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Maintaining the Right Attitude During Our Present Spiritual Wilderness Experience†††

 

Eric V. Snow, sermonette May 7, 2005 UCG-Ann Arbor, MI

 

Where did Israel go right after they left Egypt?What came for them after the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread?Did God take them directly to the promised land?Did they immediately enter paradise or the lush equivalent of the Garden of Eden?No, they entered the desolate Wilderness, a truly awful desert.They endured a long period of testing and trial before going into Canaan.Because of their own sins, this time of living in a desert lasted much longer than it had to.Even the one whom God used to reveal so much of His law, Moses, sinned during this time that he wasnít allowed to enter the Promised Land while still physically alive.

 

So what can we learn from the experiences that Israel had while wandering in the Egyptian and later Arabian deserts?Thereís a powerful spiritual analogy here thatís informative to us as Christians in our own present wanderings while in this world before Jesusí return.

 

S.P.S.We as Christians need to maintain a patient, contented faithful attitude in our relationship with God while in the world before Jesusí return, in contrast to ancient Israelís often complaining and faithless mind-set while wandering in the wilderness.

 

We as Christians have just celebrated the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.So where are we now before gathering again for Pentecost?Back into the spiritual wilderness called the world.We have the promise of eternal life conditionally, just as Israel had the promise of physical land in Egypt.But most of that generation that left physical Egypt did not gain that land during their physical lifetimes.By analogy, could we lose eternal life during our spiritual experiences of wandering in the wilderness called the world?

 

What did Israel complain about while in the wilderness?They felt their physical needs were being neglected:ďWe donít have water!Ē ďWe donít have food!ĒďThe Egyptian army is going to kill us!ĒďWe donít have the right food!ĒďWe donít know where our top leader is now!ĒďWe need different leaders than we have now!Ē

 

Numbers 11:1+

 

We could turn to other texts, but letís focus on this section today.

 

V. 1:Do we complain similarly?Do we constantly express our discontent with what we have been given in this life?Do we complain even when it canít change anything, like about bad weather?Are we bitter about past events in our lives, such as (say) how we were treated as children or about a failed marriage?Itís much like having anxiety about the morrow:The mental state of fearing future events wonít prevent them from actually happening.So why worry?Likewise, constantly complaining about things instead of being thankful for what we do have shows a lack of contentment.

 

v. 4:Notice that freedom isnít merely about an absence of violence or physical coercion against someone.Itís also when our personal behavior isnít being driven by strong wrong desires and sins.A smoker may be free to smoke in America today (at least at home), but is he or she really free?

 

Vs. 4-6:Selective perception:Focused on good things, not bad things in evil past, and focused on bad things, not good things, in spiritual present.Source of discontent:Origin of term ďMurphyís law,Ē for example.But do we notice when those little things go exactly right?Are we thankful to God then?

 

Likewise, Israel wanted to go back to Egypt, which is a type of a sinful, uncalled, worldly spiritual state.Do we wish to go back to the way we lived before being called?If we were raised in the church, do we find the corrupt world around us is attractive, appealing.Do we wish we were ďfreeĒ to sin like people in the world?Are they really happier than us?Only selective perception would make us think so.And they donít presently have the promise of eternal life.

 

Vs. 6-9:Are we discontent with what physical things God has given us presently?Israel complained about the manna, food directly given to them by God.This food they didnít have to spend hours, days, weeks, months out in the fields raising.It came right to them.It was reasonably pleasant to taste.

 

They wanted more, and had a bad attitude about it.Do we wish we had a bigger house, a newer car, a better paying job constantly?If reasonable measures under our control canít change our physical standard of living much, we should learn to be content with what we have.Similarly, a married couple may wish to have their own children, but canít or havenít, a single man or woman may wish to be married, but isnít, a man may wish to retire, but canít yet.A divorced man or woman may deeply regret their past choice for a spouse.But we do reach the point where complaining about our bad situations is simply counter-productive spiritually.To dwell on the past, as our pastor has mentioned in a sermon given some months ago, simply isnít good.

 

Likewise, our physical talents and abilities are limited by nature and our upbringing:Suppose (say) we arenít good at sports, working with our hands to make or repair things, and/or gaining an academic higher education.Should we blame God and/or others for our weaknesses?Or rather should we learn to be content?

 

V. 10:God wasnít pleased with Israelís complaints; Is He with ours presently?It wasnít as if they were in a state of true deprivation or poverty; they were just bored with their food!

 

V. 18+:Punished by overwhelming them with what they said they wanted.

 

Hebrews 3:7+

 

Are we hardening our hearts out of discontent with (say) our present standard of living?Could this keep us from being saved ultimately, just as Israelís bad attitudes and rebelliousness kept most of them out of the Promised Land?

 

Hebrews 4:1+

 

Are we in danger of losing out on salvation from not having faith that God loves us despite our present trials?Do we use our present standard of living to judge whether or not God loves us?The Sabbath/spiritual salvation/Canaan/Promised Land analogy.Notice that disobedience (v. 6) can keep us out of Godís rest.

 

Conclusion:We have to learn to avoid constantly complaining in this life about our problems.We should learn to avoid dwelling on problems we canít change in the future or fix, such as how we were mistreated in the past or due to intrinsic physical or natural limitations.We have to learn to be more content with what have by focusing on the good rather than just the bad things about our physical circumstances.Especially since we who are baptized have the Holy Spirit, we should find this easier to do than carnal ancient Israel did.†† For as the Apostle Paul observed:ďNot that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to, to be content:I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.Everywhere and in all things I have learned to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.I can do all things through Christ who strengthens meĒ (Phil. 4:11-12).

 

 

 

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