17 As it is written, I have made you the father of many nations. [He was appointed our father] in the sight of God in Whom he believed, Who gives life to the dead and speaks of the nonexistent things that [He has foretold and promised] as if they [already] existed.
18 [For Abraham, human reason for] hope being gone, hoped in faith that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been promised, So [numberless] shall your descendants be.
19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered the [utter] impotence of his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or [when he considered] the barrenness of Sarah’s [deadened] womb.
20 No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God,
21 Fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised.
-Romans 4: 17-21 (AMP)
I’ve been going through the Ray Stedman devotionals on Romans lately and today’s reading/devotions really blew me away. Basically he was discussing the topic of faith. Specifically using the example of Abraham to define what faith actually is, and what the obstacles to faith are. (Please note, I will be lifting copy directly from his devotionals so if it sounds like I have suddenly become an amazing writer – those are most likely his words and not mine 🙂 )
What is faith?
Verse 17: “As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed”
The key here is not the AMOUNT of faith you have but rather the OBJECT of your faith, which is, drumroll…God. Again – the amount of your faith has nothing to do with it – Jesus himself said “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt 17:20). Rather the quality of your faith depends on the object in which that faith has placed its trust. It’s not about your faith but it is about GOD, in whom your faith is fixed.
So – what kind of God is He? What is it about God that will allow you to fix your faith in Him?
Verse 17: “As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.”
He is the God who (1.) gives life to the dead. He takes things that were once alive & vibrant but have died and become hopeless and brings them to life again. He also (2.) “speaks of the non-existent things that [He has foretold & promised] as if they [already] existed” (AMP). He calls into existence things that do not exist.
What are the obstacles to faith?
1) Hopeless Circumstances – In this particular example the hopeless circumstances are Abraham & Sarah’s barrenness. They were promised that they would have numerous descendants, and that out of their descendants, the Seed (Christ) would come, He who would make possible the gift of righteousness. Basically, everything hung on the birth of a baby – to a couple for whom this would be impossible. So what did Abraham do? He faced the facts.
Verse 19: “Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.”
Faith is not escapism! It is NOT about evading facts.
Verse 18: “[For Abraham, human reason for] hope being gone, hoped in faith that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been promised, So [numberless] shall your descendants be” (AMP).
YET, Abraham had hope! Why? Even faced with the facts, he remembered he had a God who raises the dead & calls into existence the things that do not exist! Against all hope, he believed in hope – because of the God in whom his faith was fixed.
Now here is the 2nd obstacle to faith – the one I wasn’t expecting that really blew me away.
2) Staggering Possibilites – the promise given to Abraham, was in itself an obstacle to faith. Why on earth would God’s promise to him be an obstacle to his faith??
Verse 20: “yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God”
The promise to be an heir of all the world and to have righteousness (undeserved standing with God) was beyond belief. It was too good to be true – until Abraham remembered what kind of God he had – and so he believed.
How many times do we lose faith because of hopeless circumstances? What about because of the staggering possibilities? Genesis 18:14 “Is anything too hard or too wonderful for the Lord?” (AMP)
I will be the first to admit I’m only human. I look at my circumstances and sometimes I am overwhelmed and worry overtakes me. Doubt assails me. I pray for miracles, I pray for mountains to be moved. But when God actually gives me fantastic, amazing promises in response to my prayers do I believe? No. I look at that promise and pronounce it too good to be true. I minimize God and trivialize His promise to one my mind can comprehend – a promise I can get behind because it does not require the exercising of my faith.
Ray Stedman talks about this –saying:
“If you have faith like a tiny little grain of mustard seed, but the object of your faith is trustworthy and has promised to do something, then exercise your faith & it will grow. OBEY.”
Verse 21; “Fully satisfied and assured [persuaded] that God was able and mighty [had the power] to keep His word & to do what He had promised.” (AMP, NIV)
“You will never know when a thing that is dead & dull & lifeless may be touched by the grace of God & brought to life again. When something that you cannot possibly hope for – something which does not now exist, but which will be called into existence by the God who calls into existence the things that do not exist – when such a thing is promised by a God like this, life is an adventure.”
“Trust against the circumstances that surround us, when we have a promise to oppose against it, the promise & a God who says He will do something & who cannot fail”.
Link to the original article/devotional/sermon transcript here.