Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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You Can Develop a Contented Heart

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says that complaining is a serious heart condition. 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When I complain, I’m really saying I reject God’s choices and God’s authority and God’s right to rule over my life.  

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, June 24, 2014.

Yesterday, Nancy began a series called "Cultivating a Contented Heart." Let's listen as she continues with day two.

Nancy: We’re looking at this whole matter of how we respond to problems and challenges and disappointments in our lives and how prone we are to murmur, to complain, when God doesn’t do things as we think He ought.

In our last time together we looked at four instances in the lives of the Children of Israel, right after they came out of Egypt. Within two months of their being redeemed out of Egypt, we saw four instances where they came up against a hurdle, where they had a difficult or impossible situation.

We saw that in each of those four instances, their natural response, much like yours and mine so often, was to complain, to murmur, to doubt God, and to attack God’s representatives, Moses and Aaron. We saw that in each of those four instances, God had mercy on them. In spite of their murmuring, He performed a miracle, and He met their need.

God was wanting the Children of Israel to get to know what He was like, that He could be trusted, that He was omnipotent, that He had power to deal with any impossibility. God was their provider, and He would meet their needs.

After the Children of Israel had been through those four occasions that we read about in the book of Exodus, God led the Children of Israel to Mount Sinai. If you know your Old Testament history, you know that they parked there for eleven months. That’s where God gave them the Law.

Much of the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers focuses on what God showed the Children of Israel there at Mount Sinai. This was not the end of their difficulties, but when we come to the book of Numbers, beginning in chapter 11, we find that the Children of Israel have not yet been cured of this thing of murmuring and complaining.

Lest we’re too hard on them, how many times does it take to cure us? Just when we think that we should really have confidence in God’s goodness, that we should really be able to praise Him by faith, something else happens, catches us off guard, and we find ourselves once again whining, murmuring, doubting God.

In the first four instances, God had been very merciful. Each time He performed a miracle. We’re going to see, beginning in Numbers 11, that God begins to respond differently to their murmuring and their complaining. From this point on, almost every time they murmured, God sent judgment. 

You say, “Why the difference? Why in the first four instances did He do a miracle, and it’s as if He ignored their murmuring? And why, all of a sudden, beginning in Numbers chapter 11, once they get to Mount Sinai, why all of a sudden does God respond in anger and judgment to their murmuring?”

As I’ve meditated on these passages, it seems to me that in those early months, coming out of Egypt, God knew that they were immature. God knew that they didn’t really know Him, and God wanted to give them an opportunity to get to know Him. Now they had seen God work, they had seen His miracles, they had experienced His grace, His power, His goodness, and His love. Now, they knew better, and now they were more accountable.

I want to say this word to those of us that have been walking with the Lord, perhaps for a period of years—we become more accountable as we know what God can do, as we see Him act on our behalf. You’re going to see a very different response on God’s part to their murmuring.

The Scripture tells us in Numbers chapter 11 that “the people complained.” In this case, it doesn’t tell us what they complained about, and it’s almost as if it doesn’t matter. We can always find something to complain about. There’s no reason given.

Apparently there was some sort of hardship that they faced. Even though there’s no reason given for their murmuring, there is a vivid description given of God’s response to their complaining. The Scripture says,

When the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it, and  his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. And they called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the Lord burned among them (vv. 1, 3 KJV).

That word, Taberah, means “burning.” God sent a plague. You can just imagine the Children of Israel—who’d gotten kind of accustomed to murmuring, and they’d gotten accustomed to God overlooking their murmuring—and all of a sudden, whoosh! There’s a plague, there’s fire, there’s burning.

You wonder if they’re thinking, What got into Him? What triggered God? All along God had heard their murmuring, but God is saying now, “Look, you know better. You’ve been around Me long enough. You’ve seen My works. You’ve seen My grace. I want you to know how seriously I take your murmuring.”

