"God won’t create a life for you in which he is useless." - Pastor Daniel Floyd
In the Bible there is this doozie of a story, you can find it in Genesis 22. The gist is Abraham, who was a big deal, didn't have kids. God promises him a kid but then God waits a while and Abraham is over 100 before having said kid. When kid is grown (think teenager) God asks Abraham to take the kid, Isaac, to the top of this mountain and build an altar and sacrifice him. Woah, right? And Abraham does it! Well, he is gonna do it, but God stops him at the last minute and provides a ram to sacrifice instead.
Isn't that a crazy story? If you are like me, you have questions. The first being, why? Why did God ask this of Abraham? God is not about sacrificing kids on altars. He gets mad about it when kings do it in other Old Testament books. I don't think God ever intended Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. In His sovereignty, He always planned to provide a replacement. (We could go deep and talk about how he always planned to provide Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for our sins here if we wanted but that is for another day.)
But we are still left with some why's. If God really never wanted Abraham to kill his own son, why ask him to begin with? Why have him climb the mountain and build the altar and get right to the final moment before, BOOM, ram? I think God was trying to teach Abraham something. God being God, in His tension of simplicity and complexity, was probably teaching a lot of things to a lot of people; Abraham, Isaac, us.
See, Abraham was told he'd be the father of many nations. Yet, he wasn't a father at all. His wife was barren. But God had a plan. When the plan took a little longer than expected Abraham and Sarah tried to make things happen on their own and that just got awkward and troublesome (it's usually not good when we do it either but we aren't talking about that right now). But God always comes through on His promises and He was faithful to them. He is faithful to us too. He's a promise keeper.
When promises are fulfilled it can be easy to sit back, kick up our feet, and grow complacent though. We begin to find peace and security in the promise instead of the Promise-maker. We forget that there is a bigger picture we are part of. Abraham was part of a bigger picture, so was Isaac. God didn't want them to lose sight of that, to lose sight of Him. So he staged a test.
We don't like that. We don't like tests. We don't like to feel as though God may test us. But God is never setting us up for failure. He is always setting us up for growth.
This was a growing moment. Would Abraham trust God enough to lay his promise on the altar? Would he sacrifice his blessing? I don't think this was about Abraham proving himself to God. God knows our hearts. He knew the man Abraham was. Perhaps He needed Abraham to know it.
And let's not forget about Isaac. He was young and strong. The moment he put the pieces of the puzzle together, he could easily have overtaken his elderly father and escaped. He didn't. He laid on that altar without a fight as far as we know. That's huge!
Would we do the same? Would we willingly lay down our promises, our blessings, our dreams, our lives on the altar of God's will? We aren't talking a literal altar because of Jesus, but we are still asked to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and daily follow His leading. We are still asked to surrender our will for His and sacrifice our desires in exchange for His Kingdom glory.
We serve a good and faithful God. He gives us good gifts. But better than the gifts, He gives us Himself. Would we exchange what comes from His hands for more of His face? I'm not saying God is asking you to. He might though. And what if He did? You could come back to why here. Why would God ask me to give up a good thing, a thing that maybe He gave me to begin with?
Perhaps because He has something better. Maybe, just maybe, God has a bigger promise, an eternal promise, a Kingdom promise that trumps whatever present blessing we are holding on to and He doesn't want us to miss it. He is so good that He doesn't want us to trade Him for lesser goodness. He doesn't want us to settle for the gifts, when the Giver Himself is so much better.
This is a faith skill that needs practice, a muscle that requires building. Sacrifice is the test. Most of us don’t get the next blessing because we are still holding on to the last blessing. Maybe we are comfortable. Maybe we are afraid. Been there. Get it. But every time I open my hands and relinquish the thing I am holding so tightly to for God, it's been worth it.
I've given Him jobs. I've given Him finances. I've given Him pieces of myself and it made me feel like I was losing who I was. I found more of Him. I found who He was making me to be. It was hard...so hard...but it was better. His way is still better. He is always better.