Last night, as I was reading in Deuteronomy, the Lord revealed something to me about myself. Even though it was something that needed to be brought to my attention, it was not something that was easy to accept. But, as it always is when the Lord speaks, it was true. And like I almost always do when the Lord reveals something to me, I am going to share the message with you.
If you have read very many of my posts, you are no doubt aware that I have been going through a time of trial unlike any other that I have ever faced. I have experienced just about every emotion you can think of, but few emotions have occupied my heart more than, or even as much as fear, discouragement, disappointment and anger. I have battled these emotions so often that I find myself praying for relief from them almost as often as I pray for an end to this trial. I have even felt guilty for being unable to overcome these emotions. I mean, aren’t believers supposed to handle hard times a little better than that? I’ve always been told that “fear is the opposite of faith”. Have you heard that before? I don’t know how you react to that, but it tends to only deepen my discouragement. I know that discouragement, disappointment and anger are natural feelings to have when facing trials that seem unfair. However, when we reach the point where we are allowing the circumstances of our lives to discourage us from trusting God or to cause us to feel disappointed or angry with Him, we are entering very dangerous spiritual territory. Unfortunately, those are the kinds of thoughts and feelings that I have been struggling with. I have even been to the point where I am reluctant to pray because I am ashamed of the way I have been feeling about God because He has not caused things in my life to work out in the way I thought they should have. This is a very painful place to be, and it is exactly where the enemy wants us.
As I was reading in Deuteronomy last night, the Lord brought to my attention exactly where all of these dangerous thoughts and feelings are coming from. Chances are, if you are dealing with similar thoughts and emotions in your own life, they are being caused by the same wrong mindset that our Heavenly Father showed me last night, in myself.
First, let me share with you the scripture that I was reading when the Lord spoke to me. It was in Deuteronomy, chapter nine. Before I give you the scripture, I need to let you know what was going on and why God had Moses to share these words at this time, with the children of Israel.
The children of Israel had reached the end of their wilderness journey, and were about to cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, which God had promised to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You may remember that, when they reached the outskirts of the promised land the first time (Numbers chapter 13), spies were sent into the land to check out the land and the people that they would be dealing with when they entered the promised land. When the spies returned to give their report, they told of giants and fearsome warriors who inhabited the land. Because of their false report, the people were afraid to enter the land, even though the Lord had promised to go in before them and to drive out the people. They chose not to put their faith in God or to believe His promises. Instead, they once again grumbled against Him and His servant, Moses. It was because of this faithless disobedience that they spent the next forty years wandering in the wilderness instead of inhabiting the land that had been promised to their forefathers.
So, here they are again, preparing to enter promised land (Deuteronomy chapter 9, beginning with verse 1), and Moses is reminding them of the power and faithfulness of the God they serve. He is reminding them of God’s promise to drive out the current inhabitants of the land and to deliver it to them [the Hebrew people, whom He has chosen to be His own], and to accomplish it all by HIS power alone. This is where we will begin reading.
“Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the LORD your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the LORD has promised you. “Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD. Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you.”
The first thing that I took from this passage is that God was doing a good thing for His people, not because they were good and deserved it, but because He is good and wanted to be faithful to His Word. His choosing of these specific people had nothing at all to do with them. He chose them because He had made a promise to their forefathers, and He intended to keep it.
The land’s current inhabitants were being driven out because of their own wickedness and not because of the righteousness of the children of Israel. The Hebrew people had shown God no more faithfulness than those who were being driven out before them. The were not receiving the land because of their goodness, but because of God’s goodness. He owed them nothing, but He gave them everything, beginning with freedom from slavery. Though He was not obligated to do so, He provided their every need including the home that had been promised to their ancestors.
Something that I find appalling every time I read about their journey from slavery to the promised land, is the sense of entitlement that the Hebrew people seem to feel. Not only do they often appear to be very ungrateful, but they also express anger toward the God who had so graciously set them free, as well as toward His servant, Moses. I believe this ungratefulness and anger stemmed from the wrong sense of entitlement that they felt.
The Lord has shown me that, at times, I am guilty of the very same thing.
When my current trial began, I fully expected God to cause everything to work out in my favor. For things to go any other way would be to let wickedness and dishonesty prevail over innocence and truth. And, well, that just wouldn’t be right…. right?
Well, that’s not at all the way things are going. At this point, it looks as if truth and justice have been completely overcome by lies and injustice. But, you know what? Since that is the case, it’s pretty evident that this battle is far, far from over.
Until now, I have struggled… and I don’t mean just a little… with trusting God to work things out in His time and according to His will. Every time the truth has been rejected in favor of a lie I have gone to God in anger, just like the children of Israel did. Without coming right out and saying the words, I have accused Him of being slack concerning His promises. I have pointed my self-righteous finger at heaven and asked Him, “Why are you allowing wickedness to have its way?! Why are you not ‘fixing’ this?! Do YOU not stand for truth even when no one else does?! What is going on here!? What happened to making all things work together for MY good?!”
It is only because of His infinite mercy and grace that I have not constantly been dodging lightening bolts!
I am ashamed that I have responded to troubles in my own life in the very same appalling way that the Hebrew people did. He has delivered me from slavery, just as He did for them. He has provided my every need and protected me from those who would have caused me harm, just as He did for them. He has promised me that He would fight my battles for me, just as He did for them. Over and over, He has proven His faithfulness to me and His love for me, just as He did for them. And just like they did back then, I have accused Him of not holding up His end of the bargain.
The problem is that I have been focusing on myself and my situation instead of focusing on Him and His kingdom. I have been looking at things as if I and those I love the most, are the most important people in this life, as if we are what it’s all about. We are not. We don’t even make it near the top of the list. This trial… this life is not about me. It’s about Him. When Jesus suffered and died… that was about me. It was about you. From that day on, everything is about Him. Once we figure that out, it leaves much less to be disappointed and angry about. It’s hard to feel entitled to anything at all when I think about what He has already done for me. If I’m asking for justice, you know what I am entitled to? You know what I deserve? Death. I deserve death. I deserve an eternity in hell. But that is not what He has given me. He didn’t give me justice. He gave me mercy. He gave me grace.
How can I even think about asking for more? How can I feel entitled to anything at all? How in the world can I be disappointed in Him or feel angry with Him after what He has already done for me?
Sure, this current situation is going in a direction that I didn’t expect and that doesn’t seem right or fair, but there is no doubt that He is working on it. It isn’t over yet. He is Truth. The truth has already won. The liars just don’t know it yet. But they will.
So, instead of pouting and whining because things aren’t going like I think they should, I will look for ways to glorify my Lord in this trial. I will point others toward my Jesus and say, “Just watch what He’s gonna do.” Instead of angrily pointing an accusing finger at Him, I will raise my hands toward heaven and I will praise Him, even while it is still dark, as I patiently and expectantly wait for the Son to rise with healing in His wings.
Won’t you join me?