Calvary Road Baptist Church

“STRONGER FAITH”

Romans 4.19-21 

There’s probably not a single person in the auditorium this evening who hasn’t observed the number of religious television programs that air each week. Each week? Each day! Almost every one of these programs has as its theme, either on the surface or underneath the surface a bit, increasing your faith so that you can have a higher standard of living or so that your life will become an island of tranquility amidst the storm-tossed seas of life. I will admit that I am in favor of everyone having a higher standard of living, as long as it comes from working for it instead of some politician voting to take money from me and giving it to someone who is not a productive part of society. The Bible says that a man who doesn’t work shouldn’t eat.[1] I am also in favor of personal tranquility, although I do not quite understand how a believer who is wearing the whole armor of God and who is in the middle of a spiritual fire fight can completely escape stress of every kind. Peace of mind and heart? Yes. Zero stress? No. To achieve a higher standard of living and personal tranquility, the more popular television “ministries” almost invariably indicate that the real secret to spiritual success is stronger faith. They may couch their message in a variety of different terms, but the underlying thrust is typically stronger faith.

And you know, believers do need stronger faith. There is no denying that. So let’s turn to God’s Word to examine the single place in the Bible where the phrases “strong in faith” and “weak in faith” are to be found, to see what we can learn about faith and how our faith in God can be strengthened. Stand with your Bible turned to the 4th chapter of Romans, as we read my text for today, Romans 4.19-21: 

19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb:

20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 

Keep in mind that this letter Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome is a missionary letter in which a man known to them only by reputation is setting forth his positions on a variety of issues. The letter, given by inspiration of God, was written to them to secure for Paul their prayer support and their financial support of his ministry as he purposed to use Rome as a jumping off point to take the Gospel West to Spain.

In his letter, Paul sets forth not only his doctrinal positions on such great and meaty issues as sin, salvation, and sanctification, but he also bestows upon the careful reader clues that will help evangelize the lost as well as advance our own Christian lives. My assertion, Christian, is that your faith can be strengthened. And it is in Paul’s discussion of how the patriarch Abraham’s faith was strengthened that we can see how this occurs. I want you to pay attention, as we proceed, to the contrast between the sight walk and the faith walk. 

First, LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THE SIGHT WALK 

What is what I call the sight walk? It is the lifestyle that is lived by the person who evaluates reality regarding what he sees, hears, smells, feels and tastes. This is the person whose spiritual decisions are based on the physical circumstances that surround him, or her, or upon conclusions reached apart from the influences of God’s Word. Allow me to make some general statements and then show how Abraham’s life compares to those generalities:

First, let me describe for you what it’s like to be weak in faith. Tragically, there are some of you here today who could give lectures on this aspect of the Christian life because you are experts on the subject of being weak in faith. Are you one of those people? How can you evaluate yourself to see if you are weak in faith? There are only two things you need to evaluate yourself to see if you are weak in faith; two criteria: First, honestly reflect upon your concern for circumstances. How concerned are you about circumstances? For instance, do you give tithes and offerings and then look at the bills that need to be paid, or do you pay your bills first and then see if anything is left for giving to the Lord? The latter would be an undue concern for circumstances. We are now well into summer, so I can talk about something that you may be sensitive about. What about vacation? Can you afford to go on vacation? You can’t afford to go on vacation if you can’t afford to give to the cause of Christ as well as vacate and recreate. Amen? Perhaps you can afford to go on vacation. How can you tell? Do you faithfully put God first about making spiritual decisions? The result will be that God blesses you with enough to put God first and go on vacation, as well. Second, you need to evaluate your confidence in God’s commitment. God said that He would do certain things. Do you believe Him? Do you believe Him enough to act on what He has committed Himself to? Will God be with you when you seek to obey Him, as He has promised? Friend, evaluate your level of concerns about circumstances. Determine if they play too much a part in your spiritual decision making. Then, evaluate your confidence in God’s commitment to keeping His promises. Do you believe God? Do you believe God enough to act on what God says? A person is weak in faith which comes up short in these two areas.

But notice, in our text, the example of Abraham: 

“And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither the deadness of Sarah’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief.” 

Abraham was not weak in faith. He is an example of contrast to the one who is weak in faith. Whereas someone who is weak in faith is overly concerned about physical circumstances and has little confidence in God’s commitment to keeping His promises, what do we see in Abraham? First, we see a man who was not particularly concerned about physical circumstances. He paid little attention to the condition of his own body or the condition of his wife’s body as it related to making a spiritual decision. Was his body old? Yes. Was Sarah’s body old? Very. However, these circumstances were not worthy of consideration beside his confidence in God’s omnipotent power. Second, “he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief.” This does not mean that Abraham did not ever waver. The Biblical record shows that he did waver on occasion. But Abraham’s wavering was not the result of refusing to believe God. His wavering was the result of the same kind of human inconsistencies that you and I struggle with every day. What Paul is telling us is that Abraham did not become indecisive as the result of deciding not to believe that God was good for His promise. He believed God would keep His promise. What does Romans 4.19-20a show us? It shows us that Abraham was not weak in faith. When evaluating evidence for making a spiritual decision, he gave no credence to physical circumstances, and he had no doubts born of unbelief that God would keep His promise. 

THAT WAS A CONSIDERATION OF THE SIGHT WALK. WE SAW THAT ABRAHAM’S WAS NOT A WALK OF SIGHT. NOW LET’S SEE IF HIS WAS A WALK OF FAITH. 

