Abraham is often held up as the prototypical “man of faith”, and for good reason. He was a man who knew God and trusted God right down to the core of his being. This isn’t to say that his faith was perfect. (After all, he seemed to be constantly afraid that someone was going to steal his wife and kill him.) In spite of this, Abraham’s walk with God through his long life is a model of what it means to live by faith. Paul draws special attention to this in Romans chapter 4.
What caught my attention reading this today was that Abraham’s faith “grew” stronger the longer he had to wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:19-22 ESV)
There are a few things that stand out about Abraham’s faith in this passage. First, Abraham’s faith wasn’t weakened even when he “considered his own body”, etc. His faith wasn’t a simple ignorant optimism. He wasn’t ‘whistling in the dark’. Abraham took a good long look at his circumstances. He considered that he was a hundred years old and that his wife who was barren was also well past her natural ability to carry a child. It is clear that faith thinks differently about circumstances. Abraham didn’t ignore his circumstances, but he thought about them, and also considered the character and the power of the one who had made the promise to him that he would be the father of many nations. In Romans 4:12 we read that Abraham was fully convinced that God could speak into existence any reality that He saw fit. Being convinced of this really effects the way we do the arithmetic of life – our scales shift. Faith in the revealed promises of God outweighs even the most seemingly fixed and impossible circumstances of life. If God has said he would do it, he will, and he can alter anything in existence with a single word.
The second thing that stands out about Abraham’s faith is that it “grew strong” as he waited on God. This is one good test of genuine faith. Real faith is patient because it is so confident. It knows without doubt that God will accomplish what he promised, so it actually grows stronger and stronger as it waits with expectation to see what God will do.
Third, Abraham’s faith grew “as he gave glory to God”. He was a man full of thanksgiving, praise, and glory to God as he considered the magnificence of His promises. this ties in closely with the fourth feature of Abraham’s faith, so I’ll take them together. Abraham knew – he was “convinced” that God could deliver on His promises, and this conviction made him a better worshiper of God. He grew stronger in faith, and more fervent in worship as he waited because he was convinced that God’s promise was as good as delivered. Because of this, he was able to thank God for the fulfillment of his promise before it ever came to pass.
There is a beautiful cycle here. Abraham believed in the promise of God, which made him patient, and he grew even stronger in his faith as he glorified God for his yet unfulfilled promises because he was so certain that they would be spoken into reality.
Let us seek God the way our father Abraham did. Pray for this kind of conviction in your faith. Consider God’s promises, and praise him for their certain outcome. Think, grow, glory, know.