[Abraham] grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
Romans 4:20b-21 ESV
Dear ICB family,
Romans 4:21 gets at the heart of what faith truly is. Faith is being convinced that God can and will do what he has promised. To say it negatively, it's not some vague hope or confidence that what you really want to happen will happen. Biblical faith always has a foundation underneath it, and that foundation is a promise from God. If a person's hope doesn't have such a foundation, that hope is merely wishful thinking.
For example, it doesn't matter how hopeful or confident a person is that he will win the lottery. Clearly that's not faith because that person has no promise from God underlying his hope. For this reason it is so important that we know the promises of God. What has he actually promised us? What has he not promised us? What has God made explicitly clear to us? And related to those questions, When has God promised us to give us the things he's promised us?
Biblical faith always has a foundation underneath it, and that foundation is a promise from God.
I've heard it said that the problem with the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel essentially boils down to an issue of time. Take health for example. Revelation 21:4 makes this staggering promise: "[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." No more pain for all eternity. All sickness healed. All diseases eradicated. It is a promise you can bet your life on. Now, when will that happen? Verse 1 makes that clear: when God makes a new heaven and earth and a new Jerusalem. In other words, we get complete health in the end but not necessarily in this life.
What about wealth and prosperity? If we are to believe some of the staggering promises made to Christ's bride, then we are fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). What, then, has Christ inherited from his Father? Answer: Everything. He gets it all. Nothing is excluded (Ephesians 1:20–23). And if we are fellow heirs, that means Christ turns around and shares the universe and everything in it with his bride. All wealth and all prosperous living are included as part of our inheritance, an inheritance that Christ has earned and that he will one day share with us. Yet when will we get to take possession of this inheritance? Peter tells us: "[God] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you." In other words, we get all wealth and all prosperity imaginable and beyond, but not here on this earth. Such an inheritance awaits us in the life to come.
With all your might, then, know the promises of God. What has he promised you, and what hasn't he promised you? Set your mind and heart on those promises. Hope in them. And when the devil whispers in your ear—and whisper he will—that you're silly for believing such things or that God is not able to do what he has promised, just remember that even if it takes 25 years in the case of Abraham or 70 years in the case of the exiles in Babylon or 400 years in the case of the children of Israel or 700 years in the case of the coming of Isaiah's suffering servant, God keeps his promises. Always.
And it is believing those promises that is true, living, biblical faith.
Standing on the promises with you,