Saturday, September 27, 2008

The glory of the ordinary

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore (Heb. 11:8-12).

When I was growing up, it was thought that if God called a person, that person would become a preacher or a missionary. Period. Some time ago, it occurred to me that Abraham—mighty Abraham, Father of Faith and Friend of God, was called, but not to anything remotely religious. He moved, at God’s leading, to a land which the Lord then promised to his descendants, and he was given a miracle son. These were spectacular experiences, requiring faith on Abraham’s part, but—having a child, founding a new nation—is this a godly calling?

A clue is given in Genesis 18.

“. . . Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him" (Gen. 18:18-19).

The Lord called to Abram back in the land of Ur because he was a man who—for openers—could hear God. He apparently was a man who would purposefully pass on to his children and grandchildren his reverence for and knowledge of God. His godliness would set the tone for a whole race of people to whom God could reveal himself, and through whom he could then make himself known to the whole world. What an amazing thing—the influence of just being a godly father!

But Abraham did one more very ordinary thing which was far-reaching in its effects. He staked a claim—not literally, but by faith, to a piece of real estate to house the future generations that the Lord promised him.

Almost all of the heroes of the Old and New Testaments, the unfolding of God’s revelation of himself to mankind, the birth of the Messiah himself—all came from the descendants of Abraham. What an awesome influence one can have by simply doing ordinary things like raising a family and providing a dwelling for them.

My father has written a family history called The Legacy of Frances.* The story begins with his great-grandmother, Frances, an Indian girl who was rescued from a massacre and adopted by a compassionate soldier. This family imparted its Christian faith to her, and she in turn passed it on in such a way that among her descendants appear 25 couples who have been pastors and missionaries in 19 states and 9 countries. And that doesn’t begin to count all of her progeny who have impacted their families, churches, and communities as Christians. Such is the far-reaching effect in the Kingdom of God of simply raising a family with godly example and training.

Will I ever be famous? Will you do monumental things? Who knows? But one thing is certain—our everyday acts will play an influential role in furthering or hindering God’s plans for generations to come. Will we fulfill the calling of God on our lives?

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