Passing God’s Tests
The Bible defines the word apocalypse as a revealing or uncovering, a moment when God draws back the curtain of heaven for humans to gain understanding. It is also used to describe moments of epiphany and clarity where God desires to download new discernment and understanding into his people.
With one hand Abraham grasped his son’s hair, not to caress his beloved Isaac’s head, but to expose his neck. With the other hand Abraham positioned the knife, to slit Isaac’s throat, just as he had done with lambs on other altars on his journey with Yahweh. This terrible sacrifice that God demanded of Abraham, was perhaps a judgement for his past sins.
The catastrophes and suffering he caused in two cultures and the danger he put Sarah in when he told two different rulers that she was only his sister.
The rape of Hagar and then the banishment of her and Abraham’s firstborn son, Ishmael, into certain death in the desert.
Abraham never spoke a word of argument or accusation about this command from God, as he had argued about commands in the past. He knew his sins had caught up with him, in God’s accounting, and God was calling in his markers. God was testing Abraham.
Even as Abraham’s feet climbed the mountain to what might be the most horrific moment of his life, his faith, grown strong over the long years waiting for Isaac, stayed strong. When Isaac questioned him about the lack of a lamb for a sacrifice, he confidently answered his son, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, son.”
I think this is the kind of moment that separates God-followers like Abraham, Moses, and David, from lesser lights like Samson and Saul. None of these men were sinless. All of them failed God by giving way to sins like rape and murder. But unlike Samson and Saul whose lives ended in shame and tragedy, Abraham, Moses, and David all moved forward, beyond their sins, as mighty leaders of God’s people. Why? I believe it’s the difference between chronically failing the tests God puts before us and passing them.
God put the test of great power and authority before Samson. He failed that test repeatedly and dramatically.
God put the test of David’s rising authority and popularity before Saul. Instead of accepting God’s judgement on him for offering unholy sacrifices, Saul descended into murderous jealousy, rage, and madness.
Neither of those tests were as extreme and costly as the test God put before Abraham, I believe, as a judgement for his sins against Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham sent them into the wilderness to die, to shut Sarah up. How he brought himself to do that is still mysterious but that is what he did. It wasn’t bad enough that he used his authority over Hagar to sexually abuse her, but then when Hagar and her son became sassy with Sarah, this was Abraham’s solution, this cruel sin.
This is part of why he didn’t question God on the day God demanded he sacrifice Isaac. He accepted God’s judgement on his sin. He determined to obey God and obey him he did. He was ready to bring down that knife across Isaac’s throat until God’s voice stopped him.
God will bring many tests, small and large, into the lives of his children. Some of them will come to us because we have sinned, and God doesn’t want us to allow sinful patterns to remain in our lives. So, he will test us.
Other times God will test us and we are not hiding sin like David, or even reaping a harvest from sins of our past like Abraham. God will test us to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of our characters. Remember, that sinless Jesus was severely tested by Satan so that his followers would know the purity and strength of his beautiful character.
God’s tests in our lives can be apocalyptic moments if we will let them. If we lower our response to a test into self-pity, anger, denial, or other negative emotions, we can miss an epiphany God is trying to bring to us.
I believe Abraham received perfect clarity about his sins when God’s voice called out to him to make a sacrifice out of Isaac. And then he experienced another apocalyptic moment when God’s audible voice called out to him again and said “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!”
When I think of all the apocalyptic moments and epiphanies I’ve probably missed because I didn’t respond rightly to a test from God, it’s sad. May I encourage you to consider adopting the mindset God has taught me, and millions of other believers, so you don’t miss your apocalyptic moments? Here’s the basics of it.
Accept the truth that life is a series of tests.
Everything from the neighbor’s dog pooping on your lawn to fighting a life-threatening disease can be a test. God will send series of small ones to us all day every day. Then there will come the large ones that can take our spiritual feet out from under us if we aren’t careful.
Understand that your tests may seem unfair.
Resist thinking, “Why me?” This focuses more on you and your feelings rather than the grander plans God is trying to execute through you.
Learn to recognize tests quickly
Every day, I used to miss opportunities for change, growth and revelation because I saw them as only troubles and annoyances. Traffic jams and naughty students. Muddy dogs and complaining church members. Lousy weather. Sickness and Disease. Painful surgeries and chronic health problems. That’s just the short list from my life. Here’s the thing, if something is upsetting, annoying, frightening, confusing and aggravating, it’s probably a test. Watch your mouth. Curb your emotions.
Humble yourself before God
It may be a tiny test like slow traffic, yet you feel ungodly stuff bubbling up in your spirit and fighting to tumble off your tongue. Humble yourselfand say something like, “Lord, I know this has passed through your heart and hands before it came to me. Help me to see everything you want me to see in this and to learn everything you want me to know. You may be facing a massive test like divorce, adultery, life-threatening illness, substance addiction in your family, job loss, and many other life-changing circumstances. Keep that humble, teachable spirit and be ready to see God do some amazing stuff in response.
Ask God to give you everything you need to pass your test.
I usually need more self-control and patience when I’m tested. What do you need? Ask him for it and he will give it generously.
Stay in faith and peace, regardless of the length and depth of your test.
Tests can last for years. I personally still believe God is healing me from some vexing health issues that have troubled me since my teens. I’m not going to stop believing he is doing something in my body. Every time some issues flare up, I thank him for past healings and continue to praise and thank him for healings I’m not yet walking out in the natural.
Don’t give up and give in, whatever your test. See it for what it is, an opportunity to go deeper with your Father and allow him to burn away more of the impurities, the dross of your character, away from the gold work of art he’s designed you to become. God is working incredible plans and opportunities for you beyond this test, if you will stay obedient, humble, and teachable. I don’t want to be remembered primarily as a cautionary tale, a “lesser light,” do you?