Supreme faith waits for God in crisis and the commonplace.

The narrative of Genesis 20 might look familiar, because we saw a similar story in Genesis 12. This is Abram’s second failure to trust God with his wife and his personal safety. Whenever God’s Word repeats itself, there is something for us to learn.

The lesson we learn from Abraham’s repeated failure is that living faithfully for the Lord requires that we do so both in crisis and in the commonplace. How strange that we can embrace Scripture like heroes in a crisis, yet doubt the truth in ordinary time!

This narrative also provides a warning for mature believers. One author remarked, “They say that you can’t teach a dog new tricks. Abraham is over 100 years old at this time, and it’s not surprising that his personal characteristics were well established.” We naturally live by routines as we get older, and we must take care that bad habits don’t become part of them. There is always growth to do and weakness to address in the life of a Christian.

Christians should succeed more than we fail because we are progressively being sanctified. Abraham had failed to grow in the area of weakness revealed in the events of chapter 12. The root of his failure was still there – the fear of man and a desire to protect his family and himself. Like Abraham, we fail when we rely on our own ingenuity more than we rely on God.

Falling in the commonplace usually happens:
After large spiritual battles are won.

In previous chapters, Abraham had received covenant promises from God, experienced victory in battle, and conversed with God in person. On the heels of such spiritual victories, he fell prey to simple fear and failed to trust God in his everyday travels.

This principle appears many times in Scripture. Elijah sunk into despondency right after defeating the false prophets (1 Kings 19). Peter denied Christ after vowing his loyalty (Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75). Ananias and Sapphira lied in their worship just after the church had experienced great spiritual growth (Acts 5).

American evangelicalism has experienced the same thing. Through history, the church became weak after great times of revival. This is a caution to us: we must always be astute and aware. We can’t relax when we think we’re doing well, or when we’re tired, because that is when Satan will trip us up.

When we fail to apply Scripture to the small details of life.

There is a danger when we re-enter the mainstream of daily living after a spiritual victory or crisis. We are tired and spent and easily forget the normal things of Christian life -- daily time with the Lord, desiring to worship together, serving with our spiritual gifts, pursuing unity, and seeking to be an eternal influence in our circles. This can easily become habit-forming and result in a spiritual weakness that keeps recurring.

This is the second time that Abraham attempted in his own wisdom to steer clear of a danger which he feared, and on each occasion he ran upon rocks that he dreaded. The results were that the man who stood as a witness for Jehovah was driven to the place of deceit, failed in the testimony he ought to have borne, and consequently suffered the degradation of being censured by fallen men.

We must never be cavalier about applying Scripture to life. 2 Peter 1:3 assures us that God’s Word addresses every issue we could face. Be confident to trust God’s Word in the commonplace as well as you trusted it in a crisis! If we remain faithful in the little things, we won’t find ourselves consistently failing even in one area.

When we fail to be discerning.

When coming off a crisis or victory, we are exhausted and quickly forget God’s promises. Abraham failed to remember that he and Sarah had been promised a son within a year! He could have trusted that promise to protect both their lives and their union.

The greatest miscalculation in terms of possible consequences had to do with the possible loss of the special son who was promised and whom Abraham and Sarah were so anxious to welcome into the world. It should not be forgotten that when fear comes in the door, rational thought, spiritual insight, and moral integrity are sometimes all too anxious to beat a nasty retreat. A once again reminds us that actions have consequences, and it is wise to look before you leap.

Abraham displays his rationalized thinking in verses 11-13. He suddenly lacks concern for the innocent people his lie had endangered, when just a couple chapters ago he had been begging mercy for the wicked people of Sodom. One author describes: “Abraham’s vision was filled with his own concerns; his perspective was warped to shape his own paranoia. It is a serious matter to underestimate the human potential by way of a spiritual miscalculation.”

Abraham found himself in a new environment, but changing circumstances wouldn’t have hurt his discernment if he had been walking with God. We can never blame our lack of integrity on the culture. God’s Word is sufficient to sustain us in any place.

No one is harder on us when we fail than we are on ourselves. We recognize the promises forgotten in an emotional decision. In the end, we see God’s mercy on Abraham. God still calls him a prophet to the pagan king, even in the midst of his compromise. God uses him to pray for Abimelech and bless the people of Gerar.

Application Points

  • Don’t let yourself coast spiritually in the mundane things of life. Remember this principle after spiritual victories or crisis in your own life. We are also coming off several crises as a church family. Stay diligent in your daily walk so we will not fail to keep trusting God!
  • When you do fail, don’t wallow in it. You will mourn over your sin, but repentance also involves getting back up. Quickly embrace the forgiveness and mercy of God.
  • If you are older in the Lord, don’t be afraid to share your failures with younger Christians. Allow the next generation to learn from your mistakes so they don’t have to fail in that way.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References in text above.

A Hymn to Encourage: “Be Strong in the Lord”

Be strong in the Lord, and be of good courage;
Your mighty Defender is always the same.
Mount up with wings, as the eagle ascending;
Victory is sure when you call on His name.

Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And be of good courage, for He is your guide.
Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And rejoice, for the victory is yours.

So put on the armor the Lord has provided;
And place your defense in His unfailing care.
Trust Him, for He will be with you in battle,
Lighting your path to avoid every snare.

Be strong in the Lord, and be of good courage;
Your mighty commander will vanquish the foe.
Fear not the battle, for the victory is always His;
He will protect you wherever you go.

Quotes to Ponder:

When it came to his own fears concerning his wife, [Abraham’s] Achilles’ heel continued to be exposed. Sadly, he had not carefully calculated this weakness, and as a result, had not made proper compensation for it.

Our deflections from faith occur most often from our failure to allow God to undertake in the small matters of life. some business worry or home difficulty or personal danger drives us to acts that dishonor the Master. That is a man of supreme faith who waits for God in the commonplace just as he did in the place of crisis.

-- G. Campbell Morgan.