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Will Your Faith Make the Grade

Somebody observed that God promises a safe landing but not necessarily a calm voyage. The life of Abraham certainly bears that out. Hebrews 11:8-19 provides a kind of summary of God's promises to Abraham and of Abraham's not-so-calm voyage through this life. He left his homeland and sojourned in the land of promise, living in tents with his wife Sarah for about a hundred years. Study about his life in Genesis chapters 12-25 and you will discover that, just like all God's other great servants in the Bible save Jesus, Abraham was a flawed man. But he was also a faithful man. The summary in Hebrews 11 repeatedly emphasizes he lived life and did certain things God called him to do "by faith." For that reason we read that at the end of his life he "died in faith" (11:13a). Whatever else can be said about Abraham, the dominant theme of his life was faith in God. The Hebrews writer highlights one event in Abraham's life that put the old patriarch's faith to the test, an event that staggers our minds. Hebrews 11:17-19 gives a short report of the incident (recorded in greater detail in Genesis 22) — "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called,' concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense." Did you catch that phrase, "when he was tested"? The Genesis narrative introduces this incident by saying "God tested Abraham" (22:1). The Greek word for "tested" in Hebrews 11:17 translates a word that means to test or scrutinize or examine (Strong's Concordance). Does the thought that God puts faith to the test thrill or terrorize you? I can't speak for others, but I don't want to undergo surgery by a doctor who has never been tested, or one who was tested but failed to pass! And I don't want a dentist coming at me with a high speed drill if he/she has never been tested and proven they know how to fill cavities and do crowns and root canals! And I don't want to ride on an untested airliner flown by an untested pilot and crew. I want the car I ride in and the tires I ride on to pass safety tests. Our lives are made better and safer and more secure in multiple ways because of different kinds of tests. Can a faith that hasn't been tested really be trusted?

Why did God test Abraham's faith so severely? Endless volumes have been written and endless sermons preached seeking to answer that question. My wife Donna has one of the best answers I've found yet scribbled in the margin of her Bible by Hebrews 11:17-19: "God did not want Isaac's life; He wanted Abraham's heart." Touche! Religious writer Charles Swindoll said something helpful when he wrote these insightful words: "The wonderful thing about God's schoolroom. . . is that we get to grade our own papers. You see, He doesn't test us so He can learn how well we're doing. He tests us so we can discover how well we're doing" (God's Provision in Time of Need). There can be no doubt God tests our faith. The question is will our faith make the grade? It will if we, like Abraham, simply trust and obey!

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