Faith: Believe, Obey, Expect
Looking at the faith of Abraham and Sarah, I want to discuss how faith believes, obeys, and expects. Simply stated, faith is an expectant anticipation of what God has promised. But how do we develop such faith? Let’s dive deeper into this important subject. (By the way, this article is a condensed version of a chapter in my book Our Eyes are On You: Principles to Prevail in Faith and Prayer.)
We read in Genesis that God promised from Abraham’s descendants that all the families of the earth would be blessed. However, twenty-four years have passed since the Lord first spoke to Abraham and Sarah about having a son, and their faith weakens. Even so, God appears to them in Genesis 18 and tells them that Sarah shall conceive and have a son by the set time next year.
“Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Gen. 18:14 NKJV)
As promised, Sarah gave birth to the son of promise,
“And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken.” (Gen. 21:1 NKJV)
What promise have you been waiting for? He is God Almighty; El-Shaddai; “the all-powerful God who is enough! He can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves!”
Abraham and Sarah’s son of promise, and the promise of many descendants, was to rest upon El-Shaddai—Almighty God. Their future prosperity and posterity were not found in their ability, but in God’s ability. So it is for us.
Abraham is highlighted 74 times in the New Testament, second only to Moses. Abraham is the only person in the Bible called a friend of God (Jam. 2:23)—perhaps the highest honor anyone can receive. He was not perfect in his walk with God, yet scripture records him not only as God’s friend, but his “friend forever” (2 Chr. 20:7).
Abraham is the father of faith and the faithful. Throughout his life, faith is exemplified. Even when Abraham was weak in faith, God saw him as a person of faith.
Abraham and Sarah learned through their journey that they could trust and obey God. They weren’t perfect, but they trusted God through the process. From this “friend of God,” we learn that faith is not perfect character or integrity. Rather, it is simply taking God at His Word and trusting Him. By doing so, Abraham became the model of faith for all believers.
Abraham and Sarah had to align their lives with God’s prophetic promise to see it fulfilled.
Abraham discovered God as a Father—One who deeply loves us. God communicates vision to us through love—not demand. It’s an invitation to journey with Him. He builds us up through His promise revealed and inspires us to partner with Him to impact our world.
The Father is looking for friends! Jesus said to those who would follow Him, “I no longer call you servants but friends” (John 15:15). God loves us unconditionally; performance is not required to earn God’s love and favor. Yet, from a place of intimacy with Father God, He invites us to believe His prophetic promises and risk. Prophecy reveals the perfect heart of Father God—His love and goodness.
Abraham had to start with some “basic steps” to fulfill God’s purpose for his life. He had to believe God’s promise, obey God’s promise, and give himself to God’s eternal purposes. The same is true for you and me if we are to see prophetic promise fulfilled in our lives.
“By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.” (Hebrews 11:8-12 NKJV)
Abraham Believed God’s Promise (Hebrews 11:9)
Abraham and Sarah dwelt by faith in the land of promise and patiently waited for the son of promise, Isaac. God’s promise enables you to see when circumstances cloud the future outcome. Like a marathon runner getting a drink, hearing God’s voice (promise) refreshes and strengthens you to keep running your race (Heb. 12:1-2).
Impossible circumstances didn’t bring Abraham into unbelief; rather, his faith was strengthened as he waited in faith upon God’s promise. Abraham’s faith grew stronger rather than weaker. He continued to give glory to God as he waited for the promise. The promise releases grace to believe.
“Contrary to hope, in hope believed… and not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body … he did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” (Rom. 4:18-22 NKJV)
Don’t stop believing God’s promise to you. When faith weakens, prayer ceases!
Faith occurs when we cease trying to do something by our own efforts and simply trust God! Romans 10:17 says that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (NKJV). It doesn’t say “from having heard”, but by “hearing” a God-breathed word for now. It’s the intimate, communing heart in the present tense that is ready for God’s deposit of faith. Hearing now is a key to faith—Abraham had to hear “now,” and so it is for you and me.
Faith is fastened to the heavenly realm. Unbelief is attached to the natural (seen) realm. Faith lives from the invisible toward the visible. Use your promise as a foundation for prayer!
Faith that hears, believes, and obeys God promises isn’t always easy. It involves trust, patience, and a willingness to risk. It means waiting upon God, believing in God’s goodness when others might easily give up.
Paul writes that each of us has been “given a measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3 NKJV); it is up to you to develop your faith that “sees” clearly what God is offering in His unseen Kingdom realm. ‘Measure’ is from the Greek métron, and implies a unit of measure, with dimensions or volume. You’ve been given a portion of faith from God; you must cultivate what He has given to see faith increase. Your ability to believe His promises is connected to your stewardship of the faith given to you.
You must also, “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12 NKJV). The Greek word for ‘patience’ means ‘patient endurance, longsuffering’. Enduring faith in God’s promise and prophecy is needed to fulfill your purpose and destiny. Your faith is sustained with patience and endurance.
Remember, you are responsible for God’s promises; you must steward what God has given you! Others aren’t responsible for your promise to come to pass; you are.
