Ellis Washington
Symposium--Your faith must stand trial
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By Ellis Washington
December 25, 2015

Socrates (470-399 B.C.) was a famous Greek philosopher from Athens, who taught Plato, and Plato taught Aristotle, and Aristotle taught Alexander the Great. Socrates used a simple but cleverly profound method of teaching by asking penetrating, revelatory, and psychologically probing questions. The Greeks called this form Dialectic – starting from a thesis or question, then discussing ideas and moving back and forth between points of view to determine how well ideas stand up to critical review, with the ultimate principle of the dialogue being Veritas – Truth.


Marc Chagall (1887-1985), The Sacrifice of Isaac, 1960-66 –
oil on canvas; Chagall Museum, Nice, France.

"All men's souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine."


~ Socrates

"I want you to know that God will not take you out the fire, but he will be a thermostat in the furnace."

"As long as you know in the back of your mind that when it's all over, I'm coming back again. No Devil in Hell can destroy you, if you keep in the back of your mind – I'm coming out of this."


~ Bishop Noel Jones, 1996 Sermon – Your faith must stand trial

Characters:

Socrates

Bishop T. D. Jakes

Abraham

Isaac

Socrates:
What is Obedience? The extant texts define obedience in a military context as dutiful or submissive compliance. Under a religious or ecclesiastical paradigm, obedience is a sphere of authority or jurisdiction. In our last Symposium by Bishop T.D. Jakes, Get in the birth position, we discussed how Desperation and Obedience compelled the Old Testament figure, Hannah to worship so radically, so unconventionally at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, that even the High Priest Eli thought Hannah was drunk. In an ironic way he was right for Hannah wanted a baby so bad that she staggered on the altar like a drunk woman and told God like her matriarch Rachel had done before her – "Give me a baby lest I die!" Hannah wasn't drunk with wine, but she was filled the God's Holy Spirit to come radically to the throne of God with her petition and He answer her ... In time.

After many years God heard Hannah's faithful prayers and avenged Hannah's longsuffering she endured by her cruel rival wife, Peninnah, who because she was a mother of many children, mocked Hannah's closed womb year-after-year thus plunging her into the depths of anguish and despair. Nevertheless, God told Hannah through Eli because of her faithful prayers to God that a year from that time she would be with child. And a year later Samuel was born to Hannah who kept her promise to God and dedicated her Promised Child as a living sacrifice to the Lord. Samuel became the first of a long line of Judges or Civil magistrates who ruled over Israel between the Age of the Prophets and the Age of the Kings of Israel.

Likewise, this Symposium addresses another Hero of Faith and the struggles of Obedience in the Narrative of God calling Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. A story for the Ages which comes to us at the Heritage Christian Center in Denver, Colorado, where Bishop T.D. Jakes will bring the message titled – Your faith must stand trial. Let us now hear the Word of the Lord according to the Book of Genesis: 22:1-12:
    22:1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

    2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

    3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

    4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

    5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

    6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.

    7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

    8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

    9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

    10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

    11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

    12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

Bishop T. D. Jakes: We have failed to prepare you for the reality of a real walk with God. And because we have not caused you to realize that faith does not exempt you from tragedy and adversity, many of you have been struck with awe-stricken amazement to find out after you have named and claimed, and believed and declared, and read all of our books and all of our tapes and went to all of our workshops, and still there are troubles that persist in your life.

I came to jerk the cover. I came to unveil the facts that you will never know that you have faith until you're in a good fight. Real faith is proven in the furnace of affliction, in the time of adversity. And we will know that you believed God not because you didn't go through anything, but we will know that you believed God because you did go through some things and maintained your integrity while you persevered...

I believe that God in his omniscient wisdom knew that we were going to face a generation of people who did not expect to go through anything. Because not only does He [Peter] speak about the fiery trials, but he speaks about the attitude of the person who have not prepared themselves to go through the struggle and says, "Thinketh not strange that these fiery trials have come upon you." Don't think it strange when things happen to you because the truth of the matter is – Every man, every woman, every boy, every girl will go through a time where your faith must stand trial! ...



Socrates: Men today are like children: "Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers." As for people who partake in the functions of the church, they are all Sophists (e.g., professionals, demagogues, functionaries, apparatchiks) who run the church as inefficiently and corruptly as Politicians, Presidents, Caesars, Senators, Justices, Intellectuals – administer the functions of government. "No man undertakes a trade he has not learned, even the meanest; yet everyone thinks himself sufficiently qualified for the hardest of all trades – that of government." Bishop, how would you explain this paradox?

