This pastoral passage was first written for LRBC on December 21 2014.
In my last pastoral passage, I wrote about the way the Christian life is likened to Israel’s time in the wilderness. Our life in the world is like a journey through a wilderness – we are only passing through. While we are passing through, we must take care not to be caught by the same temptations that gripped Israel in the wilderness – namely, grumbling about circumstances (e.g. Ex 17:1-7), and unbelief in God’s promises (Num 13:25-14:4).
To consider grumbling to be sin might seem overly severe, but this is what Israel was rebuked for several times. Grumbling says you are telling God that he hasn’t given you the right cards in life (1 Corinthians 10:10; Philippians 2:14; James 5:9). When we believe that God’s hand orders our lives, thanksgiving is the more proper attitude for his people, whether life treats us well or poorly. Thanksgiving demonstrates acceptance for everything you are given in life, and gratitude for everything good you get in it even when it is mixed with the bad (Philippians 4:6, 11-12; Colossians 2:6-7, 3:15-17, 4:2).
The other sin of the wilderness is unbelief. This regards God as unwilling or unable to keep his promises. Such unbelief leads to disobedience because the rightly ordered Christian life lives in accord with God’s promises. Without faith in these, we will live with faith in our own misguided and disobedient choices. Faith helps us to journey through life in the world, just as it would have done for Israel through the wilderness (cf. Hebrews 3:7-4:13).
What areas in your life are you most prone to grumbling and unbelief? These are where you must strive to cultivate thanksgiving and faith, so that you will reach the far side of the wilderness that is your life in the world.