We often hear folks pray, “Lord, grow our faith.” How does God do this? How does He grow our faith. James tells us up front: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). Intellectually, we acknowledge that the way God grows our faith is through testing, or trials, but we’re never ready for the trials when they hit, are we?
Our text this week from the life of Abraham is a perfect example. Genesis 21 ends with a perfect, almost idyllic ring to it: “Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. And Abraham sojourned many days in the land of the Philistines.”
Close your eyes and you can see Abraham sitting by his tent, the setting sun in the western sky covers the landscape with a warm, orange hue. He watches as Isaac, his beloved son of promise, walks the path past the tamarisk tree. Like Isaac, the tree has grown strong over time. Without saying a word, a sense of great contentment and peace fills Abraham’s heart.
Years pass between the end of chapter 21 and chapter 22. Some commentators believe as many as 20 years. There is no hint that Abraham has heard the voice of the Lord during this time. And then God calls His name, and Abraham immediately recognizes His voice– “Here I am.”
“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
Let those words sink into your heart. Think as a parent and as one who trusts God with all that you have. This wasn’t the diabolical work of Satan or one of his demons, this is not the result of a sinful practice in Abraham’s life, or any other reason that might make sense to us. In His sovereignty, God needed to test Abraham’s faith.
How did Abraham respond? Abraham doesn’t question. He doesn’t ask for a repeat, or wonder why. The Bible simply tells us the next morning Abraham obeyed.
We know how this chapter ends, Abraham passes the test. In his heart, he had already killed Isaac (Heb. 11:17), but the Lord stopped him from physically carrying out the deadly task. The Lord declared, “because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you…”
Here’s the question: do you think Abraham’s faith was stronger than before this test? Without question. You see, I believe the Lord graciously tested Abraham’s faith, not because He was curious whether Abraham would pass or fail, but to strengthen Abraham’s faith, to give Abraham even greater confidence in the word and provision of the Lord. In a word, to grow his faith.
The picture that comes to my mind as I think about how God tests our faith is one of a father encouraging his young son to jump off the edge of a table. The father stands his son on the table and then takes a couple of steps back, holds his hands out and says, “jump.” The child looks at his father then looks at the long drop to the floor then back to his father. He inches towards the edge of the table and then with confidence jumps into his fathers waiting arms. The next time the father places his son on the table and tells him to jump, the child does so without hesitation knowing his father will catch him.
That is testing the grows our faith. As the Lord tests us, we learn to trust Him more and more.–Chris Eller
This Week’s Core Doctrine
Eternity (John 14:1–4): We believe there is a heaven and a hell and that Jesus Christ is returning to judge the earth and to establish his kingdom. We believe in the resurrection of the dead: the believer to life everlasting and the unbeliever to the resurrection of judgment.
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