The genuine walk of faith always includes more spiritual success than failure.

When studying narrative or story portions of the Bible, we will not find as many direct commands from God. We draw out spiritual principles from stories, and these are just as authoritative as direct commands.

We have observed several virtues in Abram so far, his spiritual discipline and patient obedience. The next section of narrative show Abram succumbing to temptation. Genesis records God speaking to Abram 7 times, and 3 times of Abram being tempted away from God’s truth. Here is our first principle: A saved person will never be sinless, but in the process of progressive sanctification, they will succeed more than they fail.

The Impulsivity of Abram’s Disobedience (Gen. 12:10-20)

As Abram continued to follow the Lord, he ran into a difficult time – a famine. He acted wisely to provide for his family and employees by going to Egypt. But when he did so, he used an impure and selfish method. Since it was well-known that any attractive woman who entered Egypt would be taken for Pharaoh’s harem, Abram asked his wife to lie in order to protect himself. This was only a half-lie (see Gen. 20:12), but it was still a lie.

The tragic consequences of Abram’s selfishness hurt Sarai, Pharaoh’s household, and Abram’s testimony. When we walk away for God, we adversely influence many people.

There are several lessons to learn from this narrative. First, Abram’s failure began with difficult circumstances. We all face difficulty, which is meant to produce patience and endurance (James 1:2-3).

Trials expose our sin. This is actually one of God’s purposes in allowing trials in our lives (1 Peter 1:6-7). When our own needs are threatened and we are tempted to live on our own strength, we often forget personal and corporate worship.

Abram succumbed to pragmatism, trying to do something good with pure motives but the wrong methods. This brought devastating consequences. Several steps led to a deterioration in his decision-making process: At first he made wise actions, and necessary quick decisions. Even appealing for help to common grace in the world was okay. The problem came when he began to forget God, give way to subtle compromise, become self-centered, and fail to think of consequences for others. This resulted in making a wrong decision that could have been irreversible.

Abram adopted an impulsive policy. Urgency often leads to missteps in our walk. When a devastating circumstance comes, the best place to go first is to our knees in worship. Don’t rush to the help you can see, but to the God you cannot see, who can offer you rest and solace and wisdom when things go crazy.

Be careful not to mix good with imminent compromise. We can get most steps right, but a little impulsivity can produce unwise decisions that bring fallout not only to believers but the lost world too.

Abram’s actions brought an impure consequence (vs. 14-16). Abram received material gain but at the expense of his spiritual walk, his home, and his marriage.

More unfortunate fallout came as God judged Pharaoh’s household with plagues. Abram lost his testimony in Egypt. In God’s great goodness, the testimony of Jehovah would be regained later through Joseph.

Abram’s Repentance (Gen. 13:1-4)

After these events, Abram went back to the place where he’d last worshiped. This is the same way we get right with God when we fail – on our knees in prayer, renewing our relationship with God.

As soon as Abram got right with God, he was hit with another difficult circumstance! This time, though, he handled it rightly.

Tension (Gen. 13:5-7)

Lot was a worldly Christian who followed Abram more than he truly followed God. Tension arose when their combined entourages became too large. Verse 7 reminds us that there are always unsaved eyewitnesses watching how we handle conflict.

Separation (Gen. 13:8-9)

Abram had no heart for strife. He let Lot choose whatever land he wanted. There are several lessons for us in Abram’s response. Abram continued to trust in God’s promise to give the land to him and his descendants. He stayed Spirit-filled whatever attitude he encountered. Separation is needed, from dark influences and even sometimes from other believers who are not as intent on following the Lord. Those in the flesh just don’t welcome those who walk in the Spirit.

Realization (Gen. 13:10-13)

Lot chose for his own benefit, despite the well-known evil and temptation in the area. He followed what his eyes desired (Prov. 27:20).

Confirmation (Gen. 13:14-18)

After Abram splits from Lot, the Lord speaks to him for a third time and reveals more of His promises. Though Abram has failed, God’s desire is for His child to get up and continue growing – even farther than he was before. Abram responds by building another altar, continuing a consistent discipline of devotion.

Application Points

  • Most of us are busy people. Check yourself: Are you forgetting the Lord in your busyness? Have you become selfish? Do you give priority to worshiping God? If there is something keeping you from personal devotion or corporate worship, let the Holy Spirit govern your schedule.
  • Where do you turn first when struck with a difficult circumstance? Don’t let urgency govern your life. Turn first to God, and let Him guide your decisions in that time.
  • It can actually be encouraging to know that righteous people sometimes fail. We rightly focus on what Christ is doing in us, but every so often it is good to take a look back and remember what He saved us from. Especially if you are discipling a younger Christian, let them know that Christians are not perfect!
  • What is your response to conflict? Do you love strife, or are you Spirit-governed? Do you point out problems or find a solution?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • Ephesians 5:29 – We naturally care for ourselves, sometimes at the expense of others we love most.
  • James 4:13-16 – Warning against living as practical atheists who forget God.
  • Luke 18:1, John 17:17 – Prayer and the Word are necessary when we fail.
A Hymn to Encourage: “Grace Greater Than Our Sin”

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide;
What can we do to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?

Quotes to Ponder:

It’s never right to do wrong in order to get the chance to do right.

Jehovah, however, guarded the issue of his own purpose against the mistakes of his instrument, Abram, and, by plaguing the house of Pharoah, brought deliverance.
--G. Campbell Morgan