“Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved” (1 Corinthians10:5-6).
As I read God’s word in my quiet time, God’s highlighting stops me here. I feel like I am laid low in a wilderness. Now, granted, we are dealing with a grievous situation in our family right now, and I am at the end of the tunnel where the light is before me, leading me out of the pit that grief put me in. But still, it seems that I have been in a wilderness place a lot lately. If their wilderness happened as examples for us, so we would not crave evil things as they craved, I have to ask what evil I am craving that is laying me low in this wilderness.
My immediate thought as I think of things I choose to do is that I crave positions of authority—to be in control of things in life, and when I feel out of control, it lays me low. I crave positions of honor, and when I feel that others look down on me in my own life struggle, it lays me low. I long to be recognized as a godly woman of character, and when I feel some accusation, whether true or false, compromises that, it lays me low. Knowing these truths immediately as I read this passage, contemplating my own issues, I know that I must evaluate my heart before God, repent, and make sure I am doing what I do as His servant, called of Him, equipped by Him, and desiring only His glory, honor, authority, and recognition.
Am I the only one who struggles with wilderness issues from time to time? Well, I hope I am not the only reason for Jesus getting on that cross, but only each individual can judge for oneself. Thus, let’s do that. As I evaluate myself using the insights from these following verses, hopefully it will help others to do so as well.
Verse 7: “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.’”
I noted in the previous passages I read this morning that the idol is only a god of any authority because our minds make it to be such and give it that place in our lives. The idol is anything in life that we give power to in excess of the power God has to dictate us. We surrender to it instead of following the dictates of God’s leading.
I know that there are things that I give myself to in this wilderness I find myself stuck in and that hinder my coming out into the broader places of light and life that God desires for me. I too often bow to fears, frustrations, laziness, even health issues that I surrender to instead of trusting God’s promise:
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed….” 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
If I truly believe that God’s grace abounds to me so that I always have what is needed to do the good He calls me to, then why bow to these things that rob me? How many times have I marveled at those who struggle in their health, and how faithful they are to do things that go beyond their physical limitations? If they can tap into God’s sufficiency, so can I; by remembering the God I trust.
Verse 8: “Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.”
When I think of immorality and seek to evaluate if any immoral thing has slipped into my life, I think of the verse that seems to define this sin: “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
What am I doing that stands against my own body? For that matter, what is “my own body”? Obviously this shell I live in is my body, so anything I do that hurts my physical shell needs to be dealt with if I want freedom from this wilderness. Self-care is an important issue to evaluate, as we are called to love and care for self as God’s creation, God’s temple, and in knowing that we can only love others as well as we love ourselves.
Then comes to mind these words: “the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31). My husband and I are one in Christ. Is there any immoral thing in that part of my body?
Also comes thought: “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).
“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
We are one body with God in Christ, and we are one body with God’s people. Is there any immorality in me that is sin against any part of my own body?
Verse 9: “Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.”
Trying the Lord—putting Him to the test: This was a temptation thrown at Jesus during his 40 days in the wilderness. What was His reply? “Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, “YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST”’” (Matthew 4:7).
We are not to use the promise of God toward us as excuse for sin. Yes, God’s grace is sufficient for us, but only when we are walking the path He desires for us in the way He requires of us. We cannot say, “I am going to do this thing over here that looks good to me and is a good work. Though the Spirit in me is saying ‘not this way,’ I trust God to give me sufficient for this good work because that is His promise to me.” Such is a misuse of God’s promise. If we are not following the dictates of the head, which is Christ, we bring dysfunction to our body and cause harm to our flesh, bringing on that wilderness experience.
In the same way, we cannot sit in our wilderness licking our wounds, saying, “God understands that I am but flesh,” refusing to get up out of our place of struggle and walk free by faith in God’s supply. This, too, tries our God, misappropriating His promise for our own desire. Thus I ask myself, am I trying the Lord?
Verse 10: “Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.”
Paul wrote, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:10-13).
Too often we grumble against things in life, being dissatisfied with our lot. When we are grumbling, we are not praising God or being thankful for His good toward us. Job puts it into perspective for us as he speaks to his wife’s grumbling, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” To which God’s word comments, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)
What grumbling has me snared?
Can the sins, failures, and struggles of those around us knock us into the wilderness? Yes. As Paul says, “God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).
My daughter’s suffering at the hand of her husband’s sin can bring suffering to me and to all who love her; as she is flesh of my flesh, and she is one with me in Christ, so I hurt with her. But I do not have to let her suffering keep me in the wilderness, nor should my struggle bring her down. We each must evaluate where we are and why so we can walk out of this desert place and maybe even help the other through on our way. Thus I must ask self, am I using my grief as an excuse to lay down in my wilderness, or am I setting an example that she can follow?
And what about these health issues I struggle with: is it sin for them to keep me down? No. Sickness and poor health happens to the best of us when we least expect it. There are times when health issues are a legitimate hindrance. The trick is to find where that legitimacy starts and our wilderness ends. That is where I have to evaluate whether I am doing all I can to help my health improve. It is where I have to evaluate my faith and God’s call: do I trust God for the strength to meet Him at His call? It is also where I have to evaluate the call and discern God’s voice from the Pharisee in my ear.
A true call to service from God will come with the power to perform. It is vital that I recognize His voice and walk out His will when He leads me. But we also have to have wisdom to discern that there are those who would have us start an epidemic rather than miss church and thus break their idea of what it means to “fall to forsaking the gathering of ourselves together.” And we have to realize that sometimes our sickness and need of others to minister to us is God’s call to those He desires to use in visiting the sick and ministering to them.
God will equip us with strength to do what He calls us to. When we are sincerely ill, doing all we can to recover, and the strength is not there to go and do what we or others think we should, we do harm to our body by pushing ourselves, and risk the destruction of our health. Thus, am I walking in the wisdom God gives, cooperating with Him in my healing; or am I—because of my tendency to want to be in control or to live in ways that others see as godly—pushing myself in ways that are against His will and destructive to my body?
“Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come…” (vs. 11-15).
Thus, as I consider this testimony concerning those who have gone before me, I find the starting place for evaluating my own struggle, and the strength to walk out of it. Are you in a wilderness? Come. Go with me. The promised land lies ahead of us.
Darlene Davis © 7/30/11