Let us pray: Dear Savior, increase our faith! Do so by enabling us to look past what our eyes see and behold Your great unseen world of power, majesty, faithfulness, and most of all: grace. For then our lives will have true meaning beyond just this moment in time. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SOURCE OF ALL FAITH!
TEXT: Romans 4: 18-25
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
The headline reads: “90 year old woman and 100 year old husband have their first child!” You do a double take. Your immediate reaction is: “That’s not possible, it must be fake news.” When an unbeliever reads this lesson from Romans that is exactly how they respond, too. People read this little story of Abraham and Sarah conceiving and giving birth to Isaac, and usually conclude: “It’s a fanciful tale written to gin up a discussion about “having faith” when tough times come. It’s not really true, it just is included to make a point.” But, if that were correct, then life would be all about having faith in your faith. If there is no reality behind faith, no truth, no substance, nothing real to ground a person’s faith in, then life is nothing more than one giant con game of having faith in your faith. And that, in turn, would mean that when you die, all faith ceases because you cease to exist. What I’ve just described is, in essence, the post modernist world view so prevalent today. And it helps explain why the escapism of drug abuse is so rampant in western culture. People know down deep that having faith in their faith gives them no comfort and strength because they know how weak and pitiful they really are.
Abraham and Sarah were Christians. Abraham had been exposed to God’s Word throughout His life. In his case, God directly communicated with him. This was usually in the form of dreams or visions, as well as the oral preached truths that his father and grandfather had handed down to him. As the result of God’s grace, Abraham believed. He had faith. But it was not “faith in his own faith,” no, it was faith in God’s promises. It was faith in something outside of his frail flesh. It was faith in something eternal. It was faith in God’s love for lost sinners like him, love that extends beyond human comprehension and human language.
The writer of Hebrews says in chapter 11: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This describes Abraham to a “T.” God had promised him and Sarah a son from whom their Messiah would eventually be born. And they waited, and waited, and waited some more. Finally they arrive at this moment in time when everyone else would have concluded: “God lied to me, I got it wrong, or this promise of a son is just a cruel joke.” If Abraham had had “faith in his faith” that’s exactly what he would have concluded. But, he didn’t. “Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about 100 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.” And God did! A year later Isaac was born. His name means: “laughter” and obviously he brought laughter to both his parents.
Paul uses two pregnant phrases here: “he did not waver” and “he was fully persuaded.” I wish my faith were that strong! Like many of you, I waver all over the place. Like you, one day I’m a rock when it comes to God’s promises and later in the night the doubt of “what ifs” and “maybes” afflicts my mind. And all it takes to set me off down the pathway of doubt is some health scare, some financial uncertainty, or another reminder of my own frailties in life.
Like Abraham, you and I are Christians. Like Abraham, we don’t have “faith in our faith” but faith in God. Specifically, we have confidence in God’s love and forgiveness for us extended through Jesus Christ. We have faith that His promise is bigger than we are, stronger than we are, and lasts beyond our conception of time. We have trust that His forgiving love has been breathed into our hearts and souls by God’s Spirit. That it has transformed our reality in His sight as to who and what we now are. And that such promises have become reality, our reality, all because God loves us immeasurably in Jesus Christ. So, for us, faith is the bridge, the link God has provided us between our earth-bound reality and His heavenly reality. “This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
We prayed at the start of this homily for God to “increase our faith.” Most of us wish our faith could be as potent as Abraham’s and probably lament that it is not. But if that is what you walk away with, you’ve totally missed St. Paul’s point! Abraham had faith in something eternally real, the Gospel, the promise of God—and so do you! His faith might have been a tad stronger than yours or mine, but no matter—the OBJECT OF THAT FAITH, WHAT IT GRASPED HOLD OF AND HUNG UNTO, NAMELY JESUS CHRIST AND HIS FORGIVENESS FOR OUR SINS—THAT object of faith remains the same for all of us! And that is why, my friends, we don’t have faith in our faith, but in Jesus Christ. That is also why we: “trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding.” Amen