Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Faith that Sees Beyond Circumstances

Sometimes I forget that as a believer I am called to live life from an eternal perspective. When I forget, I'm prone to take my eyes off God, putting them on circumstances--circumstances that overwhelm, circumstances that terrify, and circumstances that out right confuse me. And when my eyes are on circumstances, my doubts diminishes my faith and I find myself responding to my circumstances from a place of doubt-induced fear instead of a place of faith-built courage.

As I was reading Romans 4 and I came across some verses about Abraham I found intriguing. Verses 18-21 say, "In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, "So shall your offspring be." He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body which was as good as dead (since he was a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised." (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

I've grown to love Abraham and Sarah's story. When God first spoke to them, they were old and barren, living in the midst of a culture that worshiped fertility gods. Because of the value their culture placed on fertility, barren women like Sarah were disgraced in the eyes of others and their infertility viewed as proof the gods found them defective and/or sinful. Then God called Abraham and Sarah out of that culture, promising them a new land and a son who would be the first of many heirs.

I can't imagine being in their shoes. Having lived with the pain and the shame induced by infertility, they had already passed through years that should have been fertile and had come to the age that they could begin to accept the finality of dreams lost and longings unfulfilled. But, God stirred the proverbial pot. He promised an heir and planted another seed of hope in the heart of a wife whose whose dead  womb was now menopausal and in the heart of a husband so aged he was as good as dead in a reproductive sense. What could they have thought when God began to speak to them of offspring?

Abraham, the one called the father of faith, had a choice to make when God spoke. He could keep his eyes on what he could see--two wrinkly worn out bodies that even in their prime had never conceived or he could focus on what God said and believe God could and would renew their bodies to fulfill His promise. He chose to exercise faith in God and His ability to fulfill the promises He makes. Over time he became more and more certain that what God said was more true than the facts that lay before him. He made a decision to place full his confidence in God--the God who spoke the world into place. The God who hung the stars in space. The God who filled the oceans with fish , the sky with birds, and the land with vegetation and animals. The God who had breathed life into dust to form Adam, and the same God who had now called Abraham by name. He became certain that what God spoke would come to be.

Ten years passed from the time the promise was given. And in that ten years Abraham's faith was strengthened until he was fully persuaded God could and God would do what He promised. God used the moments doubt crept into to Abraham's mind to strengthen his faith. The word waver in the verses above means to act as a judge and to pass judgement on something. When Abraham was tempted to look at his or Sarah's bodies or ponder their ages, he had to choose again and again whether to judge God's ability with God's Words and God's power by what he knew of the Creator. Had Abraham judged God's ability only by what he saw, he would have concluded the chance of God fulfilling the promise was slim. After all they were beyond childbearing years, they had never seen God do anything like this before, and they knew no human being in their right mind would believe they could conceive. He had many human reasons not to take God at His Word, but he chose to not judge God's ability by what he could see. He chose to judge it based on God's character. Abraham's faith was strengthened when He focused on God's power. The more he saw the truth of who he and Sarah were and the truth of who God was, the more persuaded he became.

Faith can either be strong or weak, depending on how we view God. If we view Him as weak and impotent in comparison to our circumstances our faith will be weak. But if we view Him as the Word describes Him--all-powerful, all-knowing, sovereign, and loving--our faith will grow exponentially until we are fully convinced He can and will do what He says He will do.

There was nothing in their aged bodies, their experiences, and their strong desire for a child that could strengthen their faith. All of those things had left them childless. It was only Abraham's choosing to trust in God that gave him a strong faith--faith that was counted to him as righteousness, faith that resurrected their dead bodies to reproduce. Every little wrinkle and every little ache that of their joints that comes with age during the ten years of waiting for a promise fulfilled was an opportunity to purged every doubt that they tore at their God-confidence. Abraham came to understand that he and Sarah were powerless and God was not. And in that truth, he rested.

I think God was very purposeful in choosing a barren, centurion couple to bless with a baby. In choosing them, He revealed Himself as the Creator of life, the giver of hope, and the mighty God who brings dead bodies to life. God had delayed Isaac's birth so He could reveal Himself and His power to two hurting people in the middle of a pagan world. Maybe he delayed it for our benefit as well. To walk by faith, we must say, "Lord, I believe You! I refuse to live life from a perspective of what I see. I choose to live in light of what You say and what You have shown yourself to be. I choose to take every thought captive when I become confused as Your Words are truth and wisdom. I am weak and powerless, but You are mighty and have all things under control. I choose see life through Your eternal perspective."

I choose faith in Christ because it's a faith that sees beyond the circumstances to what God can do.      

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!