Faith is a lifelong challenge, and it can be something precarious. Even Jesus Christ asked God, “Why has thou forsaken me?” So what is faith? Is it simply a belief in the unseen God, or is there more? For Christian believers who have been embraced by the Holy Spirit and given the gift of faith, we will be measured by a lifelong struggle to hold fast to faith even though we will be confronted by challenges and frustrations.
In Embraced by Faith, author and pastor Vladimir Berzonsky shares his inspired reflections on faith from the Bible and beyond, revealing how God gives us love to guide us to the truth and a relationship with him—all through faith. Embraced by Faith explores both Old and New Testament scriptures, showing how we can have communion with God and be led to overcome every obstacle on the path to the kingdom of heaven.
Faith is the belief that God can do all things—and that he is unconditional love. It is also the belief that his love is revealed and expressed in Jesus Christ. Regardless of what happens to us in our lifetimes, a true faith will help us overcome and prevail over all trials—even in the most extreme example, the suffering of Jesus on the cross. To feel abandoned and yet embraced by the Holy Spirit, we can bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).
THE SUPREME SACRIFICE
“Sometime 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)
If there is a writing in the Bible more difficult to comprehend than this, it can only be the Resurrection of Jesus. Many questions form themselves: Why was God testing Abraham at this stage of his life? He’s now an old man. He’s proven his loyalty to the Lord on numerous occasions through his many years. Why this way of testing his faith? Nothing on earth did he prize as much as Isaac. And God knows how long Sarah and he had waited to have a child of their own. Besides, isn’t life itself the greatest blessing of the Lord? Wasn’t human sacrifice the most repugnant of the religious practices of their neighbors? How can it be that the good Lord would select this macabre loyalty test?
Note how the Lord removes Abraham’s objections in anticipating what they will be:
“But he’s my only son,” Abraham would plead.
“I’m aware of that. It gives you the opportunity to make a total commitment. Besides, it was I who gave him to you.”
“But I love him more than anything on earth.”
“That makes the sacrifice all the more precious.”
Some today would say that Abraham was too pious. One should use common sense in religious affairs. Is it necessary to respond to every demand of the Lord? A contemporary song has lyrics that are “God is watching…from a distance.” Wouldn’t Abraham be better off just knowing that “God is watching” without listening for His voice? Let Him stay at a distance…the average person might be pleased to keep Him there. It’s much safer. But not Abraham.
Pseudo-intellectuals will interpret this passage from a psycho-historical approach. They would say that Abraham is suffering from senility. His age has caught up with him. Maybe he’s measuring his own faith by that of the Canaanites who sacrificed their firstborn sons to their deities, and Abraham, not the Lord, is measuring his commitment to the Lord against theirs.
Setting aside the above, we must explore this story without explaining it away, for it means what it conveys; and here are significant truths for the serious believer to assimilate:
A. Faith cannot always be contained in the parameters of human reason. Abraham’s offering on Moriah is a prelude to the sacrifice of the Father on Calvary;
B. Life apart from the Lord is an illusion. Those who feel they can depend on the Lord without a total commitment are deluding themselves. To be a Christian is to be a saint in the making. All life is a test, proving to God and ourselves what we are really made of and what are our ultimate values;
C. Idols can be everywhere, and whatever or whomever we love more than the Lord Almighty can be a barrier to union with God. Only until Abraham was willing to give up Isaac did the Lord return the boy to him;
D. We are in danger of losing our souls even in our old age. The loyalty tests continue even on our death beds.