Forming Faith Blog

Faith to Follow (Genesis 12)

What does it mean for us to have Abram as a model of faith? Must we be willing to follow God to an unknown destination as he and Sarai did?

One person following another while holding hands.
Photo by Erik Mclean on
God’s Promises Bring Hope

This week, we move from the complicated story of Noah and the flood to another appearance of God. This time, instead of God choosing a man and his family to save them from a destructive disaster, God chooses a man and his wife (and eventual descendants) to be a chosen people and bearers of a blessing. So begins the story of Abram and Sarai and their descendants.

The story of God calling Abram is the second story in the Narrative Lectionary this year and the second of five lessons in our “God’s Promises Bring Hope” thematic unit (which ends on October 9th with the gift of the Ten Commandments).

Two Directions

If you are going for a tight focus on the nine verses of this reading, you can go two main ways. First, you can focus on the famous blessing verses (Genesis 12:2-3), which is what I did four years ago with my post “The Blessing of Abram.” This is also a big focus of many of our faith formation resources. A second focus could be more specifically on God’s call and Abram’s obedience. Since I reflected on the blessings last time, I’m going to look at the obedience this time.

Of course, if you have the time, it’s great to look at both/all aspects of the passage.

Abram’s Obedience

To oversimplify the story of Abram (later Abraham), God tells him to go, and he goes. God tells him to wait, and he waits. But as admirable as Abram’s faith and obedience are, he is in no way a paragon of faith and virtue throughout the story. I mean, the man passes his wife off as his sister TWICE (in Egypt and Gerar) for fear of what others would do to him (and possibly profit). Not exactly the behavior you want from your faith leaders.

But our failures and horrible choices don’t take away from our times of faithfulness and obedience. And Abram certainly had times when he was faithful and obedient. He did set off when God said “Go,” even though he didn’t know a destination. And he (mostly) believed God about the promise of offspring.

Do I Have the Faith to Follow?

When I read Abram’s story here, I have to wonder: if God told me to take my family and move without a known destination, goal, or purpose, would I do it? Probably not. I (over)analyze everything, so a major, life-changing decision without any information would not work for me. Of course, it would probably depend on how obvious God was being here. Perhaps an obvious theophany with no possibility that I was hallucinating would make that easier.

Personally, I have never experienced such a clear appearance. When I have identified what I believe to be God’s directions in my life, it has usually been in emotional experiences and the guidance of others. Never has it been without logic.

So, would I follow God’s directions? I hope so. Would I start heading west without a clue where I was going? Heck no. Does that mean I don’t have faith like Abram’s? Probably, but I think that more people are like me than like Abram.

Faith Formation Connection

I would make the safe guess that most of your faith formation participants (worshippers, students, etc.) are in about the same boat as I am. Sure, there are people who do drop everything and follow God without knowing where they were going. But that is a unique gifting. Here are some thoughts on ways to look at this story in a variety of faith formation contexts:

  • Acknowledge the expectations. This is primarily for adults, but there might be people who are hearing this story and thinking (like me) that they don’t have the kind of faith Abram does. It might be helpful for them to hear that this doesn’t make God love them any less, nor that they love God any less.
  • Journeys are fun. This is a great story to get up and walk! See if you can fit movement into your faith formation time, either actual travel from one place to another or even walking (or other movements) in place.
  • Count your blessings. If you are also addressing the blessing portion of the text (which I hope you do), then it’s helpful for almost any age group to list the blessings (good gifts/things) we have received from God and then what good gifts/things we can do for others. For we, too, are blessed to be a blessing to others.

God’s blessings on your ministries,

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: September 11 to May 28), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free weekly home devotional resource from our devotional “bulletin” inserts Living the Word: Sharing God’s Story @ Home (NL). This resource can help individuals and families have their own daily or weekly devotional time and can even be used wherever you might have a devotion!

2022-2023 Faith Formation Resources

The program year is upon us. Have you made all your decisions for your congregation’s faith formation needs? At Spirit & Truth Publishing, we might just have exactly what you are looking for:

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