“When God promised Abraham and his descendants that the world would belong to him, he did so, not because Abraham obeyed the Law, but because he believed and was accepted as righteous by God.” Rom. 4:13.
We hear the word ‘faith’ bantered about often these days, more so during a pandemic such as the one we’re living through just now. Faith in others doing selfless acts, faith in our NHS, faith in vaccines, faith in our leaders, faith in our experts. Faith though, as in belief in something or someone we can’t see is more difficult. All these things I’ve listed above, we can see almost on a daily basis – many people are selfless in their actions, our NHS, the flu vaccine and many other vaccines we’ve known throughout our lives, our leaders, etc, etc but belief and faith in God is harder to understand and harder to explain.
We meet Abraham in Genesis, the first book of the Bible where Abraham was promised by God that he would be “the father of all nations”. As the letter to the Romans puts it “your descendants will be as many as the stars.” Rom. 4:18. Abraham was an old, childless man, his wife Sarah past normal child-bearing age, yet Abraham believed God, regardless of the facts before him, regardless of what he could see, he still believed in God’s promise and he was rewarded in his belief with the promise fulfilled. Rom. 4 goes on to say in v20ff “His [Abraham] faith did not leave him and he did not doubt God’s promise; his faith filled him with power, and he gave praise to God. He was absolutely sure that God would be able to do what he had promised.” Are we absolutely sure that God will do for us what he has promised us? Does our faith fill us with power knowing God will fulfil his promise to us as individuals? Do we have as strong a faith as Abraham did, with all the bare facts before him – he being a very old man, his wife well past the age of giving birth?
While we are contemplating that, we also need to revisit the second part of the verse above. Not everyone has their promises fulfilled. Why? First and foremost, God does answer prayer but not always in the way we want him too. Secondly, are we right with God? Have we accepted his son Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and taken him into our hearts? Paul writes in v24ff “They were written also for us who are to be accepted as righteous, who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from death. Because of our sins he was handed over to die, and he was raised to life in order to put us right with God.” Faith comes at a price. We have to hand over our lives to God. Many have done so over the centuries and been rewarded for that just as Abraham was. Many continue to do so and have their lives completely transformed. Are we willing, during this time of Lent, a time of reflection, prayer and understanding, to return to God, to accept his son Jesus and have faith in him delivering on his promise?
Living God, forgive us that, too easily, we slip into a faith of negatives, imagining that you are more concerned with what we shouldn’t do than with what we should. Teach us that, although there is a very real place for self-denial, there is also a place for affirming and celebrating life in all its fullness. Help us, then, to use this season of Lent as a time to grow and learn, to deepen our faith and strengthen our commitment; above all, a time to make more room for you, so that you can work in our lives and enrich our experience of your love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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