Romans 4:18-19(NKJV) 18who, 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.” 19And 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.
Abraham became our example of how to operate by faith when he believed the promise of God in the midst of impossibility. God promised him that he would be the father of many nations and that through his seed the whole world would one day be blessed. He received this promise at 75 years of age. His wife, who had never been able to have children, was 65. This promise was impossible and yet, in 25 years, it came to pass.
Romans 4 gives us the blueprint for how he received this promise from God. First, he had a promise. We must know what God says he will do if we are going to believe him. In our case, the primary way we receive God’s promise is through the written Word. Second, he ordered his speaking to reflect the promise. God changed his name from Abram, high father, to Abraham, the father of a multitude. Every time he spoke his name, he was speaking the promise. We must learn to use our words to reinforce the reality of God’s promise to us.
Today we will look at the next step. Our verses today say that Abraham “hoped against hope.” What does that mean and how did he do it. First let us look at what hope is. Hope can mean many things but I like to focus on one aspect of hope. Hope represents possibility. If I hear a testimony, it produces hope that God can do something for me. We talked about this on Monday. So what did Abraham do? He chose to see possibility where there could be no possibility.
How could he do that? The Bible tells us clearly how he could have hope in the face of impossibility. First, what was the impossibility? They were too old to have children. Your descendents cannot bless the whole world if you do not have any. Sarah was barren. She could not have children. She could never have children. She was not going to start to have children between 65, when the promise was given, and 90, when the promise finally came to pass.
She tried to address this minor problem by giving Abraham her maid. This was acceptable in their culture. If a child was born under those circumstances, it was considered Sarah’s child. A child was born, but God did not accept that solution. He told Abraham that the child of the promise would come from barren Sarah. This only made the impossible more impossible.
As for Abraham, at one time he was fertile. He fathered Ishmael by Hagar, Sarah’s servant. However, we read in Romans that, at the time of the fulfillment of the promise, Abraham’s body was dead. Now he was still breathing so he was not completely dead. What part was dead? Without being graphic, let us just say he was impotent. He could no longer father children.
In the face of all this impossibility, Abraham still believed in the promise of God. How could he see possibility still believe in his situation? After all the years he had waited for God to fulfill the promise, how could he still think God would do it? The passing years had made it more and more impossible for God to do what he said he would do. What hope did he cling to?
You can have hope in the midst of impossibility. The thing about God is that he delights in doing impossible things. He will extend the situation until it is completely impossible, yet we can still see possibility, hope against hope, if we learn where to look.
In verse 18, Paul tells us that Abraham did not become weak in faith because he did not consider the impossibilities represented by their physical bodies. When it says he did not become weak in faith it must be understood that he did not lose hope. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, so no hope no faith. How did he see possibility where there was none? He chose not to consider the impossibility.
The word, consider is very important to this equation. It has two basic meanings. First, it carries the connotation of giving weight or value to something. Abraham gave no weight or value to the fact that neither his body nor Sarah’s was capable of producing children. To Abraham that fact was not relevant in light of the promise of God. If we want to see possibility in the midst of impossibility, we are going to have to give more weight to the Word of God than any natural circumstance.
This is difficult in the face of natural opposition. Imagine how Abraham felt when he got up every morning and his body had not changed. It would have been an assault on his hope and faith every day. However, it was his choice to look at the circumstance and choose to believe that God could still do what he said he would do. He hoped against hope by placing more value or weight on the relevance of the promise than on the relevance of the circumstance.
When you are going through a difficult time, but you are standing on a promise of God, you must do what Abraham did. Yes, your checkbook is empty. Yes, the bills are due. Decisions have to be made, but it is still possible for God to meet your need. How can I believe that? I can believe it because I have a promise in Phil. 4:19 that tells me God will meet my needs. The circumstances must be considered, but I choose to consider the promise of greater weight or relevance to the situation. The world may call you crazy, but they will stop once the Lord moves to meet your need!
The second part of the meaning of “consider” is to look at intently or to examine something at length. Abraham did not continue to look at or examine his and Sarah’s bodily limitations. That means he did not spend all his time thinking about how old he was or how Sarah had never had children. He did not spend time considering those things. Nonetheless, there is something we need to understand. It is impossible to consider nothing or to not consider at all.
The human mind is a wonderful thing. One thing it cannot do is shut off completely. When you are faced with a situation that must be resolved, you will think about it. That is just the way it is. If you are not going to consider the problem, what are you going to consider. In the case of any faith operation, there is only one choice. You must consider the promise.
I believe Abraham thought about the promise all the time. We saw yesterday that part of the process is to speak in line with the promise. This is part of considering as well. He called himself “Father of a multitude.” He called his wife, “Wife of the father of a multitude.” He went to bed thinking of the promise. When his body would not function he thought, “I still have a promise and God is good for his Word.” Every month when his wife passed through her cycle and when it stopped altogether, he thanked God he still had a promise.
I believe he considered what life would be like when the promise came to pass. He planned how he would raise the son of the promise. He thought about how he would teach him about the Lord and the covenant. He did all of this with the impossibility of his body constantly vying for his attention.
This is the real battleground of faith. However, once we master it nothing is impossible to us. We will be active believers and every challenge of life will be an opportunity to overcome by faith in the God of the promise.