(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new sermon series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.)
Calling Things That Are Not As Though They Were
Lesson 11 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder
As we’re looking at ways to renew your mind from the book of Romans, I’d like to draw your attention to one more verse from Romans chapter 4 before moving on to chapter 5. There’s a phrase in there that is not only extremely quotable and memorable, but it can also be a powerful force for defining your future, if you’ll take it to heart.
In talking about God, Paul described Him as:
“…the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were” (Romans 4:17b).
I love that phrase: the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
If you can believe that God can give life to the dead, which He has proven over and over, and that He can call things into existence that have never existed before, which He has also proven over and over, then you can see God do miracles in your own life that will outshine anything you’ve ever seen before.
Some people bristle at the phrase “name it and claim it,” referring to the idea that we can have anything we want if we’ll just speak it forth, believe in it hard enough, and start walking in that direction. While there’s incredible power in positive thinking, and it’s certainly much better than negative thinking, it can lead to problems if what we’re naming isn’t in line with what God wants us to claim. Rather than being a blessing to us, what we’re wanting could actually harm us, as every parent knows who has given in to a poorly thought-out request by their child.
But when you get your thinking in line with God’s, and ask for things that He would love to give you, then it becomes a different story. When God names it, He wants us to claim it! When God puts a desire in your heart, He wants you to speak it forth, to believe in it fully, and to start walking in that direction.
This is exactly what God commended Abraham for. Abraham was sad and dejected that he had no heirs to whom he could pass on all the blessings he had received in life. He expressed this sadness to God, and God spoke to Abraham, giving him a promise that seemed unbelievable. God changed Abraham’s name from Abram—which means “exalted father”—to Abraham, which means “father of many,” saying:
“You will be the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5).
Abraham’s first response was to fall down and laugh! The Bible says:
“Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’” (Genesis 17:17).
But when God assured Abraham that what He had spoken He would bring to pass, Abraham believed God. He acted on that belief, circumcising himself and his whole family, and God honored him for his faith and obedience.
Within a year of Abraham’s conversation with God, Abraham and Sarah had their promised son. They named him Isaac—which means “laughter”—as God had told them to do, and so began the passing on of Abraham’s inheritance from one generation to the next until this very day.
Even though Abraham’s body was as good as dead, in terms of its ability to bring forth life, and his wife had been barren for ninety years, God proved to them both that He is a God “who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”
God has been doing the same throughout eternity.
He spoke the world into existence with a word. He called Gideon a “mighty warrior” when Gideon saw himself as the least in his family and the weakest family in his tribe. He called David a “king” and a “man after My own heart” even though David was just a shepherd boy at the time and was described by his brother as having a wicked heart.
The Bible is full of stories of God giving life to the dead and calling things that are not as though they were, with the story of Jesus‘s death and resurrection being chief among them! But the stories of God calling things that are not as though they were didn’t end in biblical days. They still continue today!
Let me tell you just one.
About ten years ago I was invited to attend a Billy Graham conference on evangelism in Amsterdam. My passport was about to expire, so I had to fill out an application for a new one. On the application, it asked for my “occupation.” I wasn’t sure exactly what to put in the blank, as the ministry I do on the Internet doesn’t fit into a neatly defined category.
Yet at the time I was feeling more and more that one of God’s callings on my life was to be an author. I loved writing and had written extensively for my own website, filling up hundreds of electronic pages with digital ink. Yet I never considered myself an author, since the only book I had published was a devotional booklet I had written the year before, and photocopied at home for people who asked for it.
That hardly seemed to qualify my as an author, yet I felt that’s what God was calling me to be. So as a statement of faith in what God wanted me to be, I filled in the “occupation” blank with just one word: “Author.”
When I arrived overseas at the airport, the customs official took a look at my passport, then took a look at me. He said, “It says here you’re an author. What kind of books do you write?”
I thought about my little devotional booklet and said, “Devotional books to encourage people in their faith.”
He asked where I was headed, and I told him about the Billy Graham conference. He said, “With a last name like ‘Elder’ that fits.” He smiled, stamped my passport, and waved me on through.
Something in my heart “fit,” too. I realized that I wasn’t stretching the truth when I said I was an author. I was believing the truth. From that moment on, it changed both my outlook and my expectations for the future.
