Treating God with Contempt?
"Nevertheless as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw My glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed Me and tested Me ten times- not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated Me with contempt will ever see it." -Numbers 14:21-23 (NIV)
Can you imagine if God says a similar statement about us? To think of us as treating Him with contempt? Do we think of ourselves as treating God with contempt when we grumble, and when we complain, and when we seek to have things differently than they are today? One of the greatest effects of discontentment in our world is that it robs us of the rest of God that is promised to us in Christ.
The Israelite community was given a Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. But, they did not respond in faith. Instead, the Bible tells us that after the spies had returned from scouting out the promised land, they responded in fear and grumbling. Caleb and Joshua believed that God would make a way for victory over the inhabitants, but the people sided with those who gave the negative report: "But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored." (Numbers 13:31-32) "That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:1-4)
In Hebrews 4, it tells us that the Israelites were not allowed into the Promised Land because of their unbelief. The writer encourages us not to follow their example. For us, the promised land is not a location, but a state of being. It is the state of being at peace. Jesus tells in the Gospel of John (14:27), “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Jesus gives us peace as the birthright of the children of God. We have the responsibility to ENTER the peace and take it, just as God expected the Israelites to do. We like the idea of the gift, but we don’t like the idea that there’s anything to the gift that we actually have to do to obtain it. Our unbelief and contempt for God stifles within us the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). We can enter into the rest of God by praising Him, thanking Him, trusting Him, and radically obeying Him.
Building a Foundation of Contentment
The Apostle Paul writes to the young evangelist Timothy, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” Often we are seeking after happiness, only to find that it is a moving destination. While God, as a good Father, wants His children to be happy, He ultimately wants us to be content. Why? Happiness is circumstantial and temporary, but contentment is a firm foundation that will allow us to remain “strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). God wants us to build our life upon the rock of the Gospel of truth and not the shifting sands of feelings.
In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus tells us of two builders, one builds his house on the rock, and the other builds his house on the sand. Both houses look great, but the storm comes! “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against” the houses (v. 25 & 27), and Jesus tells us that the house built on sand crashed. The storms come to both the wise and foolish builder. Storms are inevitable, but are we prepared? If we are basing the direction of our life on feelings, then it is the equivalent to building upon the sand. According to Dr. Ken Rubin of the University of Hawaii: “Beaches are temporary features. There is always sand being removed and sand being added to them. Often, they change drastically during the year, depending upon the frequency of storms. Ultimately, a beach erodes because the supply of sand to the beach cannot keep up with the loss of sand to the sea.” A life on a foundation of sands cannot expect to remain stable.
The question is not if the storms will come, but will we be able to withstand the storms of life. Jesus tells us, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). When the storms come, God wants to understand that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). It is our faith, not our feelings, that gives us the ability to overcome the world (1 John 5:4).
In this world a simple principle exists: whatever you feed lives and whatever you do not feed dies. Are we feeding our faith or are we feeding our feelings? Are we maturing in our faith or “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6)? God wants us to be mature and strong in Him through faith. Hebrews 6:1 states, “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity.”
Maturity does not come with age but Godly wisdom applied consistently in our lives. Maturity is the ability to delay instant gratification for a desired long-term goal. Often times we stop focusing on the foundation of contentment for the quick fix of “happiness.” An addict will give up anything for a fix of drugs. Many of us have given up much for the quick fix of happy. We have traded away long-term contentment and joy to meet the “needs” of the moment. The writer of Proverbs states, "As the dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly” (26:11). How many times do we go back to the same thing or do the same thing and expect a different result? Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
My dog throws up from time to time, but she is always polite and cleans it up by eating it. While it is gross, what sickens me even more is when she tries to kiss me afterward. No one wants to be kissed by someone or something thing that has vomit breath. And yet, how many of us have the spiritual stench of vomit on our lives because of our poor choices? Our lives should not stink. Rather, we are told by Paul: “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).
God allows the storms to mature us so that we will focus on what really matters: the foundation. James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." If we do not grow in our faith, we will return to what we once knew: a life without a foundation. God does not want us repeating the same pattern of behaviors; He wants us to become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
It is my prayer that we will begin to focus less on the storms and more on the lessons they can teach us about ourselves. Maya Angelou wrote, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
Dr. Rob Weinstein is the Founding/Senior Pastor of Bethany Grace Community Church in Bridgeton, NJ. He is also a Professor of Business Studies/Academic Director/Chair of Human Resource Management Studies. He is the Founder of the M25 Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness and food insecurity in Cumberland County, NJ.
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