Abrabam, China, combat half heartedness, daughter, Deuteronomy 6:5, Genesis 22:2, God wants the whole person, Isaac, lean in spirit, lukewarm, merchant, missionary to China, Puritan Matthew Mead, reasons for testing, Revelation 3, The Almost Christian Rediscovered, Tozer Quote, we do not get to choose our test
God wants to test us before and after He blesses us.
After these things God tested Abraham. Genesis 22:1
Unfortunately, we do not get to choose our test. It would be much easier if we did. Usually our test is related to, but not limited to, our blessing. In Abraham’s case, he was tested before and after his blessing. What Abraham was asked to do was something most of us would find nearly impossible…Sacrifice his son of promise.
He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” Genesis 22:2
Our text tells us that “some time later” God tested Abraham. We don’t know how much later. If you remember, at the end of chapter 21 Isaac was two or three years old. From the text we know for certain Isaac was strong enough to carry the wood for the sacrifice and that he was old enough to understand that having a sacrifice without a lamb wouldn’t work.
A well-to-do merchant stood on the dock watching as final preparations were made for a ship to sail. As he stood there, he was joined by a stranger whose clothing revealed his poverty. Finally the stranger spoke up. “You seem mighty pleased about watching this ship sail,” he said. “Yes,” replied the merchant. “I have seen many ships leave this harbor, but this one gives me more satisfaction than any other I can remember. You see, on this ship I am sending ten thousand dollars worth of equipment for a mission hospital in China. I just had to come down and see that it got off safely.” “Then we have something in common,” said the stranger, “for I, too, have a gift on that ship.” “And what is that gift?” asked the merchant somewhat incredulously. “My only daughter is on that ship. She’s going to China as a missionary.” “Then my gift is nothing compared with yours,” came the merchant’s quiet reply.
Like this merchant, Abraham was a man of great wealth. His faith was so strong he would readily have given any or all of his wealth to God. However, Abraham’s material wealth was nothing compared with the gift God asked of him — his son Isaac. Yet Abraham passed even this test of faith in noble fashion. How much deeper do you think Abraham’s walk with God became after this time of testing?
Why would God test Abraham? It seems that if anyone had a good track record, it was Abraham. (sort of) But he had been through so much and now he was old man. Give him a break! He believed God regarding the promise of a son. He obeyed God’s command for everyone to be circumcised. He even sent Hagar and Ishmael away when God commanded him. Hadn’t Abraham proved his faithfulness? But there are some reasons God tested Abraham. . . and why He sometimes tests us.
One of the reasons God tests us is to combat half-heartedness. I don’t know if Abraham was ever half-hearted in his faith, but we certainly are at times. Like the student who was so consumed to get an assignment done in the quickest way possible, rather than to do the best job possible, we tend to look for the minimum requirements necessary for discipleship.
We hear talk about grace and conclude that we just need to say a prayer and our eternal destiny is determined. To think this way is to misunderstand what God asks of us. Salvation cannot be earned . . . it is a gift. To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is to rely on Him, trust Him, and build your life on Him. It is a new orientation for life, not a minimum requirement!
In the book, The Almost Christian Rediscovered (p. 160), Puritan Matthew Mead imagines God asking us some simple questions:
If my commands are not holy, just, and good, then why do you proclaim them as such? And if they are holy, just, and good, why don’t you obey them? If Jesus Christ is not worth having, why do you profess Him? If He is worth having, then why don’t you hold Him tight and draw as close as you can to Him? If the means that I have appointed to convert and save souls (worship, prayer, study of the Scriptures) are not effective, why do you sit under them and rest in the performance of them? And if they are effective, then why don’t you submit to the power in them? If religion is not good, why do you profess it? If religion is good, why do you not practice it?
Simple isn’t it? Much of the Christian life is. When God allows times of testing to come into our lives, it does combat half-heartedness. Tests cause us to remain “lean” in the spirit. It causes us to work-off and keep-off useless fat from our spiritual walk.
God is always calling us to make REAL whole-hearted decisions for the Kingdom. The church in Laodicea was condemned because they were lukewarm. They “believed” but were half-hearted in their belief. God considered half-heartedness to be worse than turning away entirely from Him. (Revelation 3) Both lead to hell but the one is worse because it leads us to hell while thinking we are headed to Heaven!
In the time of Moses, God told the children of Israel He wanted them to “love the Lord their God with ALL their heart, soul, and strength.” (Deut 6:5) This was the creed that every good Jew memorized. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus responded by repeating this creed and adding the word “mind“. Why? Half heartedness begins in the mind. You must make up your mind..Now! If we neglect to make-up our minds, half-heartedness or lukewarmness will infect our whole heart. God knows the tendencies within men. God sends tests our way to force us to “get off the fence“. They are sent to make our faith real.