Certain sports, like cycling, have been plagued by doping scandals in recent years. Competitors succumb to the temptation to use steroids or other muscle building cocktails to enhance their performance. You can’t fake faith before a discerning God, though we sometimes dupe our fellow Christians. Strong faith can flourish in the midst of any life-battle or ministry challenge.
Abraham is a prime example of the members of the Hebrews 11 hall of faith whose lives demonstrated an “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”1 Abraham hoped against hope to birth nations. In the natural, he had nothing to point to; the honest mirror reflected a wrinkled body, his horizon was barren. However, he saw beyond the barrenness and extreme obstacles. See what Paul says about Abraham’s faith:
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.” 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; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. (Rom. 4:18-22)
Abraham faced his frailty and his situation that, in human terms, was beyond hope—Paul says both Abraham and Sarah were as good as dead when it came to having children. Instead of despairing, Abraham maintained strong faith.
Let’s face it, there are always obstacles in the Christian life, and we must exercise faith to press through them. Some medical conditions have no known remedies. Church expansions require ever more money and even millionaires reach the limits of their purchasing power. All kinds of cultural, language, financial, personnel, and political hurdles stand in the way of reaching the nations for Christ. Whatever faith targets God has placed in our hearts there are barriers and opposition. A life with no battles would be a faith-less life.
There’s a temptation to put our faith on steroids by puffing up the words we use. Like bronzed body-builders, such faith-talk bulges with claims of what can be accomplished and how soon. So often, those approaches fail, or end in scandal. Another temptation is to deny reality. Abraham could have said, “Sarah and I are not old. In God, our bodies are young and fertile. These wrinkles are in your imagination.”
I suspect that when Christians play down the significance of challenges it does more harm than they realize. Surely it leaves non-Christians scratching their heads at the illogic. Denying reality is not part of strong faith and unbelievers are right to be suspicious.
Abraham grew in faith not by minimizing discouraging circumstances, or claiming them to be otherwise, but by growing closer to God. Abraham saw through the blockages, his faith eyes pierced the blank horizon, and he saw God. That’s the key, because God is the focus of faith and He is able to accomplish every promise He makes. Abraham glorified Him.
If you want to develop strong faith, don’t be afraid to look in the mirror or to tackle challenges. Instead, discover how much tougher God is than the obstacles and how much greater than your frailty. Put your faith in God as Abraham did. Our faith is like water in a fire-hose; when we are connected to God like a hose to a hydrant, our faith is strong.
Please share Bible Maturity with anyone who would benefit from other Bible devotions like this one.
- Hebrews 11:1 [↩]