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The Challenge of Faith (Gen. 22:1-5)

By Gary D. Robinson | Preaching Minister with North Side Christian Church, Xenia, Ohio

I remember looking up a long, tall water slide. I thought it would be a great thrill to ride down. As I stood there looking up at the top, however, I decided it was too high a climb, too long and too fast a slide. I chickened out. I didn't try that slide. I've always regretted that I didn't.

I want to tell you something you've suspected all along: Faith is a challenge. It's a long climb. A long wait. A sudden surrender to gravity and speed and spray with the outcome often clouded by fear and doubt. It takes faith to take what we value most, place it at the top of a long, long chute and ... give it a push.

Just ask Abraham: "Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!' ‘Here I am,' he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about'" (Genesis 22:1-2).

"Your only son," i.e., his only promised son. Decades before, Abraham had been promised a son. Isaac was conceived and born as a result of God's promise. Isaac appeared when Abraham and Sarah were very old, way past the age when people have kids. But God had promised Abraham that He would keep His promises to him through Isaac and his children. So God gave Abraham Isaac and now ... God asks for him back?

How does that strike you?

This is madness. That's what I thought—but not about Abraham sacrificing his son. God had never made such a request of me. No, I thought "madness" as it slowly dawned on me that God wanted me to give Him ... a portion of my income.

It wasn't just the idea of giving 10 percent. Even at the time, I didn't think 10 percent was so much. What seemed crazy to me was to give anything when we were so deeply in debt! We couldn't pay our bills. We couldn't keep our cars in good repair. We owed everybody and his brother—and everybody and his brother harassed us over the phone. Now, Barb and I were suddenly staring in the face the challenge of giving somebody else's money to God (or so it seemed at the time).

This is crazy! Surely God wants us to get out of debt first! Then we can worry about giving properly. Heck, when we get out of debt, we can give more than 10 percent! Why would God require this at this time? It would thwart His purpose, wouldn't it?

Unlike Abraham, I've never been asked to give up my own flesh and blood. It's a good thing! For a while, I had a real hard time with the idea of giving period. It just seemed too great a contradiction.

As for what God told Abraham to do, doesn't it seem the supreme contradiction? To make a couple wait 25 years for a child, then require the child's life?

This is the challenge of faith. God never asks for that which means little to us. Invariably, it's something we've worked hard for or waited a long time for; something—or someone—we're thoroughly invested in. Not only that, it's something God Himself has given us.

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