Good morning! Let us pray “Lord let the mediations of my heart be pleasing to your sight. As I speak allow me to decrease and Christ in me to increase. Lord, I ask you in Jesus’ mighty and matchless name, to allow your Holy Spirit to linger over the text and have your word take root in the hearts of the hearers of your text in order for lives to be changed, chains to be broken, and for your people to walk in faith, freedom and liberty”. In Jesus’ name we pray believing and agreeing it is already done.
The title of today’s lesson is “Hope – Faith – Fulfilment”
How many of you have ever heard the quote “don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep”? Politicians know this maxim all too well. We just finished an election cycle where all types of promises were made: CoVid Relief checks for $2,000, promises for student loan forgiveness, promises to ‘save our endangered suburbs’, promises for ‘law and order’. It went on and on. Every candidate on the ballot speaking out promises in hopes that their constituency and possibly a few undecided voters would believe their promises, take them at their word, and drawer them to their respective square on the ballot. Yes, making promises come easily to politicians, keeping promises……. well that’s another story. What distinctly comes to mind is George H.W. Bush’s speech at the Republican National Convention in 1988. He proudly took the platform and declared “Read my lips, no new taxes”. Because of that line he won the election, however, when he wasn’t able to fulfill that promise critics cite this speech line as being the cause of his reelection loss. His opponents labeled him as untrustworthy because he didn’t keep his promise. Consequently he lost his bid to be reelected president.
They are very powerful.
But promises aren’t powerful on their own. A promises power comes from the person, the entity, making the promise. For example, if I received an email from a stranger promising me a paid in full vacation for my birthday I don’t take it seriously. It means nothing. I don’t know the person making the promise and I have no relationship with the person making the promise. Who are you and what do you want from me? Would be the first questions that come to mind. I wouldn’t expect to receive a trip.
But if I get a call from my best friend that I’ve known since we were 14 years old promising me that we are going on vacation for my birthday the only thing I need to ask her is “When are we leaving and where are we going?” See my best friend and I have a history together. She was there when I struggled through those unfortunate 80’s big hair choices and that misguided glitter eyeshadow phase. We’ve been friends so long that we can complete each other’s sentences and in all that time she has never, Never, NEVER broken a single promise to me. Not one. We have a history together. I know that she says what she means and means what she says So when she makes a promise I can safely consider it already done.
That brings us to the text this morning. In Chapter 4 of Romans Paul wrote to the church in Rome and he went into great detail about Abraham being justified by faith and not by the Law. Paul was teaching a two-fold lesson: to the Jewish believers he was letting them know that the Gentiles were also heirs of the promises of God because when Abraham received and accepted the promise he was not under the law.
The Jews at the time believed that you needed to obey the law to be considered righteous. But the law does not have the ability to save. When Abraham received the promise that he would be “the father of many nations” there was no law. His faith in the promise was credited to him as righteousness (verse 22). Additionally, he was letting the Gentiles know that they are included in God’s redemptive work because they too are heirs to the promise as well. And as we enter into the second week of Lenten this passage of scripture is an excellent reminder of what we celebrate during the Easter season. Verse 25 “He (meaning Jesus) was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
For this morning’s lesson though I would like to draw our attention to Abraham’s faith in the face of impossibility. This type of unmovable, unshakable faith rooted in the promises of God is something that we need to revisit in these challenging times that we find ourselves in now. It’s the type of faith that stands face-to-face in flat footed opposition to the challenges and obstacles laid before us and when we choose to believe God’s promises are true.
Element #1: Hope
Starting at to verse 18, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed”. Abraham had hope. Hope is one of those things that it almost feels scary to hold onto because it’s so abstract. There is nothing concrete about it. But hope is necessary. Romans 15:13 states “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” We are a hopeful people. We’ve sang “We shall overcome” for so long and keep coming back to it. Why? We are hopeful that one day we will overcome. We are a hopeful body of believers.