Bishop T. D. Jakes: We come to church more, but we are getting less out of it. We've got more routines. We've got more professionals than the church has ever had {sarcastic tone} – Professional musicians – Professional worship leaders – Professional preachers – Professional drummers – Everybody's on payroll, everybody's on salary, everybody's got a resume, but we need POWER!

I want you to know that God will not take you out the fire, but he will be a thermostat in the furnace. He will regulate the heat in your life. He will put barriers on the Enemy and tell them enough is enough. He will let him know when to get up off of you, that's why I trust nobody but the Lord to defend me. [Job said,] "He knows the way I take: and when he has tried me, I'll shall come forth as pure gold."

He said to Abraham, "Go up to Mount Moriah" – And Mount Moriah was a ridge of mountains, but within the ridge of mountains there was a particular mountain. Abraham did not know which mountain amongst all of those mountains, but God said you'll know it when you see it. And when he was yet three days away, he looked up and saw the place – Standing almost in the shadow of Christ, in the Garden of Gethsemane, looking toward the place where his faith would be challenged with the cross...

Abraham, at the pinnacle of worship said, "We are going yonder to worship, but we will come again." As long as you know in the back of your mind that when it's all over, I'm coming back again. No Devil in Hell can destroy you, if you keep in the back of your mind – I'm coming out of this. I don't know how. I don't know when. I don't know who. I don't know if I'm going to be dead and He's going to have to raise me. I don't know whether he's going to stop the knife in my hand. I don't know whether he's going to send an angel. I don't know whether he's going to send a prophet, but I do know that before it's over I'm coming out of this.

Socrates: Bishop, how do you [and Abraham] know that you are coming out of this test? – These existential trials of Pressure and Pain? Abraham and Sarah went through so many barren years, so much anguish and angst to get the promised child Isaac only for God to tell Abraham to make his long-awaited child, Isaac a burnt offering. This sounds crazy to the Natural Man. This is inexplicable to me. How can this be?

Bishop T.D. Jakes: I know I'm coming out of this because there is a prophecy over my life, and I haven't done everything that God called me to do. And until I finish my prophecy somehow or another... there may have to be a sequel. This can't be the end of the movie. I have got to come out of this. This may be a commercial, but it's not over!

You talking about worship? Teach all the worship you want to. Do all the seminars you please, but it's nothing like going on trial that'll teach you to worship. {Praises to God} Now you can learn the Hebrew and you can learn the Greek. And you can Shabach and you can Tehillah. And you can do all the other stuff that you want to do. And you can get "Nine Steps to the Blessing" – "Five Ways to get up" – "Three Way to go on" – And "Nine Ways to Worship in the Car" and "Eight Ways to Worship in the Living Room." But when you get through going through hell and high water and some kind of way God bless you to get over – You don't know if you Shabach'n or Tehillah'n [sic], but you so glad God brought you over! {Praises to God}

Touch three people and tell them, "I earned the right to praise the Lord." I earned the right to praise Him. After I got through going through that last test, I earned the right to praise Him. I earned the right to lift Him up. I'll let nothing separate me. I earned the right to glorify God. When God did that last miracle in my life, I earned the right to praise Him. I'll shout if I want to. I'll run if I will. I leap when I get [ready] {Praises to God}


It is important for you to understand that Isaac was a grown son, walking with an old man. He could have resisted him, but he became obedient unto death. Nobody took his life, but at the will of his father he was ready to lay it down and he says –

Isaac: Daddy, you left something. (He must be getting old. Oh, poor daddy). He got the knife. He got the wood, daddy you forgot the offering. What are we going to do for the sacrifice – a burnt offering? (Not just a sacrifice, a burnt offering. Whatever must be offered up must be completely destroyed). What are we going to stab to death and burn... daddy?

Abraham: Don't worry about it, son. God Himself shall provide the sacrifice. I can't trace Him, but I still trust Him. I don't know how he's going to get me out of it, but I still trust Him. Trust is a form of worship. When you trust Him you are saying, "God I'm relying on your character. You haven't shared the specificity of my deliverance. I don't know your plan, but I know you. And I know somehow or other, you're going to bless me... God Himself shall provide the sacrifice.

Lay the wood down, son. Get everything ready. Lay down, son on top of the wood. Let me tie you down –

Bishop T.D. Jakes: {Bishop channeling God} Because there is some stuff you can't get away from. I know you want to get away. I know you want to get out of that marriage. Sometimes He'll... tie you down. I know you tired of those Church People. He'll tie you down. I know you want to get off that job, but sometimes He'll tie you down. I know you tired of wrestling with that child, but sometimes God will tie you down. He knows what it takes to make your will break. He'll tie you to a situation.

