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Faith Tested

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Intro:

Good morning Campus Church. You guys doing alright this morning? So we’re done with Philippians and so I thought I would share with you all something that is relevant to all of us.
So if you have your Bibles go ahead and grab those and turn them to Hebrews chapter 11. Hebrews is toward the back of you Bibles. We’re going to look at a passage from there and then we are going to look at a story in Genesis so don’t get too comfortable in Hebrews.
Have any of you ever heard of that monthly devotion called the Daily Bread? If you have a grandma that goes to church you probably have seen it lying around in her house.
Listen to this one Daily Bread devotion that I think is good for all of us to hear...
God sometimes allows us to enter into discouraging situations for the primary purpose of testing our faith. At such times we must refuse to give up in despair. we must turn to the Lord when our soul is fainting within us, trusting Him completely. James H. McConkey wrote, "What can you do when you are about to faint physically? You can't DO anything! In your weakness you just fall upon the shoulders of some strong loved one, lean hard, and rest until your strength returns. The same is true when you are tempted to faint under adversity. The Lord's message to us is “Be still, and know that I am God' (). Hudson Taylor (who was a missionary in China for 51 years) was so feeble in the closing months of his life that he said to a dear friend, “I'm so weak that I can't work or read my Bible, and I can hardly pray. I can only lie still in God's arms like a little child and trust.' And that is all the Heavenly Father asks of you when you grow weary in the fierce fires of affliction."
Many of us who are believers know that being a believer is hard. We go through trials, difficult times, we go through times of suffering and heart ache. A lot of the time we are being attacked by the Enemy. But something that we don’t talk about too often is that God himself puts our faith through trial to test it. Not necessarily to prove to him that our faith is genuine but to prove to ourselves that the Lord is our rock.
So this morning I want to talk about this guy that is important to the narrative of the Bible. His name is Abraham. And in particular, an episode in Scripture where Abraham, the man who many people around the world see as the father of our faith, is put to the test. Hebrews chapter 11 is known as the hall of faith. There is a lot of Abraham in . He was a great man that we can learn a lot from. If you are in Hebrews look with me at chapter 11 and in verse 17...

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

This is the Word of the Lord.
Prayer

Background

Now turn back to . And i’m going to give you a little bit of background to what is going on here.
First off, who is Abraham? We are first introduced to Abraham in when God calls him out of his home and go into the unknown to become a great nation, which will be Israel. What’s so crazy about this is that Abraham wasn’t looking to be used by God. In fact, many commentators believe that Abraham was part of a people that didn’t worship God at all. They worshipped the moon.
But God calls him out of that to leave his pagan family and to go to the unknown. says,

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.

We could just stop and talk about that! I mean, how many of us are willing to go to an unknown land to spread the kingdom of God? How many of us are willing to leave everything that is so familiar to us for the sake of the Kingdom?
God makes a covenant with Abraham. He says,

“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God reestablishes this covenant with Abraham over and over throughout Genesis because there is one thing that remains at the forefront of Abraham’s mind:
He has no kids. How in the world would he become a great nation? And on top of all that he and his wife Sarah are getting old. Like really old.
God tells Abraham in ,

16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

Listen to Abraham’s response,

17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

He’s 100 years old! And his wife in 90! That would be like your great grandma having a kid. Absolutely nuts! But through a series of Abraham trying to take matters into his own hands, having a kid with Hagar who is not his wife, God comes through in . The Bible says this,

21 The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. 2 And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” 7 And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

The promised son is born. God has come through with his promises. And this is where I want to kind of camp out this morning in Genesis chapter 22. Some years have passed and Isaac is now a young man. I want to share with you three observations from this morning. And this is the first thing.

God Asks Hard Things of His People.

Look at starting at verse 1 with me.

22 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 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.”

What? After all of that God asks Abraham to sacrifice his promised son to him. There’s no way that Abraham could have anticipated this happening. One of the most valuable lessons that we can learn as someone who follows Jesus is to...
Be Obedient 1. Expect Tests from God (Gen. 22:1–2)

Expect trials from God, because the Christian life is not easy.

Have you ever experienced God asking you to do something that seems like it is just too hard?
Have you ever experienced God asking you to do something that seems like it is just too hard?
I have. Me being here is a result of God asking me to do something hard.
I remember it was like three years ago now. Pastor Barry and I have been friends since I was a freshmen in college. It’s been a long time. He discipled me through college. I remember he sat me down at Starbucks and was like, “hey man, I know you want to be a pastor. How about you join me at planting a church at UNF.”
I remember I was thinking, “yeah right. I got a great job that pays well and has benefits. Emily is 9 months pregnant and about to give birth. I’m leading a Community Group at my church and experience true gospel community. Why would I leave that?”
Thank Jesus for a wife that is more sensitive to the calling of the Holy Spirit. Emily said to me, “why wouldn’t we go?” And obviously we did! And God has provided for us time after time. We have seen so many lives changed by Jesus through this church.
When the Lord asks you to do something and you have the choice to either obey or disobey just remember that no matter how hard it may seem, there is no where more safe than in the center of God’s will.

