This past fall, through a Bible study that I was doing I spent an extended period of time in Romans 4. It's not really a passage of Scripture that I'd ever really given much thought to before, but spending time really digging into it caused me to discover much and to be challenged in many ways.
Romans 4 recounts the faith of Abraham believing that God would give him and Sarah a child in their old age - something that was impossible by human standards. Yet, Abraham believed God that He could it. There are a couple of verses in this passage that has stuck with me in the months since I finished the study that led me to spend so much time in this chapter of Romans:
"Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised." (Romans 4:20-21, NIV, emphasis mine)
Fully persuaded of God's power to do what He had promised! Do I live like that? If I'm honest, I have to say no. What about you?
How does life look when you live this way? What does it mean to be fully persuaded that God has the power to do what He promises? How does it change the way we live?
Those are just some of the questions that came to mind as I thought more and more about what is contained in these verses. I mean, that sounds like a pretty cool way to live. You take what God says and you believe it without doubt . . . right?!?
Or maybe not.
What if it actually means that sometimes we are choosing to trust and believe God despite having doubts or questions? What if it means that we don't stop believing even when we've screwed up in our own trying to make it happen?
If we take a look at the account of this in Genesis 15-16, we see that while Abraham believed God, he also slept with the maidservant of his wife to produce an heir. That's not how God had told Him the promise of a child would be fulfilled. Abraham acted on his own to try to make God's promise happen. Yes, he believed God that it would happen, but he didn't have complete faith that God would do it. He tried to help make it happen. Yet, in Romans 4, the Apostle Paul holds up Abraham as a man of great faith, and says the words we find in Romans 4:20-21 about him:
"Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but he was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised."
Over the last couple of months, I've been wondering if the faith that Paul is talking about here using Abraham as an example is a little different from the way we often see it. Maybe being fully persuaded that God had the power to do it meant that even after he messed up in sleeping with his wife's maidservant, Abraham still had the faith to believe God would fulfill His promise. Maybe it means that even in his doubts, Abraham continually made the choice to go back and believe God even in the face of great odds.
To be honest, when I look at it that way, faith that pleases becomes something that seems a little more possible to live up to. Rather than being some impossible ideal of never having doubts, faith and believing God becomes something that I want in my life. Faith becomes a choice that I make to say: "I'm going to believe You in this God. I don't know if I can completely get rid of my doubt that you can actually do this ___________ that seems so impossible by human standards, but even though I have these doubts, I'm making a choice to believe You. And I'm going to make the choice to live as though You are doing this. I'm choosing today to believe You, no matter how impossible it seems by human standards, for I know that nothing is impossible for you."
This doesn't mean it's all of a sudden easy to have faith, but it does make it something we can do with God's help. And to me, that is encouraging and challenging in my walk.