I have nonChristian friends who talk. Who express their wonderment at how any person could still believe in a God of love and mercy after the year 2020. As I chat with them, we wade through this tension between the circumstances of the world and the challenge they present to the hope we are called to cling to.
Paul–shipwreck survivor, prisoner, missionary–had a few thoughts on the matter. When he addresses what true faith is–salvation through grace and not rule-following–he weaves in hope in all circumstances as a visible sign of faith.
Romans 4:17 declares Abraham believed in the God Who….”gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations.” Somehow, even when Abraham looked at Sarah’s body, well past childbearing years, he believed a baby would be born. He believed God can call life into things which look like they don’t exist. Into things which our natural eyes tell us no way, our brains say impossible. Like peace and hope in the year 2020 and beyond.
How could he look past common sense and have hope? It seems as if hope is one leg on a three legged stool–hope is always connected with faith and love.
In Romans 4:20 Paul reveals a few aspects of Abraham’s faith:
First, “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief” Abraham dealt with unbelief head on, not using it as an excuse to doubt God’s promises. Buried or ignored unbelief is dangerous. Paul acknowledged Abraham got to a place where his faith eclipsed doubt.
Next, Abraham…. “was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.” This faith resulted in giving glory to God. His faith took his eyes off the natural and onto God. Strengthened faith, purged of unbelief gives God glory.
Finally, glorifying God helps us know Him. 4:21…”and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” Abraham’s faith was built on a solid understanding of God. The One Who follows through. Abraham jumped into the deep end of faith, being fully convinced God not only will, but is able to do what He promised.
And yet. Abraham had to be reminded to count the stars. And Sarah offered her handmaid to him to try and speed up the process. Where’s that hope and faith?
It enters the filth and confusion of our human existence, the frustration of our circumstances and defiantly chooses God’s promises over self pity or fear– God’s eternal strength over temporal setback.
Romans 5 affirms this idea. Faith helps us access grace, rejoice in hope that is not of this world, but in the glory of God. (v.2) We carry it with us to tribulations, which produce perseverance, and character, and the end result is hope. This distinct hope brings us in touch with God’s love. (v 1-5)
We don’t deny problems. We can’t ignore them if we tried. We want peace in the world and this virus gone. We don’t want to see so much widespread division and error. Problems exist. Heartache and trauma and loss exist. Slapping on a shallow Band-Aid of “my thoughts and prayers are with you” when your heart is flayed open is not the pathway to stronger faith, or hope. Problems are there. However, all who call on the name of Jesus choose to look at them differently. Like Abraham, Mary, Paul, Peter, Rahab, Matthew—and all the other sinners with their problems who were saved by amazing grace. The Bible calls those who follow Jesus new creations. Your thought life follows. God throws a lifeline out to you as you renew your mind and focus on God’s promises. Every day. Renew your thoughts. Clean up the way you look at problems. Then real hope flows.
It seems as if the better part of 2020 has been a character building experience. An opportunity to be pruned to the point where all we have is hope in God Who loves us and calls us by name. Are Christians naive for believing this way? Surely not! We take the hope of God relentlessly into a world scared by a virus, tossed like waves by unrest and division, and at war with our spirits, trying to isolate us from the truth. We don’t avoid reality, we just choose to renew our minds, and keep an eternal perspective. Standing on God’s promises:
I will never leave you or forsake you.
I will guide you with My right hand.
I will fight your battles for you.
I love you. Nothing. Nothing anywhere will ever separate you from that truth.
What area of your life seems dead? Needs to have relentless hope in Christ who can bring you new life?
Do you need to hand over unbelief so you can faithfully stand on God’s promises? What part of your thinking needs to be renewed? And, most importantly, have you crossed the line, and decided to follow Jesus? Even today, His hand of faith is extended to you. It’s a lifeline to help you through these times. To bring you hope that, obviously, the world falls so short in delivering.
Praying for you to hand over every shred of unbelief, to view your problems with a renewed mind, and to cling to the kind of hope that deepens your faith.