Summary: A sermon I preached using an outline from Chuck Swindoll.
Intro: If you have ever been to a cardiologist, you probably know what a stress test is like. They hook you up to a monitor, then put you on a treadmill, turning up the speed until the monitor reveals the condition of your heart. And all the while, you’re walking your feet off trying to keep up with the treadmill.
After several sweaty minutes, the treadmill is turned off and the monitor completes its printed read out. Those results tell the cardiologist the true condition of your heart.
In a similar manner, God puts us all through stress tests at different times in our lives. He does this not to precipitate a heart attack but to give us a diagnosis concerning the condition of our faith.
There’s something about seeing an actual printout of an EKG that keeps us from fooling ourselves about the condition of our hearts. And there’s something about the results of God’s tests that forces us to come to grips with the condition of our faith. We may be able to fake it in the pew or at prayer meetings, but God’s strenuous testing shows our faith for what it is.
But these tests are not designed only to reveal some weakness in our faith. They are designed to strengthen it as well. That rigorous exercise on a sometimes tedious treadmill of tests can move us from a sedentary faith to an aerobic, active faith.
I. A Biblical Look At The Levels Of Testing We Experience In Christian Life. (2Cor. 4:8-9)
A. The most moderate level of testing is “affliction”.
1. The NIV puts it as “Hard pressed.”
a) Other translations use, crushed, troubled on every side or pressed on every side.
b) The original Greek where these different English words come from is, thlibo, which has the idea of being in a large crowd and feeling pressure from every side.
2. This level of tests includes those tests that come from other people.
a) From deadlines, from delays.
b) From irritating interruptions.
B. The second level is being, “perplexed”
1. This term means, without a way” and suggests confusion.
a) This idea of not knowing where to go or who to turn to when the speed of the treadmill is turned up and ordinary pressures intensify.
2. This includes circumstances where we are subjected to unfair people.
3. When we have difficulty making sense of it all and knowing what to do.
C. The third level is, “persecution.”
1. This term means, “To run after, to pursue.”
2. These are the more extreme tests in life, when not only is the treadmill turned all the way up, but a pit bull is hot on your heels.
3. Persecution can attack in a number of different areas: physical, emotional, financial, social, and spiritual.
a) It is a direct attack.
b) It seems that it just won’t stop and continues to chase after you.
D. The forth level is being “struck down.”
1. This term means to be thrown down, tossed aside, rejected.
a) This is the deepest level, the ultimate test.
b) It could be the tearing down or taking away of that which is most precious and dear to your heart.
2. Many times it involves disability or death.
3. For Abraham, the ultimate test involved the fate of his beloved son.
Trans: Scripture records Abraham’s excruciating test in two separate places. The telescopic overview is recorded in Hebrews 11. The microscopic analysis is given to us in Gen. 22. Let’s look through both lenses this morning and see what help the 3,800 year old test offers for us today.
II. We Can Learn From Abraham’s Ultimate Test.
A. Abraham’s response to a level-four test was one of unquestioning trust in God. (Heb. 11:17-19)
1. Imagine the shock Abraham must have felt when God told him to sacrifice Isaac.
a) Put yourself in his shoes for a minute and try to make sense of the command from God.
b) Imagine the disillusionment.
2. How could a compassionate God impose such a cruel test?
a) How could a God who is faithful to his promise now seemingly go back on that promise?
b) How could a fair God take away that which He had given?
3. Shock and disillusionment are common reactions to a level-four test.
4. Abraham’s response, however, was one of unquestioning trust.
a) He knew that God couldn’t lie.
b) He knew that God wasn’t going to give a gift and then pull it away just as we reach out to grab it.
5. Therefore, raising Isaac from the dead was the logical conclusion of faith’s reasoning.
Trans: We have gotten a look at the broad picture in Hebrews 11; now let’s look closer with a view towards the stories details in gen. 22.