We can all agree there will times in our lives that we throw up our hands and shout, “I can’t, I just can’t”. Life’s challenges overwhelm us to the point of asking God and whoever else is in earshot, “What is going on?” With our heightened emotions, the questions we tend to fall back on are; “What did I do to deserve this?” “Why me?” “What do I need to do next to get out of this?” The next thing we humans do in an effort to sort it all out is to blame others as well as our circumstances. “If only Joe would have listened to me in the first place.” “If we had more money, better jobs, etc. this would not be an issue.” Above all this, we ask, “Where is God?”
Maybe a better question is who do we really trust? God has been there all along.
Paul takes us higher in our thinking about life challenges and life itself. He teaches us more about our growing relationship with God than how to handle our circumstances. Because he is talking to Jews who are embedded in tradition, he wisely begins with the story Abraham they all know well but then almost shouts, “plot twist!” Paul then relates, “But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story.” No matter what we face in this life, trust in God is a gift from God to set us right with Him. Embrace God. Embrace what HE is doing. There is nothing we do to get God’s attention, love, or salvation for life. We only trust. God sets things right through Jesus Christ His Son.
Consider Paul’s point. If we solved all of life’s issues by ourselves, we would be boastful and arrogant and think we wouldn’t need God at all. (And we would create an even bigger mess because of our lack of knowing. Been there, done that!) Doing life our way is not a great relationship to have with the God of Creation, Our Father in heaven, the one who knows all and is in all, the One and Only who knows us by name and knows what is in our hearts as well as what is in the hearts of others. It is most certainly not the relationship God desires with us. He knows we cannot solve problems on our own, battle evil’s constant arrows, while walking the tightrope between good and evil. We need Him. And He is there. Waiting.
God knew from the beginning of creation that we couldn’t save ourselves. He knew we needed a Savior to redeem us from our sins. He sent Jesus, His Son. God knew we would need a Guide so He gave us His Holy Spirit as a gift to live in us to help us. And there’s more…
ROMANS—OUR CARE AND CALLING
1-3 So how do we fit what we know of Abraham, our first father in the faith, into this new way of looking at things? If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.”
4-5 If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift.
6-9 David confirms this way of looking at it, saying that the one who trusts God to do the putting-everything-right without insisting on having a say in it is one fortunate man:
Fortunate those whose crimes are whisked away,
whose sins are wiped clean from the slate.
Fortunate the person against
whom the Lord does not keep score.
Do you think for a minute that this blessing is only pronounced over those of us who keep our religious ways and are circumcised? Or do you think it possible that the blessing could be given to those who never even heard of our ways, who were never brought up in the disciplines of God? We all agree, don’t we, that it was by embracing what God did for him that Abraham was declared fit before God?
10-11 Now think: Was that declaration made before or after he was marked by the covenant rite of circumcision? That’s right, before he was marked. That means that he underwent circumcision as evidence and confirmation of what God had done long before to bring him into this acceptable standing with himself, an act of God he had embraced with his whole life.
12 And it means further that Abraham is father of all people who embrace what God does for them while they are still on the “outs” with God, as yet unidentified as God’s, in an “uncircumcised” condition. It is precisely these people in this condition who are called “set right by God and with God”! Abraham is also, of course, father of those who have undergone the religious rite of circumcision not just because of the ritual but because they were willing to live in the risky faith-embrace of God’s action for them, the way Abraham lived long before he was marked by circumcision.
13-15 That famous promise God gave Abraham—that he and his children would possess the earth—was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was based on God’s decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed. If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God’s promise at that—you can’t break it.
16 This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backward. He is our faith father.
17-18 We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”
19-25 Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.
THINK ABOUT IT…
Are we willing to live in pure trust in God, with a “risky faith-embrace” of God’s actions in us? Am I?
Do we really believe what we know about God really real? This is the foundation of our trust. So, we need to take time to ask and evaluate the strength of our faith-embrace in the God who knows us, acts on our behalf because He wants His best for us.
Do we believe in God? Do we believe God?
Is our relationship only a business deal with God? “God, if you do this for me, I’ll do this for you?”
“The fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does.” Pure Trust in God. Nothing more. Nothing less.
When everything seems hopeless, who do we turn to? “When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do.”
The Plot twist in our lives happens when we believe, “anyway”, and decide trust God to do what only He can do. That’s when God intervenes. Our trust is His “go button” it seems to do what only He can do. Trust God. Embrace and believe God.
“The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.”
Thank you for Paul’s message of hope, trust, faith, strength all because of YOU setting things right. Your story is all about You making us fit and setting us right through you, dear Jesus. Thank you for wanting an intimate, growing, holy relationship with me. Abiding in you as you abide in me only serves to strength my trust, hope and faith in You. Thank you for your love, your unconditional love, that was the foundation of the plan to save me, to save all who believe, who really believe.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen. I believe.