A When Oliver Cromwell was having his portrait painted he asked to be painted ‘warts and all’, in other words he wanted his picture to be a fair representation of himself, not an idealized, stylized version of himself. We live in a photoshop world where we can airbrush out anything we don’t want.
Yet scripture is more of a warts and all portrayal of its heroes and heroines, they are not glossy, perfect toothed glamorous celebrities, but people with struggles, doubts, faults and failures –in other words, people like you and me.
Indeed God’s rescue plan for his fallen world started with two unlikely people, Abraham and Sarah, childless pensioners, who would birth a nation that would bring forth Christ the hope of the world, God’s promised Saviour.
Sarah doubted God’s ability to keep his word and grant her a Son. Abraham tried to give God a helping hand by fathering a child with his wife’s maidservant, Hagar –and treated her and the child shamefully (Gen 16).
Abraham also tried to pass his wife Sarah off as his sister to save his own skin in Egypt (Genesis 20).
Perhaps after some of his faithfulness actions in the past, he got proud our complacent? We don’t know, but we do know he stumbled. We all stumble in our walks of faith sometimes, and all we fall at times. Maybe the journey has been hard and our initial enthusiastic leaps have become jaded limps but the question remains, are we still following or are we down and sitting it out? If
so, let God help you up and carry on following him.
Sometimes we are not sure if we are even following God in the first place? Perhaps we struggle to think that God can –and indeed wants to use us?
I remember walking along Poole Quay giving God all the reasons why I didn’t think I should be a Vicar –too introverted, dyslexic, not academic, a person who doubts and sins and gets confused the list went on and on. Yet God was not –and is not- limited by our limitations and still he calls us –people like me and you- to come and follow him.
Interestingly Abraham and Sarah’s decedents are also revealed to be ‘warts and all’ type characters, just take a look in Hebrews chapter 11, the Biblical hall of fame and these great men and women of God most were dysfunctional, doubting, disgraced and disenfranchised and yet also mightily used by God.
Yet despite their failures and flaws we see some awesome moments of faith displayed in their lives, not just in their constant relocating they followed God’s call.
Abraham was prepared to stand and intercede for the city of Sodom and Gomorrah –God allows Abraham to influence him and his prayers to impact him- Abraham asked God to spare the city if he could find fifty righteous people there and God relented right down until Abraham asked him to spare the city for the sake of just ten righteous people (Gen.18)
We also see Abraham trusting God when asked to offer his Son –his promised son- as a sacrifice to God.
As a Dad this is a story I struggle to read and cannot image the anguish that must have gone through Abraham’s heart at the request, however Abraham was prepared to give up everything -even his own beloved son- to be obedient. God, stopped him, rescued Isaac and provided a Ram to be sacrificed in his place (Gen.22).
Abraham was faithful, but he never allowed faith to make him proud or conceited, which also stops our faith growing, because we change the emphasis of our trust from God to ourselves and our own supposed brilliance.
Nor did Abraham allow past mistakes and failures to prevent us from having faith-filled futures.
So, what of our walk of faith?
What is stopping us/holding us back from becoming all that we could and should be in our journey and walk of faith?
As we have walked with Abraham and Sarah and are about to walk with many more of the faith heroes, let us remember that they are cheering us on in our spiritual race, our journey of faith:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb.12.1-3).
Don’t be afraid of failure. Learn from it and keep going. Persistence is what creates excellence.