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!”
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.
Those paragraphs are from Romans Chapter 4 and I used them with my staff during devotions yesterday. Before I go further let me give you some context.
A year ago at this time Bethany lost a state contract and we were in the middle of a financial crisis. Things were not in a neat little package that I could handle. I challenged my staff to believe with me -- to have that kind of faith that Abraham had.... and we prayed and we worked hard and God did miracles and we ended an impossible year in the black.
Skip forward to now. We have all kinds of awesome things going on at Bethany. Staff are busier than ever. We have just received a different kind of contract that will allow us to recruit and train families for foster care. We have started a very different approach to expectant parent advocacy (formerly known as pregnancy counseling) that we feel is so much better for the baby and also for expectant parents and adoptive parents. We are placing more kids than ever before from foster care into adoptive homes. We have more work than we can handle but because of several factors, we are once again behind budget.
I realized yesterday, and told my staff, that this place -- this sacred scary place -- is where God wants His people to live. He doesn't want us stuck in that safe spot where everything that we have to deal with can be easily handled by us. Lysa TerKeurst said this when I heard her speak a couple years ago and it stuck with me: "Most of us want to be people of faith without living a life that requires any."
Parenting my kids is very hard -- I really can't do it without Him. Managing our family finances is very tricky when we are helping out so many of our adult kids, so without God's provision we won't be able to make it. And my job at Bethany is so stretching, so challenging, that it requires miracles on God's part to give us the strength, the power, and the financial resources to push back the darkness on so many levels.
The temptation is to flee from this place, or to resent it when we find ourselves here. "I never signed up for this" is a phrase that has gone through my mind many times. There times when I fantasize about letting it all go and finding a life where things are neat, and tidy, and I can handle it all on my own.
But the older I get the more that I realize that very few people of faith are living in that nice, neat, tidy place. God stretches us -- suffering, perseverance, character, hope (Romans 5) -- because He wants us to learn reliance on Him.
Today you might be at a place where you feel like you are at the end of all that you can do. It's too hard, to challenging, too difficult, too uncomfortable and you just want it all to stop. It's at that point that God can jump in and do the cool stuff.
I am confident that now that I, and many of our staff, have reached the end of our own strength, that that is where God is going to start showing us HIS strength.
Two songs come to mind. One you may have heard -- Strong Enough by Matthew West.
The second you probably have never heard. It's by Annie J. Flint and it's called "He Giveth More Grace." Verse two says:
Maybe that's the point
To reach the point of giving up
'Cause when I'm finally
Finally at rock bottom
Well, that's when I start looking up
And reaching out
I know I'm not strong enough to be
Everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up
I'm not strong enough
Hands of mercy won't you cover me
Lord right now I'm asking you to be
Strong enough for the both of us.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,Like Abraham, I am committed that when everything seems hopeless, I'm going to believe anyway. I'm going to DECIDE to live not on the basis of what I see I can't do, but on the basis of what God said He would do.
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
That's the scary sacred place -- that place when God steps in to do the things that would not be called miracles if we could do them without him.