who took me to church regularly. They also enrolled me in private Christian schools from second through twelfth grade. Virtually all of my friends claimed to be Christian. I could not deny that I had grown up with significant social pressure to outwardly conform to Christian norms.
However, even though I couldn’t prove it to my friend, I knew there was something else to my faith that went beyond outward conformity. My faith didn’t ultimately depend on my upbringing or on the maintaining of some social construct. Faith in Jesus was not expected of me at the university, yet I wanted to follow him anyway. I felt that my faith was grounded in God himself, and I believed that nothing that I would learn or experience would convince me otherwise.
I look back on that conversation today, and I remember that I was brash and naive about many things. I had no idea how much my faith would get challenged and tested in the years to come. But I also remember how strong and merciful God has been to me since then. He navigated me through those tough times and kept my faith intact. My faith did persevere, but the credit doesn’t belong to me. The credit belongs to the One in whom I believe.
When God called Abraham to leave his family home and travel to a strange place that he had never seen, Abraham obeyed. He left all his relatives behind (save one nephew who went with him), and followed God into the unknown. Many years later, his promised son Isaac was born.
When it came time for Isaac to get married and start a family of his own, Abraham sent a servant back to the family home that Abraham had left so long ago. Abraham commanded his servant to search his relatives for a suitable wife for Isaac and to bring her back with him. Abraham commanded his servant not to let Isaac go back there (Genesis 26:6-8). Abraham was obviously concerned that Issac might decide to stay with his relatives instead of following God’s call.
However, Isaac’s faith was not simply a pattern he observed and absorbed from his father. At some point in his life, Isaac decided to listen to God and follow God on his own. Isaac may have struggled with faith at times, just as his father had. But there is no indication that Isaac ever considered going back to live with his wife’s relatives, even after Abraham died, a famine arose, and quarrels broke out between the other inhabitants of the land. He kept believing in God and his promises, and God kept leading him towards the future God had prepared for him.
We can be greatly helped by growing up in an environment where God is honored and the gospel is taught. However, those who grow up in a non-godly environment are not barred from God’s family, and those who grow up in a godly environment are not automatically made members. We may have earthly spiritual fathers, but our faith does not depend on them. Our faith depends only on the Lord. If we listen to him and respond to his call, he is faithful and will bring us into his family.
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame,’ since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’Romans 10:9-13 CSB
Featured image by Serge Kutuzov on Unsplash