If you could choose any one thing in the entire universe that would make 1998 a happy new year for you, what would it be?
For a lot of folks the answer is this simple: “Just let the Sweepstakes van pull into my driveway at the end of this month. Yes, with that kind of money–millions of dollars at my disposal, nothing in the year ahead could get me down.”
Others might say, “If only I were feeling better and could do the things I used to do . . . .” “If only I owned my own home; if only we had a different car; if only I were promoted at work; if only . . . .” — on and on the list could go.
Maybe finances are especially tight at the moment and maybe you have been living with excruciating pain. Perhaps a new home or car would help, but none of those things can provide what we need to overcome the unforeseen troubles lurking in the future. What can?
Consider the prayer expressed in Hymn No. 396 in The Lutheran Hymnal:
Oh, for a faith that will not shrink Tho’ pressed by many a foe; That will not tremble on the brink Of poverty or woe.
What each of us needs, really needs, is an unshrinkable faith.
Just what is “unshrinkable faith”? “Faith,” Scripture teaches, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith is the conviction that what we believe is true even though we cannot see it with our eyes. This distinction is worth remembering, because what we see with our eyes is sometimes just the opposite of what we believe.
The Bible also shows us what an “unshrinkable” faith is. Only here, it does so by example. Of Abraham, Paul writes: “Who, contrary to hope, in hope believed so that he became the father of many nations, . . . and not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead . . . and the deadness of Sarah’s womb” (Rom. 4:18-19). God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, but the years had ticked by and now a childless Abraham had grown old with his wife.
What Abraham saw were the same things that any of us would have seen. He saw that his body was as good as dead and so was Sarah’s womb. He also knew that the odds against his 90-year-old wife giving birth were colossal; in fact, humanly impossible. That’s what he saw with his eyes. Just as today–what we see is oftentimes in contrast to what we believe.
So, we pray for a faith that doesn’t shrink:
A faith that shines more bright and clear When tempests rage without, That, when in danger, knows no fear, In darkness feels no doubt.
Abraham “did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief . . . being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Rom. 4:20-21). Despite incalculable odds, Abraham clung to God’s Word. Behind that Word was the limitless power of the One “who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Rom. 4:17).
For us to have an unshrinkable faith means trusting in the same God, and for the same reason. He is the God of all power who does literally anything. He is also the God of all grace, who has redeemed us from our sins through the life, death, and resurrection of the promised Seed of Abraham, His own Son Jesus. His sure, powerful Word is both the cause and the basis for a faith that will not shrink.
Lord, give us such a faith as this; And then, whate’er may come, We’ll taste e’en now the hallowed bliss, Of an eternal home.
–Pastor James Albrecht