Last week, one of my Facebook friends sent me a message with some very good questions. Some very deep, soul-searching, God-searching questions. Loaded questions that each of us has probably asked at one time or another and for which I just didn’t have an immediate answer. One of them really resonated with me: “How do you hold onto faith in a promise that was given to you when every time you turn around it seems like everything is against the promise?”
All week long I’ve been praying about how to respond to her, and all week I’ve been feeling empty and void of wisdom to share, even though I wanted to write her back right away with solid words of encouragement and hope, guidance and TRUTH. But to be completely honest, at this stage of my chaotic life as a mom to two young children who need me nearly every second, I’m often existing on only a few hours of sleep and trying just to make it through another day. I’m hardly at a place where I’m in constant and deep fellowship with God and hearing His voice consistently as I dig into the Word and pray and worship. Although that is my heart’s desire, most days it’s not like that at all. More often than not I’m interrupted ten million times throughout my day, either by a crying baby or by a super persistent four year old who just wants Mommy to play with him or get him a snack–and at the conclusion of my brief devotional time, I end up feeling frustrated and unfulfilled and still longing for a refreshing of my soul.
So while it’s true that I’ve received some of my own personal promises that I often doubted would come to pass, including a wonderful husband and two beautiful children, I still struggle with what my friend asked. Perhaps that’s because the biggest promise of all—my healing of childhood diabetes—has yet to be fulfilled. Time and time again, I’ve seen the lost find the joy of salvation, other sick people healed, and the demon-oppressed find deliverance. God has done truly amazing things! But for whatever reason, the promise of healing for me has been elusive for almost twenty-seven years. Because of that, I feel extremely unqualified to offer any advice on this topic. And yet, I know the Spirit of God, the ultimate truth-giver, dwells in me and has all the answers I, or anyone else, could possibly seek.
My first thoughts on receiving promises always go to Abraham, called Abram before God changed his name. We know Abraham was human and made mistakes, lying to Pharaoh about Sarah being his sister and even trying to attain the promised child on his own at Sarah’s request. And still, this is what scripture records about him:
“Abraham…in the presence of Him whom He believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old) and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” (Romans 4:20-22)
Wow! What rich, life-giving words! I’ve always marveled at this passage. How did Abraham, being one hundred years old and knowing his wife Sarah was barren and old as well, “not waver at the promise of God through unbelief?” I mean, those are some pretty depressing and unbelief-causing circumstances. Or at least they would be for me. He certainly had every reason to doubt, and I’m sure at times he felt like everything that could be was against the promise. And yet, it came to pass. So what was his secret? How did he stay in faith? How did he hold onto his promise when everything in the natural was telling him it would never happen?
First, it is obvious that he had a close and very real relationship with God. The Bible even calls him the friend of God. There is no way he could have trusted God so unwaveringly had he not known God and his character. Having a relationship with someone ensures you believe what they say. For example, when I was pregnant with my oldest son, someone I was acquainted with through my workplace asked for my address because they wanted to send me a baby gift. Although it was a nice gesture, this person and I had never met, only talked on the phone, and we did not know each other. I was skeptical and full of doubt that it would actually come to pass, and sure enough, I never received anything. But when my mom told me she was going to purchase a plane ticket to come and see me for my son’s birth, I had complete confidence that she would. And she did. How did I know she would? Because I have a personal relationship with my mom. I know her, and because of that I can trust her to do what she says she will do. Knowing someone truly does make all the difference. My mom is human and yet I trust her; how much more the One who created me and who cannot lie? If we just made it a priority to sit at the feet of Jesus and get to know Him, I am convinced we would never EVER doubt Him. (Preaching to myself here!)
Secondly, he did not consider his own body or the deadness of Sarah’s womb, but rather was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. I think this is so important, because it means he had learned to see with eyes of faith instead of his physical eyes. He learned to look at the unseen rather than the seen, and chose to believe that what he did not see was more real than what he did see. Wow. How do we not look at the impossibility of our promise? We change our gaze and look instead at Jesus. We worship Him. We look not at the impossibilities of men, but at the possibilities of God. And the more we behold Him, the less the things of this earth have our attention.
Third, he patiently endured. Hebrews 6:12 says, “…Do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through FAITH and PATIENCE inherit the promises. For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying ‘Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.’ And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” I know this is what NONE of us wants to hear, me included. Waiting in faith (which is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen according to Hebrews 11:1) and patiently enduring are not pleasant, but they seem to be a constant theme throughout the Bible. Could God fulfill His promises to us sooner? Of course. But there is just something about that waiting process that matures and refines us, draws us closer to God, like nothing else ever could. We learn to trust Him, to know Him more and more, which in turn produces more and more faith, which to God is more precious than gold that perishes (1 Peter 1:7).
In the meantime, as we wait, He will encourage us. He will speak to us, just as He did to Abraham. He will remind us of those promises He has made so that we never forget that HE never forgets. He is faithful, always faithful. And as we seek Him in the waiting, He will whisper, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” (Genesis 15:1), proving to us that the greatest thing we could ever possess we already have: not the promise itself, but the very One who makes and fulfills every promise.
Your promises to me are Yes and Amen through Jesus! Help me to hold onto Your words, to see with eyes of faith, even when everything around me shouts unbelief. I want to know You more, and to learn what it means to not waver at your promises. Strengthen me in faith and help me to set my eyes on You! You are more than able to do what You have promised, and You are not a man that you should lie! I choose to trust You, to wait in faith, and to patiently endure until I see with my eyes what you’ve spoken to my heart. Thank You for being such a good, good Father! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.