Today’s Reading: Romans 4
Romans 4 is just as much a faith chapter as is Hebrews 11, which gets called the hall of faith. Romans 4 gives us a ground level look of the steps of faith of the father of faith, Abraham. Paul shows us a specific situation Abraham had to walk out in faith and how he did it. And then Paul encourages us to “follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham” (verse 12).
Let me take you to the dead of winter in the Midwest. Overnight a foot of snow has fallen, and today, you have to trudge through that snow as you walk to the train or bus. In that much snow, you don’t step in fresh snow, you step in steps—the footprints of people who went before you. They left a track that makes it a bit easier for you to negotiate the terrain. The easiest way to walk then is to put your feet where feet have been. Step in their steps and it makes the journey easier. So let’s look for those steps that Abraham already laid for us, and step in his steps.
Let’s first refresh our memories about the story that underlies Abraham’s steps of faith. God promised Abraham and Sarah, his wife, a baby. The problem: he was one hundred years old and she was ninety. I’m not a doctor, but I think this is a problem . . . unless you have an even bigger God involved in the situation. And Abraham did.
What steps did Abraham leave for us to walk in?
First, faith doesn’t ignore the raw and discouraging facts that are staring us in the face. Real faith is able to look at what really exists. This is the kind of faith Abraham had: “Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb” (Romans 4:19).
Abraham contemplated. That means he looked at the facts carefully and with great deliberation, looking at every possibility, leaving nothing out. Here is what Abraham knew to be the facts: In regards to himself, at one hundred years old, his body was as good as dead. Regarding his wife, Sarah, at ninety years old, her womb was dead.
Smith Wigglesworth once said, “I am not moved by what I see. I am moved only by what I believe.” Faith looks at the situation and faces it. And Abraham’s situation looked impossible.
Second, faith finds good footing in God’s Word. I have a Bible that puts in capital letters any Old Testament passage quoted in the New Testament. In verses 17 and 18, that happens twice. It is Abraham going back to what God told him. The two times the capital letters are used are God speaking to Abraham:
(As it is written, “A father of many natIons I have made you”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”
As it was written about Abraham, “A father of many nations I have made you.” That is future. But in the present, he was father of no one.
You can be honest about what the situation looks like. But you then must find yourself speaking more about what God says to your situation in the Word of God. Staying close to God’s Word will help you speak into future instead of complaining about your present circumstances. Fill your mouth with what He promised, His Word.
Finally, the God you believe in will determine your faith level. There is a biblical phrase used many times about Abraham: “Abraham believed God.” It is used all over the Bible—from Genesis to Romans, Galatians to James. But what makes the phrase valid is that there is another phrase associated with Abraham in the Bible just like this one. It’s in 2 Chronicles, Isaiah, and James. And I think it has something to do with the first phrase. The second phrase determined his faith level. It is friend of God. Friend of God makes belief in God easy.
Abraham could say, “Regardless of what circumstances I am facing, my Friend is with me.” The God Abraham believed in was his Friend. He trusted his Friend.
That’s why when you connect Abraham’s raw circumstances with his faith in his Friend, you get these verses that The Passion Translation makes come alive:
In spite of being nearly one hundred years old when the promise of having a son was made, his faith was so strong that it could not be undermined by the fact that he and Sarah were incapable of conceiving a child. He never stopped believing God’s promise, for he was made strong in his faith to father a child. And because he was mighty in faith and convinced that God had all the power needed to fulfill his promises, Abraham glorified God! (Romans 4:19-20, TPT)
Edna Butterfield tells one of my favorite stories of what faith is. Her husband, Ron, works with teenage children who have severe learning disabilities. And Ron started looking at his students’ capabilities rather than their limitations, so he got them to play chess, restore furniture, and repair electrical appliances. Most important, he taught them to believe in themselves. Young Bobby was one of those boys. And he soon proved how well he had learned that last lesson of belief. One day he brought in a broken toaster to repair. He carried the toaster tucked under one arm and a half-loaf of bread under the other.
The broken toaster of Romans 4—that’s the age of Abraham and Sarah.
The loaf of bread of Romans 4—that’s painting the baby’s room blue, because it’s going to be a boy, and they will name that little loaf of bread . . . Isaac.