“He did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith” (Romans 4:20)
The key figure in our story is a man called Abram. His name means exalted father. When he was seventy-five years old God called him to leave his father’s house and relatives behind and go to a land that God would show him. God promised to make him a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3).
This blog post is part 55 of the series Seven Invisible Barriers to Spiritual Growth
When Abram arrived in the land of Canaan God promised Abram that He would give his descendants the land (Genesis 12:7). Sometime later God tells Abram that his descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth and that the land will be theirs forever (Genesis 13:14-17).
The only problem was that Abram was childless. He is over the age of seventy-five and his wife Sarai is sixty-five and they have not had a child and God was promising the land to children he did not have.
So Abram decides to tell God that he doesn’t have any children to be his heir. God then had Abram go outside and look at the stars. Then God promises that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars. The Bible says that Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:1-6).
When Abram was about eighty-five Sarai decided she could not have a child and that Abram should use a cultural way of having a child through her maidservant, Hagar. The child would become hers and thereby be an heir to Abram. This was not God’s plan though. The child Ishmael was not the child God promised.
God waits until Abram is ninety-nine years old and show up at Abram’s tent and tells him he will not only be a father but a father of a multitude of nations. He uses this opportunity to change his name from Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of a multitude). God says I am changing your name because I am making you the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:1-6).
So now we’ve set the stage for the passage of Scripture we want to look at to show us how we can overcome doubt and unbelief. We are seeing God tell a ninety-nine-year-old man and an eighty-nine-year-old woman that they are going to be the source of a multitude of nations.
Let’s look at how Abraham dealt with the promises of God and how he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith believing that God would do what He said He would do. Romans 4:18-21 gives us great insights into how we can deal with doubt and unbelief in our lives:
18 In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God,21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.
You Must Have a Promise from God
Everything that we have as believers starts with a promise from God. It’s never about you or me coming up with some grand idea that we want and then asking God to bring it about. Everything starts with God. Everything starts with His promise.
Too often we are believing God for things that he has not said. Suppose that when God told Abram he was going to be a father that he assumed that Sarai would be pregnant within a month or two and he would be a dad the next year?
He could believe as hard and as much as he wanted, but he is putting his faith in his idea rather than the promise of God. God promised a child, but He did not promise a time frame except when Abram was ninety-nine.
Maybe you’re frustrated because you feel that God made you a promise that has not come about. Look at the promise again. How exactly did the Lord say it? Were there any conditions around the promise?
Everything starts with a promise and God promised ninety-nine-year-old Abraham that he would have a child in about a year when he was one hundred. By the way that is twenty-five years after the initial promise.
You Must Acknowledge the Reality of Your Situation
Abraham did not ignore his situation when considering the promises of God. He looked at them directly. Abraham contemplated his and Sarah’s bodies, he looked at the evidence before him and his mind said no. There is no way we are physically going to be able to bear children on our own.
Paul says that Abraham looked at his condition without becoming weak in faith. He saw the deadness of his and Sarah’s bodies and his faith did not shrivel up and die in his heart. His faith did not become weak and ineffective.
I know that there are many who teach that we are not to look at our situations. We especially should not say that we have a sickness or disease because we would be claiming it. But that is not what Abraham did.
He deeply contemplated the condition of Sarah’s womb and the deadness of his own body. He did not deny his age or the natural condition of their bodies, he accepted them as fact. but it did not affect his faith. His faith was not in his condition, it was in God and His promise.
Abraham Put His Hope in God
Verse eighteen says that Abraham hoped against hope and believed. In the natural his hopes were dim. There was not a chance in a million that they were going to have a child after all these years. Abraham was not placing his hope in the natural but he was placing his hope in God.
We have to slow down a minute and talk about the Biblical meaning of hope. It is so different than what we mean today when we say, “There’s a new job opening, I put in for it. I sure hope I get it,”
Hope in our normal conversation means that we wish something to happen on the basis of our desires. I hope she likes me. I hope we win the football game this weekend. It is based completely on we desire to take place.
