Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Finding God in the Desert, Part 6

Leslie Basham: Do you feel like you deserve a little whine time, time to moan about the seemingly endless difficulties of life? Well, today we'll learn to think twice before we grumble. It's September 13, and you're listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. What's your first response when you find yourself in a situation you don't like? Do you break out in a chorus of "Why me, why now?" Today on Revive Our Hearts, Nancy Leigh DeMoss will show us some biblical responses to difficult circumstances. All this week, we've joined a small group of women as Nancy talks about finding God in the desert.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In the desert, we want our hearts to be tender and responsive toward the Lord. The children of Israel hardened their hearts against God. Pain can make you do that sometimes. You may find yourself just steeling up against any more pressure and thinking, "If I stick my head out again into that relationship, that situation, like that turtle, I'm going to get stepped on. So I'm going to pull my head back in my shell, and I'm not going to let God or anyone else get too close to me. I might get hurt again."

The children of Israel's hardness of heart manifested itself in two primary ways. When they found themselves in the desert, they responded in unbelief and in rebellion. First they doubted God, and over and over again through the Old Testament, you see this. In Psalm 78 you find a condensed version of the early history of the nation of Israel, and as the writer of the Psalms talks about the desert experience of the Israelites, he says in spite of all God's wonders, they did not believe. Verses 19-20 (NIV) go on to say, "They spoke against God, saying, 'Can God spread a table in the desert? When he struck the rock, water gushed out, and streams flowed abundantly. But can he also give us food? Can he supply meat for his people?'" They did not believe God or trust in His deliverance.

The book of Exodus says, "They tested the Lord saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?'" (Ex. 17:7). And isn't that what the enemy wants us to do, when we get into the desert? He wants us to doubt the goodness of God. To think we're out there abandoned, stranded, far away from God, far from hope, that there is no hope, that there is no provision. And so the natural tendency is to lapse into unbelief. But in addition to doubting God, they also resisted God. And when you let yourself lapse into unbelief and doubt God, the natural next step will be to resist God.

Again, back in Psalm 78, verse 8, we read they were "a stubborn and rebellious generation." They rebelled in the desert against the Most High. Now when you think about it, that's really pretty foolish. God is the Most High. How foolish of us to think that we can rebel against God and succeed. But in the foolishness of our hearts, unbelief will make us irrational, and it will make us think that we can win this battle.

As the children of Israel resisted and rebelled against God, that came out in some of the same ways that it manifests itself in us. They murmured and they grumbled against God. They complained, they whined, not only against God, but also against God's servants, Moses and Aaron. And isn't that the way that it so often is with us? When we're doubtful and fearful, we feel like there's no hope. When pressured by this desert, our natural tendency is to whine. In fact, I'm learning in my life, that in every circumstance of life, I can respond in basically one of two ways: I either worship or I whine.

Now we need to learn to ask each other in the circumstances of life, "Are you whining?" Now, when I am whining, I don't usually want someone asking me that question, because that's what I need to hear. Because when I doubt God and I'm resisting His plan and His purposes, I will find myself whining. Not only whining directly against God, but whining against the people and the circumstances that I think are creating my desert. Forgetting that it's God who led me into this desert.

The Scriptures say in the book of Exodus the people "grumbled against Moses, saying, 'What are we to drink? What are we to do?'" (Ex. 17:3, paraphrase). Exodus, chapter 16, the whole community, can you imagine, two million of these Jews, standing together as a great army against Moses and Aaron, saying, "If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt!" (Ex. 16:3). Now, that's not what they were saying when they were in Egypt, but now they're out in this desert. They have forgotten what God has done for them, and they're complaining. They said, "There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death" (Ex. 16:3). They begin to blame God's servant, God's man for their circumstances. "Moses, you brought us out here so that you could kill us all" (v. 3, paraphrase).

And isn't it true that unbelief and rebellion make us say things that, if we were thinking straight, we wouldn't say. We begin to murmur, to complain. They also demanded relief, solve this problem, and solve it now. Psalm 78 says they put God to the test by demanding the food they craved. Our culture has taught us that if you have a problem, you should be able to solve that problem quickly and easily. You have the right to a pain-free life. Let me tell you, if you're a child of God, it's not true. There is no such thing, there is no way, as we have seen, to experience the fullness of God's grace and His glory in your life apart from walking through these experiences.

So, we must not run from them, or resent them, or demand that God fix everything for us. God is not merely as interested in solving our problems as He is in using our problems to change us. That child that you find so difficult to love, that elderly parent who is so demanding and in a difficult season of life, and you're finding yourself stressed, that is part of what God is wanting to use to accomplish His purposes in your life. How foolish of us to demand relief now. We can get in many cases, relief now, but if we do, we may forfeit the wonder, the purpose, the fullness that God wants to bring into our life by taking us through that problem.

Now what happened when the children of Israel responded in unbelief and rebellion? God was grieved, and God was angry. The book of Hebrews says, "Today, if you hear His voice." Now, he's speaking to New Testament believers and looking back into the situation that the children of Israel experienced. The writer to the Hebrews says to them, and to us, "Today, if you hear His voice, (while you're in your desert) do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did" (Heb. 3:7-9). That is why God says, "That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known My ways.' So I declared an oath in My anger, 'They shall never enter my rest'" (vv. 10 -11).

And so the writer says, "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Heb. 3:13). How often? Daily. We need each other in our deserts. We need to come alongside of each other and remind each other of God's presence, of God's promises and of God's purposes. Why? "So that none of you," he's talking to believers here, "so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (v. 13). And then he repeats it again, "Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as they did in the rebellion" (v. 15). What happened? They were never able to enter into God's rest.

A whole generation perished in the desert, never able to enter into the rest that God had in mind for them, because of unbelief. They were kept from entering the Promised Land. For those Israelites, the wilderness, the desert, became a place of destruction, of misery and of death. Now, it doesn't have to be. There is a Promised Land, there is a place of rest, and that's where God wants to take you. But if you refuse to accept His promises and His will, refuse to go through the desert with Him, you will find that for you the desert will become deadly.

Now take just a moment to compare Jesus' response to His wilderness experience. Jesus never for a moment doubted the goodness of God. He never doubted the promises of God. He never doubted the purposes of God. Yes, His desert was hard, but He knew that God had led Him there.

So He walked through that desert with trust, and never once did He resist, or rebel against His Heavenly Father in the midst of that desert. Not only did He trust but He obeyed. When the Spirit led Him into the desert, what did He do? He followed. When He was hungry, when He was alone, when He was tempted, what did He do? He trusted. He looked to God to meet His needs in His way and in His time.

Jesus refused to demand relief or to accept Satan's offer of relief. You see, Satan will give you substitute forms of relief and tempt you to settle for a temporary solution. But as one of my favorite writers, Jean Fleming, says in one of her books, "Relief may come in many forms, but true comfort comes from God alone." Other means of relief can keep us too busy to feel the pain, or can sedate us, dulling the sensation of pain. But only God provides deep, rich comfort in the midst of the suffering. And so we come back to the old hymn many of us learned years ago, Trust and Obey. In the middle of your desert, don't doubt, don't rebel, but trust and obey, for in fact, there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Leslie Basham: When you call, why don't you ask for a copy of today's program? It's part of a tape series called "Finding God in the Desert" available for an $8 donation. You can always find information about Nancy's books and tapes on our Web site, ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also write.  We hope you can join us tomorrow when Nancy gives us principles for surviving desert experiences.  

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss is a ministry partnership of Life Action Ministries.

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