Failing at Faith

Last week I taught a one-week course (9 separate sessions) on the book of Genesis at Ecola Bible School. This was my second week in a row away from my family, but spending a week at one of the most beautiful coastal cities in the world, and getting to know the students and staff at Ecola, was a fair trade off for missing them again.

Theme for the Genesis course (graphic created by Ross Gale:
Theme for the Genesis course (graphic created by Ross Gale:

It’s impossible to summarize the whole book into a short blog post, but one theme I continued to land on with students is that faith doesn’t mean avoiding failure. Abraham believes God’s promise of a son and still tells people that his wife Sarah is actually his sister. And then he allows Sarah to convince him to continue his family line through Sarah’s servant Hagar.

Joseph is the one main character in the book that lives is mostly righteous life, but when we meet him he’s an arrogant kid who gives no credit to God for the favor on his life. Genesis is filled with stories of people that Hebrews 11 calls people of faith, and we see mis-step after mis-step by these so-called faithful people.

It all reminds me of what Jesus say to Peter in the upper room, hours before Peter would deny knowing him.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Knowing the outcome of this conversation (Peter, by all accounts, fails), we’re left with two possibilities:

  • Jesus’ prayer was not effective.
  • Peter’s faith did not fail.

I tend to believe Jesus is powerful enough for his prayers to be effective so I’ll go with option two. I also tend to believe that Hebrews 11 recounts men and women who were faithful despite their many failures.

It is our understanding of faith that must shift. Faith is not perfection. Faith is not lacking doubt.

As I shared with the students, this should provide us with faith. If God can work through the sins of faithful people like Noah and Abraham and Sarah and Jacob and Tamar and Judah, and the many other people in Genesis that God’s promises extend to, he can continue on his great work in you.

Come to God through your struggle because he sees beyond your mis-steps to the potential of what He can accomplish in you. He desires you draw near to Him now. And your response then should be, “I believe; help my unbelief!”