Dr. B. J. Miller once said, “It is a great deal easier to do that which God gives us to do, no matter how hard it is, than to face the responsibilities of not doing it.”

Maybe God’s asking you to do something difficult. Maybe he’s asking you to go somewhere hard to be a light in the darkness. Maybe he keeps putting that one person in your mind and in your heart… that person in your class or at work who openly hates God… and you know you have to say something to them. you have a choice to either obey the God when he asks you to something hard or you can disobey.
There’s not many parents in here but believe me, God asked Abraham to do something that seemed impossible. I mean think about this… God tells Abraham to kill his son that he has been waiting for like 40 years for to prove that he trusts God fully.
And When God calls Abraham do you see his response to God? He says,

“Here I am.”

He’s not hiding from God and this isn’t the first time that Abraham has been tested by God. If you remember, God asked Abraham to leave his family and his home.
Warren Wiersbe said,
Be Obedient 2. Focus on Promises, Not Explanations (Gen. 22:3–5)

Our faith is not really tested until God asks us to bear what seems unbearable, do what seems unreasonable, and expect what seems impossible. Whether you look at Joseph in prison, Moses and Israel at the Red Sea, David in the cave, or Jesus at Calvary, the lesson is the same: We live by promises, not by explanations.

Look at what happens next in . And this is the second observation that we will see in our text this morning...

The Only Right Response to God’s Testing is Faith and Obedience.

Look at how Abraham responds to what God says to him...

3 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. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

This is crazy! He doesn’t argue with God. He doesn’t ask why. He responds with obedience that comes from faith in a God that keeps his promises and is good. But at the same time we see his humanity. It’s like yes he was immediately obedient but at the same time he’s thinking, “God serious right now?” Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, took his men and Isaac. But then he cut the wood. It’s almost like his mind is all over the place. Should he cut the wood before the car is pack And everyone’s waiting for him to go? Yes he’s immediately obeying God has faith in God but he’s still human.
You guys this is important. All these guys that we read about in the Bible are not super humans. They are just like us with shortcomings and struggles. If you read about Abraham’s life he’s there was many times that he didn’t have faith in God and tried to save his own skin.
Just think about how unreasonable what God demands seems to be from Abraham’s perspective. Abraham is 100 years old, Isaac is his only son that was born from a miracle, Abraham and Sarah loved Isaac and they built their whole future on him.
God is testing Abraham’s faith, his love, and his hope.. Like he was testing Abraham to see if his hope and faith was in the Lord or was it in Isaac.
Listen to this,
Be Obedient 2. Focus on Promises, Not Explanations (Gen. 22:3–5)

When God sends a trial to us, our first response is usually, “Why, Lord?” and then, “Why me?” Right away, we want God to give us explanations. Of course, we know that God has reasons for sending tests—perhaps to purify our faith (1 Peter 1:6–9), or perfect our character (James 1:1–4), or even to protect us from sin (2 Cor. 12:7–10)—but we fail to see how these things apply to us. The fact that we ask our Father for explanations suggests that we may not know ourselves as we should or God as we should.

Abraham heard God’s word and immediately obeyed it by faith. He knew that God’s will never contradicts God’s promise, so he held on to the promise “in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Gen. 21:12). Abraham believed that even if God allowed him to slay his son, He could raise Isaac from the dead (Heb. 11:17–19). Faith does not demand explanations; faith rests on promises.

Abraham responded to God with obedience. But he didn’t only respond with obedience but he responded with obedience that came out of faith in who God is and that he keeps his promises.
Yes he was obedient. He rose early in the morning (he didn't put this off), he saddled his donkey, he got two of his guys to help him with all of the things he needs to take. He cut the wood that he would need he the offering and he was off to the place that God told him to go.
When God tells us to do something we need to respond immediately
Thomas Kampis said,
“Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience.”
It would seem that Abraham didn’t tell anyone what God had told him to do. They’re on their journey to the mountain where the sacrifice is supposed to take place, they see it from afar and his two men must have been like...
“Hey Abraham… I think we forgot something. Where is the sacrifice?”
Abraham says this to them… “God will provide the sacrifice.”
He knew and remembered what God had promised him. He knew that God is good on his promises. Do you see what he says to his two men when they see the mountain?
He says...
“Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”
He obeyed but not like you did when you were a kid and just didn't want to get in trouble. He obeyed because he had faith in God that he would keep his promise to make him a great nation through his promised son Isaac.
How often do we obey out of fear instead of out of faith? Or how often do we reluctantly obey God? Do you remember the story of Jonah? The Lord told Jonah to go to Nineveh, a city that was know for it’s cruelty and wickedness, and God told Jonah to go there and preach the gospel so that they would repent and believe. Many people read the story of Jonah and think that he is a hero for going but the fact of the matter is he is an example of disobedience that turns into relunctant obedience.
Jonah runs from God. After God makes him go to Nineveh by having him swallowed and vomited out by a great fish, Jonah finally obeys God. But the funny thing is that God told Jonah to preach that the Lord was going to destroy Nineveh unless they repent and this is the sermon that Jonah preaches to these people..
“In forty days Nineveh will be demolished!” No mention of salvation or repentance because he wanted them to be destroyed! Jonah was disobedient but God showed grace on both the Ninevites and on Jonah.
Don’t be Jonah. Obey God the first time. Trust that God is good and that he has made promises to us and he will keep them. Promise after promise of how he will keep you, he’ll be with you, he’ll go before you, he’lol give you words to speak.
What is God telling you to do today? Is he bringing someone to your mind that you need to share the gospel with? Don’t wait. Do it. Prayerfully and obediently. Is he telling you to go somewhere? Go. Prayerfully and obediently. Is he telling you to get into a community group or serve in the church? Well he is actually. He commands us to live in Community and serve.
Abraham said, “The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you… together.” When he said that God would provide a sacrifice he believed it. Just like the passage from Hebrews we read earlier,
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through` Isaac shall your offspring be named.”
Let’s talk about Isaac for a little bit. And this is the third observation that we will look at today...

