- Sermon Notes
Passing the Test
October 3, 2021
ILLUS – My first and last Chemistry mid-term exam at the University of Washington
1. Just thinking about taking a test can be unnerving. Your heart races as you second-guess every answer; it can be an unnerving experience.
2. But the truth is tests are not reserved for the classroom only.
3. There are seasons in life when other tests occur as well, namely, the testing of our faith.
4. Tonight, we are going to study a passage which will give us insight into the “How’s,” “What’s,” and “Why’s” behind the testing of our faith.
5. God wants us to know these spiritual truths because God wants us to pass the testing of our faith with flying colors.
1. After 25 years of waiting for the child that God had promised, Abraham, at the age 100, and Sarah, at 90, had their first child together, Isaac.
2. By the time we reach Genesis 22 at least 13 years had passed.
3. One would think the only thing left for their story was a fairy tale ending, “And they lived happily ever after.”
4. Abraham and Sarah had been through so much.
5. Surely nothing more would be asked of them.
6. Then we come to Genesis 22:1 and we’re confronted with the reality that Abraham’s faith would be tested again; in fact, it would be the greatest test of Abraham’s life.
Transition – The first principle for “Passing the Test” is one which immediately jumps off the page of Genesis 22. . .
I. Our Faith Will Be Tested (1-2)
• There is a pattern in the Bible when it comes to God’s promises.
• First, a divine promise is given which requires the recipient to believe that God will fulfill His promise His way and according to His timeline.
• The promise is then followed by a period where that person’s faith is tested.
A. God has a purpose for testing His people
1. This is the first time the word test is used in the Bible.
2. The word test means to try or to prove.
ILLUS – Why do teachers give their students exams? To reveal what their students know in a specific area of study.
3. Spiritually speaking, a test proves faith. Tests answer the question, “Are we living by faith or have we merely mastered the art of talking about faith?”
a. Tests reveal who we are and what we are made of; the substance of our character.
b. Tests reveal what we believe; the depth of our conviction.
c. Ultimately, tests reveal what we truly think about God.
• Do we trust God’s character?
• Do we trust God’s wisdom?
• Do we trust in God’s ability?
• Do we trust God’s timing?
• Do we trust God’s heart for us?
4. God does not test our faith because there is sin in our lives.
5. God tests our faith to reveal the faith in our hearts.
a. This means God’s tests are designed to strengthen us, not weaken us; which is very important for us to understand.
b. The tests apply pressure to our lives in order to strengthen our character.
c. The pressure then deepens our faith because we, as God’s people, begin to draw closer to God.
Job 23:10, But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
d. And once the testing is complete, God is glorified through our testimony.
ILLUS – Joseph’s words to his brothers revealed his faith in God even though they had sold him into slavery when he seventeen years old.
Genesis 45:7, And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.
6. It is also important that we make a distinction between testing and temptation. What I mean is, testing is not temptation.
James 1:13-15, Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
a. Temptation appeals to our sin nature.
b. Temptation seeks to weaken our faith.
c. Temptation aims to ruin our relationship with God.
d. Because Satan’s goal is to destroy us by tempting us.
John 10:10, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (NIV)
B. God tailors each test for His people
1. God takes the initiative because, let’s be honest, who would ask God to test their faith. (1)
a. God knows when to test us.
• Abraham had been tested before.
• Some tests Abraham passed, like when he gave Lot the first choice of land to settle in.
• Some tests Abraham failed, like when he compromised with Hagar and she gave birth to Ishmael.
• For over 38 years, God had been preparing Abraham for this test.
b. God also knows what to test us. The test must involve something we value deeply; something we will want to strongly resist.
c. And God knows how intense the test should be.
Psalm 103:13-14, Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.
2. So God sets the terms for each test. Notice the progression in verse two.
a. “Take now your son”
b. “Your only son”
c. “Whom you love”
d. “Isaac” means laughter.
e. “Go to Moriah” the future location of Solomon’s Temple, 2 Chronicles 3:1.
f. Offer him as a “burnt offering,” a picture of complete devotion and total surrender to the Lord.
