As our interim pastor, Dr. Matt Cook, concluded his time at First Baptist Church, he preached his last of four sermons about Abraham. Interestingly enough, the sermon topic dealt with uncertainty in life. Obviously, Matt’s profession as a minister with the Center for Healthy Churches in Dallas provides him with many opportunities to face uncertainty.

When you think about it, uncertainty fills life. Matt’s text for his sermon, Genesis 22: 2-14, relates the story of Abraham’s fulfillment of God’s command to sacrifice his son Isaac. As we read the text, we question God’s command—Has he made a mistake? Did he forget that Isaac fulfills his promise to Abraham and Sarah? Did he believe that Abraham would obey the command? Is he playing a cruel prank on Abraham?

We cannot discern the mind of God. We can only examine his character as scripture reveals it, both through the Old and New Testaments. This endeavor presents a challenging task for those who want to understand their lives and God’s role in those lives.

Uncertainty takes many forms during life. For many children whose parents fail to provide for them, the state assumes custody. These children never feel secure or certain because the foster care system provides a temporary haven for them. These children learn early in life about the uncertainty of circumstances.

Adolescence presents another time when uncertainty seems to reign. Bodies change at an alarming rate, hormones can create a tumult of emotional and mental states, peer pressure strongly influences decisions, and family dynamics may change dramatically as parents and emerging adult children assume new roles.

Following adolescence, we all face educational and career choices as well as whether we want to live singly or in a family unit. Then we notice that suddenly we are no longer young, vibrant adults with plans for the future. We find ourselves contemplating our aging selves with all the accompanying health and financial concerns.

Each of these phases of life presents challenges regarding our security, independence, and certainty about what lies ahead. Abraham probably experienced more uncertainty in his life than most of us. 

I don’t know the method God used to communicate with Abraham—whether verbal, intuitive, or visible phenomena—but he “told” him to leave his ancestral home, take his family and possessions, and go to a land he would show him. 

I do know that Abraham connected to God in a more intimate way than I do. I feel sure that I would not have obeyed God’s imperative statement. I live a very structured life: I have always planned and followed through with my plans. I have been able to do that as long as the plans affect only me; however, I discovered my plans amount to nothing if they involve other people.

Because of that, I have put more faith in myself than in others or even God. In Matt’s sermon about Abraham’s obedience, he noted that Abraham’s behavior stemmed from his certainty (faith) in God. That kind of faith requires a blind trust that the one making commands stands trustworthy, reliable, responsible, and constant. 

Even so, Abraham failed in his faith at times. He didn’t trust God to keep him safe in Egypt when he, Sarah, and their people sought refuge from famine in Canaan. He passed Sarah off as his sister because he didn’t trust God to protect them from Pharoah’s lust. 

Later, he lost faith in God’s promise to make him a great nation. He and Sarah both decided that God had failed to produce the progeny he had promised them. They took matters into their own hands to secure a son for Abraham. We all know how that story turned out. 

His son Ishmael, fathered with Sarah’s handmaid Hagar, became the father of the Palestinian people but not the father of the Hebrews. God did fulfill his promise to Abraham and Sarah by giving them Isaac in their old age. The split between these two sons continues today in the longstanding conflict between the Palestinians and the Jews.

I have known some people whose faith and certainty in God remains unshakable throughout life. Those people have inspired me as I have envied them their lack of doubt and possession of certainty. I, unlike them, have struggled at times to find meaning and purpose in humanity.

Years ago when public teachers were free to discuss faith with their students, I counseled a young man in one of my classes. He had attempted suicide and was in a treatment center in Waco. I visited him there where he asked me why I had faith in God.

I didn’t attempt to evangelize him to a particular religion because my ecumenical faith is always open to instruction. I wander in spiritual realms with poets like Edna St. Vincent Millay (The courage that my mother had by Edna St. Vincent Millay – Poems | poets.org

 and Alfred, Lord Tennyson (www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45341/in-memoriam-a-h-h-obiit-mdcccxxxiii-54).

Both of them put their faith in the certainty of God—not in doctrines, tenets, labels, theories, or sacraments.  God is so much more complex and inclusive than the human mind can define that my faith (certainty) rests in his omnipotence.

In answer to my student’s question, I said that I believe in God because I have to. Without the certainty that he must be God, my life would continue without purpose.

Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing


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