What we believe is what we consider to be true, reliable and trustworthy. And our lives flow from our beliefs. Looking back, you can probably see how the things you did and the decisions you made were influenced by what you thought was true and reliable.
Take news outlets, for example. If you believe Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, you’re going to have a different perspective on current events from someone who believes The Daily Show and MSNBC. Your social and political views are shaped by your sources of information.
On a deeper level, Genesis 15 will strengthen our belief in God. It’ll strengthen our conviction that He is reliable and trustworthy – out of that belief will flow a life of strength, peace, joy, purpose and eternal value.
God’s Promise, Abram’s Investigation
After Abram defeated an army and rescued his nephew Lot (see Genesis 14 // ), the Lord appeared to Abram in a vision. Here’s what it says in Genesis 15:
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”– vv. 1-4
To understand this interaction, it’s helpful to remember what God promised to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3. Abram was supposed to have a lot of offspring, but as of yet he didn’t have any. He basically asks the Lord, “Where are the offspring you promised me?”
Was Abram disbelieving God or being disrespectful here? It doesn’t seem like that for a few reasons:
- How he starts. Although Abram investigates God’s promise, he starts off on the right foot addressing Him as “Lord.” He acknowledges God as sovereign and in charge.
- What he wants. Abram doesn’t ask for goods and wealth – he wants God’s purpose to be fulfilled. He is eager to see what God has promised He will do.
- How God responds. As we read on, we’ll see that the Lord doesn’t correct Abram. Instead, He assures him.
The Lord Makes a Covenant with Abram
This is how the Lord responded to Abram’s investigation of the promise:
And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.– vv. 4-6
Verse 6 is the most important part of this passage, and we’ll return to it later.
In verses 7-8, God gives Abram another promise to “give [him] this land to possess.” Again, though, Abram investigates it asking, “How am I to know that I shall possess it?” And once again, the Lord reassures him – this time a bit more elaborately. The rest of the chapter goes on to describe a kind of covenant-making ceremony between Abram and God (vv. 9-21).
Abram Believes the Lord
While there is much that could be said, the place we’re going to land is verse 6: “And [Abram] believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
When Abram believed the Lord, it was counted to him as righteousness. This is still the way the Lord operates. Right before Paul talks about Abram’s faith, he writes in Romans 3:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus …– vv. 21-24
Even today, belief is what is counted as righteousness. Not “being good.” Not going to church or doing churchy things. Nobody deserves to be considered righteous by God, but we are credited with it because of our belief in Christ. That’s the good news of Christianity.
A Lifestyle of Belief in God
Christians can remember that they are justified and redeemed by belief in Jesus Christ, and then they can live a daily lifestyle of belief. With all this in mind, here are three encouragements to believe God:
- Believe God by remembering who He is. Our belief starts by remembering who He is. Among many, many other things, God is gracious, slow to anger, a consuming fire and the Lord of lords. What difference would it make if we lived in light of who God is?
- Believe God by remembering what He has said. Instead of trying to conjure up a Santa Claus-style of belief, we can think clear-mindedly, “What has God said? Will I choose to believe it?” What our lives be like if we truly believed that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)? What would change if we truly believed that Jesus is going to return?
- Believe God by remembering what He has done. In Scripture, history and our own lives, we can greatly strengthen our faith just by remembering what God has already done. Thanksgiving is an excellent time to do this. What would our lives be like if we remembered clearly everything that God has done?
- Is it wrong to investigate God’s promises? How might questioning what God has said be an act of belief?
- What was righteousness for Abram based on? What is it based on for us?
- Who is God? How would your life be different if you constantly remembered this?
- What are some things God has said? How would you live differently if you could recall everything God has said?
- What has God done in Scripture, history and/or your life? What would change for you if you could remember all this?