I recently read the story of Abraham to my daughters. You know, the one where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son on an altar only to stop him in the process (much to Isaac’s relief!) I’ve heard this story so many times throughout my lifetime. But as an adult, and especially as a mom, I understand it much differently. Why would God ask such a thing? How could Abraham even fathom doing as God had asked?
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Abraham’s story is unique in that God was conveying a specific message to his future descendants. Asking him to sacrifice his son on the altar would be a foreshadow of what would happen through Jesus when He would ultimately atone for our sins on the cross. But even with this specific purpose, there are certainly some similarities between the testing of Abraham and how we as Christians are tested today.
But before I dive into those, I first need to address one important aspect of testing. There is a major difference between testing and temptation in the life of a believer.
Temptation is the work of the enemy, and his intentions are to distract us or lead us astray. The Bible is clear… we ALWAYS have a way out of temptation and God does not allow us to be tempted beyond our abilities. We are no longer slaves to sin… so when we resist the devil, he has no choice but to flee.
Testing, however, must be endured. There isn’t always a way out, and it will almost always be more than we can handle. Testing is a crucial part of the Christian life. It’s what produces endurance and strength in our lives, and it teaches us to fully rely on God’s character and His strength.
Now, here are some basic truths about testing that we can learn from Abraham’s story:
- Testing isn’t for God… it’s for us. God wasn’t testing Abraham to find out what he would do in that situation. He already knew what would happen. In the same way, God knows our hearts. He doesn’t need to test us to find out what we’re made of… He already knows. God was testing Abraham for Abraham’s sake and for the sake of those who would come after him. Can you imagine the amount of faith Abraham had after this event? What about Isaac? This event certainly would have produced an unshakable faith in his life!
When we take a test in a natural sense, the goal is to find out how much we know. The test is all about us. But spiritual testing usually reveals more about God than it does about us. It reveals His strength, His character, and His faithfulness in a way that builds our faith and endurance.
At the same time, testing reveals to us all that we are capable of in Christ. As we grow stronger, we learn to be bold and confident in who we are as a new creation. God longs for us to recognize how strong we are in Him. Because when we know who we really are, we can do the impossible!
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4
- We are refined and strengthened when we are tested. The Bible tells us to rejoice when we are tested in our faith. This type of rejoicing is only possible when we fully understand what testing can produce in our lives. It is through testing that God refines and purifies our faith as gold. And it is also through testing that our faith grows stronger.
And if that isn’t enough, we are promised a crown of life when we endure!
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. – James 1:12
The real reason God allows you to be tested is to demonstrate His power in your life so that you will not only build strength and endurance, but you will know just how strong you are in Him.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.