Last week, I indicated my belief that the underlying reasons that often bring imbalance in my relationship with God have occurred in three problem areas:
- Problem Number One: Lust
- Problem Number Two: Greed
- Problem Number Three: Envy
The questions of how and why do these problems arise have obvious answers. We can look at those individuals and groups in scripture to see the results of sin in their life, and we can examine our own life as well to see the parallels.
In Chapter 11, we discovered that:
- The people complained: There was an uproar that grew to such an extent in numbers and volume that it angered the Lord. What may have started as minor grumblings among a few began to spread among many. What spread among many were not just complaints, but an attitude of ingratitude. What may have begun as a grievance became an outcry against God Himself. It no longer became a problem of hardships; it was God who was now seen as the problem. They had traveled for three days (Numbers 10:33), and having traveled for three days, found reason to complain.
Hardships have a purpose in my life. They are to bring me to that place of dependence upon the Lord. They teach of His love, kindness and mercy for me. When faced with hardships, I can look back and remember, how the Lord showed Himself faithful and delivered me. Israel could also look back to those four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, and how God delivered them. They could look back to the shore of the Red Sea and remember the pursuing armies of Pharaoh, and how God parted the Red Sea and they escaped on dry land; while Pharaoh’s army drowned. They could look back and remember how in the early morning of that present day; they gathered manna (that bread from heaven) to nourish them. They could have done anything to count their blessings, but instead, they chose to complain.
It’s one thing to dislike hardships. It’s another to accuse God for our hardships:
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”1
In effect, Israel complained because they allowed their own desires to supersede faith and trust in God. In three days, He was no longer their Deliverer. In their minds, He was the oppressor, treating them more harshly than did their Egyptian slave masters.
- Fire from the Lord burned among them: Their complaints brought a swift response from God. The response was unexpected. They looked not on God as The Lord, but as a man:
“These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.”2
They took comfort in their complaints, they sought solace and support from other complainers; yet they did not seek God. Perhaps they viewed themselves abandoned by God in the desert.
Where is the Lord? Does He even exist?
What began as a grievance became a consuming lack of trust in God. Without faith, it became impossible for them to please God. Their unfaithfulness made them into dry wood, needing only a spark to ignite them. It was not the spark of faith; sadly, it was the spark of their unbelief that burned. We must take care what type of structure we erect upon the foundation God establishes. I am purified by the holy flame of God’s Spirit.
“Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”3
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”4
- The people cried out to Moses: Often we do what we know not; we do what we would not. Our complaints don’t bring the results we seek. Only faith can bring the peace and joy I need. The people complained and created in their midst a combustible situation. They didn’t realize what they were creating; their minds were solely focused on complaining. When many became consumed by the flames of God’s anger, they no longer wanted God to hear their complaining voices; they cried out to Moses.
I believe that there is within me a desire that strives to please me, rather than please God. It is love of self over God and others. I have heard it said that, before you can truly love anyone, you must first love yourself; but is this saying really true? I have never found a problem with loving myself. I don’t mean that it hasn’t created problems for me; it has. Loving myself will always lead me to a fork in the road of my life; which way will I choose?
Do I choose the way of sacrifice or the way of self?
What I’m saying is that loving me will always conflict with loving God and others because I must give instead of get. When I lust, it is purely from my motivation to get, to obtain for myself, something I desire; something I tell myself will please me.
What I see in lust is that I want to substitute relationship for a thing (the object of my desire). I don’t want a relationship; I just want some thing to satisfy my craving. Lust never seeks to give; it is merely a desire to get, no matter the cost or expense.
“When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this Man's blood; see to that yourselves.’ And all the people said, ‘His blood shall be on us and on our children!’”5
How do I resist lust?
It is important for me to understand that I will always find pleasure in satisfying myself; even if it is only temporary. A drug can make me feel good, but the euphoria doesn’t last; eventually I’ll need another dose. I can find pleasure in many things, alcohol, food, clothes, money, cars, property, career, sex, and other things, but eventually, I’ll need another dose. What I must understand is that things don’t last; and the reason why is because I cannot establish a relationship with a thing. I believe this is true in all areas of my life where things are substituted for a relationship.
Without a relationship, I can never build intimacy. Without intimacy, I cannot have honesty, commitment and trust. Without these components in my life, I will never be in a position to give of myself to God or to others. I cannot learn to trust God without giving myself to God. I will never reach the place of trusting others until I freely give my life in service to others.
“Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?’”6
Next week I'll continue this discussion on The Problem with Greed.
I am so very thankful that through Jesus Christ I have a relationship with You. I want to please you with my life by living faithfully comitted to Jesus Christ, Your way, Your truth, Your life and purpose for me. I pray Lord for Your grace and blessing upon Eliana, thanking You for those caring for her health. I pray for those men and women currently unemployed; that You would bless them with employment opportunities. I pray for those facing home forclosure, asking You to be a shelter in their time of need. I pray for those in a health crisis and those in emotional distress; speak the word of healing, peace and comfort into their lives. We have brothers and sisters, family and friends near and far; in New Zealand, Uganda, Haiti and other places. The needs are many Lord, but You Yourself have asked, "Is the LORD’s arm too short?" You are the same Lord, yesterday, today and forever. There are children dying and being exploited. Voices cry out on their behalf. I know You hear them. Thank You Lord for relationships, with You and others. You're teaching me to give and not get; there is a different attitude and it is an attitude of thanks and adoration. Amen.
|Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).|
- James 1:13-14, NASB
- Psalm 50:21, NASB
- Hebrews 12:28-29, NASB
- Psalm 51:7, KJV
- Matthew 27:24-25, NASB
- Matthew 16:24-26, The Message Bible
- The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
- The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
- King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
- The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
- The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
- The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896
- Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6