What would you do if you had prayed for years and years for an answer from God, received it, and then after a short time felt like God was telling you to give it back? What would your first instinct be?
When Sheila and I first got married, we tried to have kids for several years and talked with doctor after doctor, hearing things like not being able to have kids. We prayed. We believed. We found another doctor, and then another one. And, finally, God gave us the miracle of a baby. God showed up! We were so thankful to be parents. As I watched our daughter grow, I could not imagine seeing her reach the age of 12 and then feel like God was telling me to take her to a mountain and sacrifice her as an offering back to Him.
But, this is exactly what God told Abraham to do with his only son, Isaac.
After years—decades—of praying for a child so that Abraham could begin his legacy as “the father of nations” (Genesis 17:4, NIV), God told him to take Isaac to a mountain, sacrifice him and give him back to God.
Genesis 22 tells the story of this man named Abraham who demonstrated incredibly high levels of trust in God. Take some time to read it and look for these four observations:
1) GOD DOESN’T OFFER EXPLANATIONS.
“Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you . . .’” (Genesis 22:2, NIV).
The first thing I would want to know If I'm Abraham is Why?
When God speaks, He usually talks in soundbites. We see Him often throughout scripture say things like, “Go,” “Come,” “Follow me.” He’s not in the habit of giving a full dissertation of details.
But, we want the details: the How? Why? When? Who? What? There’s a reason why God doesn’t offer explanations. Most of the time, if you and I knew the whole process we may not say, “yes.” If we knew the challenges, we might focus too much on the challenge instead of the victory.
We want explanations before we trust God, and God wants us to trust Him without an explanation.
2) THE TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY PRESENT GREAT OPPORTUNITIES TO TRUST GOD.
“Early the next morning, Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac,” (Genesis 22:3, NIV).
Abraham didn’t waste any time deciding to trust God even though he was probably confused about why he had to sacrifice his son. Despite his confusion, he knew that when he trusted God before, he saw miracles and prayers answered. He also knew God’s promise that he would be a father of many nations, so he decided to trust God once again.
Trusting God is a decision that you and I must make to stay certain in uncertain times. Whether it’s economic uncertainty, relational uncertainty, or transitional uncertainty, this choice with determine whether you maintain your resolve even when you don’t understand the season that you’re in. There’s an old song that I often recall when I hit a season of uncertainty:
Well, I won’t back down, no I won’t back down.
You could stand me up at the gates of hell.
But I won’t back down.
Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around,
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down.
Gonna stand my ground, and I won’t back down.
Instead of distancing ourselves from God during foggy seasons of life or questioning God when we don’t see the whole picture yet, let’s choose to use those times to really trust God.
3) THE OPPORTUNITY TO TRUST GOD DOESN’T HAPPEN IN A PLACE OF ADDITION, BUT IN A PLACE OF SUBTRACTION.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” He said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son,” (Genesis 22:12, NIV).
Trust is the issue on the table when God is asking you to surrender or to let go of your idea or your way. Now if you’re Abraham and you stop at verse 2 because you don’t understand what God is asking you to do, then you never see the promise of God in verse 12 or 15 or 16 or 17. God provided a substitute for the sacrifice, He didn’t actually want Isaac to be sacrificed. He just wanted to know that Abraham trusted Him fully.
Sometimes we need to let go of something in order to receive what God is trying to give us. It may be about giving up something you want to keep. Maybe it's about cutting ties with something or someone that means something to you.
When people hear that “God wants them to give something,” or “. . . give up something,” they often form an opinion that God must be a taker. However, it would be a premature judgment to interpret this and see God as a taker. So much of your life experience is determined by that paradigm. If He’s a taker, we have to protect what we have. If He’s a giver, we can surrender all that we have knowing that He’s looking out for us, wants the best for us, and will provide for us.
4) TRUST IS ACTING ON THE WORD GOD GIVES US.
“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide,” (Genesis 22:13–14, NIV).
I think Abraham learned a lesson several years before being up on that mountain, which made it so much easier for him to trust God. He and Sarah had tried to speed up the timeline of God’s promise, and it created a bit of chaos at first. So, by the time this scenario came around, Abraham was ready and willing to do it God’s way. He chose trust and action over immediate answers.
We live in a society that over thinks and underacts, which is why so many people get stuck in a place of good intentions. The statements, “I have to think about it,” or “I have to pray about it,” turn into a prolonged place of uncertainty and apathy in our lives. When we overthink things, we will talk ourselves out of what God has told us to do.
God may be asking you follow Him, give Him your life, and let Him be your Leader and the Lord. Maybe He’s asking you to be baptized or to forgive someone in your life. He could be asking you to stop hanging out with the people who are going in a different direction than you’re going.
The reality is, trusting God is not about understanding what God is thinking or what He’s planning. There are some things about your life you will never understand, whether you trust God or not. Some people blame God and don’t understand. Others trust God and don’t understand. Either way, you won’t understand.
It comes down to a choice. Trust God in and through every situation in your life. Choose to live as if God is who He says He is and that He will do everything He has promised to do.