Series: Testing; Faith; Promise of God
Sunday am 6 November 2016 – Kobus Swart
Heb. 11:1; (Matt. 1:1); (Rom. 4:16); Heb. 11:8, 17-19, 39; Gen. 12:1-3; (Gal. 3:16); Gen. 22:1-18; 1 Cor. 10:13; (Heb. 10:23); (2 Tim. 4:7).
Last week I shared with you about the temptations Jesus faced before He was launched into His ministry. This was significant for Him as the Head of the Church, as the Pattern Son. It is not just another Bible story. Eugene Peterson urges us to take this story of Jesus very seriously: “This needs to be looked at closely; carefully considered, examined, rigorously tested, the stakes are high, eternally high.” Jesus was endorsed from on high, but then when He was ready to launch His ministry, the Holy Spirit drove Him into the wilderness where He was tested at the end of forty days of fasting. Every believer will face tests in some way. The promise of God is never easy to believe and to practice, and our faith will be tested. But Jesus said “I AM the Way”.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). It is the assurance of something you do not yet have. It is so true to our journey as Christians, it has to do with marrying the invisible with the visible. Where is the proof? I have it by faith. Faith comes by hearing a word from God. When we engage in this act of faith we actually give up control. We do not have to literally see the reality; we give up insisting on head knowledge. We choose to deal with a living God who we trust knows what He is doing. That trust in God is demonstrated in our daily life’s choices. Do I want control? Or do I want to trust in God who knows what He is doing in my life?
There is no better story that the story of Abraham when we talk about faith. Jesus is referred to as the son of David and the son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1). Abraham is the “dictionary” in which we look up the meaning and what is involved in a life of faith. This is not a definition but a real story of a person who lived. He is referred to as the father of us all. It is the story of the Way of faith (Rom. 4:16). His story is not the story of a superhuman being. He was a normal human being like you and me. He made mistakes and failed at least three tests of faith as recorded in the Bible. He failed the test in Egypt with Pharaoh (Gen. 12); he failed the test with Abimelech (Gen. 20&21), he failed the test with dealing with Hagar and Ishmael (Gen.16). However later in his life that experience helped him to pass the biggest test of all. Our experiences on this journey should not be seen as unnecessary. Your experience can help you and build your faith and strengthen you on the road especially when you have made mistakes. All faith needs testing or else it does not qualify as true faith. Untested faith, having the appearance of faith, the feeling of faith, the language of faith, may only be wishful thinking, some illusion, some satanic delusion, but is not faith. True faith will be tested. It cannot be learned by copying somebody; it cannot be learned by imitating somebody, nor by mastering some faith skills. When you come through the test of faith you are an original. By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going (Heb. 11:8; Gen. 12:1-3). Abraham had instant obedience! When you hear the voice of God, make sure it is the voice of God. God will confirm His Word through two or three witnesses. Make the move that God requires and obey Him in faith. The promise to Abraham was made to a landless people. The Promised Land was full of Canaanites. Many Christians have to take new spiritual land that is possessed by spiritual squatters. God wants us to take faith and take new regions in the realm of spirit. Secondly, the promise of an heir was made to a barren couple. God does not look at your potentiality when He promises a future. In fact bareness was no stranger to this family: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and even Hannah were all barren. Amazing how the promise of God does not rely on natural resources. Many of you are facing storms, facing challenges and you do not know if it is God or the devil. Before you start rebuking the devil make sure it is not from God.
Then the final test came to Abraham: Sacrifice your only son, that was promised, Isaac!
Sometimes we make a move which does not make sense to the worldly person (Gen. 22:1-14). Abraham let none of the uncertainties or doubts take substance in his life. He kept voicing his faith and trust in God’s purpose in his life. One thing we must not miss here – Abraham was not taking time and waiting for an angel to stop him from sacrificing Isaac. Abraham was determined to be obedient; he did not play games with God. It must have been painful for him to see the son who was a miraculous promise fulfilled! If the Angel did not come, Isaac’s throat would have been slit! 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 stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Gen. 22:11-12). I want to hear those words from God, “Now I know that you fear Me.” How many of you have experienced Him as Yahweh Jireh? He is the Lord that provides (Gen. 22:15-18).
The Seed (in singular) refers to Christ. In Christ we are part of the seed. This is talking about us. This is a fantastic story and it is a dictionary that helps us to understand many questions on the journey. There is no short cut; your faith will be tested. God is instructing many people in this season to make radical moves; changes of direction. You can watch the different reactions as people are wrestling with God against this. God is redirecting many people and He is testing their obedience. You can only imagine what was going on in Abraham’s mind during the three day walk with Isaac. Because of the 35 years prior to that test, Abraham has established a foundation of faith in his life. Abraham was confident, he trusted his God. Trust must be a foundational aspect of our walk with God on this way. We must have trust in the God we serve. When you trust God, you give up control. That is the hardest thing to do but we must do it. Trust God! Show your faith! Be obedient! Abraham’s faith deepened in those 35 years. I want to hear God say: “Now I know you trust Me”. The people on “the way” are a people of faith and their faith will be tested. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type (Heb. 11:17-19). The New Testament perspective of what happened is that Isaac actually died and God gave him back from the dead. It was Abraham’s intention not duck and dive, but to kill his son, because he believed God was able to give him back from the dead. It was a type of God the Father who gave His only begotten son to this world. That supported Abraham in his obedience. So whatever the “Isaac” is in your life, be willing to sacrifice him if God says so.
The pursuit of this kind of promise can never be one generational; each generation trusts that if the promise is not fulfilled in my generation it will be fulfilled in the next generation. It has to be multi-generational. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect (Heb. 11:39). It was through their faith, not their achievements or anything else. We must always take it very personally. Apart from us, those who died in the faith, not receiving what was promised, were not called failures because they did not receive. Their faith impressed God and they died believing even if they had not received the promise. In Christ we are all part of the seed Abraham (Gal. 3:16). Do not be surprised when you are given a promise and the next thing you are being tested. Count yourself privileged when this happens. Learn from our father Abraham. God will not test you beyond what you are able to bear (1 Cor. 10:13). Do not give up! Believe that He who promised is faithful! (Heb. 10:23). Everyone is going to be tested. Keep the Faith! (2 Tim. 4:7).