Romans 4:20 “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God"
Dear CBC Family,
The past couple of days I have been dealing with terrible sciatic nerve pain in my leg. It has been so painful that I have been mostly unable to walk. The good news is that it forces you to lie down which has allowed me to catch up on some reading. If you don’t look for the positive you will only be consumed seeing the negative.
One of the things I read was a devotional written by Vaneetha Risner. She has dealt with a lot of suffering so she has quite a bit of experience in learning to see the positive. I found it very helpful and encouraging so I am passing it on to you. As I’m waiting for the Lord to raise me up perhaps you are waiting for something as well. I pray this word of encouragement lifts your spirit.
“It’s hardest to wait when I am uncertain about the outcome. When I’m trusting God for the best, while at the same time preparing for the worst. It would be much easier if I had a guaranteed good outcome. Or at least a promise from God to hold on to. Or some reassurance to anchor my prayers. But God often seems silent when I’m waiting. I have no idea whether he’ll ever answer my prayer, so it feels like I’m waiting in the dark.
I have read and reread Psalm 13:1–2, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” O Lord, how long? I have asked that question many times. If I knew God would eventually answer my prayer with “Yes,” it would be different. But with no such assurance, even a “No” would often be easier than “Wait.”
Several years ago, I searched the Bible to find a promise that would help me in the midst of a torturous wait. I wanted a word that I could “claim” — a verse that would assure me of eventual satisfaction. Something, anything, to cling to. As I was waiting, I read, “No unbelief made [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20–21).
While I admire Abraham’s faith, this passage often frustrated me. Of course Abraham never wavered. He had a direct word from God. If I had a direct promise from God, an assurance of my answer, then I’d be content to wait, too. Abraham could wait because he knew he’d get what he wanted in the end. I wanted God to give me a promise like the one he had given Abraham. So, I kept begging God for a sign. None came. No verse. No confirmation. Just silence on that issue. For years. And in the end, God’s answer was “No.”
At first it felt unfair. And purposeless. I struggled to make sense of those seemingly wasted years. While I had grown closer to God, somehow I felt that I had received a lesser gift. I put it out of my mind after a while. It was senseless to keep dwelling on it. But whenever I read that passage in Romans, it stung. Why didn’t God tell me his answer from the beginning?
Several years later, as I begin reading Romans again in my quiet time, I hesitate at Romans 4. It painfully reminds me of that time of asking and waiting. Feeling disconnected from Abraham, I decide to look at his life in Genesis. I see Abraham’s humanity in how he sometimes doubted God’s protection. He even tried to fulfill God’s promise on his own through Hagar. Perhaps he thought God needed his help and ingenuity.
This part I can identify with. Abraham’s struggle with impatience feels all too familiar. Too many times I’ve tried to help God fulfill his plans — that is, the plans I’d like him to have. Plans that would give me what I want. What I think I deserve.
As I study Genesis, I see that while Abraham was waiting, God was working. Molding his character. Teaching him patience. Building their friendship. It was in that 25-year wait that Abraham got to know God intimately. It was in those seemingly wasted years that God transformed him. And after decades of waiting, Abraham was ready for the supreme test of his faith, when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise. The son he had waited for.
Then I see it. Why had I not noticed this before? Abraham’s faith wasn’t rooted in the promise of descendants. If it was, he never would have taken Isaac to be sacrificed. He wouldn’t have relinquished what God had promised him years earlier. He would have clung tightly to Isaac, feeling entitled to this son. For Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s long-awaited promise to Abraham.
Abraham wasn’t clinging to his own understanding of the fulfillment of God’s promise. God could fulfill his promise any way he chose, including raising Isaac from the dead if he needed to (Hebrews 11:19). So, ultimately Abraham’s faith lay in the trustworthiness of God.
Abraham’s faith wasn’t in the promise alone. His faith was rooted in the Promiser. Because his faith was not in what God would do for him, but in God himself, Abraham was willing to risk. He could do whatever God asked. He wasn’t holding on to a particular outcome. He was holding on to God. Abraham’s waiting strengthened his faith. Taught him God’s ways. Showed him God’s faithfulness. Abraham knew that God would provide everything he needed.
“God knows what I need. I do not. He sees the future. I cannot. His perspective is eternal. Mine is not.”
I have the same assurance that Abraham did — that God will provide everything I need. As I let that promise sink in, I see my waiting differently. Perhaps God is making me, and you, wait for the same reasons that he made Abraham wait. To forge our faith. To make us attentive to his voice. To deepen our relationship. To solidify our trust. To prepare us for ministry. To transform us into his likeness.
In retrospect, I can see that “wait” is the most precious answer God can give us. It makes us cling to him rather than cling to an outcome. God knows what I need. I do not. He sees the future. I cannot. His perspective is eternal. Mine is not. He will give me what is best for me. When it is best for me. As Paul Tripp says, “Waiting is not just about what I get at the end of the wait, but about who I become as I wait.”
My encouragement to you brother and sister is to cherish the waiting because it is in the waiting that our character is forged. It is in the waiting that we are refined. It is in the waiting that our faith is tested and grows. Let us all learn to wait upon the Lord because as we wait it is there we are becoming.
This weekend we will be in Romans 4, with the exact story Vaneetha describes above from Abraham’s life. We will learn by God’s illustration what justification by faith looks like and what it produces. Once again, this will be a very practical study with massive implications for our growth in Christ.
This afternoon I will be at the doctor trying to get some relief from the pain. He may, or may not, be able to help. However, this weekend, I will gather with you before the great physician who is willing, and able, to relieve the pain in our hearts. Don’t forsake this opportunity to learn how to wait in faith.
Blessings to you all,