Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Romans 4:18, NIV)
I’ve sometimes been asked, “Don’t you ever have doubts in your faith in God?”
If I did, I wouldn’t be the first. In Genesis, we find that even Abraham, the great man of faith, had his doubts.
God had promised to make him into a great nation, to bless him, and that through him, God would bless all nations on earth. Abraham was called to trust those promises. So it is that he moved to the land God showed him, and there received a further promise: that this land would be given to his offspring (Genesis 12:1-7).
The trouble was, however, that at least three of these four promises depended on Abraham and his wife Sarah having children. But they had no children, and were antiques! Abraham did take God at his word, but as the years went by and nothing happened, the questions came. "Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” (Genesis 15:2). Then came the major wobbly, when Abraham and Sarah decided to use their servant Hagar to produce a child (Genesis 16). What is that, if not an expression of doubt?
So if we ever struggle with doubts in our faith in God, let the story of Abraham instruct us:
1. Doubt is found in the Bible, not only with the specific word, but as we meet real believers struggling. Job had his agonised questions; King Hezekiah’s faith seems to have dipped near the start of his reign (2 Kings 18:13-16); the Psalmist can’t work out what’s happened to God’s promise (Psalm 89:36-51), and more. This is because the Bible is an honest book, not an escape from reality. It is a book for doubters!
2. Twice in the New Testament (Romans 4 and Hebrews 11), Abraham is commended for his faith. This shows us that such doubts as he had need not disqualify us as believers, and that we are not alone if we experience some doubts as part of the life and walk of faith. Others - even the great ones - have had their ups and downs, too.
3. Abraham’s doubts came because he had to live in a long gap between God’s promise and its fulfilment. These were years which included much trouble (read about it!) before the miracle baby was finally born. In these times Abraham knew a tension between present experience and future promise. As we trust in the gospel of the Lord Jesus, we, too, live in a gap zone, where we await the glorious future God has for us. It would not be surprising if we felt some elements of similar tension.
4. But God’s promises all came true. Abraham had not been wrong to trust God. For God is… GOD! The child was born. The great nation came. Blessing came to the world through our Lord Jesus Christ.
5. The very delay which caused Abraham to doubt - between the promises and their fulfilment - was used by God to establish His existence, character and faithfulness: for Who else could make a set of promises way before they are fulfilled, but God Himself?
6. We have so much more to go on than Abraham did. We live at a time in history when we have the privilege of not just living by faith in promises about the future, but being able to look back and see what God has done already. We have the astonishing life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus to reflect on. If you haven’t yet done a Bible overview course, such as this one, be greatly strengthened in your faith as you do! Moreover, if we have been Christians for any length of time, we can look back and see many ways in which God has shown His faithfulness to us.
So have I ever had doubts? Yes, I have had times of going through the fog (particularly as a younger Christian). They can be part of the life of faith. But, with a hindsight not available to Abraham, the biggest faith-builder for me has been to go on seeing - every year with more clarity - the astonishing way God’s purposes are fulfilled in Scripture, all pointing to the amazing person of our Lord Jesus Christ.