Now, we may not know whether an issue we are facing is a test from God, or an attack from the forces of evil, or merely fallout from our own learned habits and desires. Yet, in the big picture, knowing this is not the issue. The issue is being faithful.
For example, Abraham took matters into his own hands (was not faithful) and went the culturally acceptable path of having a child with Hagar rather than trusting God would provide a child for him and Sarai through her womb (cf. Genesis 16). I am not a world religions expert, but it is commonly held that Ishmael (the son Hagar bore Abram) is the patriarch of the Arab nations, and therefore Islam. Hmmm...that decision has not panned out very well throughout the course of history, has it?
And so as God’s plan for redeeming humanity progressed, He needed to test Abraham to know whether or not he was trustworthy (cf. another lack of trusting God in the last post). We see this test in chapter 22 of Genesis. In what is an unthinkable and unbearable test in our eyes, God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his only son – the son of the promise no less. By all accounts Abraham was willing to go through with the sacrifice (cf. Genesis 22:9-11), but was stopped by God at the last moment. The result of this test was, “now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son...” (Gen22:12).
In order to keep this out of the realm of theological debate, let us simply focus on what is agreed upon by all (I think), the fact that God tested Abraham. This is important for us to not only grasp, but also to accept, because by and large we live in a culture that does not like to believe God tests people.
Many in our culture prefer to think God wants their life to be sheer bliss and enjoyment, for people to have their best life now, to be healthy and wealthy, and never have anything bad come their way. One of the many problems with these beliefs is they are not historically true of those who follow God – let alone Biblically true.
Yet I want us to move beyond the mere fact that God is a God who tests us. I want us to realize there is no way Abraham would have been able to pass the “Isaac test” when he first started following God (and I do not mean because Isaac was not born yet). This is because Abraham’s faith, like anyone’s, was in its infancy when he first began to follow God.
Basically Abraham had to learn to quit taking matters into his own hands and learn to trust in God. Abraham needed to spend time walking with God. Abraham needed to learn of God’s faithfulness and provision in order to be in a place where he could trust God with the life of his son (cf. Hebrews 11:17-19).
So what about you?
- Is your faith (trust) in God able to handle more adverse situations now than it was at the start of 2013?
- How have you tried to take matters into your own hands this past year?
- How has God met you where you were this past year?
- What decisions have you made, culturally acceptable or not, that have had a negative impact on people? Remember, God is bigger than your mistakes...but your mistakes still have fallout.
- Are you aware of possible ways God has tested you this past year?
- Do you look at difficult life situations as an opportunity to grow in your ability to respond faithfully moment by moment? Or do you wish and pray away difficulties?
- Are you following Jesus more closely at the start of 2014 than you were at the start of 2013? What is your evidence?
And once again we come back to the Christmas Season – the Miracle of the Incarnation. Quite often in our culture we love to hear stories about how someone’s life was “a mess,” and then they met Jesus, and things got “straightened out.” I am thankful for these stories. After all, Jesus showed us – concretely – that God meets people where they are.
Yet there are other stories I long to hear...yet those will have to wait for another post – perhaps on the last day of Christmas as we embark on a new year together.