Numbers chapter 11, continuing in that passage, beginning with verse 4, tells us that there was a mixed multitude among the Israelites. These were non-Israelites who had left Egypt with Israel in the exodus, and they began to crave other food. Some of your translations say they were the “rabble.”

They were complainers, gripers, and there always are some of those in any group, in any church and any family. There’s often a complainer, a whiner, and notice how they infect everyone else around them. When this mixed multitude began to demand a different kind of food, it affected—and infected—everyone else.

So the Scripture says, again, the Israelites started wailing, “and said, If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost.” Who was charging them now? It wasn’t like they were having to pay for the food now.

They’re comparing their current situation to what they had in Egypt. “We remember the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and garlic.” That doesn’t sound very appetizing to me, and it may not to you. But they were remembering the exotic foods that they had had in Egypt, and they said, “Now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna” (vv. 4–6).

They had food, but they were bored with the kind of food they had. “We want variety, we want spices, we want something different.” The passage goes on to tell us that the Lord was exceedingly angry, and Moses also was displeased and said to God, “I am not able to bear this people alone. God, you’ve got to do something here.” And God did, in fact, do something.

In verse 18, Moses said to the Children in Israel (we’re in Numbers chapter 11),

The Lord heard you when you wailed, "If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!" Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected [one translation says there “you have despised”] the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” (vv. 18–20).

The passage goes on to tell us that God sent quail in abundance, more quail than they could handle, but listen to this description, beginning in verse 33—it’s very graphic.

While the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed [before they’d even swallowed their bite] the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah (vv. 33–34).

Now that name may not mean anything to you, but it’s a Hebrew phrase that literally means “graves of craving.” They ended up dying and being buried, some of them, because of their lust, their demanding that God fulfill their craving.

“There they buried the people who had craved other food” (v. 34).

Let’s move on and look at one other instance in Numbers chapter 14, and we see again this very similar pattern. Now we come to a place called Kadesh-barnea, and they’re faced with an impossible challenge. The spies have been sent in to check out the land of Canaan, and of the twelve who went in, ten came back and said, “We can never tackle this. There are giants in the land. This is too hard for us.”

The Scripture says in chapter 14 verse 1,

That night, all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites murmured against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert. Why is the Lord bringing us to this land, only to let us fall by the sword?” (vv. 1–3).

Does this sound familiar? It’s just the next stanza, same song.

Our wives and our children will be taken as plunder. . . . And they said to each other, "We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (v. 3).

Thirty-eight years later, when Moses was reviewing this incident with the Children of Israel, these whiners, he looked back. Here’s how he commented on that situation. He said, “You murmured in your tents, and you said, ‘Because the Lord hated us, He has brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Ammorites, and to destroy us’” (Deut. 1:27).

You see how they attacked the character of God? They said, “God hates us! And that’s why He’s done this to us.” Can you imagine coming to the place in our lives where we look at a God who had shown us unbelievable mercy and love and goodness, and we look Him in the face and say, “You hate us. That’s why You’ve done this to us.”

But isn’t that what the enemy causes us to do, to doubt the love and the goodness of God? How did God respond to this?

The Lord said to Moses, "How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in Me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them” (Num. 14:11–12).

As we read on, we find that Moses interceded on their behalf and God did pardon the Children of Israel, but there were still some pretty serious consequences. The passage goes on—we’re still in Numbers chapter 14—God says,

How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. So tell them, "As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very things I heard you say” (vv. 27–28).

What had they said? “If only we could have died in Egypt, and if not there, we want to die in this desert.” And God said, “You want to die? I’ll give you what you’ve asked for.” So God says,

In this desert your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land. . . . Your bodies will fall in this desert. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness (vv. 29, 32–33).

In some of your translations that word unfaithfulness is translated “your whoredoms.” That’s how seriously God took this.

Your children will suffer for your [spiritual adultery, for your] unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. . . . You will suffer for your sins, and know what it is like to have me against you.

