Hoping Against Hope

Romans 4:16-25

16 So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. 17 That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.

18 Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” 19 And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.

20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. 23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Introduction

Everything in this passage is vital to our message but we will use verse 18 as a spring board to plunge into the message.

Verse 18…NASB

In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”

Verse 18…NRSV

In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 

How can HOPE be against HOPE? The answer is quite simple: we are talking about two different kinds of hope. Abraham had no HOPE in the flesh but he never gave up HOPE in God’s word {promise}. This means that in the midst of a hopeless situation…Abraham continued to hope. There is a difference in FAITH and HOPE.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith is presently active, hope relates to the future. I entered this pulpit by faith: at this very moment, I am acting on faith and my hope is that someone will be blessed. Obviously, if we don’t have faith, we will not have hope.

This is an unorthodoxed sermon: I do not have three points. My aim is to help us understand what verse 18 means.

Begin by looking at two other verses…

Verse 17…

That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.

Verse 25…

He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Abraham believed in a God who could make something out of nothing and bring the dead back to life.

Clearly Paul is alluding to the RESURRECTION and my question was, is this not a different subject? Why did Paul work the RESURRECTION into this conversation? So I asked the LORD to help me understand this. I believe He answered my prayer.

Paul is making a comparison between two hopeless situations:

FIRST ABRAHAM’S SITUATION

The LORD gave Abraham his name {Genesis 17:5} “Father of many nations.” [Abram, father of many] The LORD also lead him to a strange land, Canaan, located in the crescent of the middle east. Abraham was situated on the trade routes from north to south and east to west. He ran a trading post or a camel stop. He saw new faces practically everyday.

Using our imagination: let’s think about what could have happened.

Trader: “Now your name is Abraham; what exactly does that mean?

Abraham: “Abram means father of many and then God changed it to Abraham which means father of many nations.”

Trader: “Very interesting, how many sons do you have?”

Abraham: “I don’t have any.”

Trader: “You name is father of many and you don’t have any. How in the world are you going to become the father of many nations when you don’t even have a son?”

Abraham:I don’t know how God is going to do it but I believe He will.

Trader: “You are getting on up in years aren’t you?

Abraham: “Yes I am close to a hundred and my wife is ninety.”

Trader: “And yet you believe this invisible God of yours is going to give you many sons?”

Abraham: “Yes I do. My descendants will be so many that they cannot be counted, like the stars in the heavens.”

Trader: Man you are crazy. What are you basing this incredible faith on?

Abraham: “God word…God made me a promise and I believe He will keep it.”

Trader: “Look around you: you have no sons. How can you believe in such a promise?”

Abraham: You are looking at my situation but that is not my focus. My focus is on the One who can make something out of nothing: He can even raise the dead. When God says it is so, I believe it is so, even though in the present, it is not so, I believe it will be so because God said so.”

So Abraham hoped against hope. He hoped against reason and logic. He continued to hope although the world around had no such hope. His hope was not in the flesh; not in worldly wisdom, not in circumstances–His hope was in God.

FACE FORWARD 2000 YEARS

THE DISCIPLES SITUATION

Now I want you to imagine being one of the disciples at the crucifixion. You talk about hopelessness, which of these followers had hope? None! Even Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to see a dead body. The disciples on the road to Emmaus are typical. They were hopeless. The crucifixion was horrible. At the moment, no one could see any good in it or any possibility that good could come from it. It was a dark and dismal day: a crushing blow to the faith of the disciples.

Yet, God transformed the most horrible day in human history into the most glorious day in history. Only God could do such a thing.

OUR SITUATION

June had a conversation with a clerk at one of our groceries stores last Thursday. She was distressed about the Governor’s edict and the mandatory mask. She said, “I am tired of the whole mess and I am ready for the LORD to take me home.” I think she summed up the sentiments of a lot of Christians. We do live in trying times. I understand that we are not suffering like those in China and North Korea but we are spoiled and the current crisis has frustrated our plans. Now it may get worse before it gets better but the good news is: this is not the final chapter. Jesus is coming back again as the LION of Judah and every knee will bow and every tongue confess. They will not be any mass protest, no brick throwing: every human will tremble in awe and respect for Jesus. There will be no skirmish, no resistance: once the LION of Judah roars, the world will become mute. The tongues of men will be silenced.

Remember the words of our LORD…Let not your hearts be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me.

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