Monday, February 16, 2009

The Super Test of Super Tests

“By faith Abraham, when has was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Hebrews 11: 17-19). Perhaps you have notices life is marked by tests. Some are major, most are minor; some linger, most leave about as quickly as they arrive. In the process of growth toward maturity, trouble plays an essential role: it puts faith on the line. Note several factors involved in testing. First, there are several levels of testing. We read in II Corinthians 4:8-9, about four levels of stress. The levels of testing or stress are indicated by the following terms: the first level of stress is found in the word afflicted. This is the lowest level of testing. It is mild or moderate. The word in the Greek means pressure. This type of stress comes from people, deadlines, interruptions, and delays. It is easily forgotten but it attacks us on a daily basis. The second level of stress is found in the word perplexed. The Greek word means “without a way” and conveys the idea of not knowing where to go or to whom one can turn. This kind of testing would include not knowing how to handle unfair treatment from unfair people. The third level of stress is found in the word persecuted. This is an extreme level of testing. It can be either emotional or physical. This form of irritation or stress does not pass quickly. And the fourth level of stress is found in the word struck down. This is the ultimate testing, maximum stress. It can include the loss of someone or something near and dear to you: the loss of a spouse to divorce; a mate to death, a child, or friend; something you considered valuable; a dream. For Abraham, it was the potential loss of his “only begotten son” (Hebrews 11:17). Second, we find the ultimate level of testing. The Scriptures reveal the story of Abraham and Isaac in both telescopic (Hebrews 11) and microscopic (Genesis 22) fashions. Note an overview found in Hebrews 11: 17-19. Our usual response to life’s ultimate tests is “I can’t believe it!” We reason, “How can a good God bring such a test? It’s unfair!” An analysis of Genesis 22 is in order. The God who told Abraham to leave Ur, who gave Abraham the promise of a nation, and who opened Sarah’s womb in her old age, told Abraham to sacrifice his son. Please note Abraham’s words found in Genesis 22:3-10. “We will worship, we will return.” How could Abraham have done this? The answer is found in Hebrews 11:19, he brought God into his reasoning. Third, our lives today: a personal examination. In reviewing Hebrews 11:17-19, there are at least four applications we can draw for our own lives. God’s will always require obedience (v. 17a). The plan is never fully understood (v. 17b). Ultimate tests initially seem contradictory (v. 18). Our response invariably reveals our theology (v. 19). Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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