As we enter yet another month of isolation we are still hopeful that one day we will go back to 20 Old Indian Road, be able to sit side by side, hug one another, and break bread the way we used to. In the face of uncertainty was are still clinging to hope. I remember Jesse Jackson’s slogan “Keep hope alive!” In the face of uncertain we strive to remain hopeful. Keeping our eyes fixed on the One that is able to keep us from falling. Abraham never lost his hope he chose to “believe in hope”! So should we.
Element #2: Faith in the face of reality
There is a branch of Christian theology that believes you should never speak anything negative. I have seen this taken to an extreme that is shameful, people denying illness in their bodies and refusing to seek out help because there really isn’t anything wrong. A complete denial of reality and from their point of view they feel it reflects an unwavering devotion to the Lord. However, Abraham did not do that in Verse 19 of Romans 4. “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.” Abraham didn’t attempt to deny the reality of his situation – he was nearly 100 years old, married to an old barren woman and he was told that he would conceive a child. Abraham couldn’t confess his way into a younger more virile body. He couldn’t revitalize Sarah’s womb and will her to be fertile. Instead he exercised faith and gave glory to God. Knowing that God was (and still is able) to work around these seemingly impossible obstacles and make the impossible possible. Abraham knew that that promises of God are not empty words. There was power in that promise. There was a future hope in that promise. The power of God was in that promise.
And Abraham didn’t have to earn it by denying the challenges that laid before him, or following the precepts of the law or going through some empty meaningless ritual. He believed God’s word to him, God’s word came to pass, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
Element #3: Give Glory to God
Let Abraham’s story act as an encouragement to you as you wait for God to act on your behalf and fulfill His promises to you. Continue to hope, continue to have faith and remember to give glory to God in the midst of your wait. Remind yourself of 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” When you feel your faith begin to waiver, give glory to God. It will shift your perspective upwards to the one that has the ability to handle all the challenges and obstacles laid before you.
In closing, let you show you all something. This is my prayer box. About 18 years ago I got into the habit of writing my prayers and petitions down on index cards and placing them in a box. Most times I date the cards so I can track the progress. As the prayers are answered I will update the cards and save it as a tangible testimony of what God has done in my life. There are cards in here that are answered, there are cards that are still pending. There are cards that I have actually ripped up in frustration and tears, rewritten, ripped up again and said “I’m done” only to have to rewrite the request and resubmit it in greater detail. Why? Because even in the face of unsurmountable obstacles there is still hope in the core of my being that He can do this. Even this extremely difficult thing that continues to vex and allude me. Even though it has all gone crazy I still have faith God can bring it to pass.
And though I waivered with unbelief I came back and gave glory to God believing its done because the box is still in play.
So what have you been struggling believing God about? Are there any insurmountable obstacles in your life that run counter to the promise that God made to you? Remember have hope, keep your faith in the face of reality and give glory to God because in due season He will bring it to pass.
That brings us to the text this morning. In Chapter 4 of Romans Paul wrote to the church in Rome and he went into great detail about Abraham being justified by faith and not by the Law. Paul wanted to teach the Jewish believers that the Gentiles were also heirs of the promises of God because when Abraham received and accepted the promise he was not under the law. The Jews at the time believed that you needed to obey the law to be considered righteous. But when Abraham received the promise in faith and that was credited to him as righteousness when there was no law. His faith in the promise was credited to him as righteousness.
So why was Abraham able to have so much faith in the face of so many obstacles? A man nearly 100 years old, married to an old barren woman is told that he would conceive a child. Abraham didn’t deny the reality that was in front of him. He couldn’t confess his way into a younger more virile body for himself. He couldn’t revitalize Sarah’s womb and make her fertile. Abraham could only accept the reality of his current situation as it was and hold onto to the promise that God had made him. Verse 18 “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed” See God’s promises aren’t empty words. The promises of God are both “Yes” and “Amen”. I firmly believe it is because Abraham believed in the Power of God’s promise to him he was able to have complete and total faith in it. See when the Lord makes a promise he doesn’t break it. The bible teaches us that God watches over his word to perform it. That not one dot or title will pass away. So when God spoke to him he didn’t worry about the method God would take to bring this to pass.
Did not waiver with unbelief
Gave Glory to God / Fulfillment