In seasons of intense pressure or loss, living in hope may feel like an impossible ideal. For this reason, I love the story Abraham and what it reveals about our journey of hope and faith. Most likely, you have at least passing familiarity with Abraham’s life—both his title as father of the faith and the numerous times that he stumbled. His wife Sarah also is honored as a mother of faith, a woman enabled to experience the impossible because she considered God faithful.
Throughout Abraham and Sarah’s lives, God brought them into situations that stretched their faith and required the continued exercise of hope and trust in God. When Abraham was seventy-five, God gave him an incredible promise—that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. This promise required supernatural fulfillment, as Sarah had long ago passed the years of child-bearing and endured barrenness throughout their many years of marriage.
Little did Abraham know at the time that it would take twenty-five years before the arrival of his promised son, the first sign that a nation would indeed follow Abraham. Genesis gives the expanded version of their experience during this time of waiting, but Romans sums it up this way:
“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver in belief 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.”Romans 4:18-21
So what can we learn from their journey of persevering in hope?
There’s so much here, but four points particularly stand out to me:
- Understanding the power of God strengthened Abraham in his faith and enabled him to hope against hope. Abraham experienced God working on his behalf many times through the years. He’d witnessed God’s supernatural activity throughout his life, and he knew God had the power to do what he had promised, no matter how impossible it appeared.
- Glorifying and praising God increased their ability to hope—and it does the same for us. In the waiting, Abraham continued to look to God and give glory to him. When we fix our eyes on God instead of our circumstances and choose to thank Him for His goodness at all times, it transforms us from the inside.
- Triumphant hope faces the facts, but then looks beyond them. Abraham’s faith and hope did not require a denial of reality, nor would such a denial have been healthy. Abraham acknowledged the natural circumstances (old age and barrenness) without weakening in faith. In some circles, the power of positive thinking and speech receives such an emphasis that people feel they cannot speak honestly about their circumstances. That isn’t walking in hope. Hope acknowledges the facts, and then looks beyond them to the truth of what Scripture reveals about God, His power, and His ability to fulfill His word.
- Even when we stumble and doubt, God’s grace more than covers our weakness—we’re not disqualified from walking in faith. This is tremendously important to understand. While Scripture records Abraham as a father of faith, a man who left behind everything familiar to follow God into an unknown land, a man who enjoyed intimate friendship with God, he also sinned in several major ways—including sleeping with another woman in an attempt to force the fulfillment of God’s promise to Him and fathering a son with her whom he later rejected. Yet when you read God’s account of Abraham, he says Abraham did NOT waver in his belief, but rather walked in faith and hope. God views us through the lens of grace. So if you find yourself struggling to hope or battling unbelief, know that God keeps account very differently than we do. As we turn to Him and repent, his grace more than covers our weakness. Like the father of the suffering child in Scripture, we can pray “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” And we can pick right back up in our journey of hope.
What other truths have you gleaned from the lives of Abraham and Sarah? I’d love to hear.