Sunday, May 13, 2018
Sunday Message: Go ahead and argue- but...
Early Saturday morning, I heard Chip Ingram's latest sermon, and he said something that got me thinking:
Oh Jesus, Jesus, be this. You know, I’ll do these things. Give me a great marriage. Or we want our kids to turn out right. Or we want financial prosperity. Or we want to be healthy all the time. Or we just want to be happy. Oh, Jesus, will you please make me fulfilled?
And we shrink a God and then we package Him. We have created a God, and shrunk a God, and made images of Jesus, to do what? Control Him, tame Him, and get Him to fulfill our personal agendas.
And it made me think- "I definitely have a real relationship with God through Jesus Christ- because that certainly isn't MY relationship with Him- I argue with Him all the time!" Regular readers would know this- half these Sunday Messages have spun out of those arguments! And it made me realize I'm not alone in this. Look at Moses:
Num 11:11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me? 12 Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers’? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ 14 I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. 15 So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”
Look at Elijah:
1 Kings 19:9 And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
Look at Job:
Job 13:20“Only grant me these two things, God,
and then I will not hide from you:
21Withdraw your hand far from me,
and stop frightening me with your terrors.
22Then summon me and I will answer,
or let me speak, and you reply to me.
23How many wrongs and sins have I committed?
Show me my offense and my sin.
24Why do you hide your face
and consider me your enemy?
Notice the common theme in these? God is doing things HIS way- and they feel He should do them THEIR way. Pretty much fits every argument I've had with Him, too, though I'll admit to amazement in that I never thought when I started the search for these three passages, their story would mirror mine so well. Everyone's out to get me; even You aren't hearing me; Just let me die and take me home. Of course when you consider the different circumstances between the times I've said it and the times THEY were in, they may have had more of a point. But DID they?
For Moses, there was a two pronged problem- a heart that could no longer bear the burden, and a "world" complaining at him to do something. And God gave him two solutions. First, he told Moses, you are being an idiot here...
16 The Lord therefore said to Moses, “Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. 17 Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it all alone.
Lesson: stop trying to do it alone. Secondly, God told him not to worry about "the world"...
18 Say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, “Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat and you shall eat. 19 You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’” 21 But Moses said, “The people, among whom I am, are 600,000 on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, so that they may eat for a whole month.’ 22 Should flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to be sufficient for them? Or should all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to be sufficient for them?” 23 The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.”
Lesson: "I'M still in charge here- the circumstance is not bigger than ME."
For Elijah, as we've talked about before, he was having a "down off the mountain" moment. Elijah thought the great victory God had won on Mt Carmel would put him on easy street- until he heard the voice of Jezebel, who being evil was not so easily cowed by and embarrassing defeat. In fact, it was ALL he heard- until...
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
And Elijah repeated his complaint, but this time was listening. And God told him, get back out there, you have a job to do. Lesson: Choose to listen to God. Lesson: Easy street ain't on this earth- but you're not alone.
Job, on the other hand, had a thornier problem. He wasn't seeing the whole picture, and because of it, he thought God wasn't listening. But the one problem his buddies were getting right was this one:
Job8:2 “How long will you say such things?
Your words are a blustering wind.
3 Does God pervert justice?
Does the Almighty pervert what is right?
He had got into such a "if God would just hear me" mode, it displaced his importance in his own eyes. He began to convince himself he had something valuable to bring that the Lord hadn't considered. But he had forgotten his place...
Job 42:6 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:
7 “Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
8 “Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
9 Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
14 Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.
Lesson: God is right. If you think He's wrong, refigure your equation.
So what did they do? Moses obeyed; and God kept his word. The people got to stuff themselves with quail, and died of the plague from it. And right after, Moses' own family rebelled on him over his new wife. But God had his back on that one. Because of his obedience, God solved the second problem before Moses had a chance to worry it.
Elijah obeyed; and the next time he chewed out King Ahab, Ahab listened. Because of his obedience, God took his fear from him.
Job obeyed; he repented humbly in dust and ashes, realizing his place before God. And because he lowered his place before God, God elevated his place before men.
So in closing, we can see that there is nothing wrong with arguing with the Lord, as long as we realize two things. One, He's going to win. And two, we have something to learn from our loss in the argument. Oh, and three, as well- learning the lesson doesn't change the circumstance, lessen the consequence, or preclude us from the task- but it does raise the reward.