|Posted by Pastor Jono on March 17, 2015 at 5:55 PM|
When I was ten years old I went eel fishing with a mate a long walk down a gully creek on the edge of town. Somehow us two adventurers managed to catch an eel using a fence standard post for a fishing rod, number 8 wire for fishing line, and a small hook with a piece of liver on it. We pulled that thing out of the creek and on to the grass with great excitement. However it quickly fell off the hook and started wriggling its way back to the water! I remember how difficult it was trying to pick that eel up and keep it in my hands! The slime the eel secretes and the constant writhing of that long slippery body made it nearly impossible to hold on to. Contentment is like that. Becoming a Christian opened my horizons up to true, deep abiding contentment through the relationship I had found in Christ Jesus, but... I quickly found that contentment is just as slippery as that eel. It is not that Christ is wriggling away from me - it is the almost infinite capacity of my own heart - my flesh - to squirm away from godly contentment in pursuit of pleasing my self.
I recently preached on Deuteronomy 3:23-28.
'And I besought the LORD at that time, saying, O Lord GOD, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might?
I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.
Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.'
In Deuteronomy 3 Moses expresses a desire - to enter into the promised land. However Exodus 17:1-6 and Numbers 20:1-12 reveals the back story to this conversation. For a second time the children of Israel were encamped by the Rock of Horeb and had no water. On the first occasion God had told Moses to smite the rock and water had poured out. On the second occasion God's instructions to Moses were to speak to the rock and water would flow from it. In haste and perhaps frustration Moses instead smote the rock with his rod twice instead of simply speaking to it. The water flowed out, but God was displeased with Moses' disobedience in following His instructions.
The reason this was a big deal to God was the prophetic symbol, the spiritual object lesson, being taught to the people through these two events. The rock symbolised Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4) who was smitten once for all our sins and provides eternal life through His one time sacrifice on the cross (Hebrews 9:26-28). When the sinner receives the water of life (salvation) It is then not necessary to be saved again each time we sin, but we simply cry out to our Rock who will cleanse us and restore us to fellowship with Him (1 John 1:9). So God decreed a consequence to Moses for ruining this beautiful prophetic picture of the believers relationship with Christ - he could no longer enter the promised land. As time went by Moses had led the children of Israel to the very edge of their destination, their own promised land, and Moses appeals to God to overturn His verdict and allow him into the land. God's final decree is 'no' and He tells Moses, "Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter."
Having contentment with God's decrees in our lives can sometimes be very difficult. Just when we think we have summoned up enough spirituality to get a hold of it, that contentment slips away again to be replaced with bitterness, dejection, and dissatisfaction. There are three truths that can help us be content with God's decrees in our lives...
1. God's decrees in our lives are often for the benefit of others.
"But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me". Sometimes when we mess up there are consequences that even God's grace will not shelter us from. God gives a verdict, chastens, reproves, allows consequences, that we struggle to be content with. Yet that decree of God may be for the benefit of others. Our disobedience needs to be reproved so that others may be made wise from our folly. David gave "great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme" with his adultery and subsequent sins and such sin needed to be reproved lest the whole nation follow his example into unrestrained selfishness.
But sometimes God's verdict, which is so hard for us to content ourselves with, has nothing to do with an act of disobedience on our part. Sometimes wonderful Christians get cancer and die young. Sometimes God exercises His sovereignty and we may loose our jobs, get sick, have a miscarriage, be born with a disability or into a dysfunctional family, and it is not a punishment for a misdeed! But these decrees of God may be turned by our Lord into a means to bless others. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 talks about this -
'Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.'Perhaps it will be easier for us to hold on to contentment, when faced with such a decree from God, if we remember that His decrees in our lives are often for the benefit of others.
2. God's decrees in our lives are sufficient.
Remember the response of God to Moses' request, "Let it suffice thee". 'Suffice' means sufficient, enough to content you. Moses is told by the Lord to be content with His verdict. God is telling Moses, "Don't get bitter, don't become resentful, don't chafe under the consequences". Why not? Because God is still a loving God and a wise God. Just because we don't get what we want does not mean God no longer loves us or God doesn't know what He is doing! God may kneel down and whisper to you, "My child, this trial is for you." It may have nothing to do with some failure on our part, it is simply His decree, that has a purpose. Why was the man in John 9 born blind? "That the works of God should be made manifest in him." (Jn. 9:3).
Moses was told he would not lead the nation of Israel into their promised land, instead Joshua would get that privilege. Moses could have gotten jealous and bitter with Joshua - but he didn't. You may find that you miss out on a blessing you desire but someone else gets it instead. Somebody else gets that promotion, talent, ability, marriage, child, ministry, financial blessing that you desire! To become bitter about that is to not trust God's perfect love and infinite wisdom to give YOU what YOU need most.
I sometimes wondered why God gave me a hearing loss from birth - I would ask myself, "doesn't He know I could serve Him so much better if I could hear better?" This begs the question; am I wiser than God? It has been a struggle at times but I have learned God loves me and is smarter than me so His decree needs to suffice me. Maybe you struggle with some decree of God that was completely out of your control - let it suffice thee.
3. God's decrees in our lives are sovereign
God is the Ruler, the King, the Sovereign and a perfect one. Perfect in love and wisdom, in judgment and in power. If He decrees something as unchangeable, we cannot change it. We may try, but let us not be surprised when he says 'no'. If you struggle with a decree of God, I would actually encourage praying to see if God will change His mind about it because the process of praying about it will teach us something (assuming we will pray with humility and an open Bible). But don't be surprised, embittered and discontented when He gives you a final answer you don't like. Do you remember the apostle Paul's conversation with God in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10?
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Can you see how Paul got the same answer as Moses? - "Let it suffice thee, speak no more unto me of this matter." What will you do if you get this response from the Lord? Will you talk back? Get angry? Blame others? Throw yourself on the floor and roll around screaming to see if you get your way? Will you become rebellious and sin deliberately in 'revenge'.
It is sad how we Christians agree with the concept of authority - whether it is the authority and leadership of a parent, a husband, a teacher, or pastoral authority and especially God's authority - EXCEPT when the authority decrees something we don't like!
The other day my children were playing dress up. My 5 year old was the queen, my 7 year old the king and my oldest child was playing the role of servant to the king and queen. The role-playing sounded like it was going well and everyone was having a good time, but then the 'servant' was told by the 'king' to join in a game the 'servant' didn't want to play. It is interesting how suddenly the role playing ends when the King's plan is different to the servant's! Sadly, we grown adults, mature Christians, are not much different than my little children. We need to submit to the truth that God's decrees are sovereign.
Take the time for one last thought - what happened to Moses anyway? In Deuteronomy 34:1-7 we read how Moses climbed Mount Pisgah and from its lofty heights he viewed his people's ancestral home, then died. God Himself buried Moses on that mountain and no man knows where his sepulchre lies. Bible quiz question... where do you next see Moses in the Bible? Look it up in Matthew 17:1-3. You'll see Moses is standing on a high mountain IN THE PROMISED LAND talking face to face with Jesus Christ, the Rock who gives living water to all. Though we may think God's decrees can sometimes be a great loss to us, we will find that His plans for us will end up far greater and far more satisfying that anything we could have planned for ourselves. Just as the Lord told Paul in 2nd Corinthians 12, God's grace is sufficient!
When we struggle with contentment over God's decrees, may our prayer be "Lord let it suffice me, help me to be content with my lot. Let your grace be sufficient to me." I hope these thoughts are a blessing to you.