Drawn by God, he stepped out of his tent into the night, lifting his craggy face to behold the stars. From flickering points vast reaches away, the light culminated its long journey to record itself upon the old man’s eye.
And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
More than starlight registered upon the man — it was a moment when thought from The One who had formed the galaxies streamed from infinitely beyond the physical universe, to record itself as a voice in Abraham’s heart.
The word-shaping stream came with a mission, seeking something specific in Abraham — the one thing that would be able to bring him out of sinking despair. It found what it was looking for.
With quiet thunder Abraham passed from the turbulence of unbelief into serenity, feeling wildly free in the core of his being . . . “My God is able. He is willing! And He will carry out what He has said, concerning me!” He experienced total release.
Scripture captures this moment of breakthrough, telling us that Abraham believed, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6, Galatians 3:6; James 2:3)
It was a moment of vivid transformation — from his disconsolate low brooding over how God had given him no son, to fierce and sudden confidence. Whatever dynamic is taking place here, it is what we long for — the end of the struggle — emerging from pain and fear, trauma and doubt, failure and frustration.
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Abraham’s circumstances had not changed, but there was a radical change in how Abraham understood what he had heard many times before. God was not giving Abraham a new promise — He was giving the same promise to a new man — a man who no longer had to try to believe.
Trying is lying
When I receive yet another reminder of my need to do better, my exasperated response rises like the squeal of spinning wheels, “I’m trying!” We tend to give ourselves a lot of credit for trying, as if it counted — but it doesn’t.
I have come to realize that when I am trying to do something, but continue to fall short of accomplishing the goal, my effort is evidence that what I’m trying to do is not the easy natural expression of who and what I am. “Trying is lying,” because it is the effort to overcome, to compensate for the negativity of what is not right in me.
When I’m trying to forgive, but falling short, forgiveness is not the easy natural expression of who and what I am. I’m reduced to trying, because unforgiveness keeps me from being able to forgive. When I’m trying to love, but falling short, I’m acting out what is not authentic in me. I’m reduced to inauthentic expressions, trying to overcome my lack of the real thing.
I’ve learned that we fool only ourselves if we think the one on the receiving end does not suffer the insult of our having to try.
When we are trying to believe God, but falling short, BELIEF is not the easy natural expression of who and what we are. We’re reduced to the inauthentic expression of trying, because we’re struggling to compensate for our undermining unbelief.
For a very long time, Abraham had been trying to believe God’s promise to him. But it was an imperfect effort loaded with apprehension that he could not shed, until that moment under the stars, when something else took over. Suddenly Abraham believed effortlessly, because he was coming out of what was authentic.
In that moment, when the authentic took over and the inauthentic dropped away, Abraham no longer had to try to believe. He saw God and reality for what they are. Knowing the Truth eliminated the need to try to believe.
It was the pivotal moment forever marked by God and recorded in Scripture — when the authentic took over and was reckoned to him as righteousness.
Authentic righteousness fully, completely and effortlessly believes God — without having to try — because it is free of everything untrue to the goal.
When test pilots broke through the sound barrier, they experienced a sudden smooth calm without any buffeting. This is a picture of the rest Abraham instantaneously experienced when the authentic took over, freeing him of what was untrue to the goal.
The violent buffeting we experience as we approach the barrier — the face of the Truth — is not coming from the barrier, itself, but springs up because of the conflict between the Truth and what is inconsistent with the Truth in us.
Abraham’s circumstances pressed him to the place where he was trying to believe what God had promised him, wrestling to overcome doubt, trying to be faithful. Challenged to the core, they were meant to expose what was inconsistent with the Truth in him, so that what was born of God could be confirmed.
Test pilots didn’t find the surreal stillness of supersonic flight by throttling down to a slower speed where they encountered less buffeting, but by pressing their plane harder and faster beyond its known limits. We do not find that peace which is born of God, that surpassing understanding, by throttling down to reduce the stress. Rather, we find it when God presses us so hard that we exhaust all trying.
Only when the interminable waiting sucked the last life out of Abraham’s effort to try to believe God — did what was born of God take over, enabling him to believe.
The word-shaping stream that flowed to Abraham that night had come with a mission, seeking something specific in Abraham — the only thing that would be able to bring him out of his sinking despair. It found what it was looking for: that which was born of God in him.
That which is born of God is authentic, right with God, consistent with Truth, unhindered by anything untrue to the goal. It knows no barrier between it and God. It is faithful to God, because it is born of Him. It is the matrix of hearing and understanding God’s heart, of knowing the Truth. Only He can birth it in us. And only He can draw it forth, when our trying is done.
The moment of vivid transformation, breaking through the barrier –emerging from pain and fear, trauma and doubt, failure and frustration and hindrance, no longer struggling to try — is to find your relationship with God functioning as if there is no barrier.
The prelude — that difficult dreaded stretch of our journey that exposes the futility of our best effort trying — is necessary to bring our self-sabotage to its knees . . . to reveal and draw forth what is born of God in us, so that we don’t have to exhaust ourselves compensating for what we lack.
Born of God
We believe God, hearing and understanding Him rightly, out of what is born of God in us. Every strength we need emanates from what is born of God.
The gulf of transformation, the field of fierce buffeting , our long waiting for God to fulfill His promise is the proving ground that reveals the difference between “our trying” and “that which is born of God.”
The proving ground
That which is born of God (the gold line) does not have to try, it easily and automatically believes. Last week, we saw how God brought Abraham to that moment of despair and honesty, where he unloaded how he really felt . . . as the burden of his inauthenticity was revealed and lifted.
The far point, where God seems most distant in our darkest time, is the place of potential transformation. There, the last of our trying is meant to die, so that we can begin to operate from what has been born of God . . . to effortlessly believe.
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.
1 John 5:4