And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
What is it about faith that keeps demanding of us greater testings? Why do our afflictions grow more intense, more severe, the closer we get to Christ? Just when we come through one trial that proves us faithful—our heart declaring, “Lord, I will trust you for everything”—here comes another test, increased in its intensity.
This experience is shared by Christians all over the world. I see it in all my travels from continent to continent, and our ministry regularly receives letters from readers who testify of a growing intensity in their trials.
A godly pastor friend told me recently, “I have never loved Jesus more than I do today, and yet I have never been so severely tested. My present trial has left me stunned, speechless. I’ve never felt so helpless, so lacking in wisdom. I see no human way out of my difficulties. I simply don’t have any more answers, and I find myself longing for heaven for rest from all of this conflict.”
The fact is, every saint who grows ever closer to God’s heart will find his burdens and trials becoming ever more intense. I call this experience, “the ever-increasing demands of faith.” It is a pattern we see throughout Scripture.
When we first read of Abraham, God asks him to pack up his family and travel to an unnamed destination. This must have been an incredible test for Abraham as well as for his loved ones, but by faith, Abraham obeyed. It was by faith he lived among strangers in strange lands yet was unharmed and blessed. By faith, Abraham was delivered from every crisis through supernatural dreams and visions given by the Lord.
At one point, God told Abraham to behold the starry sky: “Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.... So shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5). In other words: “Abraham, that’s how many children, grandchildren and family you’re going to have. They will number as many as the stars.”
What an incredible promise. This word to Abraham was beyond the comprehension of any human being to grasp. What was Abraham’s response to this promise? “He believed in the Lord” (15:6).
What was the result of this faith from Abraham? What did his deep, abiding trust mean in God’s eyes? We find the answer in a single verse: “He believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6, my italics). Time after time Abraham put his faith in God, and he was considered righteous in the Lord’s eyes.
By the time Abraham turned 100 years old, he had endured a lifetime of incredible tests of faith. Through it all, Scripture says he had trusted God. The Lord said of this faithful, obedient man, “I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice” (18:19).
Do you see what God himself said of this man? He declared, “I trust Abraham. He has a proven faith.” This caused the Lord to say, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?” (18:17). When God said this, he was about to perform an important work. He was declaring, in essence, “How can I hide something this important from such a faithful man?” As a result, the Lord shared with Abraham a secret no other human knew: Sodom was about to be destroyed.
In his old age, Abraham was given the son promised to him by God. Isaac’s name means “laughter,” and for a season this boy’s name seemed to describe Abraham’s life. Every indication is that Abraham enjoyed his later years free from trials. God seemed to have given him a furlough from testing. The picture is of a very old man, well respected and enjoying a time of peace in his life.
However, once again we read, “It came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham” (Genesis 22:1). After all the many years of struggles—all the afflictions, the testings, the ever-increasing demands on his faith—godly Abraham, so trusted and loved by the Lord, faced the most incredible demand yet on his faith.
God told the patriarch, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (22:2).
As I read this, my human reasoning cries out, “Lord, this man has already been tested to the limit. He doesn’t have to prove his faith. You already know his heart! You declared yourself his proven trust in you. He’s at such a wonderful place in life right now. A lifetime dream has come to pass for him: your promise fulfilled in his later years. Why does he have to endure another test now?
“This man will soon be in glory with you. Who is going to benefit from this trial? Who among Abraham’s generation will ever even hear of this test, taking place as it does on an isolated mountain? You know Abraham is going to trust you through it. He has already proven that, many times over. So, what is this trial about? Is it a matter of chastening? What is there to chasten Abraham over? He’s an old man. He has a record of prayer and trust with you in all things.”
You know the story. God spared Isaac, substituting a ram for the sacrifice, and the Lord told Abraham, “now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me…. because you have done this thing...blessing I will bless you...your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Genesis 22:12, 16–18).
In effect, God told Abraham, “I know now that you will never hold anything back from me, even your precious son. I know I am everything to you, Abraham, and because you have proven this, I am going to bless you.”
Hear what the Spirit is saying in this passage: “Others may never learn about your ever-increasing tests of faith. You may suffer in isolation, alone, with no one to benefit from your testimony of faith and endurance. In fact, you may be judged for your suffering as others think, ‘Why is he going through all this? There seems to be no point to it. I wonder where he has failed in his life. What sin has he committed to bring this kind of suffering on himself?’”
You can know the God who led you into your trial of faith knows what your trial means. Your tears have all been bottled by him, every pain felt in his heart. The Lord assures you, “This will end in blessing. It will impact those in your family.”
Abraham was already in glory when these promises were fulfilled by the Lord. However, his family, the nation of Israel, and eventually all of humankind would benefit from his proven faith. Likewise, you may not be there to witness when God blesses your children and spiritual children, but the Lord makes the reward clear to every servant who endures with faith in him. “This will all end in blessing.”