The Bible is scattered with stories where God calls his people, raises them, prepares them and watches them grow. Then he tests them. One of the times that God did this is back in Genesis when he asked for Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering to God. No doubt this would have put Abraham in great distress. As a father myself, I can’t even imagine the anguish I would feel if God came to me and asked me to kill my son to prove my faithfulness to HIm. Yet this is what He did with Abraham.
This scene is one filled with intense drama. Imagine it. Your walking through the wilderness with your only boy who trusts you completely. He speaks up and he asks you, “dad where we going?” Then you answer with just enough information to satisfy his curiosity and so he follows. He is carrying on his back the wood that his lifeless body would be burnt up with just after you cut his throat.
Imagine the feeling this father must have felt knowing that he was leading his son to death all the while grumbling in his heart asking God why….why are you taking my child from me?
Once reaching that place where the alter should be built, you begin to construct an alter by placing stones in a certain fashion working side by side with your young boy. You instruct him on how to build a good alter, all the while fighting back the emotion and the tears.
As the altar nears completion you ask your son to bring the wood. The knees that carried you to this place are now trembling and weak and you feel sick because of what you must now do, betray the trust of the innocent and take his life. In a hasty moment you grab him and you bind his arms and legs so he cannot move. With a torrent of tears in your eyes you cry and your body shakes as you do this thing that God has commanded you to do. “Dad why are you doing this to me, your hurting me” he screams. Finishing the ties and placing him on the alter you continue sobbing uncontrollably, wishing that death would take you before your hands had completed their work.
In one last breath you place your arm around your boy as you move the knife into position to cut his throat, looking deep into his watery eyes your muscles tighten and you prepare to swiftly and deeply make your cut and in that moment…..life stands still, your heart goes numb.
I imagine God shouting at that moment so loud that it caused the ground to shake! “STOP”
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him.” (Genesis 22:12 NIV)
Though this is my imagination working while reading this scripture, I want to picture God standing there with a fierce seriousness and concern on his face and with heavy breath causing to stop what was about to happen. Then he speaks again:
“Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12 NIV)
How powerful right? To what higher level could a mans loyalty be tested than to be required to kill one of his children, his boy? I can imagine none!
My father’s words are in my mind as I write this, words that I will never forget so long as I breath on this earth. “You are my diamonds” he would say to my brother and I. When we were sick he would always say, “I wish I could take your place”. His heart hurt when we hurt and he longed to take that hurt from us. I feel the same way about my children and I imagine Abraham felt the same way too. God could not have asked this man to do anything more difficult.
So what is my point? The point is that God is not satisfied with words alone and empty proclamations of faith. Faith that is lukewarm is detestable to God. If Abraham’s faith was lukewarm he never would have made the journey to offer his son and his heart would have been known. If you are proclaiming to be a Christian, be prepared for tests of your faith. You will be tested.
These tests however do much more than prove to God that he is great. They become the base of our souls, the very foundation. You hear it time and again when people are trying to break free from their addictions that they must first hit rock bottom before they can find solid footing for recovery. In the same way here, the tests of God often bring us to our rock bottom. That is where God builds his warriors. When we stop trying to support a life with twigs and allow God to build a proper foundation upon the Rock, then we can be elevated to great heights and remain strong against the winds of this world.
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” (Hebrews 12:7)
God disciplines the one’s he loves. But why discipline? We often associate this word as a consequence for doing something wrong. The word here means to instruct, train and educate. So if we were to rewrite this in context we may read it like this:
“Endure hardship as training; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not trained by their father? (interpretation based on the greek word Paideuo, which is the word used here)
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3 NIV) (As you read the scripture in James, know that “testing” in this context means proving. The greek word for testing is dokimion which means “proved genuine”.)
What is this perseverance then that James speaks of? It is a history of success for us. It is our confidence that no matter what this life throws our way, whether it be God’s tests or trials that come because of the work of the evil one, we will be prepared.
As with anyone who goes off to battle I say remain armed for battle at all times, do not drop your guard. Be ready. With this armor, God’s armor given to all his warriors we can withstand our trials and endure the tests of our faith:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:10-18 NIV)