1 Peter 1:6-7, Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
Faith is a forever growing process. As I discussed last time, God can test us by trials or permit them to happen at no cause of His own as if putting our faith through fire in order that the things that don’t belong to the essence of our faith may be destroyed. At times, we may think our faith is perfect and we can resist anything, then a trial will suddenly force itself upon us and we find that we fail. Why is this? It is likely an indication that the trust element of our faith still needs development, as it always will. God can use these trials to develop our trust in Him. The more we experience these trials and God pulls us through, the more we learn to trust Him in everything. Our natural inclination is to trust Him when He’s smiling down upon us and blessing us, but the moment something bad happens for any period of time, we begin to wonder whether God is still with us and loves us or if He ever existed in the first place.
Let’s examine the faith of Abraham, which I briefly talked about in Facing Trials: Why Do We Suffer? – God to Prepare Us. Abraham “hoped against hope” (Romans 4:18). God told him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. (Abraham had another son named Ishmael, but Isaac was the one whom Abraham’s bloodline would continue through in order to bring about God’s promise.) Of course, Abraham was deeply conflicted with what God was telling him to do because He was asking him to do the unthinkable: to sacrifice his own son. In spite of this, he still trusted God. Since God was capable of enabling his wife Sarah to get pregnant at an old age, certainly God can let that happen again. So, Abraham was going to go through with the sacrifice.
Imagine what must’ve been going through his head. God promised Abraham he would become a nation and have as many children as there are stars in the sky, which would continue through Isaac, and here God was telling him to sacrifice his son. His wife, Sarah, gave birth to Isaac in old age, after all, so who knows if she’d bear another child again? So he could have thought God was contradicting Himself. Instead, he had faith God would provide despite the seemingly contradicting command.
In the end, we see that the Angel of the LORD appears, tells him to stop just as he’s about to sacrifice Isaac, and Abraham sees a ram stuck in a bush, which he uses as a sacrifice instead. In the spectrum of the Old Testament into the New Testament, God was portraying an important Christological image. God would not allow Abraham to sacrifice his only son because not only would that sacrifice not be sufficient enough, but also because God was already going to do that for us with His only Son.
So what does this mean for us today? Abraham continued to trust God against all odds in this unimaginable trial even when everything around him and his thoughts probably told him otherwise; he exercised faith. This is the kind of trust and faith we ought to develop in Christ. Our faith doesn’t start off this strong, but that’s the whole point of exercise—it makes you stronger. The more we exercise our faith, the stronger it becomes because God never goes back on His promises. No promise He makes goes unfulfilled.
I want to end this with William Cowper’s poem, God Moves In A Mysterious Way. Otherwise, stay tuned for next time when I discuss the parable of the sower.
God Moves In A Mysterious Way
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessing on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.