When my wife, Laurin, was just ten years old, she was part of a local summer swim league. The league had more of a summer-camp vibe than a competitive atmosphere, but Laurin is, and always has been, competitive (read: Don’t ever play Monopoly with her). She swam her heart out that summer and won races—lots of them. She was so good in the pool that her strokes caught the attention of the team’s coach. He asked Laurin if she’d like to be a part of a different kind of swim team, one that was year-round and much more competitive.
The only thing was, that team didn’t exist yet. This coach wanted to start a new team, with Laurin as his first athlete in training. That’s how the Marietta Marlins were born. Laurin became a Marlin and went on to swim competitively through high school, winning lots and lots of ribbons and trophies. She even qualified for Olympic trials one year.
That little swim team has grown over the years to become one of the premier leagues in the state. Lots of great swimmers have followed in Laurin’s wake, reaching new milestones every year. In fact, one of the Marlins’ current members is poised to make his Olympic debut in the 2020 Tokyo games.
We have no record of Abraham ever swimming a single stroke, but he was called to be the first member of something new God was doing. After the events surrounding the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, when God scattered the nations across the known world, the Lord turned his attention to a nobody living in the backwater of Mesopotamia. God called Abraham to follow Him to a land He had never seen before. He promised to make Him into a great nation, to bless Him with descendants, land, and prosperity.
Abraham isn’t remembered today for what he brought to the table. There was no special charisma or talent that caught God’s eye. He wasn’t winning the Bronze-Age equivalent of summer swim meets. Reading through Genesis with a careful eye reveals Abraham’s many mistakes (like the two—yes, two—times he nearly traded his wife, Sarah, to a foreign king in exchange for political favor [12:10–20; 20:1–18]). What makes Abraham worth remembering is his trust in God.
“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6). But the facts on the ground didn’t line up with God’s promises: Sarah was barren and beyond childbearing age, and the land of Canaan was in the possession of other nations, none of which appeared to be packing up and moving out anytime soon. But that’s what faith is all about—taking God at His word.
When Abraham died, the only land in Canaan he owned was the small cave where he had buried Sarah (Genesis 23:20). And the only members of the “great nation” he had been promised were his son Isaac, Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, and his grandson Jacob. Abraham died in faith, still trusting that God would deliver on His promises. The author of Hebrews tells us that “although [he] had not received the things that were promised… [he] saw them from a distance” (Hebrews 11:13). What Abraham found as he waited in faith, though, was something far superior to land or descendants—he found a relationship with the living God. That’s the real blessing of faith.
As He did with Abraham, God has given us promises that must be taken on faith. Our new home is yet unseen, and our inheritance awaits us in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). But like Abraham, we have the privilege of walking with God right here and right now. And because of Jesus, Abraham is our father. We have been grafted into his family tree and are numbered among the many descendants he was promised.
Written by John Greco