The Bible is filled with stories, and many of them provide a permanent record of someone's grave mistake and the pain and suffering it caused. Take for instance the Hebrews who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Their arduous journey was punctuated with false starts. Each one of them provides a vivid warning to those who are wandering in a wilderness of their own making. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll cites this example as a lesson on how to cling to hope even when we're lost. Chuck titled today's message, When God's Discipline Strikes. What did they experience, those Hebrews in the wilderness?
Well look for yourself. They were all guided by a cloud during the day. That marvelous protection from the searing rays of the sun. All day, every day, all the people had the cloud by day and the fire by night. All of them walked through the sea as if walking across dry land. All of them. No one was excluded. All of them walked across that sea as the waters were pushed back miraculously while the Egyptian army was racing toward them.
And just as they crossed, the waters would come together and take the lives of those who were on the march to take theirs. All of them were identified with Moses. All of them. No one went hungry.
No one starred. All of them had the food every day. All of them had water. All of them were blessed with this. I think you get the picture. But with most of them, God wasn't pleased.
And in verse 5, their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Pretty serious warning. Don't forget it. Don't ever forget it.
Why? Verse 6 tells us, it's a warning so that we would not crave evil things. Verse 7, so that we would not worship idols, remember they built the golden calf and they worshiped it while Moses is on Mount Sinai getting the commandments.
They're down here building a calf and worshiping it. And as he puts it, indulging in pagan revelry. We must not be engaged in sexual immorality as some of them were. And we should not put the Lord to the test as some of them did, doubting him, questioning him and don't grumble as some of them did.
Even mentions a bad attitude, complaining. How serious was God? In the middle of all of this, we read, some of them died from snake bite. What an ethical moment when they looked up in the middle of the night and found snakes all around them. Some of them had bitten their children or bitten their family members and they were on their way to them.
That is a frightening, frightening experience, saying God means business. How did they get so cynical? Why were they jaded? You sit here and you listen to this and you read first of all the, all of them, all of them, all of them, you think, man, it's like a, like a Katewalk. It looks like an afternoon in the park at a picnic.
What happened? Well, I'm going to remind you how long they were in the wilderness. Forty years. That's how it sets in. We're not just remembering the Hebrews, we're looking at ourselves, folks.
And is there, is there anything worse than a religious routine where you began to take God for granted? One of the telltale signs that I notice when it happens and I noticed because I'm around it quite a bit is a seething anger that's just below the surface. And it's an intensified anger in this generation. Fuses are really short. You noticed? Really short.
Well, in a hurry, you got stuff to do and they become angry. Like some of you, I was given a book not too long ago that I've devoured. I've read it now three times. Not going to give you the name of the book or the name of the pastor who wrote it. But I will say before I read to you some excerpts from his very first chapter. This is an honest man. And I will tell you something else. Ministry is a dangerous place to be because we can be the best at funkiness. Book in one way, live in another.
Getting all the accolades in public, but it's not like that at home or with the staff. Case in point. First line right out of the chute of his book. I was a very angry man, says this pastor. The problem was that I didn't know I was an angry man. I thought that no one had a more accurate view of me than I did. And I simply didn't see myself as angry. No, I didn't think I was perfect.
And yes, I knew I needed others in my life, but I lived as though I didn't. My wife, my dear wife was very faithful over a long period of time in bringing my anger to me. She did it with a combination of firmness and grace. She never yelled at me in public. She never called me name. She never called me out in front of our children. In it again, she let me know, however, that my anger was neither justified nor accepted.
I looked back and I marvel at the character she showed during those very difficult days. I found out later that she had already been putting together her escape plan. Listen to this angry father's, husband's. Listen to this angry wife's.
Listen to this angry singles. She was putting together her escape plan. No, she wasn't planning to divorce me. She just knew that the cycle of anger must be broken so that we could be reconciled and live in the kind of relationship that God had designed marriage to be.
Now I want you to do some soul searching as he continues. He gets very raw in his openness when she would approach me with yet another instance of this anger. I would always do the same thing. I'd wrap my robes of righteousness around me and activate my inner lawyer and remind her once again what a great husband she had. I'd go through my well rehearsed and rather long list of all the things I did for her, all the ways I made her life easier. I'm a domestic guy. I don't mind saying so.
I do a lot of things around the house. For example, I love to cook and I would bring that up and a lot of things I could do that would help her. And I told her I was not the guy she was saying I was and I wanted to convince her that she was wrong. But my wife was not convinced. She seemed more and more convinced that she was right. And the change had to take place. I just want her to leave me alone, leave that alone.
But she wouldn't and frankly that made me angry. In ways that scare me now as I look back on them, I was a man headed for disaster. His chapter is titled, Headed for Disaster. I was a man headed for disaster in the middle of destroying my marriage and my ministry and I didn't have a clue.
I didn't have a clue. When being confronted, I told my wife numerous times that I thought she was just a garden variety, discontinued wife. I told her that I'd pray for her, that helped.
She confronted me again and again with the fact that I was an angry man. God blessed my wife with a perseverant faith that she needed to keep coming to me, often in the middle of very discouraging moments. What I'm about to share next is both humbling and embarrassing. On one occasion, as Luella, his wife was confronting me with yet another instance of my anger, I got on a roll and I actually said, you realize 95% of the women in our church would love to be married to a man like me. How's that for humility?
Isn't that interesting? You look at this, black print on white paper and you read this and you think, no, no, no, yeah, he did, just like you. In other words, you use other words, but if you stay angry, you're justifying it for the wrong reasons and you forget about the snakes. You forget how it displeases God.
