I don't feel like I have a lot of faith. I can't walk on water. I haven't moved any mountains. And I have no confidence that if I pray for someone that they will be healed. I have not sold all of my possessions and given to the poor. In fact, I have even stored up treasure in a 401k. I constantly feel chastised by Jesus words, 'Oh, you of little faith!'
One pastor I had defined faith as R-I-S-K, risk. But I really don't think that all risk taking is faith. Plenty of it is just presumption and foolhardy. Many people equate faith with belief and use the two words interchangably. And while I agree that probably it's not likely to have faith without a belief in something, a hope in the unseen as the apostle Paul would put it, faith seems to be more than some mental assent to dogma. The apostle James argues that faith without works is dead. Faith seems to some how change the way we behave.
The great exemplar of faith in the bible is Abraham. In faith, Abram leaves his family and goes to an unknown country. If we read closely between the lines, we find that Abram is a disenfranchised priest. He knows how to pray. He knows how to make sacrifices. But he has no temple, not even a shrine devoted to his deity. In a landscape of city/states where the ruler is also high priest, Abram's family are wandering on their way to Caanan. They have most likely lost their land, temple, and people in the competition of expanding city/states. On top of this insult, Abram doesn't have any children; no one to carry on the family tradition, heritage, or the family name.
In Haran where his family settles, Abram is a foreigner in a place where no one knows or respects his God. No one wants Abram to offer sacrifices to his God on their behalf. And why would they? Abram's God did not seem so strong. He had not kept Abram from losing his land, his temple, or his people. He had not blessed Abram with children, so Abram's masculinity on par with an eunuch, but without the protection of an overlord. Abram's status was not much better than the slaves who kept his sheep. In a time when your guilt or innocence was determined by your material blessings, Abram appeared rather guilty indeed. Abram appeared to be a low life has been, not a person you would likely want representing you to a deity of any kind.
I read a commentator that suggested that the book of Job is considered one of the oldest in the Bible. So maybe Abram is familiar with Job's story. Maybe it's Job's story that gives him hope that in spite of his troubles God will still remember him. Maybe the story of Job inspires this idea that his God of peace and justice loved him and wanted to bless him. That if he kept worshipping this God, his God would give him an inheritance bigger than anything his family had lost, that his God would make him into a nation bigger than any other.
Maybe all the hardship Abram had been going through was just a test of his faithfulness? God had spared his life. Would he wallow in self pity like Job, blaming God for all his troubles, or would he be God's faithful priest to the end? If his God really was the Most High God, the one true God, then wouldn't he eventually cause all people to worship him? If he was faithful to God, wouldn't God eventually be faithful to him? Faithful to the one true God meant that Abram could only be priest to the Most High God. Abram couldn't compromise by working to make ends meet with doing priestly duty for people to their gods like other members of his family did. He needed to get away. He didn't know where he was going, but just maybe he'd try going on to Caanan.
So by faith Abram left his father's family and traveled to an unknown country taking with him his wife and half sister Sarai, his nephew Lot, Lot's family, and all the sheep and shepherds that belonged to the two of them. Because Abram believed God loved him, faith moved Abram one step at a time into the unknown. Because Abram believed in that the faithfulness of God demands the faithfulness of his followers, faith moved Abram from being a nobody priest in the middle of a pantheon of religious ideologies to being a sole worshipper of the One True God in the loneliness of the desert. Because of Abram believed in the character of God, faith moved Abram to wander the wilderness in a hand to mouth existence trying to provide food for his flocks. Because Abram believed God had given him a vision of the future, faith moved Abram to make a covenant with his God. Because Abram believed God can do anything, faith moved Abram to keep having sex with his wife. Because Abram believed God is faithful to keep his promises, faith made Abram to change his name to Abraham and his wife's name to Sarah. Because Abraham believed God was the giver of life, faith moved Abraham to offer Issac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah.
So when God calls me to live a life of faith like Abraham, he's calling me to let my belief that he loves me lead me into the unknown. He's calling me to isolate myself from competing ideologies that tell me I'm a nobody, that undermine the message of peace and the justice of God. Living a life of faith like Abraham means I don't have to grasp for what I don't have. It means I can live in the desert and the rocky mountains instead of the rich plains because I trust God is going to take care of what I need. When God calls me to live a life of faith like Abraham, he's calling me to faithfully love the relationships he has given me, even though I'm not seeing any benefit. Faith like Abraham means identifying with the future promise rather than the current reality. Faith like Abraham means giving up control because I believe God can restore new life.
Putting one foot in front of the other some how doesn't feel as challenging as moving mountains. Continuing to have sex with your wife some how doesn't feel as audacious as walking on water. In fact, the faithfulness of Abraham seems to have a rather humble mundaneness to it. There is no glamour in living in a tent in a rocky mountainous countryside where there is meagre pickings for your livelihood. Changing your name from High Father, the reality of priest that you are, to Father of Many, the promise of what you hope to become, seems to invite ridicule -as if your life does not have enough things to make fun of. But such acts of faith have opened the door to miracles that have changed the course of history. There are very few people today who don't know something of the man who let his belief in the Most High God change the way he lived. There are very few people today that aren't in some way affected by the faith of Abraham and the God who kept his promises.