Difficulty, Deprivation, Deceit – and the Glory of God?

As God continued preparing the people of Israel for their entry into the Promised Land and the blessings they would face, He made some startling revelations about their past journey and their future.

The difficulties they faced along the way were not just allowed by God, they were authored by Him.

And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.  (Deuteronomy 8:2)

Because Israel refused to accept God’s way by faith, He condemned them to forty years of wilderness wandering. Based on this verse, those times when they dealt with things like water shortages were not accidental and they were not simply allowed by God. He purposely led them to places devoid of water to test and to humble them. God often brings us into desert places so that we understand that God is the One we must depend upon, not our blessings or creature comforts. Difficulties are meant to bring us to our knees and to turn us to God. They make us more appreciative of the blessings He sends our way, and because they come to us “in the desert,” there’s no dispute as to Who gave the blessing. We’re less inclined to think they were the result of our own effort or our own righteousness. We see them for what they are: God’s blessings.

Deprivation serves God’s purpose, too

And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.  (Deuteronomy 8:3)

God wants to bless. He often gives “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20), and that often causes us to forget God. Our hearts are just that self-deceiving. Have you ever seen spoiled children? They have everything; they expect everything, and they are often the most unhappy and ungrateful children you know. When our blessings are abundant, we can behave the same way toward God. So, God will sometimes send scarcity our way to help us understand “that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD.” The blessings we get from God are a byproduct of our relationship with Him. For God, the focus is always our relationship with Him.

Consider God’s thinking in this verse:

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  (Hebrews 13:5)

What is the one thing that God says will spare us from the sins of covetousness (the lust for more) and discontent? The fact that no matter what, we will always have God.

The Lord will test us on purpose

Deuteronomy 13:1-3
(1)  If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
(2)  And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
(3)  Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

The best defense against being led astray by a counterfeit is to know the real thing so well that anything else looks false. God tells His people plainly that He would allow false prophets to rise up who could perform miracles – convincing ones. They would not declare themselves to be false prophets. They would seem to be the real deal until they began to preach. If a prophet came along and performed a miracle that seemed to come from the hand of God and then encouraged the people away from God, the Lord expected His people to trust His Word over anything they might have experienced by way of miracle.

In His ministry on earth, every miracle Jesus did brought the recipient to Christ. Any miracle or miracle worker who puts the attention on himself or his miraculous deeds rather than God is a lie. God’s Word is always the standard by which we must measure everything.

Don’t let the hazards of the Christian walk surprise you; EXPECT them and therefore be ready for them

The difficulties, deprivations and even the outright deceit that cross our paths on our journey toward God should come as no surprise to a mature Christian. Those things are expected hazards. It is the responsibility of mature Christians to point out those hazards to new believers and it is our duty to each other to make sure that we always keep our focus on God’s truth and our relationship to Him.

[Photo by Pop & Zebra on Unsplash]

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