Charles Stanley - Our Faith On Trial
Well, there's a difference between being tempted and being tried; and sometimes we get those mixed up. And we think when sometimes God is allowing a trial, that we are being tempted; and sometimes when we are tempted, we think this is a trial. So, I want to distinguish between the two of those; and I put them on a screen here so we can make it simple enough. It's important that we distinguish between a trial and a temptation. A trial is for the purpose of purifying us and strengthening us, not cause us to sin, purify us and strengthening us. Very important we understand what that's about. A temptation is for the purpose of enticing us to sin, to pollute us, to weaken us. That is, one is for our good; one is not for our good.
So, what we're talking about in this message is a trial, not a temptation. And so, when we think about a test in our own life; they come in all different sizes and different times in our life. And if you're a believer, you're going to be tested, you're going to be tried and you're going to be tempted. All of us are there at times in our life, faith on trial. And this passage of Scripture is a severe test in Abraham's life. You remember we've been in Genesis for some time, and God spoke to Abraham in that twelfth chapter in a very special way and told him what He was going to do. And see, He didn't say, "If, and, or but". He said, "Here's what I'm going to do". And God promised him a son. And finally, at the age of a hundred, and his wife, Sarah, was ninety, they had a son, Isaac. And now God has required him to do something that does not fit anything he believes or anything he's known.
So I want us to look at this, these first few verses here, and let's look at the twenty-second chapter of Genesis, beginning in verse one. "Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham". So we know this isn't a temptation; it's a test. It's a trial. "And he said to him, 'Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'Take now your son, your only son.'" Now, he'd already had another son through an Egyptian maid named Hagar, which didn't count in God's eyes. That wasn't in that line, "'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," which was absolutely, totally inexplainable. Why, after I waited a hundred years of age, why after all these years are You telling me to go to Moriah, which is about a three-day trip, and sacrifice him to You?
Imagine the kind of thoughts that went through his mind; the hesitation he probably had. Wanted to be sure that God was saying that to him, and it wasn't something he was saying to himself. The Scripture says in verse three, "So Abraham rose up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; he split wood for the burnt offering, arose and went to the place of which God had told him". And so, he now is in a different place in this life and he has this son whom God had promised, and all the promises of God, he believed that God would fulfill every single one of them. And now God is telling him, "I want you to sacrifice him," which has to be confusing. As much as he's listened to God, and sometimes he's made mistakes and sometimes he's done the right thing. But now, God is saying, "This son, through whom..." now, He didn't say this to him, but through whom the Messiah is coming. "I want you to take him to Mount Moriah and I want you to sacrifice him". That is, "I want you to kill him, like you'd kill a sheep".
So imagine what went through Abraham's mind. Now, what I want you to notice is this. Not only did God tell him to do that, but the Scripture says in verse four, "On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance". That is, he did what God had told him to do. He did it when He said do it. He did it how He said do it; with whom He said do it. He did it exactly like God said. Now, listen carefully. When God tells you and me to do something, He's usually going to give us some instructions. And when He tells us to do something, the question is: are we going to do what He said? And oftentimes there is a time when He says it. And I can remember the one time in my life of, there've been many times, one time in my life when God said something that was totally unbelievable to me. And He said, "Here's what I want you to do; and here's when I want you to do it". And it was difficult for me to figure that out, except I realized in my heart, if that's what God said do, you don't question it.
Sometimes we might question what God says, but Abraham did exactly what God told him to do. Now, was there conflict in his mind about it? Yes, there was. Because remember, he'd waited, it's a hundred years of age before the son that was so very important in his life was born. And I want you to think about this. In the twelfth chapter of Genesis, "Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go forth from your country, from your relatives, from your father's house, to the land which I will show you; I will make you a great nation, I will bless you, make your name great; you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in all the families of the earth will be blessed,'" because of you. So that was ever ringing in his mind. And now he's come to this place, this son, and God is saying, "Kill him". What would you have thought? The same thing he thought: absolute confusion. How, how could I do both of these and both of them be true? So, this is not a temptation. This is an awesome trial in his life. And notice, He spoke of him, "He said, 'Take now your son, your only son.'" It wasn't his only son, but it was his only son from God's perspective in His line of genealogy through whom Jesus would come. The son whom, listen, "Your only son, whom you love, Isaac". God made it crystal clear, and that made it even worse, "Your only son, whom you love, Isaac". And I want you to sacrifice him, like you would sacrifice a lamb.
What in the world was God up to in all this? So I want you to think about something. Our lack of understanding of why God tells us to do something is never an acceptable excuse for not doing it. Listen, whatever our excuses are, it's unacceptable to God because God loves you, because God has a plan for your life, because He has a purpose for your life. Notice, God didn't give him a lot of explanation. And think about this, God doesn't owe us a lot of explanation. I think about people our age and all of you young people who are sitting here, and God says to you, "Here's what I want you to do about your life, or at this particular point in your life". Obedience says, "I'm going to do what He says, when He says do it, whether I understand it or not". And so, here's a perfect example that he doesn't understand, but he does exactly what God told him to do.
