Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Life of Hope

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations…Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 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. This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness."
Romans 4:18a, 19-22

The Lord first promised Abraham that he would be made into a great nation when he was 75 years old.  It wasn’t until Abraham was 99 years old that the Lord told him it was finally time for his son to be born. For 24 years Abraham trusted in the Lord. Even though he knew that he and his wife were well past the age of fertility, and even though Sarah had been barren all her life, Abraham still believed the Lord. Romans 4 puts it this way, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…” I think it is hard for us to understand how hopeless this situation must have looked to Abraham. For us it is just words on a page. We can flip over a few pages and see the outcome. Abraham had to wait 24 years! Yet, in spite of the insurmountable evidence to the contrary, Abraham chose to believe God and it was credited to him as righteousness.

This one little story has a lot to say about the Christian life. God promised Abraham a life filled with hope and joy. For a man to become the father of a great nation was perhaps the greatest blessing one could achieve in Abraham’s time, but this joy filled life lay at the end of a difficult road. It would have been easier for Abraham to have stayed in Haran with his family. It would have been easier for him to have believed what seemed certain, that he and his wife would never have a child. But Abraham made the decision to hope against hope. I think at some level he must have realized that the joy set before him was worth the risk.

Christ made this same decision. Hebrews 12:2 says that Christ endured the cross “for the joy set before him.” Christ Jesus counted the cost. He weighed all the pain, ridicule, and difficulty that the cross would cause Him and He decided that we were worth it. He considered the joy of saving our souls, defeating the power of Satan and securing His own exaltation as more than worth the suffering He would endure and He took up his cross willingly.

This same decision lies before you today. The Lord has promised you freedom from bondage to sin. He has promised to adopt you as his own son or daughter, if you will believe. He has promised that this world will be made new, that every tear will be wiped away and that the stain of sin will be washed out. You will become what you were always meant to be, but what sin has kept you from becoming. But all of this joy lies at the end of a difficult journey of faith. Christ said, “take up your cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23). At times you will have to hope against hope. Are you willing to choose hope over ease and comfort? Do you believe that the joy (reward) set before you is worth it? Whether you are just starting your journey toward God, or if you have been walking with Him for years, know that faith is not simply the only way to salvation, it is also the only way to live the Christian life. I urge you then to live by faith.

For further reading this week…
    - Romans 4: Read all of what Paul has to say about Abraham's faith.
    - Hebrews 12 & Hebrews 13:11-14: Persevere like Jesus persevered.
    - Luke 9:21-26: Take up your cross.
    - Romans 8:18-25: Our present sufferings are not worth comparing to
      the glory that awaits us.

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