He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.
I didn’t plan to write this post today. But then came a 1:30 AM wake up with another parenting struggle that nearly made my faith stagger and did keep me from falling back to sleep.
Then came new mercies: a text from a kind niece who mentioned my “strong faith” and these words from Romans 4—which just happened to be on the reading plan this day I woke up plumb-tuckered out.
And here we are.
How To Grow Strong
Now here is that text I read this morning. The last verse talks about how Abraham grew strong in his faith, giving glory to God. He trusted God would do what he promised. Another word for that is faithfulness.
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver (stagger) 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 4:18-21, ESV
It’s like the chicken and the egg. We grow strong in our faith as we give glory to God. We give glory to God by trusting him, by having faith.
So how do we grow strong in faith? In four words: Have faith in God. The missionary Hudson Taylor explained those four words in these seven: Hold on to the faithfulness of God.
Because it is in the midst of these trials that faith has stood out most gloriously. It is just when everything is going against them that would make them despair at the natural level that they most glorify God, because they still go on believing. They’re unshaken. They don’t stagger because of unbelief.Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones, “Faith Glorifying God“
In fact, the more severe the test, the more they give glory to God.
Then I heard how the strong men and women of faith are the very same people who endure so many trials and troubles and that no one more glorifies God than a person of faith (see Hebrews 11:6).
In all these things, you will grow strong. In them, I’ve shared before, not despite them. Because of our trials our strength grows.
Even if our trials are too tender and near for friends to know, God knows. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Hold On to the Faithfulness of God
Faith does not look at itself. It looks at God. People who grow strong in faith, to borrow Paul’s words, are “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” (Acts 4:21b) People with strong faith learn to glance at their troubles and the gaze at their God.
That’s exactly what Abraham did. God had promised that he and Sarah would have a son. Twenty-five years passed and in Romans 4:19 we read, 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.
Oh, sure. Abraham knew all about his age and Sarah’s wrinkly, dry body. He knew babies aren’t made in people at that age. But He did not stagger because of unbelief. Abraham was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”
He knew that God had spoken. God had made a promise and because of that, as Lloyd-Jones puts it, Abraham said to himself, “Nothing else needs to be considered at all.” And so he gave glory to God. It’s like they put all their seemingly irredeemable weakness and trouble on one side of the balance and God’s faithfulness on the other. And the side with God’s faithfulness drops weighty, like lead.
So Abraham hoped against hope and glorified God and Isaac was born.
Trust Issues: How Faith Gives Glory To God
Faith in God’s promises, John Piper explains, glorifies him as supremely wise and strong and good and trustworthy. Conversely, Lloyd-Jones notes, There is nothing more insulting to God than not believing him.
Martin Luther would have agreed, for faith he wrote, honors him whom it trusts with the most reverent and highest regard, since it considers him truthful and trustworthy.All that to say, most of us say we’re here on earth and the “chief end of man” is to give glory to God. When we believe God’s promises we do exactly that.
I’ve told you before that I have trust issues. Maybe it’s a firstborn thing, but I really like people to trust me. If it hurts my puny fail-and-drop-the-ball-self how much more it must grieve the faithful God’s heart when His people don’t trust Him.
In “The Theology of Rest” Oswald Chambers imagines how that felt.
“O ye of little faith!” What a pang must have shot through the disciples — “Missed it again!” And what a pang will go through us when we suddenly realize that we might have produced downright joy in the heart of Jesus by remaining absolutely confident in Him, no matter what was ahead.
At rock bottom, our anxiety and fear are staggering in faith. They reveal that we distrust God.
Which means we don’t know him as well as he wants us to know him.
2 Ways To Strengthen Your Faith
It’s not surprising then, that Lloyd-Jones identifies these as the main factors that determine the strength of our faith:
- Our knowledge of God.
- Our application of that knowledge.
So we’ve got to know God and his unflinchingly faithful character. Then we’ve got to apply that knowledge.
3 Go-To Promises
I am learning both: to know God better and to apply my knowlege of him. And from 1:30-2:30 AM last night, I felt like a failure at both. But I desperately want to help you press on, and grow strong, in your faith.
So after some anxious thoughts and tossing and turning and feeble prayer, here’s what finally came at about 2:30 last night:
- For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:7) These parenting troubles are not futile or wasted. They are productive. They are producing glory.
- For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is steadfast toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9) Even at 1:30 AM, God is looking to help me.
- The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 147:11) I make God happy when I hope in his love. (I wrote about this before.)
I took God to the bank on these. They weren’t complete in my head with chapter and verse at 2 AM. But the essence was there: I trusted that the trial was productive, that God was looking to help me and that as I hoped in his love— for me and my son—God would be glad.
He brought them to mind and I spoke them and I fell back to sleep.
I staggered not, and slept.
What are your go-to, hope-against-hope promises?
A go-to promise is not, for the record, a talisman or lucky charm. It’s a way of getting hold on the faithfulness of God, of taking him at his word.
I just told you a few of mine. What are yours? What promise of God do you trust when you hope against hope?
Would you leave that promise in the comments? It might be a great distrust antidote for another JoyPrO reader.
Then maybe you’d like to insert your name in the blank below and say this one aloud:
__________________ staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.
That’s you, friend. As you give glory to God, you grow strong in faith and stagger not.