Now, he had made his mistakes before; going down to Egypt, there was a big mistake in his life. And so, now God is saying to him at this pivotal point, "Sacrifice him like you would a lamb". I don't think we can possibly grasp what that meant to a father, when God Almighty, Jehovah God, Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, His Hebrew names, He's saying I want you to take him and sacrifice him. But Abraham's response was, "So Abraham rose up early in the morning and saddled his donkey, took those two men," that is, he did exactly what God told him to do. Now, I want you to notice something, probably the most important part of this passage is this. In verse five, or verse four, "On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and he saw the place from a distance," Mount Moriah. Listen to this carefully, "Abraham said to His young men," who were with him, his two servants. Watch this carefully. This is why every word in the Bible is important, "'Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and we will return.'"
In the Hebrew language, that's exactly what it says, "We will worship, we will return to you". So what does that say? On the one hand, it may say, "I may sacrifice him, but if I do, according to God's promise, God, You're going to raise him from the dead. You said that You've given me this son, and through whom the world's going to be blessed. Now You're telling me to offer him as a sacrifice. I'm going to offer him as a sacrifice, and surely, if I do, You'll raise him from the dead". Now, that's what you call living awesome faith. Amen? You'll raise him from the dead if necessary because You've made a promise.
Now, think about this. Listen, there's just as much power and authority behind His promise to you as it was to Abraham. This is God speaking. And this is why I say to young people, for example, who are looking for God's will, "When God tells you to do something, do what He says. Don't argue with Him about this and that and the other, because God's already thought through the whole process in your life. He knows what He wants you to do. He knows what you're equipped to do. He knows where He wants you to go. He knows what the effect is going to be. You can't figure that out. Abraham was totally stunned by the idea of sacrificing this son, his only son as He said; killing him like a lamb, you... "When you've promised. Look at your promises, God". But he did it anyway.
Now, let me ask you a question. Can you think this morning about a time that God has told you to do something and you argued with Him and you lost the battle because you didn't do it. Can you think of a time that God has said, "Here's what I want you to do? Here's what I want you, where I want you to go. Here's what I don't want you to do. That's not what I had in mind for you and you did it anyway". It all boils down to, listen carefully, it all boils down to whether I believe that God is God: omniscient, knowing all; omnipotent, having all power; omnipresent, everything is in His presence, who always knows what's best for you and me at any given moment in our life. Do I really believe that? I'll tell you the only way you'll know is whether you do the little things that God tells you to do. When the big thing comes along, you don't have to worry about it. You're in a habit of obeying God. And think about what it says if you disobey Him. You are denying His omnipotence. You are denying His position as God. You are denying His omnipotence, that He can do all things because you are going to have your way in this situation no matter what.
The little word O-B-E-Y, obey, is the key. And Abraham heard what God said. I'm sure he didn't like it, and I'm sure on the way he probably cried. On the way to Mount Moriah of those three days, he asked God, "Lord, are You sure? How could this be true"? I can imagine thinking about it, and I put myself in this position for a few moments, and I said, "God, if that had been me and that had been Andy and myself, what would I have thought walking to Moriah with a torch, or with a fire, maybe a flint, however they did it, and a knife, and the wood on Andy's back. And I'm marching him over here, and You're telling me to kill him". You know what? It's one thing to think about what they did; think about what you would do. Imagine, because it was his only son. It's the son God had promised him. And listen to this, he waited a hundred years to have this son. So he was born by a miracle to Sarah, his wife.
And now they're on their way to a place of sacrifice and you're going to kill him. That's obedience. He could have argued with God and said, "Lord, why should I sacrifice this son whom you promised? Why this one"? I don't think you could think of a question that he didn't ask God all his way. And yet, they kept walking. The Scripture says, "Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, laid it on Isaac's back, took his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, 'My father!'" listen to this. Could you imagine this? "'My father!' He said, 'Here I am, my son.' He said," look, "'We have the fire and we have the wood but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?'" Can you imagine how that pierced the heart of Abraham? Where is the lamb for the offering? I see the wood, I see the fire. "Abraham said, 'God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.' So the two of them walked on together".
That must have been, as he left the servants over here with the animals. That must have been the longest walk. Imagine what went through his mind every step of the way. "God, are You sure? How could this be true? Lord, what can I do? Have I missed it, Father? Have I disobeyed You? What about ten sheep? What about a hundred sheep? What about..." can you imagine what went through his mind? Anything except what God had asked him to do. So, the Scripture says, "They came to the place of which God had told him; Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood". So he had that all set. And I think about the turmoil while they set up the altar, they built the altar. And remember that Isaac had to carry his own wood on his back. He had to carry his own wood to be killed on. And I don't know how long they were at the place and they built the altar. If I'd-a been Abraham, that had been the slowest built altar you've ever seen. And yet, they put it together. And what is Isaac thinking all this time? "This is my father. We have the fire and the knife and no lamb. But what's going on"? Then he had to tell him. "Son, God has told me to sacrifice you to Himself".
