David’s obedience didn’t start with being King of Israel.
Abraham’s faithfulness didn’t start by carrying Isaac up the mountain.
Their stories are more than just peaks and valleys. When we limit them to such, we miss the progressive nature of it all; we miss the emotional process that were their lives and walks with God. In any given description, Abraham is either “faithful father of our faith” or “weak, doubting father of Ishmael.” David is “King of Israel after God’s own heart” or “adulterous murderer.” Their process of trusting God was so much more than that.
The problem isn’t necessarily that we limit their stories to the peaks and valleys, but the ways that that narrowness distorts a view of our own stories. It allows for illegitimate comparison, where we can be someone with “more” faith than Abraham when he sleeps with Hagar, “as much” faith as Gideon when he puts the fleece out twice, or “less” faith than David standing before Goliath. It doesn’t do justice to the fact that our incredible God is one of patience, grace, and commitment to our human processes. It makes it about us.
The kingdom of God isn’t comparative. It’s not about how “big” of a jump we’ve made into trusting and obedience. Because, ultimately that “bigness” is relative anyway. Jesus offers us grace for the moment.
The reality is that human faith is never perfect. Abraham and David have valleys because there’s a lot of humanity mixed into our divine obedience. Lest we ever think that our trust in the Lord has anything to do with the righteousness in us or that we’re too committed to obedience to screw it up. Let me reiterate to my own heart: it. is. not. about. me.
So, when we put the stories in the context of the journey, we see growth. And growth is encouraging because it reflects our own walk with Jesus.
David’s faith began back in the field, when he trusts God to help him watch over the sheep in his care. It grows again when he is anointed by Samuel, while Saul is still on the throne. It grows, yet again, when he stands before Goliath. And again, when Saul is threatening his life and David is on the run. He didn’t start with the faith of a king after God’s heart. David started by being obedient to the thing that required the biggest amount of faith in front of him, whether it was sheep, a warrior, a king, or a kingdom. By the time David gets to the death of his child or the death threats of his other child, his eyes are so oriented towards the Lord that the outcome of the faith matters less than the Object of it. He’s intimately acquainted with God and that’s what matters.
It’s the same thing with Abraham. We hail Abraham for his unquestioned willingness to sacrifice Isaac, but that action is the result of decades of putting all his hope and trust in the Lord, not the promises themselves. He’s willing to leave all that he knows in his homeland to follow God, which was the biggest act of faith that he could probably envision at the time. His faith is tested again when God promises him a child – with a twenty-five year waiting period attached.
It’s not just the stories of Scripture that encourage me in this, either.
There’s a missionary whose example, story, and unquestioned dependance on Jesus have, quite literally, changed my life. She’s seen God move in powerful ways through her wholehearted commitment to Him. She believes that Jesus really is who He says He is and that He moves when we’re in positions to need Him to. I see the ways she doesn’t question the promises of God and the ways she walks in bold expectancy for impossible things. I’ve seen the outcomes of that faith (and they’re incredible). When I’m doing the comparison thing, my faith feels pretty weak next to hers. My current walk of trusting feels less like a peaceful stroll and more like a jungle. The vines and thickets are barricading doubts, questions, or anxieties that seem to keep popping up in my heart. Somebody hand me a machete, please.
But, the Kingdom of God isn’t comparative. He’s asking me to depend on Him in the places that feel the biggest, for me, right now. Right now, I don’t need the faith of Abraham on the mountain, David on the throne, or a missionary before a whole system of injustice; I need the faith of a twenty-three year old before future-deciding applications and a faithful, gracious God.
Trusting Jesus in the decision to go to Wheaton five years ago felt like a crazy leap of faith. It was far, expensive, cold, and I had no first-hand experience with the campus or anyone who’d been. Deciding to go was all about obedience to Jesus, not my plan. None of it made conventional sense and people didn’t hesitate in telling me so. I knew that for God to get the glory, I couldn’t be in control – but, at the time, it felt like I was jumping off a pretty intimidating ledge. At the time, I would have been hard pressed to envision a decision that required more faith. Signing that deposit was a wholeheartedly peaceful and uncomfortable surrender.
My seventeen-year-old self was not ready for the rhythms of trust that I’m walking in right now. This feels a little deeper, a little harder, a little more; the jump feels that much higher. It makes me smile to think of my trust five years ago. I couldn’t have known Christ’s trustworthiness like this or what leap would be next.
Hopefully, my thirty year old self will read back on this and smile too. I hope that this step of trust feels small someday, in light of new dependance on God and obedience for His glory. I’m just glad I don’t know what that is yet.
I’m grateful that Jesus is big enough to handle the biggest thing He’s calling me to, whatever that is today and ten years from now. I’m grateful that he doesn’t compare my faith like I do. I’m grateful that the “I believe but help my unbelief” prayer was included in Scripture and isn’t unfamiliar to Christ. I’m grateful that He’s committed to the journey, even when I resent it. I’m grateful that a mustard seed is enough.
Walking with Jesus isn’t passive. It’s an active, daily dying to self and choosing obedience to the things that He calls us to, the things that feel crazy, overwhelming, or impossible. It doesn’t have to be Abraham’s mountain or David’s kingship. At least, not yet. It’s less about the “stage” of trusting that we’re in or how big the thing He’s leading us into feels. What matters is that, for whatever it is, we’re all in with Jesus.
It’s the “further up and further in” process of trusting. It’s a faithfulness that isn’t ours but that of an infinitely good, kind, and faithful God.
He can be trusted with all we are, all we have, and all we hope for, until the day when He is all of those things in us. The goal is to be one day closer to that day.