Here is the sermon for Sunday morning, May 4th 2008.
PASS THE TEST
We are going to look at the fact that God will allow tests to happen with His people. There are reasons for the tests, and there are some principles that can be learned while we are in the tests.
Genesis 22:1-14 ESV – After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” (2) He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (3) So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. (4) On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. (5) Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” (6) And 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 they went both of them together. (7) And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (8) Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. (9) When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. (10) Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. (11) But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” (12) He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (13) And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. (14) So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
None of us like to go through times of testing. In fact, this subject quite frankly can make all of us uncomfortable. Some people deny that God is in the testing process, some people think that only the devil tests believers.
Let me state my position right off the bat. God doesn’t tempt His people. The dictionary definition of the word, tempt, is, “to entice or allure to do something as unwise, wrong or immoral.”
God does not tempt believers to fall. That is not His purpose behind the testings. That is Satan’s purpose though. For every test that God allows, Satan tempts.
While God does not tempt His people, He does test them. The definition for the word, test, means, “the means by which the presence, quality, or genuineness of anything is determined; a means of trial.”
God brings testing, or sometimes allows testing to come that the genuineness of our faith may shine through. It also reveals areas maybe where our faith is not so genuine, that we might turn to God and repent and seek His help in.
Here are just a few Scripture references showing God testing, or allowing testing to happen. Let’s look Scripture speak for itself here.
Genesis 22:1a ESV – After these things God tested Abraham…
Exodus 20:20 ESV – Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.
Luke 4:1-2a ESV – And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil.
Now here, Satan was trying to tempt Jesus to fail and sin. But notice that the Holy Spirit is the one who led Jesus into the desert to be tempted. I believe God allowed this temptation of Satan to happen. It was part of His plan for our Lord. Jesus had to pass this test, not for His benefit, but for two reasons: (1) To give proof to Satan that Jesus is truly the redeemer of mankind; (2) for our benefit, He passed the temptation of Satan, proving Who He is.
James 1:3 ESV – for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
James 1:3 AMP – Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.
Here is our example. The testing of our faith produces something. I like what the Amplified Bible says about it. It produces endurance, steadfastness, and patience. These are only produced one way, and that is through trials and testing.
This reminds me of a story of a test a missionary candidate had to take. At 3 am one cold morning a missionary candidate walked into an office for a scheduled interview with the examiner of the missions board. The missions board examiner did not meet with him until 8 am. The examiner began the test. The first thing he asked the candidate was to spell baker. B-A-K-E-R. “Very good,” said the examiner. Next He asked Him, “What is two plus two?” “Four,” said the candidate, quite puzzled. “Very good,” the examiner said. “I’ll recommend you to the missions board tomorrow for them to appoint you. You have passed the test.” At the missions board meeting the examiner spoke very highly of the candidate. “He has all the qualifications of a great missionary, let me explain. First, I tested him on self-denial. I told him to be at my office at 3 am, in the middle of the night. He didn’t complain. He left his warm house and came into my cold office without one word of grumbling. Second, I tested him on punctuality, and he actually came to the office 15 minutes before the time, even in the middle of the night. Third, I examined him on patience. I made him wait five hours to see me, after telling him to come at three. Fourth, I tested him on his temper. He failed to show any signs of having one. He didn’t even question the delay. Finally, I tested his humility. I asked him questions that a small child could answer. He showed no offense. He meets the requirements and will make an outstanding missionary!”
You see, that is a perfect example of what testing does for us believers. It shows the genuineness of our beliefs and character, and it also shows areas that we need to place at the foot of the cross and repent and seek the help of the Holy Spirit over.
Now before we get into the heart of my sermon, let me share a few things that will give us comfort when it comes to times of testing and trials.
• They are meant to be tests of faith. Like I said earlier, they prove the genuineness of our faith. In fact, I dare say that if you don’t ever go through times of testing, than I honestly feel you don’t truly have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
• Tests for believers should be filled with hope. Why is that – because the trying of our faith produces the characteristics of Jesus Christ. Church, we need to receive this truth. The only way that we can became like Him is to go through trying times, because in trying times we find that our hope is not in us, nor in our righteousness, but it is found in the hope we have in the Lord.
Isaiah 40:29-31 TNIV – 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
• Finally, test for believers are test of love. The Lord loves those whom He disciplines. We looked at that verse a few weeks ago in Hebrews. And quite frankly, we all at times need the discipline of the Lord because we are imperfect humans, and because of this fact, we are prone to stray.
Now this morning, using the word, “TEST,” as an acrostic, I want give us some application principles for my main points, that will help each of us in our tests.
1. Trust God.
Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV – 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
A. Our trust must be completely in God in the midst of the test.
B. Don’t put your trust in your own strengths and righteousness during the tests, for you will fail miserably.
C. Put your faith in God, He has promised to complete the work that He has started in you.
Philippians 1:6 ESV – he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
2. Engage the process instead of resisting and running.
A. Sometimes we want to avoid the times of testing. Why? Well for a few reasons:
1. They are difficult to go through.
2. They not only expose strengths in our character, but weaknesses as well. We don’t like that fact.
3. Because in order to pass these tests, we have to go outside of ourselves, or depend on an outside source, which is ultimately The Holy Spirit.
4. Finally, tests always demands changes on our part.
B. Notice in our Scripture text, that Abraham did not avoid the test he went through.
He accepted the terms and conditions of the test and faced it head on.
3. Supply yourself during your test with wise godly counsel.
A. During times of testing it is important to find some people who have gone through similar tests and have gone through the fires of testing unscathed.
I really liked what Rick Warren has said in some of his teachings. He states that the reason that we go through difficulties is so that we may be an encourager and supporter of someone going through and experiencing similar difficulties.
4. Time – it may take some time for the test to be completed.
A. The children of Israel are a great example.
It took them forty years in the wilderness before they passed the test. And unfortunately, it wasn’t that generation that started the test that passed it. They failed and another generation had to complete it.
B. There is a refining process in these tests that must take some time.
You see, God doesn’t move according to our time table, but according to His. And He will test us according to His Sovereign rule, not our beliefs or understanding.
Testing is never a comfortable thing to go through. But they are needed things that each and every one of us must face. Why? Well, they produce steadfastness, endurance, and patience. They teach us to depend on God and not on ourselves. They teach us to humble ourselves before His rule over us.
Are you going through times of testing, be assured that God is in control. We want to pray for you this morning, to encourage you to listen to the voice of God and be obedient to Him during your time of testing. He loves you and wants what is best for you, and these times of testing proves the genuineness of our faith in Him.