Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all… 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.” Romans 4:16, 18
Sometimes our hope as those who are of the God of Abraham is “contrary to hope.” Our hope is against all reason to hope. Our hope is against all odds, despite the circumstances and just doesn’t make any sense. Even when the world around us would tell us that all hope is lost, we have reason and confidence to hope.
Let’s consider Abraham as Paul is doing in this passage from the 4th chapter of his letter to the Romans. Abraham was 75 years old and his wife was 65 years old when the LORD first made a promise to him about being “a great nation” (Genesis 12:2). When he was 99 years old, the LORD promised him that he would be “a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4). Abraham and Sarah had been committed to trying to have children through all of their “most fruitful” childbearing years. They had been walking in a promise for 24 years that had not come to pass. In terms of the natural life cycle, the hope for children was all but gone.
I know many couples who have found themselves in similar circumstances. It has tested their marriages. It has tested their faith. And it did for Abraham and Sarah as well. They tried doing different things to bring it about (Genesis 16). They laughed at the idea (Genesis 17:7, 18:12). They asked the LORD if He was sure that He would do what He promised (Genesis 15:2-3). But Abraham and Sarah were unusual. When the LORD Almighty made them a promise of children even in the dusk of their lives, Abraham believed (Genesis 15:6). He chose hope and not despair.
Paul is encouraging the Romans, many of whom are not from a Jewish background, to take upon themselves the unusual hope of Abraham. A hope that sustains faith by grace even when every circumstance in life would tell us to believe we should be hopeless. That is a hope that brings new life into our circumstances, our families and our world.
Our world has changed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our patterns of life have been altered. But there is reason to hope! We serve a promise-keeping God! And we have models of faith like Abraham and Sarah on page after page of the Scriptures. May we be people who “contrary to hope, in hope believe”!
- List all the reasons NOT to hope in your life today. Be honest.
- Now speak them out loud and declare after each one, “I will hope!”