Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“And it came to pass after these things that God, testing Abraham,
said to him, ‘Abraham.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’
And He said, ‘Take now your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac,
and go to the land of Moriah, and there offer him up for a burnt offering
on one of the mountains that I will point out to you.’ ”
Abraham was not being punished when God told him to slay and sacrifice his young son Isaac. On the contrary, he was being rewarded. The great test of being told to offer up his only son as a burnt offering was reserved for no one but Abraham because there was no one else on earth who qualified to face that test. By his great love and faith in God, Abraham had earned the privilege of being tested with fire. It was, no doubt, a blessing that Abraham did not want, but it was the blessing God wanted him to have. And because Abraham met that trial with faith toward God, we are still talking about him today as a wonderful example for us.
The apostle James exhorted God’s people to rejoice when they were tested (Jas. 1:2). He understood that a hard trial is a compliment from God. Those who have great faith do not fall into and stay in the pit of “Why me?” Instead, they rise up and face their unsavory circumstance as Jesus did his, with meekness and faith in God.
As a rule, God does not scourge His children for doing wrong. He may chasten them for doing wrong, but He reserves His scourging, that is, His hardest trials, for those, like Abraham, who have demonstrated great faith already. In his gospel tract, “Trials Are Opportunities”, my father once wrote, “The strongest type of character always receives the hardest trials. What a glorious opportunity we have — the privilege to be stamped with the trademark of heaven! Trials of faith are God’s greatest compliments to His earthly children.” To this wisdom, he added this exhortation: “One should never look upon his trials as mere attacks from the Devil. Not at all! God's sheep should be taught that it is God who designs and sends trials of faith and that they are intended for our greatest blessings! There is great peace in understanding that faith must be tried, and that when it is tried, it is being tried by God! From trials, one learns his most precious lessons, lessons custom-designed for each of us by our heavenly Father, to match our faith and to enhance our spiritual development.”
Solomon said that “no evil shall happen to the just” (Prov. 12:21). This means that the hurtful things that happen to us, as with the pleasant things, are designed by our heavenly Father for our good. And if we love Him, and if we are among those called according to His purpose, everything that happens to us can only be for our good, just as Paul said (Rom. 8:28). Paul was a hated and maligned apostle. As an old man, he was deserted by most of the people he had won to the Lord in his lifetime, as well as by some of his closest fellow-workers in Christ. His aged body bore the scars of the great physical abuse he had suffered. Still, he said, “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in troubles for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor. 12:10). He did not necessarily want those blessings; at the same time, he understood those “blessings” were necessary for him and that overcoming them meant that he would receive a better resurrection. Let us emulate Paul’s faith! If we do, we will have the same joyous testimony he had!