When God’s Promises Seem Improbable

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Difficult situations are often perceived as threats to faith.  When a loved one gets sick, it’s challenging to trust God’s plan.  When finances are tight, God’s provision might be questioned.  When relationships fall apart, some forget He’s a Redeemer.

Abraham’s life is proof that the circumstances that seem to threaten faith most are actually catalysts for its strengthening.  God promised Abraham a son when he was 75 years old, and it would’ve been impressive enough had God fulfilled His word quickly, but the child was born 25 years later – when Abraham was 100 and his formerly-barren wife Sarah was 90.

In Romans 4:18-21, Paul gave his readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Abraham’s 25-year wait: “In hope [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be.’  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.”

These verses reveal the noteworthy principle that genuine faith assesses reality and decides to trust God anyway.  Abraham considered both his own age and his wife’s barren womb, totally aware that conceiving a child would be humanly impossible, not merely on one count, but on two.

According to Romans 4, Abraham’s faith grew stronger, not weaker, during his quarter-century wait.  In challenging times, we too are forced to decide whether we’ll draw limits around our faith.  Will we trust God exclusively on the good days, or will we fight to keep trusting Him on the hard days?

Based on the passage in Romans, Abraham grew increasingly resolute in his faith as the logical probability of a fulfillment to God’s promise decreased.  For 25 straight years, Abraham camped out on the same firm foundation: My God is who He says He is, and He’ll do what He promises.

Abraham wasn’t the only one who trusted God.  The author of Hebrews wrote, “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11).  Together this couple considered their circumstances and contemplated their God, and they chose to believe what He said even when common sense would’ve written Him off.

Lest we be discouraged by their example, Genesis reveals that both parties struggled to take God at His word initially.  Abraham and Sarah each laughed at God, and the ESV Study Bible says, “Abraham’s reaction indicates that he considers God’s promise that Sarah will bear a son as, to say the least, highly improbable”.

So why the rave reviews in Romans and Hebrews?  Because faith isn’t a one-time choice we make on a really good day.  Instead, the life of faith is an ongoing, resilient, concerted effort to grow more fully convinced of God’s ability to do what He promises.

Biblical faith isn’t flawless; it’s directed to the right Object.  Circumstances may cause us to question the probability of God’s promises, but His forever-maintained streak of perfect faithfulness will continue proving our doubts wrong.  As it does, we – like Abraham – will learn to waver a little less and trust a whole lot more.

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