Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. Romans 4:18-25 NRSV
Faith, a gift from God given to us by His grace and without it we have no hope of ever being justified as being righteous when we stand before God. Abraham's faith grew in strength, it says, so his faith wasn't always as strong as it was at the point of this story. In my mind, if I were in his place I'm sure my thinking would be, I'm too old now for this promise to happen, boy did I ever hear and get that one wrong. So how did Abraham's faith get so strong?
Growing up I was told that it was by God's grace we were saved through faith and not of our works but then the understanding was that if I didn't live the way I was supposed to live and do all that the law said, I would not be saved so it seemed that my works were what saved me rather than my faith. Then later things seemed to turn the other direction and works had nothing to do with being saved, all I needed was to have faith and I would be saved. So where does the works come in? Abraham's works were necessary along with his faith in order to make the promise happen. If he would have just had faith that God was going to give him a son and did nothing else about it, the promise probably would not have been fulfilled, there was a marital relation that had to happen along with that faith. In the book of James we are told that faith without works is dead so I believe there is something we must do in order for faith to increase or at least remain with us. As I work and am obedient to what God asks of me and see His will being done through me I believe that helps my faith to grow. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by reading His word so reading the bible and listening for the Holy Spirit to speak to me also brings about faith. One other thing that happened or didn't happen in this story is that Abraham never actually saw the promise fulfilled while he was on this earth. One of Josh's points in the sermon he preached a couple weeks ago, I thought, was great. We think the reality of our life is all about being here on this earth when actually the fact is the real reality of life is in the heavenly realm. While God's promise to make Abraham a great nation did happen on this earth the real results will be seen as we are all resurrected to heaven. So when I wonder about why the things I had faith in never happened, I am trying to change my thinking to the fact that I will see a whole new perspective of the results of my faith when I get to heaven. One other very important thing this scripture tells me, Abraham grew strong in faith as he gave glory to God. Very important that I give glory to God in everything.
God offers all the gift of faith. Some will accept that gift but there will be many who won't. Personally, I am very thankful for that gift and in this new year my hope is that my faith will become stronger than ever. I have faith it will.
by Ken Edgerly