Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
When you think about family life, you carry in your mind an airbrushed image of other people. You assume other husbands are enjoying loving intimacy with their wives, and that other wives are enjoying the engaged support of husbands who understand them deeply. In addition, you may assume that other people’s children love and respect their parents, and seek their counsel as they gladly follow their example.
However, there are no perfect families. If someone were to try and write a book called, Model Families of the Bible, it would be a very short book indeed.
Faith is for Flawed Fathers
The book of Genesis tells us not about a model family but about a flawed father. Now, Abraham was a great man of faith and greatly blessed by God. But men at their best are only the raw material in which God can begin a work of grace. The best Christians, including the one sitting next to you, is a sinner in the process of being redeemed. God puts his grace in jars of clay. The Bible makes this very clear in the story of Abraham.
The story begins when God calls Abraham to set out on a journey of faith and “so Abram went” (Gen. 1:4). That’s the obedience of faith—doing what God says. Abraham was a remarkable person, a man of faith, and a respected man with wide influence—we would say “leadership.” He was a man of prayer, and a man of remarkable spiritual experience. What a blessing for Sarah to be married to him, don’t you think? Seriously, doesn’t this sound like a Christian woman’s wish list? What more could you want in a husband? “Lord, if you would give me a man of faith, who is a spiritual leader, who will take leadership in our home, a man who prays, and who knows you…”
But even Abraham had feet of clay, and the Bible does not hide this from us. Faith is not for airbrushed saints; it is for the real world of flawed fathers and fractured families.
Though Abraham obediently set out for the Promised Land, his faith was tested by disappointment (Gen. 12:10), and his marriage was marked by failure (Gen. 12:13). He soon found himself ashamed, powerless, and alienated from his wife (Gen. 12:15). The man of faith, influence, prayer, and remarkable spiritual experience found himself desperately in need of the grace of God. Every Christian husband knows what it is like to find himself there.
Sarah likewise found herself powerless and vulnerable, thinking, “I married a man of faith and influence and prayer and spiritual experience. How in the world did I end up here?” She discovered that she was married to a man who was deeply flawed. Every Christian wife knows what it is to find herself there.
It could not have been easy for Abraham to look his wife in the eye, feeling that he no longer had a right to her respect and had lost confidence in his own ability to lead. God gave him his wife back, but where could they go from here?
Faith is for Facing Up to Flaws
Take it from Abraham. Learn from the experience of a fellow flawed husband and father how to face up to the fractures in your own family. Here are four actions that faith takes.
1. Quit deceptions.
It is so easy to drift through life with deceptions and secret sins. If there is any deception in your life, quit it today. They never work. You get away with something that you know is wrong and, then after a while, you convince yourself that you always will. Nothing bad will happen. But something will come of it. Every sin brings its wages.
If you have a secret sin that you have harbored and nobody knows, renounce it today. God, as though he were standing before you today, he is saying to you, “Be done with it, before it brings destruction to you and to others God has placed around you.”
2. Stop thinking about yourself.
This was Abraham’s problem: “Sarah, when they see how beautiful you are, they will kill me” (Gen. 12:12-13). He was worried about himself. Abraham is so focused on protecting himself that he really hasn’t thought about how what he is doing might affect Sarah. It’s all about him.
If only Abraham had stopped thinking about himself and started thinking about his wife! How much pain could have been avoided if he had done this? How much pain could be avoided, if we fathers today would think less about ourselves and more about our wives?
3. Face your fears.
I don’t know if anyone in Egypt would have tried to kill Abraham, in order to get Sarah, but clearly he thought that was possible. Fear was at the root of Abraham’s folly, and it is so often at the root of so many foolish choices today.
You’re afraid of losing face, afraid of not measuring up, and afraid of what might happen. What can you do about that? Face your fears with faith in Christ. Spit it out in prayer. Tell him what you’re afraid of. It will do great good for your soul.
4. Persevere in your calling.
When you fail badly, the easiest thing in the world is to give up on your marriage, give up on yourself, give up on God, and slink off into wasting the rest of your life. Abraham didn’t do that. God had promised to bless him.
Abraham stepped out in the obedience of faith, and after all the trials and traumas in Egypt, he just kept going (Gen. 13:1). That’s what you need to do when you feel your failure, mess up your testimony, and bring pain into the lives of others. You simply press forward in the humility that takes hold of the grace of God, and God will bless you.
Faith is for Embracing Jesus Christ
Who is like Jesus in the story of Abraham? It’s certainly not Abraham. The answer here is Sarah, the beautiful, godly woman who is a gift to her husband. He does not cherish her. Instead, like a fool, he gives her up. But then we read “For her sake, [the king] dealt well with Abraham” (Gen. 1:16). For the sake of the one he should have honored, the king dealt well with Abraham.
God sent His Son into the world, the gift of all gifts, Jesus Christ. We should cherish Him. But here we are, fools who do not realize the gift that we have been given. Caring more about ourselves than we do about Christ, we give Him up. There He is on the cross, bearing sin, but for Christ’s sake the King will deal well with us.
However flawed and fractured your life is today, embrace Christ, return to Him, love Him, trust Him, and walk with Him. He will receive you with grace, and for His sake, God will deal well with you.
This article is adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon, “The Flawed Father,” from his series Faith for Fractured Families.