What God Sees

Romans 4:16-17[1]

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” [2] He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

In the above passage Paul refers to the promises God made to Abraham, and how those promises were also to be grasped by Abraham’s spiritual descendants in the early church.[3] This passage points to God’s ability to work beyond the physical limits of a person or group’s present situation to fulfill promises that he has made to people.

The New American Standard Bible says that God, “…calls into being that which does not exist.” This is a reference to both God’s power to create[4] and his willingness to intervene; it presents his followers with hope when they experience times of struggle and encourages them to exercise their faith in him as their Lord and Saviour.

There is a link here to prophecy, especially when that prophecy can be clearly recognised as a message from God. In Genesis 18 we see that Abraham received visitors who confirmed that he would have a son, a significant step towards his God given destiny to be the father of the nation of Israel. This is the promise that Paul is referring to when he extends the fatherhood of Abraham to the Christian community. There is some debate over whether Abraham’s visitors were angels sent from God or in fact God himself.[5]    Either way it is clear these visitors revealed the promise of God to Abraham and as such “prophesied” over his future.

This prophecy revealed what God saw as possible for Abraham, in fact to God it was more than possible; he saw it as having already happened. Abraham’s wife Sarah however saw it as impossible. The truth is, Sarah was correct, she was too old to have a child in human terms and she was barren, they had been trying to have a child for years and it just hadn’t worked out. It was impossible for Abraham to have a child through her and become the father of nations. However God is not concerned with impossibilities, he does not acknowledge such things, he simply changes them from impossible to not just possible, but done and done completely!

Today, many Christians believe the story of Abraham. They believe God can act and perform miracles, however that doesn’t mean they expect him to perform any in their own lives or communities.

Believing God can act is very different from having faith that he will act. Numerous Christians around the world believe the miracles outlined in the Bible really happened and are wowed by reading the miracles of Jesus when he walked among men. Many people accept that miraculous interventions have taken place in the lives and service of famous historical Christians. A large amount of churchgoers even believe that today great men and women of God see miracles performed by the divine power of the Lord. However it is harder to believe that a personal miracle will actually happen, that a Godly intervention will occur and allow the individual (or their group) to overcome.

Prophecies are encouraging, yet sometimes individuals find the events or actions depicted in prophecy too far from where they are. The destination described in the prophecy may seem so far removed from where the individual is at present that they cannot perceive how it can possibly happen, even in the distant future. How do these people find the faith to accept God’s promises?

It is easier for a person to accept God promises and hold firmly to them when they understand a little of what motivates the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

While God is never going to be fully understood by humankind this side of Heaven, the Bible narrative gives us indications of some of the things that motivate God in his dealings with people.

Firstly God loves people and, in fact, he loves his entire creation. This is perhaps most clearly seen in the famous words of the Apostle John, “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” [6]

Since God loves his people and his creation he wants the best for them. To put it simply, God wants what is “good” for his creation as a whole. With humans though he has a special relationship. Humans are destined to be his covenant partners,[7] and as a result he desires them to experience a relationship-based partnership with him. God was so serious about wanting to restore his loving relationship with the people he had created, that he was willing to allow his only Son to experience death in order to make a way for people to come back to him. Understanding that God passionately longs for good things for his people is vital to being an active participant in the faith based community of God.

The prophet Jeremiah also tells of God’s “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11b) The prophet goes onto describe how God’s plans involve humans being in relationship with him:

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Paul reiterates this desire of the Lord’s by saying: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

The partnership aspect of this can be seen more clearly in an alternate, but equally valid, translation of the first part of Romans 8:28, “…in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good.” [8]

It becomes clear that God has the future in his hands. Having faith in God though requires believing that the future he holds is good and built from a love the Father has for people. This means seeing, that no matter what is happening today, God is leading both the individual and the group towards a better end. The fact that humans are fallible, innately sinful and mistakes will be made does not change God’s good intentions towards people.

Knowing that God loves people and that he desires good for them allows faith to grow and people to begin to have, “… confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

In closing, if this confidence in God is going to positively impact on believer’s lives it needs to be part of their decision making process. That is, for people to have a relationship with God they need to look for the intervention of God to happen and they will need to make changes in response to the Godly intervention when it occurs. In turn if the direction God desires is known than it would be wise to head towards that, in faith, confident that God passionately loves people and he has a plan for each person and a strong desire to give them a hope and a future.

References

Alexander, D. & Alexander, P. (Eds.), (1984). The Lion Handbook to the Bible. Herts, England: Lion Publishing.

Barker, K. (Ed.), (1995). The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Brand,  C., Draper, C., & England, A. (Eds). (2003) Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Reference.

Davis, J.D. (1977), Davis Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Goodrick, E. W., & Kohlenberger, J. R. (2012). The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Grenz, S. J. (2008). Created for Community: Connecting Christian Belief with Christian Living. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Grenz, S. J. (1997). The Moral Quest: Foundations of Christian Ethics. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Grenz, S. J. (2000). Theology for the Community of God. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Thompson, F.C. (Ed.), (1988). The Thomson Chain-Reference Bible: Fifth Improved Edition. Indiana, USA: B. B. Kirkbride Bible Co., Inc.

Zondervan. (2010, November 1). Updated NIV Bible Text. Retrieved from http://www.biblica.com

Footnotes

[1] All scripture references are taken from the New International Version of the Bible, unless otherwise stated.
[2] See Genesis 17:5
[3] These promises Paul refers to are not restricted to the early church. They are relevant to all Christians.
[4] God has finished creating the world, but he still continues to create and be creative, in the case of people God chooses to create with people and through them. God’s creativity therefore is reflected in his people.
[5] Some authors assert that it was in fact God in the form of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) that visited Abraham.
[6] John 3:16
[7]  Stanley Grenz describes this relationship in his books: Created for Community, Theology for the Community of God and The Moral Quest: Foundations of Christian Ethics. (See this articles References for bibliographic details.)
[8] http://www.biblica.com/en-us/bible/online-bible/niv/romans/8/

Leave a Reply