Recently, I attended a program where a missionary recruit spoke of her upcoming move to a foreign field. Someone asked how she came to choose where she was going. She shared the advice she’d once been given: Think of the hardest thing God could ask you to do, pray about it, and work backwards from there.
Initially, to her, this particular area of the world sounded very hard. How would she ever connect with the people group? The language itself would take years of study even with her bent for language acquisition. Yet, as she moved forward, she experienced God’s provision and guidance.
Her transparency made me think. What would be the hardest thing God could ever ask me to do? What is the one thing I would surely hesitate and say, “Oh no, Lord. You can’t possibly ask me to do that. I don’t have what it takes to do that.” Yet, as my faith in God has grown, I’ve realized that through Him, I can do far more than I think I can. So have many other people of faith. They’ve done things the watching world would consider completely impossible.
Abraham’s hardest moment
Surely the hardest thing God has asked of anyone was the time He told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. For many years, I struggled with this story, and I know many Christians who have equally struggled to understand why God commanded Abraham to do such a thing. How could a loving God ask a father to give up their child? Isn’t this human sacrifice? Isn’t God against child sacrifice? Surely Abraham must have figured out that God wasn’t totally serious and, as Abraham had said to Isaac, God would provide the lamb. God really wouldn’t let him go through with it — would He? Abraham just had to go through the motions, right? Maybe the story is just a mythical account that symbolically points to the sacrifice of Jesus?
No. It’s real. We have to accept that the story is real, and that God was serious.
Abraham was unique.
But before we fear God will ask us to do the same or think that God is in favor of child sacrifice, let’s look at the context of the story so we can see what was unique about Abraham’s situation.
Abraham already had a life-line of experiences that gave evidence to the faithfulness of God.
Abraham had learned through his failures and successes at faith-living that God would keep His promises. Every single time, God had shown Himself faithful. Through living those expereiences and having face-to-face encounters with the living God, Abraham had come to a point in his life that he believed beyond any doubt that God could do anything. Look at what the New Testament says about Abraham’s display of faith:
Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.Hebrews 11:19, NLT
God’s plan for Abraham was to use him as a historical picture of faith.
What does strong faith look like? Look at the person of Abraham. You want to know what kind of faith God wants? This is it. Faith that has utter confidence that God can do anything and will do anything to keep the promises He has made to you.
God intended this one-time, riveting event to communicate the kind of sacrifice the Heavenly Father would make nearly 2,000 years later.
When God called His Son to give his life as a sacrifice, there was no replacement lamb. Jesus was the lamb. And God did the hardest thing anyone has had to do. He gave up the life of His Son for the good of the world.
As you pursue a life of faith, God may not necessarily require you to do what you perceive as the hardest thing. But He wants to know—and he wants YOU to know—if you would be willing. He wants your willingness to be based on a rock-solid belief that God can and will do anything to keep the promises He has made to you.
What is the hardest thing God could ask you to do? Like Abraham, your situation is unique. God has a specific plan and purpose for you. He knows how he wants to use your life to make a difference in His kingdom. And He invites you to trust Him enough to carry you through the tough moments that need to happen to make the plan happen.
What’s the hardest thing for me?
It’s ironic what my answer would be. I find myself nodding my head in agreement about moving to a new location — in my younger years, that is. Sure! Other people have. Yes! God can do anything. Ignorance is bliss. Perhaps Abraham felt that way when he first moved to Canaan. There was the sense of adventure and new experiences. (For more about Abraham’s first steps of faith, check out my post in the first of the Becoming a Person of Faith series.)
As I get older, I have a better idea of the cost and involvement of faith. I understand the reality of loss and sacrifice. Life experience has rearranged my perceptions of what is hard.I know what I must lose in order to gain.
Now that I have had children, I marvel at persecuted Christians who must face the torture of watching their children die at the hands of their persecutors. That would be horribly tough. I fear I would capitulate. “Take me, take me, just don’t harm my child!” Yet those beautiful people of faith are able to let their children go because they, like Abraham, know God is the God of the resurrection and they will see their children again.
What looks hard to you?
- Caring for a relative 24/7/365 who is losing mind and strength only to have to then say goodbye?
- Facing indeterminate rounds of chemotherapy for cancer that robs you of energy and dignity?
- Being caught in a shooting spree or a mob situation?
You can do it.
God invites you to write a blank check on your life and present it to Him. He offers to let you experience the expansiveness of His love and power embedded within the hardest step. He wants you to take His hand and go places you’d never go by yourself so you can experience His presence and provision in ways you never dreamed possible.
You may think you don’t have the strength to do the hardest thing now. But, like my missionary friend and like Abraham, God will escort you through a journey of faith that empowers you to do all He asks of you. You will come to the point of knowing beyond any question that He will see you through that hardest moment and He will do great and glorious things through your life testimony.
Are you willing to trust God to lead you through your personal hardest moment? It may end up that He doesn’t ask you to do that. But then again, He may. He may need you to fulfill a unique role in this world’s history that serves as a faith testimony to the rest of us.
Mostly, He wants you to know the depth of your trust in Him. And He wants to share the experience with you.