Faith for Hard Things
When James Calvert went out as a missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji Islands, the ship captain tried to turn him back, saying, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.” Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.”
Faith is a death of self-trust. It’s casting all the weight of your hope on the promises of God in Christ. The Bible says, “Lean not on your own understanding” because when we do, we’ll collapse. Our understanding is not always reliable. It’s flawed. It’s often broken and misinformed. Only God can hold up the weight of our trust.
Abraham is a case study in faith. We’ve already looked at Romans 4 and Abraham’s trust in God that a male offspring would fulfill the promise and become a blessing to the nations. He believed God and lived accordingly. Hebrews sheds more light:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. —Hebrews 11:8–12
Faith takes God at His Word. Abraham didn’t just believe in God in general; he believed a specific promise God had made, and he adjusted his life around it. Romans 4:21 says Abraham was fully convinced.
He pondered God’s power. He reflected on what he knew to be true of God. He is powerful. He is wise. He is good. I can trust Him. Abraham let God’s Words define his life and responses. He reasoned, “Since God is sovereign creator and ruler, and has all power at his disposal, it’s ridiculous for me to think my age or Sarah’s age presents a formidable obstacle to such a being.” Do we have more clarity on God’s power than Abraham did? Warren Wiersbe writes:
He did not have a Bible to read; he had only the simple promise of God. He was almost alone as a believer, surrounded by heathen unbelievers. He could not look back at a long record of faith; in fact, he was helping to write that record. Yet Abraham believed God. People today have a complete Bible to read and study. They have a church fellowship, and can look back at centuries of faith as recorded in church history and the Bible.
If your very closest friend in the world was the most wealthy man on the planet—and the most generous—would you go around wringing your hands every time the economy dipped?
Abraham lived and acted as if he would have a son. He built his life around God’s Words to him. So did Sarah. They considered him faithful who had promised.
Abraham could have focused on a lot of things that would discourage him: his and Sarah’s age, the staggering implications and contingencies for God’s Word to come true. But instead, Abraham and Sarah focused on God’s Word to them.
Paul says Abraham “Did not waver in faith.” He’s not saying Abraham’s faith was perfect. It was a long obedience in the same direction. Not perfection, but direction. Unwavering faith is not perfect faith. It’s directed faith. When we fall, we go back to Jesus for forgiveness, grace, strength, and help.
With the assurance that justification by faith alone in Christ alone brings, we can do hard things, radical things, sacrificial things—even heroic things.
Even though Paul, in Romans 4, is underscoring the importance of faith, not self-justifying works, the metaphor for faith he uses — walking in footsteps — implies a life of ongoing and costly commitment. His point is that the gospel can unleash the power of God’s love in our lives. In other words, faith propels us outward on mission for Jesus Christ. We can leverage our lives for King Jesus.
Paul ends that section in Romans 4 by saying: Abraham grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God (vs. 20). That means his life was one continual boast in God.
That’s one of the 3 qualities of real, genuine, living—and growing—faith.
We don’t boast: We have Nothing to prove
We don’t cower: We have Nothing to fear
We don’t wither: We have Nothing to lose
When we grab hold of God by faith, we’re finally free and fully alive. With scores of others who have gone on before us, we can do hard things because in our hearts, we know “God can be trusted.” He gave us His Son. He has withheld nothing.
Without faith, Martin Luther would have recanted and we would have no Reformation.
Without faith, John Bunyan could have stopped preaching to be released from prison and we’d have no Pilgrim’s Progress.
Without faith, Amy Carmichael would not have remained a single missionary in India for 55 years without furlough, rescuing temple girls who were prostitutes in that religion and establishing the Dohnavur Fellowship.
What areas of your life are not lining up with your faith? Where are we failing to boast in God’s power and promises?