Everybody's telling you – "You ought to get out of it" – He'll tie you down. When you are his, you are not your own and He'll tie you to some things that sometimes you'll just have to take it. You don't know what's going to happen, but you just have to take it. You're uncomfortable laying on the sticks, but you got to lay there. It don't feel good to your flesh, but you got to lay there. There's a knife in the air and you could die at any movement, but you got to lay there. You're right on the edge of destruction, but the miracle is that you haven't fell off yet, and – Somebody said you'd be gone long time ago, but you still laying there... Tied down! Held together by the grace of God. God has blessed you to stand somethings that would have broke[n] other people.

Bishop T.D. Jakes: {somber mood change} And there he is, over his son, and he raises the knife to slay his son. And at the last moment God says, "Abraham, stay your hand! Stop... right where you are. Don't panic – It's just a test." I just wanted to know that I could trust you, even if my will hurt you. I wanted to know would you hang in there, even when people were talking about you? I wanted to know would you stand, even when you felt like running away? I wanted to know would you would stand, even if it was at the expense of your flesh? I wanted to know would you trust me, even when there were tears... Stay your hand!


Marc Chagall – Angel of the Lord stops Abraham

Touch someone and say, "Look over your shoulder." What I like about God is that God always has a plan. You see all the while Abraham was climbing up on the mountain, on this side, there was a ram climbing up on the other side. I want to talk about provision – You can't always see it coming, but it's coming. You can't always understand how He's gonna do it, but He's gonna do it. It will be coming up on the other side of the mountain, but as you take a step – Every step you take God's got a blessing on the other side of the mountain, moving up to meet you. And in the time of trouble, by the time you get to the place, He'll be there! Don't you worry, He'll be there! ...

He sent me here to tell somebody to let you know that it's just your faith on trial. And if you just stand (I know it's hard on you). But if you just stand even up under this pressure you're going through. If you just stand – When you get to the right place, you're going to look back over your shoulder and you're going to see that God's provision was right there all the time. Don't war with anybody. Don't fight, don't fret, don't argue. What God as for you, He'll tie it up until you get there...

Socrates: Bishop, who is your ministry addressed to – The rich, the poor? To the high and mighty or to the downtrodden, or to regular people who expect something from God?

Bishop T.D. Jakes: Many of you know that my ministry is primarily for hurting people. And they're so confused today because so many people have made them feel that if they go through anything, that they don't believe God. And they keep saying, "God, I think I believe you. And I'm trying to believe you." "Why do these problems persist in my life?" They're not there because you don't believe, they're there because you do. [The Bible says,] "Don't think it strange for these fiery trials have come against you as if something strange had happen to you."

The Enemy has been after you all of your life... Planning your demise. But while he was having his board meetings, God had already settled on a solution. [The Bible says,] "No weapon formed against you shall be able to prosper." It's not going to work. What God wants you to do is trust Him, even when you can't trace Him. – Even when you don't know what He's doing, He's working out His will in your life.

Socrates: Sarah was the wife of Abraham who had such great faith in God that she had a baby at 90 years old.

Bishop, as an Addendum to your sermon – Your faith must stand trial, please tell this Symposium – Who are the Daughters of Sarah you alluded to earlier in your sermon? Was this group of immortal and divine women derivative of my aphorism? – "All men's souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine." Or were the Daughters of Sarah derivative of the ideas of Psychiatrist Carl Jung who once remarked, "One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child."

Bishop T.D. Jakes: The Bible speaks to women and says you are Sarah's daughters if you are not struck with amazement. If you can go through a test and keep a cool head, you are a Daughter of Sarah. If you can go through adversity and still keep a praise in your mouth, you are a Daughter of Sarah. If you can go through a crisis in your marriage or with your children, or in your life without going into depression and needing spiritual respirators to come by your house and raise you up, you are a Daughter of Sarah. If you can push a smile upon your face and fight a tear out the corner of your eye, and lift up your hand in the sanctuary and bless God, you are a Daughter of Sarah! If you can quit feeling sorry for yourself and stop your pity parties and your mood swings – coming in like everybody has mistreated you, you are a Daughter of Sarah!

... And you are a Son of Abraham, because Your faith must stand trial.




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Ellis Washington

Ellis Washington is a former staff editor of the Michigan Law Review (1989) and law clerk at the Rutherford Institute (1992). Currently he is an adjunct professor of law at the National Paralegal College and the graduate school, National Jurisprudence University, where he teaches Constitutional Law, Legal Ethics, American History, Administrative Law, Criminal Procedure, Contracts, Real Property, and Advanced Legal Writing, among many other subjects... (more)

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