I LOVE the story about Abraham. This was a man whose faith impressed God. There aren’t many things people can do that impress our mighty, sovereign, holy, powerful, just, loving, gracious, merciful God. Our own attempts at being good sure don’t get God very excited.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy, bloody, menstrual rags. Isaiah 64:6
That statement really puts me in my place! So what does make God smile and delight over us?
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
Abraham believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6
God had promised Abraham (when he was still known as Abram), in a very solemn covenant, that Abraham would have a son through his wife, Sarah, and that God would make Abraham into a great nation and all the nations of the world would be blessed through him. This happened sometime before Abraham was 86 years old. They didn’t have Isaac until Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90!!
Can you IMAGINE the joy when this baby boy came into the world and into his parents’ waiting arms? How easy would it be to put that little boy in the place of preeminence in their hearts? How easy it would be to make an idol of him and center their lives around him instead of around God!
God devised a test for Abraham that seems unthinkable to me as a mother. “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) Abraham acted in total obedience, even though this boy (probably about 13 or so at this time) was the most precious gift of his life! Abraham trusted that God knew what He was doing. Maybe he thought God would raise him back to life or perform a miracle. I don’t know for sure, all we see are his obedient and unquestioning actions and his total faith in His beloved Lord.
Thankfully, God stopped him right before Abraham plunged a knife into Isaac’s chest on the altar and said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy! Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Genesis 22:12
FOR GOD, IT WASN’T JUST A TEST
This act of obedience that God required from Abraham was something that God Himself would do on our behalf many generations later. He put His only Son, Jesus, Whom He loved on the altar of the cross. He held NOTHING back from us so that He could provide a perfect Lamb whose blood would take away our sins once and for all. He gave up His Son for me, a wretched sinner. THAT is how much He loves me, and THAT is how much He loves you! We don’t deserve this kind of extravagant love.
WHAT TEST DOES GOD HAVE FOR ME?
God still tests our faith today. He needs to know if we are putting the good gifts He’s given us ahead of Him in our priorities and in our hearts . He wants to know if we are living in a manner worthy of Him and keeping Him as LORD of all. Having Jesus as Savior is relatively easy. Trusting His death for us and accepting that gift of life forever requires no real sacrifice on my part. But to live with Him as LORD of my life – that is an entirely different lifestyle. – and that is what He requires of those who love Him. It is RADICAL. And it involves us loving God SO much more than anything or anyone else that we are willing to obey whatever He says for us to do.
I believe we must test ourselves, too. Is there something that I am purposely holding back from God? Is there something that I don’t trust God to handle in my life? Is there something I think He shouldn’t touch or mess with, because it is too important to me for me to be willing to give it up? Is there something that could happen that would make me be angry with God and cause me to turn away from Him?
These are some HARD questions. But they are questions we must ask if we are to live by faith in Christ.
- Is there something that I would refuse to give up,even if I knew God wanted me to? It could be a relationship, a dream (a certain job, marriage, children, a certain house), nice things, my health, my family, my future plans, a political party, my friends, my social life, my church, my free time, my country, my goals or my desires, conveniences (electricity, gasoline, technology).
- What do I cling to more tightly than God?
- Do I have idols in my heart that I am serving and bowing down to, giving the bulk of my time and money to? Can I look at my calendar and check book and identify anything that might be getting too much of my heart, time, money and service?
- Do I have a hard time trusting God and allowing Him to have control over my destiny and my future?
- Do I have a big enough picture of God? Do I really believe that He is sovereign and all-powerful and all-knowing? Or do I live like He is a wimp and I am the one with all the wisdom, knowledge and power? Do I try to MAKE God do things my way? Do I try to force circumstances to go the way I think is best without regard for what God wants?
IT’S TIME TO LAY MYSELF ON THE ALTAR
Jesus’ gift of life in heaven with Him forever is free for me to take. All I have to do it have faith in His provision and accept His gift. But at the same time, paradoxically, His gift to me ultimately costs me everything! To be intimate with Christ, to live with Him as LORD of my life, not just Savior, I must be willing to die to my own wants, desires, selfishness and sinful nature on a daily basis. I must be willing to say, “Not my will, but Yours be done!” I must submit myself willingly, joyfully to Him.
I am willing to give Him an all-access pass to every corner of my soul. I allow Him to shine the blazing hot spotlight of His Word into the dark recesses and find the filth, decay and rot and remove it, healing me, cleansing me, and renewing my mind by the power of His Word. I WANT to spend time with Him and I hunger deeply for His Word. I can’t wait to communicate with Him, to hear His voice, to discover the new truths He has waiting for me. I don’t mind making sacrifices because I love and trust my Lord so much, that I believe He knows what is best for me even when I can’t see what is around the next bend.
NOT REALLY A SACRIFICE
When I am willing to give up all for Jesus, I find out that what seem like sacrifices at first, become blessings! Looking back, I realize that what I gave up doesn’t even seem like a sacrifice anymore. Often it is a gift – emptying my hands so that I could receive something much better than what I thought we had.
An example? Learning to respect and follow my husband out of obedience to God’s Word. That seems like a HUGE sacrifice from a worldly viewpoint. “What woman in her right mind would respect her husband and allow him to be in charge? That is CRAZY! Those people are WEIRD!” But what seems like bondage from a worldly perspective, actually set me completely free and has brought me so many blessings I don’t know how to count them all! So was it a sacrifice to do this for my husband? At first it seemed like a HUGE sacrifice. But now, it seems like one of the best gifts of my life. I don’t even look at my obedience to God in my marriage as a sacrifice now – obeying His Word gives me LIFE, HOPE, PEACE and JOY!
WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE?
For me, I lay before God every aspect of my life, I even write it all down. And I consciously say, “It is ALL Yours, Lord. Do with it what You think is best. I give it to You for Your glory. I hold my husband, my marriage, my children, my health, my job, my money, my dreams, my comfort, my safety, my future out to You with outstretched hands. I do not want to keep anything back for myself, out of Your reach. I belong fully to You. I want to know You more! I want to have nothing but Your full will in my life. I trust You completely and want what You want more than what I want.”
This means that I trust God with my biggest dreams, hopes and fears and know He’ll work it all out for my ultimate good, so I don’t have to worry about when I might die or when my husband or children might die. I trust God with those details. I don’t worry about if our country collapses or there is a major natural disaster – I trust God to provide for me and my family and take care of us and use it for His glory. I don’t worry about if I lose my job or if there is a significant illness in our family because I know that God will use all things for my good because I love Him and am called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28). Will I be tested on these things? Yes! And I pray that God might use my life completely for His great glory and His good purposes! I don’t want to miss out on one ounce of His will for me.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. I John 4:18
Help us to be people who can live in faith, trusting You completely and seeking You first in everything! Let us bring great joy to You! Empower us by Your Spirit to bless Your church and to do Your kingdom’s work in this world by Your power alone. Accomplish Your will through us and bring great glory to Your Name through our lives!