Even in famine we can live confidently through Christ

In the summer of 2007 my family and I pulled up the stakes from Boston, a place where we had pitched our tent for a very long time. With faith, we followed the call of God on our lives to a thriving Christian university with a faithful history and promising future.

For the past half dozen years I had been leading a men's Bible study once a month, recounting the narratives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, these fathers and sons whose life was so often a journey.

I found myself in this past year's moments of uncertainty drawing my strength from these families of old who in so many ways are much different but in so many ways the same. They too had marriage problems, rebellious kids, financial woes and legal troubles. They messed up and were afraid, yet they trusted God in uncertain times and tried to grapple with what it meant to live lives of righteousness in a culture that tugged them the other way.

Life was a journey for these families. They'd pitch their tent for a while and obediently pull up stake when God told them to pitch their tent in a new place. As I've thought about this journey motif in Scripture, I have found that life is I-N   T-E-N-T-S.

If you go to Genesis 26, the only chapter in the Bible dedicated entirely to Isaac and his family, you'll find some lessons for us on the journey. The chapter begins with a famine in the land. Ever been there? Maybe it's your home life or your career, perhaps it's your relationships or maybe you are spiritually arid each is an example of a time of uncertainty.

In the face of famine, Isaac also experienced uncertainty, and though his instincts told him to follow the path of his father, Abraham, and flee to Egypt, Isaac listened to the Lord and remained where his tent was pitched.

Then Isaac tries the old, "my wife is my sister" trick. "Honey, you're really like a sister to me," words no wife wants to hear. He lied about Rebekah because he feared for his life, as you may remember Abraham doing with Sarah. Isaac manipulated the truth and spun a story to protect himself, but at its core, every lie is simply a lack of trust in the Lord. The uncertainty of life had brought fear into Isaac's heart. If only he had thought more about God's promises than his father's ploys. When Isaac stopped fearing God, he started fearing everyone else, and when Isaac started fearing God, he stopped fearing.


Confidence in tents
So, what is God's antidote to our uncertainties? As irrational as this might sound, we need to approach uncertainties not by being certain, but by being confident. There's a big difference. Confidence comes from the Latin con = with and fides = faith. Life is in tents, and we live by faith, not sight.

Certainty for Isaac would have been water in a drought, reserves of grain in a silo or an enemy that disappeared. But God did not respond to Isaac's uncertainties with these certainties. God responded to the famine in the land with a promise to be with him and to bless him, and all God wanted of Isaac was for him to believe His promise through his actions. Just look at Genesis 26:3 when God assured Isaac with these five words: "I will be with you."

Paul writes in Philippians 1:6, "Be confident [not certain] of this one thing, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Near the end of the chapter, the Lord fulfills His promise to Isaac by bringing them to Rehoboth. It was in Rehoboth where Isaac could say with confidence, "Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land."


Finding water
Isaac learned to place his confidence in the Lord, pull up his stakes and pitch his tent in a new land where he built an altar, just as God calls us to do. This chapter may begin with famine in the land, but it ends with, "We've found water."

If there is famine in your land and uncertainties abound, live in the confidence that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion and lead you to the well. How can you read this chapter without thinking about God's faithfulness in the midst of famine for those whose confidence is in Christ alone?

There is a well that springs from the heart of God with waters that will never stop flowing.

Life is I-N   T-E-N-T-S; it is a journey where we pitch our tent for a season then pull up stakes and move on, following the direction of the Lord not with certainty, but with faith.


Dr. Corey is the eighth president of Biola University, a Christian school in La Mirada. Dr. Corey, a Fullbright scholar, has extensive experience in the field of higher education.

Published, September 2008