Summary: Abraham shows outrageous faith in response to God's unreasonable request that he sacrifice his promised son Isaac. Clearly faith is shown through our obedience.
Let me share a story from Chuck Swindoll.
“Four guys decided to go mountain climbing one weekend. In the middle of the climb, one fella slipped over a cliff, dropped about 60 feet and landed with a thud on the ledge below. The other three hoping to rescue him yelled, ‘Joe, are you OK?’
‘I’m alive, but I think I broke both my arms!’
‘We’ll toss a rope down to you and pull you up. Just lie still’ said the three.
‘Fine’, Joe answered.
A couple of minutes after dropping the rope, they started tugging and grunting together, working feverishly to pull their wounded companion to safety. When they had him about three quarters of the way up, they suddenly remembered he said he had broken both arms.
‘Joe, if you broke your arms, how in the world are you holding on?’ Joe responded, ‘With my teeeeeeeth’”.
Amazing what we can do when desperate huh? Especially because when we are desperate, we have to depend on the strength that God gives us, you’ve all heard of the mother that can lift a car off her child to save the child’s life.
I used to envy people that never seemed to have any trials in their lives, of course it seemed like that, but I’m not sure anyone has lived without trials. But now I’m grateful for the trials in my life, because there is no doubt they have increased my faith.
Did you know that if a bar of steel is worth five dollars, when made into regular horseshoes, it’s worth $10? If this same $5 bar is made into needles, the value rises to $350. And yet if it’s made into delicate springs for expensive watches, it’s worth more than $250,000.
The same bar of steel is made more valuable by being cut to its proper size, passed through one blast furnace after another again and again, hammered and manipulated, beaten and pounded, finished and polished until it’s ready for its task.
That’s why God allows trials in our lives, to refine us. So we are to:
I. Expect and Welcome Tests from God (vv 1-2)
In the “school of faith” we must have occasional tests, or we’ll never know where we are spiritually. Abraham had his share of tests right from the start. Leaving his family, turning down a fortune from Sodom, saying good-bye to Ishmael. Some he passed, some he didn’t, but each one moved him through the grades as he matured in his faith.
Now I hesitate to say that every difficult experience we have is a test from God. But any experience can become a test or temptation depending on how we deal with it, just not necessarily from God. Our own disobedience and sin can cause pain or disappointment, and sometimes its just life that causes us to have to adjust, like when a loved one dies or moves away.
It’s very important for us to distinguish between:
A. Trials vs Temptations
Temptations come from our own desires within us as we read in James 1:12-16, while trials come from the Lord who has a special purpose to fulfill on our lives. Temptations are used by Satan to bring out the worst in us, but trials are used by the Holy Spirit to bring out the best in us.
Temptations often seem logical while trials often seem unreasonable. For instance, why would God give Abraham a son and then ask him to kill him?
Temptations are usually similar for all believers, but our specific trials of faith may be quite different. God tailor makes our tests, notice how he never made Lot go through the same things as Abraham. Why?
Because Lot was being tempted by the world and the flesh, and never grew to the state of spiritual maturity that Abraham did. In some ways it’s a compliment when God sends us a test, it shows that we might be growing enough that God wants to promote us to the next grade in the school of faith.
I like some of what Scott Peck says in his book “The Road Less Travelled”. He says, “Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept this truth – then life is no longer difficult”. In other words, if you keep fighting the fact that life is not easy, if you keep asking why things happen, the struggle is much worse than if you just accept it and work through the difficulty.
So our first lesson today is expect trials from God, because the Christian life is not easy and isn’t meant to be.
Probably the most important word in the Bible is used for the first time here in verse two. That is the word love. “Take your only son whom you love.” There’s something called the principle of first mention, where in the Bible, when a word first appears it usually sets the tone for the pattern of it’s usage throughout the Bible.