What do you think Isaac must have felt? "You're my father, I'm your son. You call me your only son. You've told me about all the things that God has told you were going to happen through me. And now you've walked me out here for three days and now you're going to kill me"? And so, the altar is built and Scripture says, "They came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood". You can't even imagine what went through both their minds. The father looking down at the son, his only son whom God had promised would be a blessing to the nations of the world. And the son looking up at his father and thinking, "I know you love me. You said God gave me as a gift to you. Father, are you sure you're doing the right thing"? There's no verse in here that says about any opposition on the part of Isaac to wrestle the whole idea and get off the altar. No, none of that. But there he lay and he'd seen this happen many times to little sheep.
And so, what happened was, here's what Abraham did. He took the knife and he was about to come down with it. "Abraham, Abraham," God said to him. And the Scripture says, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me". Think about what happened in that moment. They probably shouted. I don't know what all they did, but I can tell you one thing. They weren't quiet about it. Because God had sent him a message, "Now I know," now, watch this carefully. God didn't do that to find out whether Abraham would obey Him or not, because God knows everything. He knew he would obey Him, but Abraham didn't know. He knew that Abraham needed to know by experience that he loved God above everything else in the world. And so, He stopped him just in time.
And it's interesting, He didn't just say it once. Not, "Abraham," but, "Abraham, Abraham". Let there be no doubt. "Then Abraham raised his eyes, looked, and behold, there was a ram caught on the thicket by his horns; and they offered him as sacrifice. Abraham called the name of the place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said in this word. 'In the mount of the Lord, it will be provided.' Then the angel of the Lord called him, Abraham, a second time from heaven, and He said, 'By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son,'" listen to this, "'Indeed I will greatly bless you, I will greatly multiply your seed,'" listen to this, "'as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the seashore.'"
I just want to say "Yes"! in my heart for the simple reason they're uncountable. You can't, you may be able to count some stars, not all of them, but you can't count the sand. And He said to him, he said, "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice". He obeyed God. He didn't understand it. He didn't like it. He would have exchanged anything he owned to keep his son; but he obeyed God. And what a lesson for us. If we obey Him, we never lose. We obey Him, listen, we obey Him, it may be difficult for us to understand. It may not be what we want, what we'd like in life. But obedience is the key to everything with God. No excuses. But to be like Abraham, he did exactly what God told him, thinking every step of the way he was having to kill his own son to be obedient to God. God's not going to ask you to do that. But He's going to ask you in life to do many other things, things that are precious to you; things that are valuable to you; things that you may hold dear or people that you may hold dear in your life. I'm certain that God has said to men and women, "Don't marry him. Don't marry her," and that person just thought, "Well, now this is it, Lord. If I don't get this one, I'm not going to have anybody". No. One thing for certain: you can't lose anything that is good for you if you obey God.
Whatever God tells us to lay down is something that is not in the will and purpose and plan of God for our life. And here's a perfect example of absolute obedience. When it would have cost Abraham in his mind, everything. And yet, he obeyed God and the rest of the Scripture is... in other words, the Bible says that Abraham died at a ripe old age, happy. You know why? He obeyed God. So, I just say all of this to tell you: obey God no matter what. He's thought about the repercussions. He's thought about what you think you will lose. He's also thought about what He knows you're going to gain.
So, what is this story all about? This story's all about the absolute faithfulness of God, that every single one of us can count on when we are tested and when we are tried. Amen? Now, if you've never trusted Jesus as your Savior, you may not quite understand this. But if you ask Him to forgive you of your sins, He will do so. You're not an exception. No matter where you are, what you've done, or where you've been, whatever the circumstance, God will forgive you of your sin. He will write your name in the Lamb's Book of Life. You'll be forever His child. And what I want you to be reminded of is that Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified so that you could be saved; so that you could walk obediently before God. And that's my prayer for you.
Father, we thank You and we praise You and we love You for putting this particular passage of Scripture in Your Word. It brings us to the cross and realize You gave Your Son; and all of us are forgiven of our sins. And our name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. And You're with us through the Holy Spirit; through all the trials and heartaches and burdens we face in life, but You've kept Your Word. You kept it to Abraham; You keep it to us. And I pray that You would speak to our hearts this morning and remind us if there have been wrong turns, ask for Your forgiveness. If there has been decisions that were not wise, that You would forgive us. If there's something that You are presenting to us at this very moment, that should be a part of our life that we've said no that now we will say yes. To obey You, to trust You, and to watch You work, God, is the most awesome thing. And I pray that You will take this message and apply it to each of our hearts according to where we are in life and what You want to do in our lives. And we pray it in Jesus's name, amen.