I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this desert; here they will die (vv. 33–35).

So we see that the root sin that caused unbelievable consequences in the Children of Israel was the sin of discontent . . . discontent with God, with His presence, with His provision, and with His plan.

I want us to look at some of the characteristics of a discontented heart, because we’ve seen that the apostle Paul said, “These things were written as examples for us.” They were written to warn us. “Don’t murmur,” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10, “as some of them murmured and were destroyed in the wilderness” (v. 10).

What are some of the characteristics of discontentment? First of all, I want you to see that discontentment is a heart condition. It’s a matter of the heart. That’s where it begins. It doesn’t start by being verbally expressed—it starts with an internal heart dissatisfaction with God. It’s a heart attitude that is not satisfied with what God has provided.

God has met our needs, but inside each of us, there’s this part that says, “I want more.” There is this craving for more, craving for what God has not provided. God provided manna and the Children of Israel said, “We want more variety in our menu.”

When God provides, our heart’s inclination is to say, “Give me more.” It’s natural to our flesh. More often than not, our discontentment focuses on things that are temporal rather than eternal. Look at the things the Children of Israel murmured about. 

It had to do with water, with food, with the Egyptians. It was those visible, seen, realities. They lost sight of the unseen, eternal realities. They had their eyes fixed on what they could see, what they could touch, and they were always craving more of the temporal, but they lost perspective of the eternal.

What’s eternal? God’s character, God’s heart, God’s goodness, God’s plan, and isn’t it true that in this world in which we live, that we tend to get focused on clothing, on temporal, physical provision. On the kind of house we live in, on the job that we have, on the people around us.

We get fixated on and obsessed with the things that we can see. When we do that, when we’re focusing on the visible, temporal realities, we lose sight of the big eternal realities. We lose perspective.

Discontentment generally involves comparison. We compare with the way that it used to be. We remember what it was like in Egypt. We had all those great foods to eat. They had forgotten that they had been miserable servants of Pharaoh, slaves of Pharaoh for all those years.

But they remembered the few good things about the way it used to be and compared. We compare with the way it is for others, the things that others have that we don’t have—experiences that others are able to enjoy that we don’t get to experience.

This whole sin of discontentment in my own life, I find, is very easily fueled by things like catalogs, malls . . . I’m content with what I have. I’m content with the clothes I have. I have something to wear every day. Only in America can we go to a full and overflowing closet and say, “I don’t have anything to wear.”

As long as I just stay in my home and in my little circle, I’m content with what I have, until I go into a department store. I start to see all the new things that I didn’t know that I didn’t have, that I didn’t know that I needed until I saw them advertised there.

We fuel it by advertisements, by television; other people become our standard for what we need. We think what we have is fine, we think the car we drive is fine, we think the job we have is fine, until we look at what other people have, and we begin to compare.

The discontented heart doubts God’s goodness, it doubts God’s love, it doubts His promises, it doubts His power, and the discontented heart doubts that God’s presence is enough for me. When we have a discontented heart, we find ourselves as the Children of Israel did, beginning to believe lies about God. We begin to believe things about God that aren’t true, and we know they’re not true.

Discontentment makes us irrational. It makes us not think clearly, and so we do what the Children of Israel did. We read in Deuteronomy chapter 1 that the Children of Israel said, “God hates us. He wants to destroy us.”

Can you imagine that we would look into the eyes of our loving heavenly Father and say, “I know You don’t really love me. I know You hate me. I know You want to destroy me.” We might never say those words out loud, but have you ever been tempted to feel that way as you find yourself in an impossible situation, feeling that God does not love, that God hates us?

So we find ourselves believing things about God, and maybe even ultimately saying things about God that aren’t true. When we have a discontented heart, we forget about God’s past provision. We forget about what He has done. That’s why it’s so important, I find in my own life, to keep a record of God’s goodness, to jot down on a regular basis, “What has God done for me?”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been more or less regularly keeping a gratefulness journal, and going through the exercise—I don’t do it every morning—but many mornings I start by just jotting down five things that I’m thankful for.

