Scripture: Romans 4:What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed (trusted) God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.
Observation: The apostle Paul was trying to explain why Christians were not bound to keep the Jewish laws and customs as some believed (especially Jewish Christians). What caught my attention this morning is v.3 “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”. Abraham lived long before God gave the ten commandments to Moses, so Abraham couldn’t have followed the law as understood in Paul’s day. Yet, as the father of Judaism, Abraham was greatly revered by the Jewish people as a righteous man. Paul was arguing that, as was true for Abraham, Christians are justified by faith and not works.
Application: If you know the story of Abraham (starting in Genesis chapter 12) you know he was not exactly a straight arrow without sin. He lied and deceived on many occasions. Yet he was beloved of God because he dared to trust God when God called him to leave his ancestral home for a “promised” land far away. That gives me hope today.
When I look at myself I mostly see my shortcomings. I’m sure many of you can relate. If constant fidelity to God’s commandments were my measuring stick I would be in big trouble. But here there’s another way to understand righteousness. Like Abraham, we can trust God for what may appear impossible to us.
I’m doing a bit of that now as I pursue the practice of Sabbath on Fridays. I’ll be honest – the idea of giving one day in seven to God (for reading, prayer, worship, reflection, service, and so on) is daunting. In fact, I don’t think I personally know of a single Christian who does this on a consistent basis. Not one. I’m not saying they don’t exist, I’m just saying I don’t know of one. So to embrace this kind of a practice seems almost impossible. But I’ve really felt led by God to pursue this. I know I cannot do it on my own, but with God all things are possible.
What is God challenging you to do that may seem impossible to you? Maybe, like me, you’re being challenged to pursue a particular spiritual practice. Or maybe there’s a person in your life who hurt you and you’re having a hard time forgiving. Or maybe yours is a financial challenge to tithe your income when it looks like financial folly. Whatever the case may be, what would it look like for you to trust God and do it anyway?
Prayer: Lord, like Abraham we are nowhere close to being without sin. We know that we mess up all the time. But also like Abraham, perhaps you can give us grace to trust you, to believe you, for what seems to us to be impossible. O dear God, let it be so. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.