Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Introduction: These verses continue the attributes of faith as demonstrated in the life of Abraham. We have already examined four of them:
I. Faith goes beyond sense and reason (18a)
II. Faith generates great expectations (18b)
III. Faith clings to the Word of God (18c)
IV. Faith envisions resurrection (19)
Now we look at three more attributes of faith:
V. FAITH STAGGERS NOT
Romans 4:18a “He staggered not at the promise of
God through unbelief; but was strong
in faith. . . .”
Abraham remained upright; he never fell flat. No one’s faith is perfect. Abraham had periodic moments of doubt along the way and tried to help God out by begetting a child by Hagar. But finally he set his face like flint and overcame victoriously. He did change his name and submit to circumcision.
Do not mistake passing doubts for sin. It is only when we yield to the doubt that it becomes sin. We all have moments when we tend to second-guess our thoughts.
I have been under the juniper tree with Elijah often. At such times it would take only a little nudge from Satan to make me run like Jonah to Joppa to escape the burdens.
The mind will always be haunted by the relics of ignorance. The heart will always have doubts clinging to it. The faithful have little rest in this life from internal conflict. In fact, the inner warfare may at times be so intense that one’s inner fortitude can be dreadfully shaken and distressed.
These fiery internal ordeals are painful. But in the midst of them we often see the Lord more clearly than ever before. Often in these moments of turmoil, we have been reminded again that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. Through dependence on the Lord, at last we emerge from the conflict victorious.
To be entirely free from doubt can sometimes be a sign of presumption rather than faith. Faith allows us to answer and overcome our doubts, not eliminate them altogether.
Even the greatest of the saints testify to the fact that they are always attacked by doubts. It is a struggle to them as long as they live. Bunyan once said there were “seven abominations” that always remained in his heart. One of them was “a secret inclining to unbelief.” The key to success is found in not giving in to your doubts. You must deal with them, but carry on.
VI. FAITH IS HUMBLE
Romans 6:20b “. . .giving glory to God;”
All the credit went to God. You will never find one boastful word that fell from the mouth of Abraham regarding his ability to beget. Faith refuses to brag about what it can accomplish.
The very act of trusting in another implies that one acknowledges his inferiority to the other. Man’s proud nature has trouble doing this. Giving glory to God bespoke Abraham’s sense of unworthiness. Had he deserved it, he could have bragged about it.
Often faith is choked within us because we feel ourselves too unworthy of a particular blessing. That sense of humility can be a blessing in disguise. Pride would destroy for sure any hopes you might have.
It is your need and sense of unworthiness that calls forth the power of God. What if the Lord saved everyone except sinners? What if welfare were given to everyone except the poor? Such possibilities are preposterous. Even so, God does not bless only the deserving. He showers Himself upon the undeserving in order that He will receive all the glory.
It is worth noting that the men who have glorified God the most in this old sinful world have been the men of great faith. It is interesting to recall that these men’s lives were often filled with trials and difficulties:
Abraham was burdened by Sarah’s barrenness.
Jacob spent 20 years under the oppression of Laban.
Noah preached 120 years without a convert.
Elijah was harassed by Jezebel.
Job lost all he had.
Daniel spent all his adult life in exile.
Their trials and difficulties became the very things that made their faith stand out so beautifully. The severer the test, the more they showed dependence upon God. His Name was glorified through them.
VII. FAITH PERSONALIZES THE PROMISES
Roams 4:21 “And being fully persuaded that, what he
had promised, he was able also to perform.”
Abraham not only believed generally speaking, but believed that God was going to do something specific for him individually. I never had trouble believing God could build a building until He led our fellowship to consider one. I never had trouble believing God would raise a lot of money till I stopped to think we might have to do that.
Blessed be ye who can personalize the promises. St. Theresa once set out to build a convent. However, her total resources amounted to half a crown. Someone told her, “Not even St. Theresa can accomplish much with half a crown.” She immediately replied, “True, but St. Theresa and half a crown and God can do anything.”
Such faith can be ours when we cease looking at our difficulties and at our own ability. The promise to Abraham was not fulfilled until he was finally brought to the place that all he could see was a God who was able to perform.
Self-despair threw him upon God. When he finally realized he could do nothing, he turned to Him who can do everything. Faith will acknowledge God as the all-powerful one. Learn in everyday life to display a childlike spirit of unlimited confidence in the Heavenly Father.
Hester Ann Rogers once said, “By thus trusting the promise and the Promiser, I have conquered, and, glory be to God, through His strength I shall prevail. It is by hanging on Jesus, as an infant on its mother’s breast, I retain my peace, and love, and joy.” That is the kind of confidence in God we must have: One that rests completely in Him.