Abraham’s faith grew strong “as he gave glory to God…” (Rom 4:20).
Abraham’s faith didn’t grow strong because of his works. It didn’t grow strong through reading, fasting, or giving money. He didn’t have the Scriptures to read. He didn’t have the law and the prophets. He didn’t have the Gospels and the story of Jesus. And yet, he had faith, and this faith grew strong “as he gave glory to God.”
What had God done for Abraham for most of his life besides give a promise of future offspring that would bless the world? It’s a promise that felt more far-fetched than Noah being told to build an Ark. At least Noah saw the flood. He saw God’s redemption. Abraham waited and waited.
Can you imagine the years of infertility? The years of trying and trying? Can you imagine the knowing looks between Abraham and Sarah, “What? Really? Tonight?” “God told me. He promised.” Can you imagine God making a promise that so intimately affected a marriage? I wonder if Sarah felt the pressure, “I don’t feel like sex, but if I don’t, how will God’s promise come to pass?” Facing month after month of periods, seeing the blood. Her doubts whispering: You couldn’t make it happen again. You tried. You failed. You failed God…
It must have gotten to Sarah. Once again, feeling the cramps and in her pain, immediately thinking, “God failed me again this month.” Then in guilt for placing such accusations on God, she turned on herself. “I must have failed God. I have to make this happen.”
We know there were times of wavering for both Sarah and Abraham. Take, for instance, the story of Hagar. But it wasn’t that Sarah and Abraham doubted God would fulfill his promise when Sarah gave Hagar to her husband to conceive a child. It’s that they thought it all depended on them to make God’s promise happen.
We know there were times of wavering for both Sarah and Abraham.
It’s one thing to hope an old man could conceive a child. It’s another to think of an old woman doing the same.
I wonder if she gave Hagar to Abraham when she had hit menopause. Perhaps she thought, “What’s the point now? I have literally nothing left to give.” She tried, and she tried to conceive her whole marriage. Disappointment gripped her every 28 days until the blood stopped. The trying stopped. The hope stopped. I’m as good as dead. Here, take my younger maidservant. Keep trying without me.
But it was when Sarah reached the point of nothing left to give that God stepped in and shared his promises for her.
After years of pressure to uphold God’s promise through trying and trying again to conceive with her husband, she gave up and gave her husband her maidservant.
Once she has given up, God says, “as for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” At this point, Abraham fell on his face and laughed.
The promise was given to Abraham and his wife, Sarah. But Sarah isn’t mentioned in any of the promises to Abraham until after she gave Hagar to be with him. She had already sacrificed not only her marriage but her part in the promises of God. “God’s promise must not have been for me; it must have just been for Abraham.” She must have thought: “It doesn’t always happen the way we want.”
“He grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”
Even as the promise seemed to dwindle, their faith grew. This isn’t something a mere human has promised, and it won’t have even a hint of coincidence. This is something that God promised. This is someone who can fully do what he promises.
In our transactional view of our faith - “If I don’t… then God won’t.” “I need to, so God can” - we are seriously underestimating who we are dealing with. God doesn’t need us for anything. Pragmatism so often rules our faith.
God doesn’t need us. God wants us.
In our transactional view of our faith - “If I don’t… then God won’t.” “I need to, so God can” - we are seriously underestimating who we are dealing with.
And we need him. God is drawn to our need, not put off by it. He is drawn to us, admitting our humility. Not only that, but he delights in fulfilling our needs. The greater the impossibility, the more he loves to show us what he can do. God brings us to a posture of humility because he knows that is where we see his glory.
Christ is for us. He loves us. Sometimes he waits for us to come to the end of ourselves, the end of our abilities, at that point where we are giving up, because should he come a moment earlier, we will think it was us. Waiting until we come to the end of ourselves is the only place we actually see him. We are too consumed with our own image and our own abilities before then.
Do you want to grow in your faith? Stop looking at yourself and what you think you need to be doing in your “faith journey” and give glory to God, and God alone. He will do what he says he will do. Lean into him. Depend on him. If you feel like, “why bother even trying, I’m just going to fail again,” you are closer to growth than you were before in all your trying. When our faith is in our attempts to grow, our faith is shaky. When our faith is in the sufficiency of Christ for our justification and sanctification, we will understand that the glory of our relationship is completely reserved for him.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess 5:23:24).