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Why are we any different from Abraham, the Father of Faith? God called him, but He first tested him.

Every year, when I go on the family vacation, I bake a chocolate cake. After about twenty minutes, I open the oven to inspect the progress. Even though it looks done on the outside, I can never tell if the cake is baked enough on the inside. I am not a baker. So I take a knife and I poke it. If the blade has chocolate sauce on it, I put it back in the oven and keep poking it until the knife comes clean. You can tell that I baked the cake because it usually has twenty stab wounds. I stab it so I can know what is inside.

I taught a catechism class for eighth graders on Mondays at 4:00 PM. There could not be a worse time to teach teenagers. On the first day of class I give them the rule: “No talking while I am talking.” What is the first thing they do? They turn to each other and start talking. I know what they are doing. They are poking me. They want to know how far they can push me.  I love it when they poke Peter. They make me happy when they want to find out what is inside me. You can be sure that I fix their wagon wheels. They will not test me again.

God tested Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his only son. Why is God so hard on us at times? Why does he leave Abraham thinking that his only son is about to die?  Why does he keep him in the dark until the last second when he draws his knife? God pokes us. What is wonderful about this story is that Abraham shows us what to do when God pokes us. It happens during the conversation with his son. As Abraham was taking Isaac up the mountain, he  turned to his father and asked, “Where is the lamb?”  Abraham does not tell Isaac, “I was hoping you would not ask that question, my son, I guess we have to talk.” He doesn’t say. “God is not always fair and just.”  He tells his son, “God will provide.” What does that mean? Abraham is convinced that God will bring about a great ending. God never loses or would allow a sad ending. Abraham did not know the plan, but he knew God would provide a great ending. When Abraham ascended the top of the mountain, God provided a ram as a substitute for Abraham’s son. In the end, Abraham has descendants as numerous as the stars in heaven.

Jesus went to Tyre and Sidon far outside Jewish territory. Why? There was a mother who needed His help. Her daughter was possessed by a demon. When Jesus meets the mother, He says something to her that is strikingly harsh: “It is not right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Why would Jesus be so offensive and deprecating? Jesus is poking. He wants to find out the depth of her faith. What does God want to see when he pokes us? He wants to know if we categorically believe that God will provide. Jesus chose to help the woman. Then He tested her. The woman believed, and God provided. If God chooses us, expect to be tested.

One of my brothers, who does not usually fly fish, asked to join me, another brother and my father for a day of fly fishing. The four of us were out on the lake in float tubes. Ten minutes on the water I looked over to see how my brother was doing. He had the fly line wrapped around his foot, one of his flippers came loose and sank to the bottom of the lake, and he lost his fly. I dragged him to shore. I then matched everything I had: line, leader, fly, and my extra pair of flippers. I said, “Come with me.” Our float tubes stayed together, and we never separated. I told him how much line to let out, and we trolled at the same speed. He had a terrific day. Before we departed? He said, “I think I caught more fish than you.” That is because I was spending all my time taking care of him. Anyway, my point is that I provided everything my brother needed to be successful and have a great time.

God will poke us. He will test us just as he tested the Abraham and the mother of the possessed daughter. Now when God tests us, we say “God will provide a great ending.”

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