March 5th, 2023 Romans 4:1-8, 13-17 Abraham Believed God

 What more powerful statement of faith can there be than those three simple words? Abraham believed God. It is important to realized that this doesn't say that Abraham believed in God. It says, "Abraham believed God," and because of his belief, Abraham was credited with righteousness. It wasn't just that Abraham believed "in God" as in the belief that "God exists," Abraham believed what God had to say the way one friend believes another.

One summer in the village of Crete, the drought of the past winter threatened the crops. The priest in the local church told his congregation: "The only thing that will save us is for us to offer a special litany of rain. Therefore, I ask that you go back to your homes, fast during the week, and believe that the rains will come. Then return next Sunday for the litany of rain." The villagers listened to him and fasted during the week as he had told them. On Sunday morning, they returned to the church. But as soon as the priest saw the people filing into the church, he was furious. "Go away," he shouted to them. "I will not do the litany. You do not believe."

"But, Father," they protested, "we fasted just like you told us and we came back today believing as you asked us. Why are you being so harsh to us?" "Believe, you say?" the priest questioned. "And where are your umbrellas?"

And where are your umbrellas? My guess is that if the local weather forecasters predict rain, you will be prepared with your umbrellas. But if God tells you to that his son will return to earth as the sovereign judge of all, you would probably question its relevance to your life. You would think to yourself, "I believe it, but it hasn't happened in 2,000 years. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime."

If God told Abraham it was going to rain in the middle of the desert, Abraham would run for cover. When God told old man Abraham that he was going to become a father, even in his old age, Abraham

began to build a cradle and get a nursery put together.

When God told Abraham that he would be the "father of many nations" and his offspring would be too

numerous to count, Abraham began to divvy up his land mentally.

When God told Abraham to pick up everything and move to a new home, Abraham wasted no time in

packing his belongings and following God's command. Abraham believed God.

Abraham responded to God because Abraham believed God. Even when God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, upon an altar in the mountains, Abraham believed that it was the right thing to do. And he believed he had to do it because God told him to do it. Only when an angel of God stopped him and gave him a way out did Abraham change his course of action.  That, too, was because Abraham believed God.

And what did Abraham's belief get him? Initially, it brought ridicule. Even his wife Sarah laughed at him. The very thought of a ninety-year-old woman and a man on the brink of the century mark having their first child together was just too much. But God showed them both it was not a laughing matter.

Abraham's belief brought him challenge and turmoil.

He didn't always want to hear that God demanded righteousness from his people. But he was more than ready to believe that through the covenant God made with Abraham, people could be credited with righteousness through their faith.

What did Abraham's belief get him? Ultimately it got him salvation.

Look at what others believed. Noah believed God when he said there was going to be a great flood. He didn't just get down on his knees and pray for deliverance, he built an ark.

Moses believed God wanted his people, the Israelites, to be free from Egyptian captivity. He didn't hide in the wilderness and wait to join the great exodus, he went back to the pharaoh, risking his life, and demanded, "Let my people go."

A young child named David believed God when he told him he could defeat the giant Philistine named Goliath. Armed only with a slingshot, he headed into battle and won.

John the Baptist believed God when he told him that the Messiah was in the world. He preached repentance of sins to a wicked world and thousands turned to God.

Jesus believed God when he stood in front of Pontius Pilate and said nothing in his own defense.

Jesus believed God as he carried his own cross along the path to Calvary.

The disciples of Jesus believed God when their resurrected leader told them to go into all nations, baptizing and making disciples of all peoples.   They all believed God.

It wasn't always easy to follow through on their belief, but they all believed. Noah had to watch the destruction of humankind.

Moses had to take the harsh judgment of his people as he led them for forty years. Then he had to stay behind as they crossed over into the Promised Land.

David became a great king of God's people, but the road to greatness was paved with treacherous curves. John the Baptist before Jesus, and the disciples after Jesus, all sacrificed their lives for believing God. Jesus, himself, believed God even as he hung up on the cross and gave up his life.

Many great people believed God. They went beyond "believing in" God, to "believing" God.

Believing, however, didn't always mean that they blindly ran into something. Sometimes they hesitated. Sometimes, it took a little convincing on God's part. The prophet, Jonah, for example, didn't want to believe God. He didn't like the outcome that God had planned. But in the end, with the help of a great fish, Jonah's belief won out and God's plan was carried through.

Are we so different? We believe God. We believe that Jesus came into the world to die for our sins. We believe in the promise of Jesus, and we put our faith in that promise. And yet we still hold back when it comes to putting that faith to the test in our day-to-day living. We don't always want to do what we know God is telling us to do. When we look at a lifetime, we can accept the concept of God's grace by putting our faith in Jesus for eternal life. But when it comes to putting that same confidence in Jesus to see us through the rigors of the next day, we become anxious and we hesitate to trust him completely. What we need to learn is that eternity starts today.

The age-old debate always involves whether one believes in God or not. Is there a God, or isn't there a God? And for many people it is enough that they believe in God. Believing "in God" becomes the basis for their concept of salvation. With this type of thinking which is prevalent in our world, it doesn't really matter what you believe about God, as long as you believe in some kind of god. But Abraham believed God, and through his belief he was given righteousness. The kind of righteousness God demands of his creation.

Because Abraham believed God, he was credited with righteousness. It was his belief, and the faith he demonstrated in that belief, that made him righteous before God. Not his works, not his attempts at impressing God, but only by following through on believing what God told him.

Abraham and all the others were credited with righteousness as a gift. They believed God when he said, "My grace is sufficient."  And that grace is guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring.  God is offering us a gift. He truly offers it with no strings attached. It sounds way too good to be true. Believe it. Abraham did. Because God said it.