They’re not all great big, huge things. I think God for my salvation and some of those really incredible things, but I thank God when the sun comes out. I thank God when the sun comes up in the morning that it’s a reminder of His faithfulness and that He keeps His promises.

I thank God that I had food to eat today. I thank God for a pillow, for a bed, for blankets when it’s cold, for heat in the winter, for air conditioning in the summer.

Then, when I’m tempted to murmur, to grumble, to think I don’t have what I need, I can go back and review that record of God’s past provision. But when we have a discontented heart, we’re tempted to forget what God has done in the past.

When we have a discontented heart, we doubt that God will provide in the future. We doubt that He will provide what we need down the road. When we have a discontented heart, we reject what God is providing right now—His current provision.

That’s what the Children of Israel said to God, “We detest this miserable food!” They forgot how He had provided in the past, they doubted that He would provide in the future, and they said, “As to what we have right now, we detest it. We don’t like it. We don’t want it.”

When we have a discontented heart, we fail to see the purposes of God, and we fail to accept the purposes of God, to see that God has a plan that He’s working out, He’s fulfilling. He’s wanting to show us His greatness and His power and His mercy and His love. He’s wanting to shape and mold us. He’s wanting to make us true believers.

He’s wanting to build our faith, but when we have a discontented heart, we reject God’s purposes. We say, in effect, “I don’t care what your plan is. I want what I want, and I want it now.” When we have a discontented heart, we find invariably that that leads to other sins. It doesn’t just stay in the heart.

We end up expressing our discontentment through murmuring; we verbalize our discontent, expressing it to God and others. And maybe we’re not as quick to express it to God as we are to others. So we find ourselves whining, expressing to others—and it’s amazing what we can find to complain about.

We’ll talk in the next session about some of the things that we do complain about. The sin of discontent ultimately leads to the sin of murmuring, of expressing our discontent with God. The sin of discontent goes hand-in-hand with another very serious sin. That’s the sin of rebellion.

In Deuteronomy, Moses says to the Children of Israel, as he reflects back on those murmuring years, he says, “You rebelled against God.” When I complain, I’m really saying, “I reject God’s choices and God’s authority and God’s right to rule over my life. I will not have His plan in my life. I’m rebelling against it.”

That’s a battle we can’t win. God will have His way in our lives, but we can go kicking and screaming, or we can go in submission and surrender and faith.

Leslie: It’s so easy to slip into complaining, but as Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us, you don’t have to be controlled by discontentment. We’ll be hearing this series, “Cultivating a Contented Heart” all this week. 

During this series, we’re offering to send you a CD of Scripture set to lullabies. It’s called Hidden in My Hearts, Volume 3. Our listeners told us how much they loved volumes 1 and 2, and we’re excited to offer the third CD in the series. 

Volume 3 focuses on Scripture about Jesus and the words of Jesus. As you fill your mind with God’s Word and focus on Him, you’ll find you want to complain less. As you focus on what He’s done for you, you’ll find yourself more likely to be content in your soul. 

So if this is a lullaby CD, maybe you’re tuning it out. Nancy’s here to explain what listeners in all seasons of life can expect. 

Nancy: Now you might think these lullaby CDs are for people with little one, and that's true. In fact, I have some friends who say their children can't go to sleep at night if they don't have that Hidden in My Heart CD playing.

You may not have little ones in your home. I want to say, this is a CD that will minister to you powerfully as you an an adult. As you let the truth of God's Word wash over your soul and peace and assurance and confidence through the Word of God as it is expressed in these beautiful musical settings.


Know that God is watching over you.
Your Heavenly Father knows what you need,
So take no thought for tomorrow. 

Leslie: You can get Hidden in My Heart, Volume 3 at

What are causes the causes of discontentment? We’ll take a look tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless otherwise noted.


*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.