Romans 12:1, I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
APPL – Before Isaac was born Abraham’s faith was tested as he waited for God to fulfill His promise.
• Question – “Abraham, will you trust and obey God’s Word while waiting for His promise to be fulfilled?”
• After Isaac was born Abraham’s faith was tested again, to give his beloved son, Isaac, back to the Lord.
• Question – “Abraham, will you give Isaac back to the Lord and trust and obey God?”
Transition – Abraham’s response reveals how to pass God’s tests.
II. Faith Obeys God Completely (3-4)
• Where there is faith, there is obedience.
• True faith bears the fruit of complete obedience.
• This means our faith is revealed by our attitudes, words, and choices while in the crucible of testing.
A. Faith does not delay to obey
1. There is no hint of Abraham debating with God, hiding from God, or raging against God.
2. Nor is there any mention of Abraham asking others for their opinions to justify his disobedience.
3. Abraham knew God because he had walked with God for many years.
4. Abraham was convinced that God had spoken to him.
APPL – You see, there is a time to wait.
• When God has not provided direction.
• If you do not know, then do not go.
• God does not play “Hide and Seek” with His children. He wants us to know His ways.
Psalm 25:5, Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.
• But when it is time to move, then it is time to move.
5. Abraham rose early in the morning.
a. Abraham saddled his donkey.
b. He took two of his young men and Isaac.
c. He the split wood himself and departed for the place God had told him.
B. Faith perseveres when the journey is long
1. Imagine how quiet that journey was.
2. It took three days to get there by foot, approximately 50 miles.
3. It would have been tempting to stop short and turn back especially when the destination came into view.
a. How far would Abraham go?
b. How much would Abraham obey?
APPL – You know you’re walking by faith when you are wholeheartedly obeying God’s commands. Faith perseveres even when the journey is long.
James 2:21-23, Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.
APPL – How far will you go to obey God? Are you willing to give your all to God and hold nothing back?
John 15:14, You are My friends, if you do what I command you.
Transition – These questions strike at the heart of our priorities, hopes, and confidence in God’s character and heart. You see, a faith that passes the test is a faith that is convinced God will provide.
III. Faith is Convinced God will Provide (5-8)
2 Timothy 1:12, For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
A. Remember “Who” when you ask “Why”
1. “Why” is the question that often plagues us.
a. Why is there suffering?
b. Why does a parent bury their child?
c. Why now? Why them? Why me?
ILLUS – You hear same the tension in Job when he faced a great test.
Job 13:15, Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.
2. But when we focus on “Who” we are reminded that God is on the throne.
3. When we focus on “Who” we are comforted in knowing that God is near, and He knows best.
ILLUS – Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, would hang a plaque in his home with two Hebrew words on it.
• Ebenezer means “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
• Jehovah-Jireh means “The Lord will provide.”
• The plaque was a constant reminder of Who God is and that God is working so there was nothing to fear.
Psalm 23:3-4, He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
B. Always remember that our God never fails
1. Abraham did not have a blind faith. With laser-like focus his eyes were on the Lord.
a. Abraham focused on God’s holy character and loving heart.
b. Abraham focused on God’s infinite wisdom and unmatched power.
2. Abraham declared, “. . . we will worship and return to you.” (5)
3. This is the first occurrence of the word worship in the Bible.
4. Then Isaac asked Abraham, “. . . where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (7)
5. Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (8)
a. Abraham was not avoiding the subject.
b. Abraham had settled the matter in his heart.
6. God had promised that through Isaac, Abraham’s descendants would be called in Genesis 17:19.
7. But now, God commanded him to sacrifice his son.
8. By faith, Abraham reconciled God’s promise with God’s command.
Hebrews 11:17-19, 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 men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.
9. Abraham believed Isaac was going to die but he also trusted that God would bring Isaac back to life so that he could come back down that mountain with him.
ILLUS – During a trying season while working in China, Hudson Taylor wrote to his wife words that reflected a faith that had been tested by trials and yet was anchored in firm in Christ, “We have twenty-five cents – and all the promises of God.”
Genesis 22:1-8 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The Offering of Isaac
22 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take now your son, your only son, 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.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” 6 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 the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will [a]provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.