Romans 4:20-21: He [Abraham] staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
I never gave too much heed to these verses, because it is so obvious and basic that God is able to perform what He promised. Then the Spirit pointed out to me how Abraham didn’t stagger at the promise of God and that he gave glory to God that He was able to perform it. Notice the focus isn’t on when God will perform it or even how. The focus was on the fact that God was able. For 25 years Abraham waited for God to fulfill His promise to give him an heir to establish a nation from him. Only when Abraham and Sarah became impatient did he stagger at the promise of God. He and Sarah tried to figure out how God would do it and even jumped ahead of God and messed up by trying to produce an heir outside of God’s plan.
What does it mean to stagger at God’s promises through unbelief? When we stagger at anything, we are not able to walk straightly, securely, or even safely. This verse makes clear that it is not possible to walk by faith if we stagger at God’s promises. When we stagger, we are akin to being drunk without a fixed focus, absent of clear thinking, unsure of each step, afraid to fall, etc. James describes it as a doubleminded man who is unstable in all his ways (chapter 1, verse 8.) How does this comparison relate to this passage in Romans? If we allow ourselves to stagger at the promise of God we will not walk in faith, will become impatient, and unstable in all of our ways.
One sign that we may have fallen into unbelief is that we focus moreso on figuring out when and how God will fulfill His promise than just on Him and trusting Him to move in His time. God is faithful and His timing is perfect-whether we accept His timetable and methods or not. If we are so fixated on when God will move, we will become frustrated and may feel disappointed when another day ends without God having fulfilled His promise. But does this mean that He is not faithful? Of course not. His Word and character don’t change. It is impossible for God to fail. If He did, He would not be perfect. If we take our eyes off Him and put them on our needs, no matter how desperate, we can easily give into our own thoughts, senses and feelings and assume they are correct. Then we allow these things, instead of His Word and Spirit, to dictate our choices. And what results from this sowing to the flesh? Corruption- of our minds, hearts, lives. (Galatians 6:8) Instead of reacting to the whims of our feelings, senses, and thoughts, we must proactively choose as a matter of the will, to continue to walk in faith, remain humble before God, submit to His timing and ways, with our eyes and hearts fixed on Him. If we do these things, even if God doesn’t move today, we can rest confidently that we are one day closer to His promise being realized.
However, if we become impatient and waste time worrying about “the when” we can find ourselves staggering at His promise and fall into unbelief as we worry God will fail us. We think, “If He hasn’t done it by now, maybe He won’t do it at all.” Instead, we must be strong in faith and become fully persuaded that what God promised He is able to perform- at any time, whether today or tomorrow or a year from now. No matter how bad things seem to get, it is never too late for God to move. Remember, when God made the promise to Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son, she was well past child-bearing age. It already seemed too late, indeed impossible, from a natural perspective. God is not limited by time but in control of all things-including time.
What should we do to keep from worrying about “the when”?
- We should go back to the basics and remind ourselves that God is able to do it. We should give Him glory that He is able to meet our need and praise Him for His amazing promises to do so. We don’t need to worry about ”the when,” but just encourage ourselves in the Lord, and hope in Him- that He is faithful and will give that which is good. (Psalm 85:12)
- We must do what we have to in order to become fully persuaded that God is able to do it, for if we are not convinced He is able, we will not believe He will do it. We must continually remind ourselves that God is willing and able to abundantly meet our need, no matter how bad it gets.
- We should continue to seek Him, delight in Him and His presence, meditate on the Word of God, and let His sayings sink down into our hearing (Luke 9:44) until His Word dwells richly in us (Colossians 3:16). And of course, allow the Holy Spirit to guide, instruct, and empower us.
When we do these things, we will become fully persuaded that God is able to do what He promised and wait patiently for Him to do so. (Romans 8:25) Then we will no longer worry about “the when” but walk in faith with patience and hope that after we have done the will of God we will receive the promise. (Hebrews 11:36.) After all, “when?” is not the most important question at all. The most important question will always be: “Who is in charge of ‘the when’?”