I think many of us feel a tremendous amount of pressure to perform. Now I am not referring to doing a play or singing a song, rather I am thinking about living our lives to meet someone else’s expectations. It might be our parents, trying to live our lives in light of their expectations. It might be our employers, trying to meet deadlines and finish projects in time to meet deadlines. It might even our spouses, trying to balance work, life, and family. We try to meet expectations, but being human, we sometimes fall short and fail. The pressure to “perform” can be overwhelming.
That is why the Bible plays such an important role in our lives. It gives testimonies of many great saints and even the followers of Christ whose faith was strong, but whose lives were broken. Many, including the most revered, often fell short of God’s standard and ideal. In essence, they failed.
One such person was Abraham. His name is synonymous with faith. Galatians calls him a “man of faith.” The Jews and early Christians held him in such high regard both as their ancestral father and in many ways, the example, and father of their faith. But Abraham wasn’t perfect. In fact, he had many failures in his life including serious lapses in faith.
In Genesis 11, we read that God told Abram, his name at the time, to leave his country and his relatives, and head toward the land of promise, the land of Canaan. We need to remember that Canaan was filled with people who were culturally and religiously much different than himself. This might be the equivalent for many of us moving to the Middle East. To make matters worse, a great famine swept the land meaning a shortage of food and resources. This would probably lead to conflict as groups tried to provide for their families.
Now, we would think that the same God who was leading him from the land of Uz to Canaan would have gotten him through those challenges somehow. Many people today believe that following God leads to things “working out” in your benefit and an easier life. Of course, we know this is not true. So what went wrong in Abraham’s life? When you read the story, you notice that something is missing from Abraham’s approach to these challenges.
We do not read of Abraham praying or calling on the Lord through this transition. Effectively Abram took matters into his own hands and went down to Egypt rather than to the place God had commanded him to go. This story is similar to the prophet Jonah, who instead of listening to God, jumped on a ship in the opposite direction. A principle we can take from this decision is any step away from God is a step-down. Rather than walk in obedience, he followed his own wisdom, doing what he thought was in his best interest. So why did he do this?
Abraham stopped trusting God. To make matters worse, he asked his wife Sarah to participate in a lie by saying she was his sister. Pharaoh saw the beautiful Sarah and added her to his harem. As the supreme authority in the land, this was Pharaoh’s prerogative. If he saw someone he liked, he could just take her… that is if she was single!
Abraham and Sarah’s lie led to a series of plagues coming upon Pharaoh’s household. Pharaoh discovered that it was because Sarah was another man’s wife. Pharaoh took her back to Abraham and basically said, “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Take her and get out of here.” Another principle we can take from this story is our sins can have broader consequences.
It is really a sad and sobering thing when an unbeliever corrects you. It is even worse when they are right. I do believe God does that sometimes. There have times in my own life when an unbeliever’s comments exposed my arrogance and pride in a conflict. If God can use a donkey with Balaam (Numbers 22), He can use anyone or anything to get our attention.
For Abraham, his sin was exposed. There was nowhere to hide. Many of us think we can get away with our sin. We may get away with it with the people with whom we sin against, but God says our sin will be exposed. Numbers 32:23 says, “Your sin will find you out.” It does not matter how carefully you hide it. It will come out one day whether in this life or the life to come. Another principle here is as much as we think we can cover our sin, God will expose it.
We all sin. We all fall short. We all mess up. Maybe like Abraham, you have told lies. You have told lies to cover up your lies. You don’t even know what is true anymore. You just know your life is a mess. There is no joy. There is no peace. I want to encourage you if you are in that place that God can fix it, but you have to admit it and reach out to Him. He will forgive you of your sin. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Another principle we can take away here is God’s grace is greater than our sin and restoration is a promise.
Abraham experienced God’s grace when Pharaoh returned his wife to him. His arrogance, his sin, had a broader effect than just himself or his family but extended into Pharaoh’s household. But thankfully, God intervened and relationships were restored and Abraham was led back in the right direction.
Sin is something we will all deal with until we see Jesus face to face. But that does not mean we should just succumb to it, rather we should be pursuing God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. When we do err in our ways, remember that God’s grace is greater and when we come to Him, He will forgive and restore us. The Christian life is not about performance, rather it is about living our lives in and through Him who “performed” the ultimate act so we could be forgiven.