The Holy Spirit reveals the plans God has for you—to give you hope for the future (see Jer. 29:11). God reveals by His Spirit things that your eye hasn’t seen—things God has prepared beforehand for you. Your mind can’t conceive it, but the Spirit reveals those plans God has for you (see 1 Cor. 2:9-10). Your mind will eventually believe and conceive the reality of God’s plans.
Prophecy releases Kingdom identity. You may have taken a wrong turn, but—with God—your destiny is redeemable through surrender. He is a loving Father! Identity, calling, and destiny are discovered through a Father/son or Father/daughter relationship.
Abraham Obeyed God’s Promise (Hebrews 11:8)
Abraham’s faith was demonstrated by leaving his family in Haran and journeying to unknown lands. He lived in Canaan, the land of promise, waiting for the son of promise, Isaac.
When God spoke to Abraham to “get up and get out to a land I will show you,” he had to believe and obey (See Gen. 12:1-4). God led Abraham and Sarah on a 1500-mile journey that began with believing and obeying God’s directive. This theme of God speaking to His people, and God’s expectation for us to believe and obey, is repeated throughout the Old and New Testaments.
Like Abraham, we’re walking a faith walk that requires obedience even when we don’t understand. God’s promise empowers us to act and obey. God was saying to Abraham, “take the first step and I’ll show you the second!” It took years for everything to unfold, but they had to begin by going to the land of promise.
It’s one thing to “hear” God’s directive, but another matter to believe and obey God.
Later, Abraham is told to view the land before him, and God said, “All that you see in front of you is yours and your descendants’ forever” (See Gen. 13:14-17). He doesn’t even have the son of promise yet, just a word!
Oswald Chambers, an early twentieth-century Christian evangelist, teacher, and author of the devotional My Utmost for His Highest, stated regarding faith, “Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the one who is leading it.” Intimate relationship with God yields strong faith that trusts God even when it doesn’t know where it is being led.
After Isaac was born, God tested Abraham. It required extreme faith and obedience to God.
“Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Gen. 22:1-2 NKJV)
Abraham and Isaac are a type and shadow of the Father offering His only begotten Son, Jesus, to die in our place (John 3:16). God’s love for us has provided forgiveness for our sin—God’s love never fails us in Christ! God’s requirement to sacrifice Isaac was the supreme test that demonstrated Abraham’s trust in God and his confidence in God’s faithfulness to keep His promise.
Abraham is ready to sacrifice his son and the angel calls out to him to stop. God provides a lamb in the bushes that Abraham can offer up instead. God commends Abraham for his faithful obedience and reaffirms the covenant with Him. Abraham named the place “Jehovah-Jireh” which means “the Lord will provide” (see Gen. 22:1-19).
Jehovah-Jireh, or more accurately from the Hebrew “Yhwh–rāʾāh”, which means “God who provides what is needed”. But rāʾāh also means “to see, to perceive by sight, to understand, to have prophetic vision”. 1
Before Abraham saw the ram in the thickets, he had to see God as the One Who Provides!
What if Abraham’s love for Isaac had prevented him from fully trusting God? God was bringing Abraham into a deeper level of authority and fatherhood. It required him to be willing to let go of the “promise” for God’s greater purpose to be accomplished. Sometimes, our love for the promise fulfilled prevents us from moving into a greater sphere of influence or ministry that God desires. When God says, “let go”, trust Him!
Remember, God’s provisions are available along the road of faithful obedience! Like Abraham, this doesn’t mean your walk of faith is perfect. No, it means that you discover your life in God is a journey, and—as you endeavor to stay close to Him—God promises to care and provide for you. Prayer keeps you in an intimate place with God to believe Him and then act upon what He reveals.
The Lord reminded me once, “I rejoice over every prayer you make!”
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:16 NIV)
Every prayer we make is a delight to our heavenly Father. Confidently approach Him; it’s in the secret place of intimacy and worship where God reveals His secrets to friends, and He gives more grace to believe! Faith for the promise and provision is realized when we are close to His heart.
Your Job is Your Jordan
While on a mission trip in 2003, the Lord invited me to leave comfort and security for the unknown. The moment reminds me of Abraham and his call to leave home and family to go to the land of promise—the land of Canaan 1,500 miles away. The writer of Hebrews states, “By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out without knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:8 CEB).
At the time of this mission trip, I was a bi-vocational pastor, working a full-time job to support my family while pastoring our new church plant, Passion Church (www.passiontucson.org). During that time, the church grew, but it was not enough to support a full-time pastor. In fact, we were the main financial givers in the church, but we gave and labored with joy—we were following Jesus.
One morning during the trip, we had a time of training and prayer for pastors and leaders. Afterwards, along with many of the Brazilian leaders, I found myself consecrating my life and ministry afresh to the Lord. God’s tangible presence was heavy. I can still see the floor of the church in Rio de Janeiro as I write—it became holy ground for me.
As I lay yielded to God at that moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to me:
“Bob, your job is your river Jordan and I need you to ‘cross over.’ The church cannot become what I intend it to be until you leave your job and pastor full-time.”
