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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is God Testing You?

The Sacrifice of Abraham. Angel of the Lord stays Abraham's hand before he sacirfices Isaac on the order of the Lord. Lamb for sacrifice centre right. Llurent de la Hire (or Hyre - 1606-1656) French painter. Oil on canvas. Private Collection.

God won’t ever tempt us.  But he does test us.  And sometimes, it isn’t very fun.

This past Sunday, Pastor Eric gave a sermon on the testing of Abraham.  In short, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, as a test of Abraham’s faith.

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied.  Then God said, "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 22:1-2

No, God didn’t want the death of Isaac.  But he did want the heart of Abraham.  And although Abraham was willing to give God everything – even his one and only son – God intervened and spared Isaac’s life.

"Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "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

Was God trying to play a cruel joke on Abraham?  What kind of God would put one of his followers through such agony, only to then say, “Well, I was just kidding about that sacrifice.  I just wanted to see what you were made of.”

These are tough questions that I don’t expect to get adequate answers for in this lifetime.  Sure, I’ve heard the obvious answers -- God had no intention of letting Abraham sacrifice Isaac; Abraham's (and Isaac’s) faith only grew stronger after the test; and God ultimately used the story to foreshadow, quite brilliantly, the sacrifice of his one an only son, Jesus, to demonstrate his unfathomable love for us.

These answers make sense in my head.  But in my heart, I still wrestle with the test.  Why was it necessary to put Abraham through such agony?  And how are we supposed to know the difference between a temptation and a test?

Pastor Eric explained it like this:

A temptation is something you want to do, but know you ought not to do.

A test is something you don’t want to do, but know you ought to do.

I had never heard it explained quite like this.  So simple, yet so difficult.

Who likes being tested?  No me.  Tests are something we all wish we could avoid.  Even the brightest students are relieved when final exams are over.  And unlike final exams, tests of the heart can be difficult to study for.  We don’t know when a test of the heart is going to be over, and sometimes it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Has God been testing you lately?

Do you know how to recognize the difference between a temptation and a test?

And, does the story of Abraham’s test inspire you?  Or, like me, does it scare you to death and raise unanswered questions?

If you want to listen to or download Pastor Eric’s full sermon, follow the instructions here on his new blog.

If you want to check out his story, read his article Finding God At Dartmouth.


Wendy Paine Miller said...

Yes, I'm going through a very specific time of testing.

Wow, that description is going to have me thinking all day. First time I've looked at it that way.
~ Wendy

Alison said...

I feel like I'm constantly tested. I've always struggled with that whole scene between Abraham and God and wondered what that might look like in my life today.

I like your pastor's wording. That could be a good gauge.

Heidiopia said...

For sure, I've had times of testing-- sometimes I think life is a perpetual test! I've never really considered the difference between a test and a temptation-- food for thought. :)

Graceful said...

Yup. I think God is perhaps testing my faith right now.

Babetta said...

This is really good. Thank you for sharing.