How did Abraham come to his faith?
We are all aware of Abraham, the father of the Israelite nation and the great example of faith. Have you ever wondered how he was able to develop such a legendary faith?
In his day there was no scripture, no pastors, and no churches. All the accouterments that we commonly think of as having a faith-building impact on our lives and our families were not in existence. How then was he able to build his faith into such historic levels? What was there in his life that nurtured and developed his faith?
The size of Abraham’s business
There is a clue in some of the other things we know about him. For example, in addition to being a man of great faith, and we know that he built a huge business. Notice Genesis 14:14:
When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.
If there were 318 trained men who had been born in his household, how many additional untrained men would there have been? How many parents, older men, younger men, women, boys and girls would there have been to have produced 318 trained men? It is not hard to envision a scenario that adds up to the thousands.
Imagine the time and effort he put into building an organization of that size! It would have almost totally occupied his time. In one lifetime, to have built an organization comprised of thousands of employees would have absorbed his time and overwhelmed his emotional and intellectual energy.
Could there be any relationship between Abraham’s work at building his business, and his development of a great faith in God? Could his business have been the primary venue for his relationship with God, and the activities by which he developed his character and built his faith?
It is often said about sports, particularly at the high school and college level, that regardless of the win and loss records, participating in a sport builds one’s character. The effort it takes to become good at a sport, and then become part of a team, develops all sorts of positive character traits in the athletes. They learn self-discipline, focus, respect for other teammates, respect for the coach, etc.
In my days as a high school football player, my school won the state championship when I was in 10th grade. In 11th grade, we went 1-9-1, and posted one of the worst records in the school’s history. I remember the coach remarketing at the annual banquet, “Some years you win and others you build character. This year we built character.”
So, too with work and business. It is the activity in which we interact with God, develop positive character traits, and build our faith in the Lord. Unlike sports, the consequences of ‘things going wrong’ whether it be missteps, poor execution, poor decisions, or a more powerful competitor – are of far greater impact. It is one thing to lose a game, but it’s dramatically more devastating to have to lay off some employees.
Success has greater benefits as well. One can celebrate a victory, but that is nothing compared to being able to provide a livelihood to an employee.
God ordained work, and by its extension, business, as the venue in which He would interact with mankind.
Look at Genesis 2:19:
19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
Notice that God established work, gave Adam a job, and then worked with him at that job. Teamwork!
God gave us work and business as a place to interact with Him, and as a mechanism to build our character and develop our faith. (See Are You too Comfortable in Business to be Effective in the Kingdom)
I suspect that Abraham developed his faith through his work. He recognized that truth taught in Genesis 2:19: that God made work, and by its extension, business, as the place where He would join with mankind and relate to and interact with him. ( See Three Steps to Make God the Center of Your Business)
Could it be that the experiences by which Abraham developed his historic faith occurred in the marketplace, in the context of building his business?
What might be the lesson for us?
Abraham’s marketplace would not have been a primitive nor even a traditional marketplace; much more likely based upon his acumen for a well established ceremonial marketplace with its fundamentalist loyalties. We have ancient contractual relics from markets of that period, monitored and taxed by the ambitious builders of the great Tower of Babel. How many thousands of his peoples did Abraham lead around the northern crown of the Fertile Crescent from his native land to escape the linguistic and cultural chaos left behind after a massive crustal down-thrust that caused the ancient harbors to sink suddenly as far away as southwestern India and the harbor wetlands with their tributaries for inland trade to run bone dry? From dust to dust, indeed! The powerful crucible of Abram/Abraham’s faith became a lifetime sojourn that brought about dynamic shifts in faith and culture all around the Mediterranean Basin as well. He who could evoke the loyalties of thousands for an entire lifetime commanded distant respect of others like him (viz., Melchizedek and his followers), especially when their common go-to-market invocation of a common good faith would carry enough good will to bind them in uncommon purpose for thousands of years as other powerful remnant cultures rose and fell in tectonic conflicts — ever since then! Allelu..!
I love your insights. Thanks for sharing.