I love Abraham. The Scriptures tell us that he believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.
I think we have a tendency -- at least I do -- to think of our heroes and saints in the faith as people to whom believing must have come naturally, or at least more easily than it comes for us. So I love that Romans chapter 4 tells us more of Abraham's believing story.
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. 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. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”
He believed in God and God's promise, in spite of all the evidence that would seem to pull him away from belief. It wasn't that he didn't realize how dire his situation was, how impossible. He considered his own body, which was as good as dead -- I love how Paul doesn't mince words here. He considered the fact that Sarah was barren. Put those two facts together, and it must have felt nigh unto impossible to believe that the two of them could ever conceive a baby, let alone become the patriarch and matriarch of a people more numerous than the stars in the sky.
It wasn't that unbelief was not an option. It was. Unbelief must have been in the very air he breathed, a very real temptation. Strong evidence he could see with his eyes and consider with his mind pointed him to the impossibility of God being able to keep his promise. Unbelief was there. But it did not make him waver. And look at what Paul tells us next: he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
He grew strong in his faith AS HE GAVE GLORY TO GOD. As he praised God for who he was and what he had done, his faith grew stronger. It grew stronger despite the depressing facts that seemed to surround him and his good as dead body (and yes, I am drawn to that line more than I ever have been, in the wake of my cancer diagnosis). He gave glory to God because he knew who God was. Look back at verses 16 and 17:
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, 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.
Abraham intimately knew God, and he knew that God could do amazing things. He knew that God had the power to give life to the dead (so his as good as dead body was no obstacle) and that he calls into existence the things that do not exist (so his wife's barrenness was no obstacle). How precisely Abraham knew all these things about God we don't know....God must have revealed them to him.
We know these same things because God has revealed them to us in the Scriptures. We see God act in creation to call things into existence that never existed before. We see also how he gives life to the dead (or those as good as dead!), from his rescue of Isaac with the ram in the thicket to the raising of the widow's son through Elijah, through Jonah being rescued from the belly of the whale on through Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones taking on flesh. We see it in Jesus' raising of Jairus' daughter, the son of the widow of Nain, and Lazarus of Bethany, and ultimately God's power manifested in a whole new way with the resurrection of Jesus himself.
Whatever pictures and words God used to share who he was with Abraham, it was enough and more than enough, because Abraham knew God. He knew him and he believed him, and through faith, he was able to hold onto the promise that otherwise seemed impossible. He gave God glory; God strengthened his faith, and ultimately, the promise came true.
And -- oh beautiful beyond imagining -- but Abraham's faith can be ours, because Abraham's God is ours. Jump ahead to verses 23-25:
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.
As Abraham's descendants, we are children of faith, people of the promise. We can believe in God and God's promises even as we consider the facts around us, which sometimes seem to do nothing but point us to despair and unbelief. We can consider the facts and acknowledge that unbelief is there, a tempting option sometimes because it feels so easy to fall into.
But unbelief does not need to make us waver. The remedy for unbelief is to give God glory and to allow him to strengthen our faith. He will help us hold on, and he will do it through our praise and thanksgiving for who he is and what he has done.