May 19, 2024

The Death of a Dream

Pastor: Allen Snapp Series: The Summit Of Our Salvation Topic: Faithful Passage: Romans 4:13–25

The Summit of Our Salvation

Allen Snapp

Grace Community Church

May 19, 2024


The Death of a Dream

Turn in your Bibles to Rom. 4.

Have you ever thought God was going to do something in your life only to wait and wait and wait for it to happen and it doesn’t happen? A job opportunity/promotion you were sure God was going to provide. A wayward child you were praying would get saved. That this would be the year you’d meet the person you were going to marry. That God would finally heal you of that infirmity.

If God is able to do anything, why sometimes does God wait? If God answers prayers why does God sometimes delay?

If you’ve ever wondered that, you’re in good company. Abraham must have wondered it too because there was not only a delay between when God promised and when God delivered, there was a death. The death of a dream. Let’s pick up reading in Rom. 4:13.

13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. Rom. 4:13-15

When Abraham was 75 years old, God appeared to him. We read about it in Gen. 12 and God promised to make him a great nation and that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed. That’s the promise Paul is referring to in verse 13, that he and his offspring would be the “heir of the world.” To use Jesus’ terminology, it would be Abraham’s descendants (Jews and Gentiles) that would “inherit the earth”. That promise didn’t come through the law, it came through faith. By faith Abraham took his wife Sara and nephew Lot and left his country and his people (all pagan) to set out for a land God promised He would show him. Going not knowing.

Approximately ten years later, when Abraham is in his mid-eighties, God meets him again in Gen 15 and promises Abraham that his descendants would be as uncountable as the stars and it says Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. As we looked at last week, Abraham wasn’t counted righteous because he kept the law. The law doesn’t bring righteousness:

15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. vs. 15

It brings wrath because we can’t keep it. When Paul says where there is no law there is no transgression he’s not saying there is no sin, he’s saying sin is doubly bad because now we know we’re breaking (transgressing) the law.

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, Rom. 4:16

Listen to the words Paul uses here: faith, promise, grace. That was always God’s plan: to bless both Jews and Gentiles with the gift of righteousness given to us through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ all the promises of God are yea and amen! Promise doesn’t come through the law. It comes both to adherents of the law and to the one who isn’t an adherent of the law but shares the faith of Abraham. We don’t throw out the law, we seek to obey the law, but not in order to be righteous. That only comes through faith in God’s promise.

Paul now introduces a vitally important aspect to Abraham’s story (and our story): the death and resurrection of his dream.

17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. Rom. 4:17-19

God spoke the word to Abraham when he was 75 years old and Sara was 65 years old. That’s old to have a child but Abraham said, “ok God, I believe you can do it. The clock is ticking so let’s get busy and have this child right away!”

Ten long years go by and God reappears to Abraham again and says, “I’m your shield and your reward.” Abraham says, “I’m 85 years old! What reward can you give me since I have no son? Remember that promise Lord? That’s my dream. That’s my prayer.” And that’s when the Lord renews His promise and says that kid is coming, Abraham!

But 14 more long years go by – now Abraham is 99 years old and no son. It’s been 24 years since the promise was first given and what that means is that over those years the promise went from hard to believe to crazy to believe to impossible to believe. Abraham and Sarah aren’t old anymore; they’re dead! In terms of having a baby they are as good as dead. The dream is dead. The hope is dead. The promise is dead. That brings us back to the question I asked in the beginning: why? Why does God sometimes wait? Why are answers sometimes delayed?

The answer for Abraham was that God didn’t want to fulfill His promise when it was hard to believe. Or crazy to believe. He wanted to fulfill His promise when it was impossible to believe. He didn’t want to bring life from life, His plan was to bring life from death.

17in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist…19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. Vv. 17, 19

God waited until Abraham and Sarah were, metaphorically speaking, dead. His body was dead – unable

to produce life. Her womb was barren – unable to produce life. Dead. His dream was dead, his hope was dead, the promise he held onto for so long was dead. At its core the gospel isn’t the story of God doing the difficult, it’s the story of God doing the impossible. What’s impossible with men is possible with God. God calls things into existence that don’t exist. God gives life to the dead. The gospel isn’t the story of renewal, or renovation, or reformation. The gospel is the story of resurrection.

