“After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “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” (Genesis 22:1-2 ESV).
Imagine the God of the universe telling you to take your one beloved son and sacrifice him on a mountain. I can only imagine Abraham’s turmoil, fear, and distress upon this request. And while I am confident Abraham felt many of these emotions, not once does chapter 22 tell of Abraham questioning or disputing with God.
Instead, the chapter seamlessly flows into Abraham’s obedient and faithful actions.
“So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22: 3 ESV).
Part of what stands out to me in this verse is the first word: “So.” God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, so Abraham immediately took action to do just that. There isn’t any hesitation or doubt. Nonetheless, Genesis 22 begins clearly stating that, “God tested Abraham.”
Testing of the Faithful Throughout the Whole Bible
And that is only one of many stories in the Bible of God testing His people.
- Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers
- Naomi lost her homeland to then have her husband and all her sons die
- Paul suffered many afflictions for the good of the gospel
There is not one biblical figure that I can think of who didn’t face trials in their faith. Abraham’s story continues as he prepares to sacrifice his son. He has his son bound and his arm pulled back, ready to slaughter Isaac, when God sent one of His angels:
“But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Genesis 22:11-12 ESV).
“Now I know that you fear God.”
God tested Abraham’s faith so that he could prove his reverent fear–or worship– of the Lord. The phrasing of this verse might seem strange — did God not know that Abraham feared Him? Our all-knowing God (Psalm 139:4) already knew that Abraham would fear Him, yet He still tested Abraham.
So, if God already knows whether or not we will follow His guidance, why does God test our faith?
Why Does God Test Our Faith?
If God is all-knowing, and the testing of our faith affects Him minimally, then this time of testing must benefit us substantially.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3 ESV).
“The testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
In other versions of the Bible, this verse says that the testing of our faith produces perseverance (NIV), patience (NKJV), and endurance (NLT).
When God tests our faith, He offers us the opportunity to grow in our faith and knowledge of Him. Abraham trusted God even when He asked him to do the most difficult thing imaginable. Abraham learned the invaluable lesson that God is always faithful to provide:
“And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided'” (Genesis 22:13-14 ESV).
When God puts us through trials, it is His intent that we learn that we can trust in Him even in the midst of the most difficult of trials. Just as I imagine that Abraham was perplexed by why God would request him to sacrifice his only son, I’m sure we also look at many of our trials and wonder, “Why, God?”
As humans, we usually plan our lives as if we know best; but sometimes–and it may seem often to us– God throws a ‘curveball’ into our plans.
“Why would He change my plans?” I’ll ask, ignorantly assuming I know best. I don’t want to give up that job, that home, that lifestyle. Why would God want me to give up something that brings me happiness?
Because this test brings me strength; this test brings me patience; This test brings me perseverance. God’s priority is not our happiness; it is our holiness. It is our becoming more and more Christlike as we grow in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of Him and His righteous ways. If Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered, why should we think we too won’t experience suffering and testing in this world? (Hebrews 5:8)
This test strengthens your faith in God.
Trials are difficult when you are going through one. But God expects us to learn to trust that He knows what He is doing and that He is able to use the trial for our good and His glory.(Romans 8:28) He wants us to learn that even when we don’t understand the ‘whys’ of our situation, that we can trust the One “Who” is Sovereign over every circumstance in our life.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12 ESV).
When you’re going through a trial, remember that God is using your circumstance to reveal His always faithful character to you. He’s also using them to develop His character attributes in you; to refine and mold you more and more into His image. And, He’s using it to prepare you for a time that’s coming– a glorious time when you, along with all who put their faith in Jesus, will receive the crown of life!
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