Bella Vista Church of Christ

LIFELINES

04/22/2020

Randall Caselman

 

Faith Testing & Rewards

 

  Life was going so well for Abraham. He and God had a very special relationship. God calls, Abraham responds. Abraham leaves his home to follow God; God enables him to rescue Lot from the four kings of the East; Abraham and Sarah are visited by three heavenly guests; the long-awaited promise of Isaac has become reality. Family life is so sweet, then comes the trial: “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about" (Genesis 22.2)

 

  The concept of human sacrifice was not new to Abraham. The Canaanites, along with others in this strange land, were known to practice such. God appears to be saying, “Abraham, do you love me as much as these pagans love their god?” The text tells us Abraham never faltered. He left for the mountains of Moriah immediately, "rose up early in the morning." When Isaac asked, "Where is the sacrifice, we see Abraham’s absolute trust in God by his answer: "The Lord will provide" (Genesis 22.3 & 8).

 

  Listen church: Abraham is our father. He is our example according to Romans 4.11-12. "So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised... He is also the father of the circumcised." Here it is, we as sons, will be tried and tested as was our patriarch forefather. James writes: "Knowing this, that the testing (trying in the KJV) of your faith worketh patience and when patience’s work is done, you will be mature, complete, wanting nothing" (James 1.3-4). Isn’t that exciting? Isn't that what we want? (To be perfect, complete, mature, so perfect in faith that we need nothing, not another thing.) Is this possible? Let's examine our father Abraham more closely, and see what we can learn about this faith testing and rewards...

 

  Testing Comes At Unexpected Moments. "It came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham" (Genesis 22.1 NASV). No doubt the phrase “after these things” is speaking of all the great experiences Abraham had with God. Abraham had trusted God’s call, been unselfish toward Lot, fearless in battle, generous in his offering to Melchizedek, he had entertained the Heavenly guests; had given up his son Ishmael. After all his faithfulness, then the big blow comes. We almost hear him say, “But God, I have proven my faith. Not this. Not now, please No!” Folk, we must know that: God is never finished with us. He continues to remold, remake, mature and refine us into His image: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter1.6-7). “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?"  (Hebrews 12.5-7). No! You are not hearing me say I know all about God's "testing and trying." I do know that it works to our benefit, to improve our character. And I know from experience that, like in the life of Abraham, testing and trials come at what appears to us as a most inopportune time. But I know that it is for our good. Paul says He has the ability and will "work all things out to our benefit," Romans 8.28.

 

  Testing Often Demands New Challenges. Our faith is tested by God’s command to be, to do, to give what we have never been, done, given before. "Take thy son, thine only son, whom you love, Isaac." Read it again and notice how that each word is carefully chosen to emphasize the tremendous sacrifice required on Abraham’s behalf. Each word cuts deeper and deeper into his heart. Did you know this is the first time the word “love” appears in the Bible in any form? God never asks of us things we do not love. For instance, I have people who give me gifts that they no longer want. That's nice, but it is not a demonstration of their love for me – and I hate the hypocrisy of trying to pretend it does. The gifts we appreciate are those which have worth to the giver. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." That is love! Yes, COVID-19 is asking us to give up some things that we hold dear, but it proves our love and God rewards with a blessing. What will we learn from this pandemic? What blessings will be ours once it is over? It seems to me that some things we will no longer take for granted, and will forever hold them more dearly. Amen?

 

  Indeed!!... God was asking Abraham to give up the very thing his faith was built around. A great nation, descendants as numerous as the stars, a great name, the world blessed through his seed – all this, the promise, was centered on Isaac. Perhaps Abraham and Sarah were beginning to place their trust in Isaac. After all, if God failed them, Isaac would always be there to care for them. Maybe Isaac had become their “Ace in the Hole.” But God is forever demanding that we let go of our own sinking raft that only appears to be keeping us afloat – saying "trust in Me." "I will carry you across the murky uncharted waters of life and death." Thou shall have no other loves before Me." Listen church:  A real faith test is when we are placed in circumstances that only God can rescue us from. Been there?

 

  Tests Spotlight What Is Important In Life. As the sun set, we visited the grave of a dear friend one last time:  a nice casket, beautiful flowers, and a few friends gathered. As we walked away I said to Georgia, “That’s not much to show for life when all is said and done, is it?” Standing there made me realize how shallow... my dreams... my worries... my doubts and fears were. The testing of our faith shines the great spotlight of truth upon life, allowing us to see what is really important and what's not;  what's real and what's only trappings. I just know this: As Abraham and Isaac made their way back down Mount Moriah, that they both had a greater awareness of God; a more intimate love for one another; and a new appreciation of those things in life that really mattered, what was really important!

 

  Faith in God and in His promises must become our way of life, even when there's no substitute sacrifice provided as it was in this narrative. Church, faith is a way to live even when the ship sinks, the business fails, the tumor is malignant, the heart attack fatal, or we test positive. Consider these familiar Scriptures again: "We are saved by grace through faith;" "We are children of God by faith;" Without faith it is impossible to please God." Whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith"

 

  God help us to stand the test and enjoy the rewards. Amen.

 

—RANDALL CASELMAN