God waited until Abraham was dead so that He could resurrect the dead! God waited until Lazarus was dead four days so Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead. God didn’t pull Jesus off the cross just as he was about to die and revive him – He waited until Jesus lay dead for three days in the tomb so He could resurrect him! Eph. 2 doesn’t say while we were sick in our transgressions – it says while we were dead in our transgressions God made us alive in Christ! The gospel is about resurrection!

22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Rom. 4:22-25

Just as Abraham’s faith in the face of the death of his dream counted as righteousness, so too our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and the one who raised him up from the dead will be counted to us as righteousness. It’s not until all hope in our efforts is dead and we put all our trust in the One who died and rose again, that our sins are washed clean and we receive Christ’s righteousness. We were dead, but God in His mercy made us alive in Christ!

Before we close though, I skipped over a few verses and that’s where I want us to conclude. Speaking of Abraham during these years of waiting for the promise, we read in vv. 19-21 about an unshakable faith:

19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

“He did not weaken in faith.” “No unbelief made him waver…” No weakening, no wavering, not even a bit of wobbling in his faith. That could be pretty discouraging to those of us who sometimes do weaken and waver. I’ve faced far, far less than Abraham and my faith has weakened and wavered. Abraham’s faith is beyond the reach of most of us mere mortals.

But wait! Upon closer inspection we do find a wobble or two in Abraham’s faith. After the Lord told him his descendants would number more than the stars and he believed the Lord, his faith seemed to waver when he decided to take matters into his own hands and have a son through Sarah’s slave Hagar. That seems like a pretty big wobble if not a waver. Fourteen years later when the Lord once again promised that Abraham would have a son through Sarah, Abraham laughed to himself at the thought at having a son and said to God, why not fulfill your promise through Ishmael? He’s already born. Makes it easier on me and You! Laughing at God’s promise and suggesting an alternative seems to indicate a wobble, a waver, a weakening of Abraham’s faith.

Then a bit later the Lord re-re-appears and repeats His promise saying a year from now you and Sarah will give birth to a son and Sarah is listening outside the tent and she laughs at God’s promise. She says to herself, “my tired old womb is a little far gone for that and Abraham has one foot on the grave and the other is slipping.” She backpedaled like mad when the Lord confronted her and asked her why she laughed. “I didn’t laugh. That must have been Hagar…”

We see what appears to be a contradiction. Abraham’s faith wasn’t perfect. He doubted. He struggled with unbelief. He tried to bring God’s promise to pass through his own efforts (Ishmael). He tried to make it easy on God by suggesting He just fulfill His promises through the son Abraham had with Hagar. His faith wasn’t perfect. But it was always going in the right direction and deep within he never wavered in his trust in God’s faithfulness.

We may struggle with doubt. Strong Christians can wonder “am I saved?” We look at ourselves with our failures and faults and our faith may wobble. We may doubt (listen to Walt’s message on doubt if you missed it). But God is with us, helping us through those wobbles, growing our faith even when we can’t see the growth. The Holy Spirit within us wants to give God the glory – and that’s faith! Not wanting the credit for saving ourselves but giving Jesus ALL the glory for saving us! That’s faith that God counts as righteousness.

If Jesus is your Savior; if you are trusting him and him only to save you; if you believe that any righteousness you have before God is Jesus’ righteousness credited to your account, and if nothing can pry you away from trusting in Jesus, even if at times that trust is weak and wobbly, then in God’s sight you are believing His promises and giving glory to Him and you can know that God will do what He promised to do.

Now, apart from salvation maybe there’s a dream you felt God laid on your heart but you’ve been waiting and it’s no where in sight. Maybe there’s a prayer you’ve been lifting to God and the answer has been delayed. It’s been a month, a year, a decade, or even longer. And you’re getting discouraged.

If the dream is from God, it will come to pass, even if it needs to die first. If the prayer is in the will of God He will answer it in His perfect timing. And if the dream isn’t from God, He has a better dream for you. If the prayer isn’t in His will, He will open another better door for you.

From the first moment God appeared to Abraham, Abraham walked with God. He messed up, he sinned, he tried to bring God’s will about by his own efforts, but in the end, his story wasn’t a testimony about his greatness but God’s greatness, and that’s what God is doing in your life and mine. May our faith grow strong enough for us to give the glory to God, fully convinced that He is able to do what He has promised to do.