God said to Abraham: “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and sacrifice him” (Genesis 22:2). I can only imagine the anguish Abraham felt as he listened to God’s instructions. You can feel the tension mount as each phrase in verse 2 gets more specific and narrows the focus. The Hebrew text of verse 2 says, “Take your son…your only son…the one you love…Isaac.” Incredible! Here is the boy for whom Abraham and Sarah waited for 25 years. They rejoiced at his birth. And now God says, “I want you to sacrifice him as a burnt offering.” How devastating.
If you read Genesis 22:1, you will notice that God was only testing Abraham. So what’s the nature of this test anyway? What is God after? Well, offering a sacrifice is all about worship. God’s test will force Abraham to decide whom he will worship. This test will force Abraham to choose between worshiping God or Isaac. At this point, there’s no way Abraham can do both. He will have to say, “I won’t offer Isaac. I’ve waited 25 years. God, you must understand, everything in my life is wrapped up in this boy. I can’t worship You by offering him as a sacrifice.” Or Abraham will have to say, “Alright, God, I’ll worship You and offer Isaac as a sacrifice.”
I believe this is the same dilemma Christian parents face today. Will we worship Jesus Christ, or will we worship our kids? That dilemma will rear its ugly head in a culture where kids rule. Now, I’m thankful that our culture places a premium on children. That’s one of the good things about our culture. Our children are our future. So we revolve our lives around them.
But sometimes our culture crosses the line. It conditions us to worship our kids instead of worshiping God. And so, God has to test us periodically to find out where our allegiance really lies. Make no mistake about it, God will test you in this area just as he tested Abraham. You can miss the test, though, because it happens so subtly—unlike the mega-test that Abraham faced.
At my former church, God tested one of our elders with the opportunity for his son to get involved in an all-star basketball league. The problem was, this opportunity forced him to miss 8 straight Sunday morning worship services. He might not have liked to admit it, but he was forced to choose between worshiping God and worshiping his child. And he failed the test.
I know some parents who have a daughter who wants to start dating a good looking guy in her class. But they know that the good-looking guy is not a believer in Jesus Christ. He holds values that butt heads with their Christian values. However, they don’t want to alienate or offend their child and say, “I will not give you permission to go out with this boy.” They are being forced to choose between worshiping God and worshiping their child.
God tests His people by forcing them to choose between worshiping Him or worshiping the children He has given to them. Abraham faced it. And you face it too. The greatest thing you can do for your kids is worship God, not your kids. Our culture says, “You’ve got to give your kids this experience, that opportunity, those lessons…whatever the cost, or they won’t succeed in life.”
Your children are important. But they were not designed to fit the throne that God alone is fit to occupy. In our culture, kids rule. But in this same culture, God still demands our allegiance. And understand that God will test your allegiance. He’s going to see how committed you are to worshiping Him. And He may put you in situations where you have to choose between allegiance to His son Jesus, or allegiance to your kids. When that happens, the greatest thing you can do for your kids is worship God, not your kids.
Your son or daughter will be better off if you say, “I’m sorry. Although I want you to play in the all-star basketball league so that you can get some looks for a college scholarship, it would be wrong to duck out on corporate worship for the next two months just to let you play.”
Your son or daughter will be better off if you say, “I’m sorry, but I will not give you permission to go out with the gorgeous girl or the hunk of a guy you met in your algebra class. Your relationship with God is too important to sacrifice for a romance that isn’t right.”
There might be one question you may have. How can you muster up the strength to do this? What God is asking you to do is hard. He’s asking you to go against the commitment your culture has made—to put your kids first no matter what. How can you do this? How did Abraham do this? Wouldn’t you like to know how Abraham maintained his ability to worship God first before his child, even when it meant putting his child’s life on the line? What was Abraham’s secret?
Abraham’s secret was a conviction he held. Read Genesis 22:8. “God Himself will provide the lamb.” This is Abraham’s answer to the gut-wrenching question that Isaac asked, “Dad, where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” After this all took place, Abraham calls the place “Yahweh Yireh,” that is, “God will see to it.” The Lord did provide that day by sending a ram to Abraham to be sacrificed instead of Isaac. That is why to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided” (Genesis 22:14). Friends, that’s the conviction that will give you the courage to worship God instead of your kids when it seems unreasonable to you and your kids. “God will see to it” is the conviction that will help you keep your worship priorities straight when your kids don’t understand and end up getting mad at you.
The bottom line is this: Walk with God first, then you’ll be a better parent. The most important thing you can do for your son is not to worship him. The greatest thing that you can do for your daughter is not to worship her. The greatest thing that you can do for your children is to worship their Creator, the living God who provides for those who fear him. The greatest thing you can do for your kids is worship God, not your kids.