Biblical hope is completely different. It is not wishful thinking but a confident expectation of good, a firm assurance in the heart that is directed toward God, or the thing He promised. When Abraham hoped against hope, he was not crossing his fingers hoping that it would come about. He was placing his confidence in the promise of God.
Hebrews 11:1 gives us the Biblical definition of faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith puts it hope in God and in His promises.
Abraham Believed God
Romans 4:20-21 says:
Yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God promised, He was able to perform.
Abraham was assured that God would do what He said He would. He took God’s promise at face value. If God said it, I believe it.
Abraham looked at the promise of God and then to the deadness of his and Sarah’s bodies and chose to believe God’s promise. The Bible says that he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith.
The idea that Abraham grew in faith intrigued me and so I decided to do a little study on that idea. Why would his faith grow? How would it grow? He was already choosing to believe God without wavering in unbelief.
I found out the words “grew strong” is an aorist, passive, indicative verb in the third person. I know that is a mouthful, but let me tell you what I think that means. When a word is aorist, it means that the event took place in the past. When it is passive it means that the action was happening to whatever the word is speaking about. When it is indicative means that the action is taking place continually.
What I believe that means is when Abraham believed God, God empowered his faith and strengthened it. Louw-Nida shows the meaning of “grew strong” as:
“to cause someone to have the ability to do or to experience something—‘to make someone able, to give capability to, to enable, to strengthen, to empower.’
Who is the one causing Abraham to have the ability to grow strong in faith? God! It is God. He is the source of the promise and the one who will bring it about. God strengthens Abraham’s faith when he refuses to doubt and believe God.
That makes me wonder about another statement about faith. Have you ever wondered why Jesus could say that we could move mountains with faith the size of a mustard seed? The mustard seed is so small. It is called the smallest of seeds.
Jesus picks that illustration because it is not the greatness of our faith that moves mountains, it’s the fact that we believe. It’ s as we choose to believe, that God releases something in us to strengthen even the smallest amount of faith and make it stronger.
It’s when doubt and unbelief enter in that even great faith falters and fails to attain the promises of God.
Faith is Placed in God and His Word
The final three phrases of the passage we are studying give insight into the mindset and actions of Abraham. They give helpful clues in our efforts to overcome doubt and unbelief.
He Gave Glory to God
Human beings can give glory to God by recognizing who He is and proclaiming His wonderful deeds. We can also do it by walking in obedience to God and doing His will, thereby showing forth who He is.
Abraham knew that there was no natural way for him and Sarah to conceive a child. He gave God the glory by recognizing he could do it. He wasn’t taking any credit for believing God and receiving the promise. He knew it was God all the way.
This brings up a good point. We can never take credit for the faith that we have and think that because we are so awesome at believing that God has to act on our behalf. I have faith God, now do it.
Faith recognizes that everything comes from God and it comes by grace. Everything God has for us come through faith by grace Faith does not earn the things of God. Faith receives the promises of God with a recognition that it is all God.
True faith simply believes and give God the glory.
He Was Assured that God would Do What He Said
Faith is believing what God has said. It really is that simple. It is not a complex puzzle that must be solved. It is a simple concept. Either we believe what God says or we don’t.
When we doubt we question whether or not what God says is true. We say yes. Then we say no. The picture of doubt is being of two minds. No not left and right brained like we talk about nowadays. But two minds. One mind has yes on it. The other mind has no on it. Just like a ping pong game doubt goes back and forth and back and forth on believing what God has said.
Unbelief refuses to believe that God will do what He says He will do. Unbelief is a conscious choice not to believe what God has said. It rejects the promises of God.
Abraham was assured of what God said to him. It is this single-minded belief that is the essence of true faith.
He Knew God Was Able to Do What He Promised
A promise is only as good as the person making it. How many times have people promised you they would do something and then they totally forgot or just refused to come through on the promise?
God is not that way and Abraham knew it. He knew that God was faithful and that if He said it He could do it and would do it.
Abraham knew in his heart that God could do what He had promised. He knew that He would do what He had said.
God has many precious promises for those who believe in Him. They are always accessed the same way, through faith. Faith is like a hand that reaches out and accepts what God has given.
May faith rise up in your heart to receive all that God has for you. May you experience life as God intends it to be.
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