“But was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded, that what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” 

What does it take to be strengthened in faith? I say “strengthened” because the phrase “was strong” actually describes the whole process of strengthening Abraham’s faith. So, what would you expect the requirements are to have your faith strengthened? Though it’s not a foolproof answer to such a question, the first place to look for the answer to getting stronger faith is whatever is the opposite, or whatever seems to be the opposite, of weak faith. Does the person with weak faith make too much of physical circumstances? Is there too much concern about what you see and not enough concern about what God says in His Word? Then you’d expect that to have your faith strengthened you’d move in the other direction. Focus on what God says. Attend to what Scripture teaches. If there is a seeming conflict between man’s logic and Biblical truth, side with the Bible. That’s always the safe move. And what about God’s commitment to keeping His promises? The believer with weak faith doubts and questions God’s promise keeping. The believer with weak faith frequently doesn’t even know what the promises of God are. The person whose faith is being strengthened would be expected to be the person who knows something about the character of God and the content of God’s promises. Second Peter 1.4 is a wonderful place to begin one’s dependence upon God’s promises: 

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 

Remember what Paul wrote to Timothy in Second Timothy 1.12? 

“For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” 

That is the sentiment of a Christian who is strong in faith.

I’ve suggested that the person who is being strengthened in his faith behaves in a manner opposite the one who is weak in faith. The question is, does Abraham’s behavior show this to be true? Abraham, whose faith was being strengthened by God, lived with circumstances, just like you and I do. But how did he respond to those circumstances when making spiritual decisions? How did he react to pressures and surprises? He gave glory to God. How do you give glory to God? Do you give glory to God by allowing a sin committed against you in the past to destroy your present effectiveness for Christ? Do you give glory to God by passing up every opportunity afforded you to speak to someone about Christ? Do you give glory to God by living a totally independent lifestyle that effectively isolates you from other Christians and real commitment and involvement in Church ministries? It’s important for believers to give glory to God. Remember, one of God’s indictments against unbelievers in Romans 1.21 was their failure, or their refusal, to glorify Him as God and to be thankful. I would suggest that part of giving glory to God is a life of appreciative service and thankful ministry in the cause of Christ. Abraham gave the glory to God, even though his body was aged and his wife’s body was, too. He considered the unseen circumstances, which can only be appreciated by faith, as carrying more weight than those physical circumstances which he could see with his eyes. And his faith was strengthened by God. Then, he was “fully persuaded, that what he (God) had promised, he (God) was able also to perform.” Three things related to the commitment of God to keep His promises: First, Abraham knew that the promise of a seed had been made to him. Abraham trusted in the character of God long before the Apostle Paul wrote to Titus about this aspect of God’s character, in Titus 1.2: 

“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” 

Second, Abraham knew enough about the character of God to know that what God had promised He would do He could do. God’s promise did not extend beyond His abilities because God’s abilities are limitless. Abraham lived what Paul later lived, and wrote about in Second Timothy 1.12: 

“For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” 

And third, these two things combined to convince Abraham that his faith was well founded. And his faith was strengthened by God. 

Let’s assume for a moment that you are unsaved. But let’s also assume that you are an unsaved person and you sincerely believe that you are a Christian. You’re just mistaken in your belief that you are a Christian. You may be honestly mistaken, but you are still mistaken. You may even be sincerely mistaken, but you are still mistaken. How will the truths addressed in this message help you to become a genuine Christian? Here’s how: First, consider the spiritual decisions of your life. Next, think about the confidence that you have in God’s promises.

Is it absolutely beyond your ability or desire to choose faith over sight? Do you know perfectly well what God commands, what God demands, and what God expects of His children, but you still refuse to comply? Are you someone who claims to be a Christian while experiencing no joy at the prospect of obeying God, but you are instead filled with dread and fear at the thought of God directing your path? Perhaps you typically and habitually refuse to take God at His promise or to trust in Scriptural truths over against physical circumstances or personal preferences when they seem to oppose each other. Remember, Abraham’s faith could only be strengthened because he already had faith, though to be honest, it was weak faith. He believed God. And beyond that, he allowed himself to be convinced by the faithfulness of God to His Word that God could be relied upon. So, he sought to glorify God in his life, and God strengthened his faith. But faith that does not exist obviously cannot be strengthened.

My friend, does it turn out that you are trying to live a life that you do not possess, to exercise faith that you have never really been given? Stop. Stop trying to strengthen a weak faith when you don’t have a weak faith. You don’t have faith at all. Set yourself on genuinely coming to Christ. God will give you the faith to come to His Son as you strive to enter in at the strait gate.[2] Then, should you be someday converted, you can learn how to have your faith strengthened by God.

Turning now to my Christian friends, what decisions are you making? Every time you make one of those decisions that run contrary to the Bible’s direction, contrary to God’s promise to take care of you, your faith is weakened by lack of proper use. I urge you to begin to decide for God. Obey God’s Word. Seek to glorify God after the example of Abraham. See what God will do to fulfill His promises when you trust in His Word. What He will do is strengthen your faith.

Let me invite you who have no genuine faith, as well as those of you who are weak in faith and want your faith strengthened by God, to call and arrange a meeting with me. Choose a time convenient to you when I can open God’s Word to address the really important issues of your life and service to God.

Remember, the just shall live by faith, so having faith and getting your weak faith strengthened is a profoundly important for matter for you to attend to, for anyone to attend to.[3]

__________

[1] Second Thessalonians 3.10

[2] Luke 13.23-24

[3] Habakkuk 2.4; Romans 1.17; Galatians 3.11; Hebrews 10.38

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org