Since then, I’ve written and published over a dozen books. My weekly messages, like this one that you’re reading right now, are being sent by email to over 35,000 subscribers around the world. I’m not sure what the official qualifications would be for someone to be declared an “author.” But for me, I believe I became an author the moment I believed it myself, came into alignment with God’s plan for my life in that area, and started walking in obedience to that calling.
God has a way of seeing our potential before we do and then speaking it into existence. How? Because God can see an oak tree in an acorn.
And if you’re willing to open your eyes to see things as God sees them, you’ll start seeing oak trees in acorns, too. You’ll be able to see the potential in yourself and in the lives of others that you may have never seen before.
I could tell you story after story of people who are alive today whose lives and situations have been changed dramatically because they put their faith in Christ. I could tell you about marriages that have been dead for years and ended in divorce, but which God has brought back to life when both people put their faith in Christ. I could tell you about couples who have been declared infertile by doctors, but whom God has said would bear a child within a year—like Abraham and Sarah—and have! I could tell you about people involved in lifestyles that could literally kill them, lifestyles which some people would say are impossible to change, but which God has changed and given them new lives instead,
“For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
When you get in line with God’s plans for your life, nothing will be impossible for you, either.
If God has spoken to you about your future, believe Him. Put your faith into action and start walking in the direction He’s told you to walk. If you’ve not sure what God has called you to do, keep seeking Him for His wisdom. Read the Bible. Pray. Ask others what they think about your future. Then when God gives you the next step to take, take it!
Don’t be discouraged if what God says about your future doesn’t line up with your present. Remember that God sees an oak tree in an acorn.
Remember that God called Abraham “a father of many nations” before he and Sarah had even conceived their first child together. Remember that God called Gideon a “mighty warrior” back when Gideon felt like he was the weakest of the weak. Remember that God called David “a man after My own heart” even when others were saying otherwise.
Put your trust in God, and remember who He is. He is:
“…the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for reminding us today of who You are and what You can do. Give us the faith we need to see Your promises come to pass in our lives. Fill us with Your wisdom, Your plans, Your purposes, and Your ways, so that we can take hold of them by faith, and begin walking in obedience to Your calling on our lives, starting even today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
P.S. As I mentioned in my message above, I’ve felt God has called me to write, and I know that God has called many of you to write as well. I want to encourage you in your writing as much as I can. There was a time when I felt God didn’t need one more writer, one more author. I felt that everything that could be said had probably already been said. But the truth is that God doesn’t tire of hearing people proclaim His name and the wonders that He has done in the world. He doesn’t tire of people encouraging other people in their lives and faith, by telling them stories that bring glory to Him. God loves to get his Word out through different voices and different languages. While I can reach a certain segment of God’s people through my writings, it’s only a drop in the bucket compared to the oceans of messages that God wants to get out. As someone has wisely said, “No one else can speak your message, or sing your song, or offer your act of love.” God wants to use your voice, your style, and your stories to reach as many people as possible around the world with His message.
If you’d be interested in learning more about how I’ve gone about publishing my writings and books on places like Amazon.com and Apple’s iBookstore, I’d be glad to hear from you. I’m thinking of teaching a class online sometime in the next few weeks, for a donation to our ministry of whatever size that you can afford, that will walk you through exactly how you can do this on your own, uploading you’re writings to Amazon and other websites to help you get what you have to say about God out to others, whether in print or as eBooks. Just write me if you’re interested in such a class at email@example.com, and I’ll give you more details as the class takes shape.
Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 4:16-25. What reasons might Abraham have had for why it could have seemed impossible for God to fulfill what He had promised to him?
2. What reasons might you have for why it could seem impossible for God to fulfill what He has promised to you? How might Abraham have overcome His doubts? How might you overcome yours?
3. Read Judges 7:1-7. In reading this part of Gideon’s story, what reason does God give for why He sometimes does what seems impossible through us? What hope does this give you for your situation?
4. If God has given you a promise about your calling or your future, what next steps could you take to put your faith into action and start walking in the direction of that future? If you don’t feel that God has spoken to you about your future, what next steps could you take to begin learning more about it from Him?
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