Sunday, March 15, 2009

How God knows what's in my heart (church bulletin cover)

What would God do if He wanted to know what was in my heart? Stories in the Bible indicate that He'd likely test me by sending a few challenges my way. Deuteronomy 8:2 days that God led His children for 40 years in a wilderness in order to humble them, "testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not."

That doesn't always look very nice. Deuteronomy 8:3 says that God let His people hunger. In other words, these tests weren't mild experiences. Sometimes I've come down a little hard on the Israelites for their bad attitudes and harsh words toward Moses when they wanted food or water. But would I have handled it any better?

Take Numbers 20:2-10 for example. It starts by saying, "Now there was no water for the congregation." What if God used me as a leader to lead you (along with 2-3 million other people) to where the ground was parched and you couldn't find any water for your children or yourselves (not to mention the many livestock the Israelites had)? Would you take kindly to that? The Israelites "assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron" and they quarreled with them. They wished themselves dead (20:3) and called the place they'd been led to an "evil place" compared to Egypt (20:5). This wasn't because they had no ice in their iced tea, or because they had to wear mitts and toques for an extra couple weeks of winter. It looks as though it was because their situation must have felt truly desperate.

And yet Moses called them "rebels" (20:10). Rebels because they didn't believe God no matter what the circumstances. Rebels because they complained about their hardships rather than praying for help. And rebels because they thought their old captivity was better than God's way out. So now we know what was in the hearts of the children of Israel. Does that leave me any closer to knowing what's in mine?

I have to wonder how much God tests me in similar ways, and how much God actually allows challenges in my life to become truly extreme simply to see what's in my heart, and whether I'll keep His commandments or not. If we look back at Deuteronomy 8, we can see where this is all meant to lead: It was the Lord who "led you through the great and terrifying wilderness... where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna... that He might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end" (8:15-16).

What are you going through? Is it a test? May I suggest that all of life is meant to test what's in our hearts, and that amidst both the everyday challenges and the experiences of God's faithfulness, God's desire is to do us good! And the good that He does for us will include a growing humility in our hearts as we look to Him and give Him glory in all that we go through and for all that we receive from His hand.

© 2009 by Ken Peters

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