Summary: God gives us tests to refine our faith.
There’s never a convenient time for your car to break down is there? I mean who enjoys sitting at the side of the road waiting for the tow truck to come? Who likes spending time (and money) at the mechanic’s? No one that I know of. But have you ever considered why we don’t spend more time there? I mean the average car has 1800 parts including engine, tires, and spark plugs. Isn’t it amazing that this complex machine doesn’t break down more often? Almost without fail your car will start with a simple flick of the wrist even when it is -40C outside. How have cars become so reliable? Because of years of vigorous testing. Car companies put their vehicles through all kinds of tests because they want to provide a reliable product so you’ll remain a loyal customer.
As we watch Abraham today on his journey of faith, we’re going to see how God also put him through some vigorous testing. God didn’t do this to find out whether or not Abraham had faith because God knows all things. Rather with this test God was refining Abraham’s faith so that it would run even more reliably. Since God doesn’t want our faith to sputter to a halt halfway to heaven he also puts us through vigorous tests. I want to encourage you to embrace those tests of faith, just as Abraham did.
About a year after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which we studied last week, Sarah gave birth to a son and named him Isaac. Finally, after 25 years, God’s promise had come true! The 100-year-old Abraham must have doted on his son, and not just because he liked kids, but because this son was his connection to the promised Savior. That’s why the test God had in mind for Abraham was no simple matter.
God kicked things off when he called for Abraham, and without hesitation Abraham replied: “Here I am!” Although Abraham may have been busy tending to his flocks at the time, or looking over his investments, he put down whatever he was doing to give God his full attention. Are you following in Abraham’s footsteps? When God comes calling in the person of your pastor or fellow Christian do you give him your full attention, or does the call seem like an intrusion? It will feel that way if we have lost sight of what we’re supposed to be doing here on earth: not building a comfortable life for ourselves, but building up our faith as we journey to heaven. So when God comes calling, give him your full attention! He comes to help and encourage.
So what was it that God wanted of Abraham? Not much. He just wanted Abraham to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. But if Abraham followed through with this command, he would have been like the scuba diver who cuts the hose to his oxygen tank, for as I said earlier, Isaac was Abraham’s connection to the Savior! So it’s amazing that we don’t hear any objections from Abraham. He didn’t even say, “Can you repeat that Lord? It sounded like you said you wanted me to kill my son. I must have misheard.” Instead we’re told that early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey, cut some firewood, and then led his son and two servants on a trek to a place called Moriah. Abraham did not hesitate in his obedience. And we shouldn’t think that this was just a knee-jerk reaction—that he obeyed the Lord before he could fully comprehend what he was doing. No, he had all night to think about the journey, and the journey itself took three days and yet he remained dedicated to God’s command to offer his son as a sacrifice.
That kind of singular dedication boggles the modern mind. When our parents, teachers, and bosses tell us to do something we want them to explain why. And so when Mom tells junior to clean his room, the response is usually “How come?” or “Why now?” not “OK.” When God says, “Give me your firstfruits, the best of your income,” we hem and haw and make excuses that we’re not rich, or we’re just starting out, or we only get a few dollars by way of an allowance so God will understand when we give only what we have left over. That’s not focused dedication to God’s will. And so he will send trials our way to refine our faith in him. He will put us in situations where we are forced to rely on his mercy and to hold on to his promises as if to a climbing rope lest we fall into a crevasse. And he’ll lead us to see that holding on to his promises for dear life isn’t a bad way to live, as Abraham himself knew firsthand.