Jesus is the ultimate example of faithful obedience.

I know that this is the first book in the Bible. And Abraham and Isaac walked the earth long before Jesus’ earthly ministry but we believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus is God. He is eternal. We believe that the whole point of the Bible is Jesus.
In fact Abraham isn’t the hero of this story. Isaac isn’t the hero of this story. The hero is Jesus.
Theologians would call this story a picture of Jesus. Let me show you what I mean.
Thomas Kampis said,
Jesus is the only son of the Father like Isaac is to Abraham. Jesus had a miraculous birth like Isaac. Jesus had to be sacrificed like Isaac.
Look back with me at Genesis 22. And lets look at Isaac for a minute. Verse 6...
And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. -
Just like Isaac carried the instrument of his death with him up the mountain, so did Jesus carry the cross up Golgotha.
Here’s another thing. Isaac was a young man. He could have easily gotten away from Abraham. Yeah. He could have taken his 110 year old dad if he wanted to. But he didn’t He willingly submitted to the will of his father.
Jesus was sent to earth to die for his people. He could have fought it but he was faithfully and willingly obedient to the Father. Remember what he said to Peter in the Gospel of Matthew after Peter tried to interfere with Jesus being arrested?
He said,
52 Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? - Matthew 26:52-53
53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? -
If he wanted to be defended he had a whole army of angels at his disposal.
Look at the willingness of Isaac on the mountain. Verse 7...
7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" 8 Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. - Genesis 22:7-9
8 Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together. - Genesis 22:7-8
“Abraham followed God’s directions in obedience. His faith wasn’t just something he spoke about; his faith led to action. Abraham “bound his son” (v. 9). We can’t help but wonder at the degree of faith this might have required of Isaac as well. Abraham then placed Isaac “on the altar on top of the wood” (v. 9). He took the knife in his hand and prepared to slaughter his son.”
Verse 10...
Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. - Genesis 22:10
“The wrenching in Abraham’s heart must have answered his own question. Why now? Why Isaac? Because God had given Abraham much. And, like us, Abraham must have been tempted to love God’s good gifts more than he loved God himself. And God’s crowning gift—Abraham’s most prized possession—was his son, his only son, whom he loved, Isaac. And thus, the loss of Isaac would be the keenest test of Abraham’s faith in and love towards God. Would he still love God if God took away his good gifts? Would he still follow God if God took away his son, his only son, whom he loved, Isaac? These are questions we must ask of ourselves: “Would I still love God if I were put in the shoes of an Ethiopian, making around one dollar a day? Would I still love him if he took my home, my three meals a day, my children, or my spouse?”
Look at what happens next.
11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."
12 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." -
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. -
At the last moment the Angel of the Lord stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac. He spared Isaac and provided a ram just like Abraham said would happened. And just like God provided a sacrifice for Abraham and Isaac he has provided a sacrifice for us. He spared Abraham’s son but he did not spare his own so that we could become sons and daughters of the Father.
Maybe that’s what you need to hear this morning. We’ve talked a lot about obedience and faith this morning but maybe you have never placed you faith in the sacrifice of Jesus. Let me just say this and then we will worship together… God wants you to be a part of his people. He wants his Son’s sacrifice to be counted for you. Before Christ we are heading toward judgement and we desperately need someone who has no sin to pay the price for our sin. You need Jesus’ righteousness because you have none. I’m going to pray and after that we are going to sing another song to Jesus. If you have questions about how to start a relationship with Jesus today see me, see Barry, see Andrew or Chadwick or any of our leaders here.
Isaac is a young man.
Prayer
“Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience. Whoever strives to withdraw from obedience, withdraws from Grace.”
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