I was undone and shaken. I knew God’s voice and I was sure this was Him speaking, but what He had just spoken challenged me.
I was making an excellent salary with good benefits. We had money in savings, but not enough to sustain us for very long. Yet I kept hearing, “Bob, your job is your river Jordan and I need you to ‘cross over.’” Authentic faith responds out of relationship and obeys God’s guidance—no matter how bizarre. Faith does not rely on the natural senses or the wisdom of man to decide when to respond to God. It hears and obeys.
When I arrived home from the trip, I immediately shared this experience with Carolyn. To my surprise, she calmly said to me, “Before you left, God had been preparing me that you might be leaving your job soon.” I think she had more faith at that moment than I did!
We both continued to pray and seek God for confirmation during the next few weeks. Each time we prayed, we sensed that this was God’s will and that I was to leave my comfortable and secure job.
I spoke to my supervisor at work, explaining to him about the church we started the previous year, and that I needed to attend it full-time. To my surprise, he was supportive in my decision. He offered me a part-time position, but as we prayed, God reaffirmed to us that He needed us at the church full-time. With some trepidation, I turned in my notice to leave the company. We trusted that “as God guides, He provides”, and provide He did.
Our savings ran out within a few months, but the church had grown and was able to pay me a small salary. God was providing. Random people would show up at our home at odd times with groceries. God continued to provide. By faith, we hired a worship leader and moved him and his family across the country to Tucson. Somehow, all the bills were paid, and God kept providing. God also directed us to purchase church property during this season. God was in the details, and all He needed was for us to trust and obey Him. He kept providing.
I am convinced that our church and our ministry is where it is today because we said “yes” to God when He asked me to leave the job. Our promised land was on the other side; we just had to trust God and cross over. We had to leave familiar territory for inheritance we couldn’t fully see.
Your “yes” to God is all that He needs—let your “yes” be louder than doubt and unbelief!
Is there anything God has told you to do that you may be delaying? Perhaps you have taken a short-cut or two hoping to fulfill His mandate? Could it be that the heavens are closed—that God’s blessings are withheld—because of your partial obedience? Find out what the Spirit is saying and be obedient to do that!
Abraham Gave Himself to God’s Eternal Purposes (Hebrews 11:10)
Abraham waited for the “city,” God’s eternal dwelling place. His natural eyes couldn’t see it, but He could see it as “revealed” by the Spirit to him. Abraham saw the Church and the heavenly Jerusalem, God’s tabernacle among humanity. We have come to Mt. Zion, the city of the living God through Christ and the New Covenant. We have become the very “city of God!” (see Hebrews 12:22-24).
We want to live from what is promised, with an expectant eye on the future. Abraham lived from prophetic expectancy based on God’s promise. Yet, Abraham and Sarah didn’t see the fullness of the promise—it was larger than them. Abraham looked for the city that is now ours. He gave himself to the very eternal purposes of God. He kept his eye on that which was unseen, yet eternal.
The Church should live in expectancy that is larger and later. Live from expectancy. “Expect” means “to look forward, to be pregnant”. We live best from expectancy—anticipating, yearning for what we hope for.
Many in the body of Christ are expecting—carrying something—ready to birth something! We carry His glory, and we influence our world with the weightiness of His presence (Col. 1:27). God’s Glory should build in our midst and across the globe.
How can we give ourselves to God’s eternal purposes?
What is God doing in your life, your family, your church, your city, and your nation? Do you see with God’s eternal perspective for these areas? When you do, things begin to look differently, and you will act differently!
- Cultivate an intimate relationship with Jesus (John 15:7).
- Walk in unity and love with one another (1 Pet. 3:8-9).
- Follow and obey your leaders and others. Be submissive to one another (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:5).
- Get involved with small groups and fellowship consistently with others (Acts 2:46).
- Make a commitment to your local church and become a servant leader—each of us are called to this.
- Support your church with tithes and offerings.
- Give God the best of your time, treasure, and talents—steward well what you have been given in the local church community God has placed you in.
Abraham was a man who heard God’s voice and simply obeyed. Abraham believed in what God spoke. He was convinced—based on God’s character and nature—that if God promised something, God had the ability and the desire to bring it to pass. Abraham gave himself to God’s eternal purposes. In a similar manner, you can believe and obey God to fulfill your purpose and participate in God’s eternal purposes.
Abraham believed God’s promises and walked with Him faithfully, and this friendship created a divine partnership that greatly impacted our world. His life demonstrated that relationship with God transcends our failures. God chooses to use those He calls friends, despite their mistakes, to partner with Him here on earth. Therefore:
- Believe God’s promises to you—both in His written Word and those He has spoken to your heart. Obey what He has revealed. He knows how and when to bring His promises to you to pass—you don’t!
- Do not fear when God’s promise and leading take you in a direction you don’t understand. God knows what He is doing—trust Him! Faith embraces adventure!
God’s nature is to provide for us. As you follow the Lord, expect His provision to follow you in life. We can trust God will provide as He promises because His nature is to provide! Jesus is the Good Shepherd who loves His sheep and provides for them!
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Faith: Believes, Obeys, Expects”: