Sunday, April 28, 2013

Faith Tested

Temple Baptist Church - 4-28-2013
Hebrews 11:17-19
A. The life of Abraham is one that all believers can be identified with. He was a man of both faith and failure.
1. Abraham believed God for a country as God called him out of the Ur of the Chaldees. God promised Abraham the land that He sojourned in and, yet, in the days of hardness he fled to Egypt.
2. Abraham believed God for a “seed” from which would spring a multitude with its culmination being found in the Messiah. Yet Abraham chose to deceive in the matter of his wife while in Egypt because he feared for his life.
3. Abraham believed God for a “seed” that would come through Sarah and, yet, he harkened to the voice of his wife and took Hagar to wife. The seed, Ishmael, continues to haunt Israel to this day.
B. Abraham was the father of faith but was still a man with all of his down sittings and uprisings. His life can be broken down into three distinct parts:
1. God’s call and Abraham’s answer. God said for him to leave and he left!
2. Abraham’s life as a wanderer in the land of promise. He lived in tents instead of houses; he lived in the wilderness instead of a city; he looked for the eternal instead of the temporal.
3. Abraham’s offering up of Isaac on Mount Moriah. Here we find the culmination of Abraham’s faith as that faith was tested. I have written in one of my bibles this truth: “A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.”
C. Three verses in Hebrews 11 set forth the magnitude of that faith.
1. There is a Prophetical application. The offering of Isaac is a beautiful foreshadowing of the Love of God the Father in the gift of His only begotten Son. The resemblances pointed to by this Old Testament type are numerous and strikingly clear.
a) The Type: Abraham offered up a son, his only begotten son. The Antitype: God the Father offered His Son, His only begotten Son.
b) The Type: Abraham delivered up his son to a sacrificial death, and, in purpose, smote him. The Antitype: God the Father delivered His son to a sacrificial death and smote Him.
c) Now, look at how the antitype excelled the type. Abraham’s son was only a man. Abraham offered up Isaac under Divine command: God was under no constraint, but gave Christ freely. Abraham’s son suffered not; God’s Son, Jesus Christ, did.
2. There is a Practical application. That is where you and I come in. We full well understand both the type and antitype being dealt with in these verses but, in the realm of faith, I believe that the interpretation (not just the application) is the trust and confidence of the believer in his or her heavenly Father’s purpose and care.
a) We often think of the Old Testament saints as ignorant concerning the biblical truths that we now have but I have found these old saints very well informed as to what God’s plan was for both salvation and their lives here.
b) Yes, we do know more perfectly through our bible what God says but I find that their faith often surpassed that of the modern day saint. I believe it is because they lived in simpler days with little distraction while we live in complex days with much distraction.
D. Let us look at Abraham’s faith as it is set forth in these verses as it is one of the most wonderful examples found in the bible. Before I begin, let me say that every trial and problem is not a result of God’s working. Most things that adversely affect us are founded in the sinfulness (either of self or others) or in satanic attack. Life is hard at best because of the choices that are made by us or others. Life is hard at best because bad things still happen to good people.
E. Abraham believed God for the impossible in these verses. In his mind, he had already become obedient to God’s command
1. Faith’s Power In Difficulty. “when he was tried” 1 Peter 1:6-7 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: (7) 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. (We all have problems in this life: problems at work, school, neighborhoods, families, bills, sickness, etc. Problems started in the Garden of Eden as God put man to work by the sweat of his brow and the woman in both the home and childrearing. These problems can certainly be a “headache” but this is not what this verse refers to. We handle these problems as a matter of life and they do not normally try our faith. The trying of our faith is our faith in God, our faith in what God has promised, our faith in how we expect God to perform, etc. Life is easy when we are only having the normal problems associated with living and raising a family but sometimes there are tragedies or circumstances that make us question what or Who we believe. These are the ones these verses are talking about.)
a. The season of trials. “though now for a season” Job 23:1-9 Then Job answered and said, (2) Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning. (3) Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! (4) I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. (5) I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me. (6) Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me. (7) There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge. (8) Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: (9) On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: (Often, trials are bitter and the Lord silent. It does not mean that He does not love nor does He care. He does love us and He does care for us. 1 Peter 5:7)
b. The sorrow of trials. “ye are in heaviness” Psalms 30:5 For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Though we rejoice in our salvation and faith’s end, there is a lot of heartbreak along the way. Weeping is a part of living and tear ducts are for more than just wetting the eye. I will be glad when the Lord wipes all tears from our eyes.)
c. The value of trails. “much more precious than of gold that perisheth” 2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (We rejoice in the temporal and often forget that eternal things are just that, eternal. We are laboring for those things that we cannot lose.)
2. Faith’s Performance In Duty. “offered up Isaac” Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (6) In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (We often quote these verses but seldom have to use them for we have peace of heart, enough understanding to work with, and know what direction to take in alleviating our problems.)
a. We need to trust in the Lord when our heart begins to fail us. “trust in the Lord with all thine heart” Psalms 37:3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. (I cannot imagine what went through Abraham’s mind initially but there have been times in my life when worry so overpowered me that I almost got physically sick at my stomach. I know the Lord can do anything! I know the Lord is always with me! I know that He is before me, with me, and behind me at the same time and yet my heart is sick. Just trust Him anyway is easy to preach but much harder to live.)
b. We need to trust in the Lord when our understanding is nil. “lean not … own understanding” Isaiah 26:3-4 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (4) Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength: (Trusting to God’s wise bestowment instead of trying to “figure” out His ways. He truly knows the end from the beginning; will not place more on us than we can bear and will be with us the entire trip.)
c. We need to trust in the Lord when our way is obscure. “he shall direct thy paths” Psalms 32:8 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. (I love to know where I am going and what I am going to do. Sometimes, even my GPS fails to lead me in the straightest path. When it works right, it is great as I can drive around in the city like I have lived there all of my life but, when it does not work right, that is a different story. I am glad that God knows the next steps that I need to take in my life and will guide me in the way if I seek to know what that way is. He never gets lost!)
3. Faith’s Promise In Doubting. “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” Matthew 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. (I will not spend much time on this point but I often think of Dr. Harold Sightler’s message “Can God?” He sure answered that question by finishing up with “God Can! God Can God Can!” God provided for Abraham and Abraham named the place of offering “Jehovahjireh:” “Jehovah Will See” or “Jehovah Will Provide!”)
Conclusion: “A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted!” “I care not today what the morrow may bring, If shadow or sunshine or rain, The Lord I know ruleth o’er everything, And all of my worries are vain.”

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