"THE TESTING OF FAITH."
Intro. In verse 1, faith is defined for us. "The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." In verse 6, we are told that without faith it is impossible to please God, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
I. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT I BELIEVE IN GOD.
A. When I say that, I am referring to the true and living God, the God that revealed Himself to man in the Bible.
1. When a person says, "I believe in God." You are never really sure just what their definition of God might be.
a. They might be referring to some unintelligible force.
b. They might be thinking of some ethereal essence in the universe.
c. They may be thinking of themselves like Shirley McClain.
d. There are many people who say, "I believe in God," and they believe that that is sufficient to get them into heaven.
e. Just believing that God exists will not open heaven's gates to you. James said, "You believe in one God, you think that is great? So do the devils."
2. There is only one true and living God, who is the eternal Creator of the universe. As the disciples prayed, "Oh Lord, You are God, You created the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them."
3. When Paul was in Athens speaking to the philosophers on Mars Hill he said, "I perceive that you are very religious people as I was passing through your streets. I saw all of the altars that you have erected to your many gods. I saw one altar that was devoted to the unknown god. This is the God that I would like to talk to you about, for He is the one that created the heavens and the earth, and in Him we live and move and have our existence."
4. There is only one true God, the rest are false gods.
B. There are two things that I must believe about Him.
1. That He is. That is He exists.
2. That He rewards those who deligently seek Him.
C. My believing this pleases Him.
D. When I say that I believe in God, the Father, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth: and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven; sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
1. These are important things to believe, but God often puts my faith to the test. Am I just mouthing words by rote or do I really believe this?
2. We read in Hebrews 11
, how God tested the faith of Abraham.
II. THE FIRST TEST OF FAITH WAS WHEN HE CALLED ABRAHAM TO LEAVE HIS FAMILY AND HOMELAND AND JOURNEY TO A LAND THAT GOD WOULD LATER GIVE TO HIS DESCENDANTS.
A. Abraham began his journey in faith not even knowing where he was going.
1. Can you imagine Abraham telling his parents about his plan to leave home?
a. Why are you leaving, son? "Because God told me to."
b. Where are you going? "I don't know, God hasn't told me yet."
2. Will he be willing to just step out in faith and trust that God will lead him to the place, and when he arrives he will know that this is the place?
a. Do I go east, or west, north, or south?
b. What is interesting is that the place he went was around 450 miles southwest from his home.
B. By faith he just stayed in the land when he got there, knowing that one day God would give all of this land to his descendants.
1. Will he be content to just stay here as a stranger dwelling in tents, never settling down and building a home.
C. We should note that Abraham did not pass all of the tests that God gave him.
1. When there was a famine in the land, Abraham journeyed down Egypt, and when they came to Egypt he told his wife to say that she was his sister because she was so beautiful that he thought the Egyptians would kill him and take her.
2. She was taken into the Pharaoh's harem and God had to divinely intervene by sending plagues upon the Egyptians to protect her from being defiled by the Pharaoh.
3. Abraham did not have faith that God would preserve him.
4. Having failed to pass that test of faith, he had to take it again.
5. Some 22 years later he came to Gerar and again said of his wife Sarah that she was his sister because he was afraid that the men would kill him and take his wife.
6. He allowed her to be taken into the king's harem, so God had to rescue her again by divine intervention to keep her from being defiled.
7. It is interesting to me that when he failed to pass this test, he had to take it over again. That seems to be true of all the tests that God gives to us, if we fail, we must take the test over again.
III. THE GREAT TEST OF FAITH.
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.
A. God put Abraham to the supreme test,
And it came to pass after these things, that God did test Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, [here] I [am].
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only [son] Isaac, whom you love, and go into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will point out to you.
B. At this point you must forget your little Sunday school papers in which you see Abraham leading his little child to Mount Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice to God.
1. When this event took place Issac could have been as much as 30 years old.
2. He had to be submitting to the will of his father.
C. The problem as Abraham saw it.
1. God had promised to Abraham that through Issac should his seed be called. Issac was not yet married, thus did not have any descendants as yet.
2. Issac could not produce any children if he were dead.
3. God is true to His word, thus it must be that God will raise him from the dead in order to fulfill His promise.
IV. WHY DOES GOD TEST OUR FAITH?
A. It is so easy for us to make assertions of faith.
1. I think that many times people have made so many assertions of their great faith that they even come to believe that they do have great faith.
2. I had a young fellow come to me for a hand out and kept saying that he had all the faith in the world.
3. I thought that that was rather peculiar. If he had all the faith of the world, he had much more faith than I did; how is it then that he is coming to me for a hand out?
B. I do not believe that God tests our faith that He might know how genuine it is, but to show us how real or shallow it truly is.
1. God said to the children of Israel,
And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, [and] to prove thee, to know what [was] in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.
2. Again it was not to prove to God, but to prove to them.
C. The purpose of the testing of our faith is that it might grow.
1. As our faith is tested we discover that God is faithful in one situation after another, this causes my faith to increase.
2. If I can trust God in the little things, then perhaps I can trust Him in bigger things. "Jesus, Jesus, How I trust Thee, How I've proved Thee o'er and o'er. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, O for grace to trust Thee more."
D. Peter wrote,
The trial of your faith, is much more valuable than gold that perishes. Though your faith is tested with fire, may it bring praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
Receiving the end of your faith, [even] the salvation of [your] souls.
1. Like gold was refined in the fire, so our faith is often refined by fire, but the purpose is to discover if our faith is genuine.
2. Perhaps some of you today are in the fire and your faith is being tested to the limits. Don't let go of His hand, He will bring you through the fire.
3. Hold on to His promises, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned."