Every person is on a faith journey, even those who do not acknowledge the existence of God. Faith is defined as confidence or trust in a person or thing. Whatever, or whomever, you are relying upon for sustenance in life, you will encounter seasons of variance; times when trust in self, others, your employer, or your God, hits a wall of doubt and uncertainty. Options for coping in these turbulent seasons are many, but I am grateful that I have a Biblical faith and a personal God, one who understands my journey. The Bible’s definition of faith: “Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality–faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses].” Heb. 11:1 (AMP)
I hit a wall in my journey, eleven years ago, as I was asking the question: Why did I leave the security of a full-time job, sell my house, leave my hometown of 53 years in upstate New York, and move to the Midwest? We had just moved to Kansas City to be part of a ministry called The International House of Prayer, and I was battling with not being able to provide for my household. As a pastor, I always had some form of compensation and benefits, but now I was signing up to be a missionary, with the responsibility of raising my own support. One day, as I was navigating the angst in my soul, I heard these words in my mind: The ram is already in the thicket. From past experience, I knew the voice, clearly from God, some call it the “inner audible” voice. This clear word that God spoke to me was Him saying that He had everything under control and that the provision was in place. Like He provided for Abraham, He would provide for me. You know the story, right?
Abraham was told on the front end that he was to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering. His immediate response was one of obedience. It doesn’t make sense, but I know God is speaking so I will obey. It was exactly the situation I was in, though to a lesser intensity than Abraham. Without question, Jehovah Jireh desires to provide what I need, but He also deems important the where and the how of the provision. The process of encountering Him is what He delights in, so before He provides the ram, He provides the journey. They were four men at the start; then only two. On the third day, Abraham told his two servants to wait, while he and Isaac kept their appointment on Mount Moriah. There are some places where we journey in community and then some places where only you, and what is dearest to you, must journey alone.
Abraham’s faith was clearly stated to the servants – “The lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” and to his son – “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” He had the knife in his hand, with Isaac bound as the sacrifice, when the Angel of the Lord restrained him by speaking from heaven. The second time the Angel (presumably Jesus) spoke, He released what we know as the “blessing of Abraham.”
“I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Gen. 22:16-18 We live today, in the blessing of Abraham’s obedience.
“Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” Gal. 3: 7, 29 I love being an heir and I love the promises of God. What I often wrestle with is the faith journey, the process of believing. Abraham’s journey and crushing mandate to sacrifice his son, all transpired in less than a week. It doesn’t get much more intense than that! I’m guessing that it added a few years worth of gray hairs.
Abraham and Isaac walked out alive from their Gethsemane to continue on in patriarchal service to God, Isaac a foreshadowing of a future Son who would walk from His garden, to Golgotha’s hill, to emerge a risen Son.
Discernment in the spiritual world will never be based on common sense or emotions. Faith journeys will vary, with no exemptions from suffering guaranteed. I’ve walked with fellow saints through many endings that were not glorious or desirable. It does not however, end the pilgrimage of faith we are called to walk in this age; it simply begins a new chapter. One of my favorite devotional writers, Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest) shares this tried and true principle: The golden rule for understanding in spiritual matters is not intellect, but obedience.