Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 4:1-12 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: In Romans 4, Paul reminds us that the Book of Genesis states that Abraham believed God and is credited by God as righteous—presumably because of that belief. But let’s back up a minute: An honest reading of Scripture shows that Abraham had moments of incredible faith/belief as well as moments of crippling doubt. In fact, I would argue that without his doubt, Abraham’s faith wouldn’t stand out as extraordinary.
Allow me a quick moment to explore the relationship between doubt, faith, and certainty. Many “church people” speak of faith as if it is certainty. It is not. Faith cannot exist without doubt, just as surely as doubt cannot exist without an element of faith. Neither are certain.
When I explain these terms at my church, I use the following illustration to make the distinction clear. I invite a volunteer up to the platform, hold out a closed hand and say, “I have a five dollar bill in my hand that I want to give to you. Do you have faith or a belief that I’m telling the truth?” It really doesn’t matter if the church member answers with a “yes” or a “no.” The illustration still holds. But let’s say they answer, “Yes, I have faith or a belief that you have a five dollar bill in your hand and that you will give it to me.” At that point I say, “I’m now going to shatter your faith and replace it with certainty.” I open my hand and present them with a five dollar bill. As soon as they see the money with their own eyes, their faith is shattered and it is replaced with certainty.
I then bring another church member up and we go through the same routine. But this time I claim that I have a one hundred dollar bill in my hand. Let’s say that this time they doubt that I have the money. No matter their answer, I open my empty hand and again shatter their doubt with certainty. No one hundred dollar bill. Certainty is the destroyer of both faith and doubt. And in a biblical sense, that’s a good thing. Won’t it be great when our faith or doubt is replaced by certainty at the Second Coming? When we see Jesus face to face, there will be no need for faith and no room for doubt.
Abraham had doubt. And he had faith. The most important aspect of Abraham’s life was that in critical times, he decided to act on his faith instead of his doubt. The doubt was there, but he acted on faith and belief in critical times, believing that God would be faithful to fulfill His promises.
Recalibrate: Have you ever doubted God’s ability to do what He’s promised for you?
Respond: Pray for God to give you courage to act on faith and not on doubt.
Research: I found this New Yorker short story on faith and doubt interesting. I hope you do too!
Remember: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3, NIV).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Pacific Union College Church in Angwin, CA. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mark has served as a youth pastor, Bible teacher, college and academy chaplain, and lead pastor in the United States and Canada for the last 33 years. He has also authored four books: Born Chosen, Live Out Loud, Portals, and Just Jesus.
The Bible says that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Experience Abraham’s story in The Bible App for Kids story, “God’s Amazing Promise.”
The Bible says, in our text for this week, that because Abraham believed God would do what He said He would, God saw Abraham as being right with Him (Romans 4:1-12). Have you ever played on a trampoline before? If you did not believe the springs could hold you, would you jump as high? Abraham believed what God said. The Bible tells us that God loves us, that He sent Jesus for us, and that God wants to do life with us forever (John 3:16). God asks you to believe in Him and, like Abraham, you will be called right in God’s eyes.
Have you ever doubted God? When I was in eighth grade, my mom and I lost our home and ended up homeless. I remember sitting on the couch I was sleeping on at a friend’s house. I was really doubting God. I spoke to some people I trusted and they told me that it was wrong to doubt and that I just needed to believe! Believe it or not, that didn’t help. Today, if you are wrestling with doubt. know this, You are not alone. Many of the great heroes of faith have had seasons of doubt. But take a moment to learn from this story. In writing about the goodness of God, Paul points us back to Abraham. In other words, he encourages us to remember all that God has done. Take a moment to remember where God has brought you, the ways He has shown Himself, and how far He has taken you.