What Does God Want From Me?
"What does God want from me?" Have you ever asked yourself that question? I know that I have, and I found my answer beautifully illustrated in the life of Abraham.
Abraham is arguably one of the greatest faith leaders of all time. The book of Romans tells us that his "faith was accounted to him [Abraham] for righteousness." (Romans 4:9)
Abraham's faith was counted as righteousness and in some modern translations, this verse reads, "Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:9, NIV) In order for Abraham to receive this "faith credit," he endured—like all students in the school of life—several tests.
Abraham's first test was a biggie. Abraham and Sarah were enjoying a comfortable life in Ur, a life made rich by family, livestock and rich with, well, riches. Abraham was wealthy, established—and at age 75, God asked him to leave his comfortable home and settle in a new land. God promised to make this childless couple into a great nation. He said He would bless Abraham and that all the families of the earth would be blessed through him.
Abraham packed up his household and left Haran—first part of the test—he scored a clear "A." Then he faltered. A famine redirected Abraham's path, and men, women and livestock went down to Egypt. Looking at his beautiful wife, Abraham envisioned the men of Egypt killing him so they could have her. So he introduced her as his sister. Pharaoh's admiring eye landed on Sarah, but God intervened and restored her to her husband's side. In this first test, Abraham had the faith to set out for an unknown land, but along the way, he didn't have the faith to trust God to preserve his life.
Abraham's second test arrived on a dark, cloudless night. The Lord spoke to him and said, "I will protect you and your reward will be great." (Genesis 15:1) Abraham responded the way I so often do when God assures me of His promises—he added a "but." He reminded the Lord that His promises were no good if he didn't even have a son. And he offered a solution—Eliezer his servant would be his heir.
"No," God responded, and took Abraham outside on that cloudless night and showed him the sky. "That's how many descendants you will have." (Genesis 15:5) Abraham believed and God counted him righteous because of his faith.
At the age of 86, Abraham became the proud father of a baby boy. But Ishmael was not his heir. Sarah and Abraham had attempted to fulfill God's promise themselves. Here their faith wavered and they stumbled, but this was not their final test. God didn't set them aside because of this failure. He gave them another chance.
Abraham's third test arrived when he was 99 years old, and it was a doozy. God asked him to circumcise himself, his son and all the men of the household: relatives and local servants. That same day Abraham obeyed and scored an "A+" on that test!
Sometime later, Abraham and his household moved to another area. Sarah must have been a woman of unmatched beauty because again, he introduced her as his sister. After this stumble, God still didn't give up on Abraham. His biggest test was next.
The promised heir, Isaac, arrived when Abraham was 100 years old. One day, unexpectedly, God asked Abraham to "take his son, his only son and sacrifice him as a burnt offering." (Genesis 22:2) The next morning, Abraham got up early and prepared for the trip up the mountain. Hebrews chapter 11, that great faith chapter, summarizes it this way:
"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called,' concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead..." (Hebrews 11:17-19)
This final test was unique: it was worth 100% of Abraham's credits. It didn't matter that Abraham had failed some of his earlier tests. In that moment, it didn't matter that he had passed earlier tests with flying colors. God's request that he sacrifice Isaac counted for 100% of his grade. God wanted to know, "Abraham, will you give me everything?"
Abraham’s answer? "God will provide." (Genesis 22:8) Isaac embodied everything to Abraham: this son was the heir to the promise, the reason for all the tests of faith that preceded that moment. Abraham, in answering "God will provide," gave God the answer He was looking for.
"What does God want from me?" He wants...me.
When our girls were young and Shawn came home at the end of the day, he was often met at the door by a frazzled wife. During those years, I'd welcome him home and, on a bad day, I'd quickly tell him what still needed to be done around the house. "The kitchen is a mess, there are unfolded clothes piled on the couch, and don't trip over that pile of tax papers sitting where your dinner should be." And his response was almost always the same. "It’s OK," he'd say, "just leave the dishes, forget about taxes and let's make peanut butter sandwiches for dinner—the kids won't care, they'll love it. Then sit down. I just want my wife."
I'd sit down, fidgety, my mind still thinking about the dishes and the taxes and the other unfinished things. It took a long time for me to believe him—that he really wasn't disappointed by my domestic shortcomings, and that he really just wanted my company.
"What does God want from me?" He wants me. Abraham gave God the one closest to his heart, and God gave him back. And to this day, Abraham's name is nearly synonomous with the word "faith." I pray God will find me as willing and that I in turn will be counted as righteous.