THE PICTURE ON THE BOX
“Against 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 through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He had promised. That is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:18-22.
Faith, hope, love – three words that are often linked together in the Bible. Paul has already defined faith – “calling into being things that are not.” Love is not clearly defined in Scripture, but could be something like this – “meeting the needs of others at our own expense.” But hope?
According to Paul, faith and hope are closely linked together. It is because of our hope that we believe what God has promised. Biblical “hope” is very different from worldly hope which expresses both desire and uncertainty; desire because it is what we want to happen, but uncertainty because we have no solid ground for hoping that it will happen.
Biblical hope, on the other hand is based on what God has promised – sort of like the picture on the box. If you enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles, you’ll understand what I mean. You buy the puzzle because you like the picture. Then you find a suitable place to build it, spread out the pieces and begin to put them together. From time to time you study the picture to make sure that you are following it correctly because you want the end result will look exactly like the picture on the box.
That is the idea of hope. God has made a promise; you keep that promise in mind as you begin to pray, trust God and thank Him for the fulfilment of His Word. Hope is the picture in your imagination of what God has said He will do. Then you watch as God begins to put the pieces together to build the “puzzle”. At first it doesn’t look anything like the completed picture, but faith keeps seeing the picture and trusting God for the outcome.
Hope does not focus on the impossibility of present circumstances. Abraham was fully aware of his and Sarah’s age and the unassailable reality that it was impossible, humanly speaking, for them to have a child. Fact is fact! Sarah was long past menopause, No amount of wishing or willing could change that! Even though people lived much longer in their day, both Abraham and Sarah were past the age of childbearing. That was it!
Abraham could have given up hope on that fact alone. Instead, he set his mind on what God had said rather than what was. That is hope.
From a hymn of Charles Wesley (1707-1789) came these words:
“Faith, mighty faith the promise sees,
And looks to that alone;
Laughs at impossibilities,
And cries, “It shall be done.”
Hope sees, not circumstances but the ability and reliability of the one who has promised. If a human being had made the same promise to Abraham as God had made, he would have laughed at him. Of course, that person had no power to follow through on his promise. But God? The crux of the matter?
“…being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He had promised.”
Why was Abraham “fully persuaded”? Because his faith had grown through believing and obeying God in the process of time. How does faith grow? By following the Lord one step at a time and watching Him work in response to our obedience. Faith grows when it is anchored to our hope as we keep the picture of the puzzle firmly in our imagination.
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