You forget what hypocrisy it represents. I'll cut to the chase. He and his brother took a trip together, went to a conference and while they're driving back over the miles from that conference, his brother and he decide to talk for a while openly and he's apparently very close to his brother and it's a wonderful thing and his brother began to ask some very pointed questions and I was immediately broken and grieved. What I saw through his questions was so far from the view of myself that I'd carried for so many years that it was almost impossible to believe that the man I was now looking at and hearing was actually me, angry me. I couldn't wait to get home after that lengthy conversation and talk with my wife. I knew the insight I was being given was not just the product of God using my brother's questions. It was the result of my wife's loving but determined faithfulness for all those trying years. I'm a man with a lively sense of humor.
I normally enter the house humorously but not this night. I was in the throes of life altering, heart shaping conviction. I think she saw right away something was up by the way I looked.
I asked her if we could sit down and talk and that was the beginning of a change. That is heeding the warning finally. With some of you God is not well pleased and I'll confess to you I'll add it with some of us.
When I do not face the truth of my private life before those who mean the most to me I am a hypocrite and how easy it is for me to fake it with the verses I know and the congregation I serve and the church that's grown and the 21 years God has given us none of that is enough to forgive an ugly attitude and a private anger that I nurse should that be going on. I suggest we do something altogether unique. We do some soul searching. If you've been a member of the hot house and you've picked up the verses and you've learned the songs and you've found your seat and your voice and you now have a reputation among those around you who just think you pretty much hung the moon it's a good time for you to look real deeply and listen to the one who knows you the best. If you're married it's your mate.
If you have a friendship with someone that's that honest it's your friend and you're a fool not to listen. Let me tell you we're living in an ever increasing angry time. People have shorter fuses and more hostile reactions than I've ever witnessed before. I see it all the way to the top of our government. I see it all the way across the streets of our cities. I see it on tollways. I see it in businesses. I see it in grocery stores.
And yes I see it occasionally right here in our church. If God were to send the snakes today as he did in ancient days how many of us would be strewn in the streets from snake bite with most of them whom he had blessed eminently he wasn't pleased. It's a haunting statement he pleased with you or is it time for you to recognize and confess the condition of your heart the habits of your life the anger reactions and impatience of your mouth and your your attitudes. It's time maybe to listen to the kids who will rarely lie to you it's time for you to deal severely with the things that are breaking relationships rather than building them. It's a good time to start over like my author friend did and the difference it made. Maybe I could easily end all of this prematurely and say so much for the Hebrews. Remember him and God bless you for being here. See you later. I can't do that is a warning for you and yours and me and mine. If I am making my Cynthia miserable by the way I live at home there's something wrong with me not her. If there's a distance with our children there's something going on and probably I need to fix me in it not them or with a grandchild and we got our we got our challenges just like you do but you've come today not out of accident but you've come by divine sovereign direction and you found your way to your seat or somebody's seat and and and and you're getting it full board because you need to hear it and I need to say it and hear it.
This is for us warnings are brief and specific. If changes don't happen you may see the day your mate walks out and it'll be your tendency self-righteous tendency to blame her or him rather than realize you drove him out. Got it? Bow with me will you? How gracious of our God to give us this day a day yes to celebrate also a day yes to search our hearts. What's beautiful is when you read the story in Numbers 21 God's plan was so full of grace though his discipline was severe he had Moses build a serpent out of bronze and hold it up and all a person needed to do was look at that bronze serpent and they would be healed. You don't have to pay penance you don't have to write me a letter I can't change you I can't make you better. You've got homework to do with those you've offended they're the ones you talk to and write letters to they're the ones you make it right with before it's too late and the snakes come if you've never come to know the Lord Jesus look to the cross turn to him you're surrounded by those who have done that he's not a cure all he's not a fix all if you're angry before you come to know Christ you're gonna stay angry unless you allow him to do a work in your soul if you don't have him as your Savior you don't have anybody to go to work within you so you need him turn to him now see him as a eternal rescue operation he can change you and he belongs to you but your jaded cynicism is not going to just automatically go away because you heard these words you got to do something about them it starts with an apology that's sincere and maybe lengthy and it reaches out to those you've hurt because of your anger and it's to be followed by a plan you're going to begin to carry out if you wish to know about the Lord Jesus that's why we're here we desire to reach out to you who are broken and find yourself at wit's end and we'll be here for you connect with us so thank you father for speaking directly to me and now to all of us in a day in which the great tendency is to simply sit listen and leave back to business as usual don't let that happen Lord especially those who are teetering in a marriage that's just about to explode or in a relationship that has about reached critical mass break the the tendency toward cynicism and hypocrisy and lying to ourselves and bring us honestly before the cross and we might begin to live a life of authenticity for the glory of Jesus in his name I pray this and all of us say amen having heard today's message from Chuck Swindoll perhaps you're motivated to take your next steps maybe something he said today has caused you to realize that you need to deal with something here at Insight for Living we prepared a variety of resources for that very purpose for instance every sermon Chuck delivers on this program is paired with online study notes it's an interactive document that allows you to take personal notes but best of all Chuck walks you through a chronological process so you can search the scriptures just as he does take a look at this free resource by going to inside world org slash studies and then in addition to this new teaching series Chuck has written a brand new 12 chapter book that's also titled clinging to hope when chaos and calamity strike sometimes we begin to question if God even knows about our troubles in his book Chuck reassures us that God not only knows but he truly cares to purchase a copy of clinging to hope go to insight org slash hope in closing I'll invite you to join us in an all-out effort to bring the hope of Jesus to men and women around the world it's your gift your donation that empowers us to provide Chuck's Bible teaching far beyond our borders it's so exciting to realize that your contributions will impact lives I just saw a note that said Chuck I'm a pastor in Damascus Syria I follow your studies every day and another note from Beirut said Chuck I am so blessed I can listen to you on the radio while on my drive home from work every afternoon I'm encouraging others to listen to well thank you so much for giving generously toward the ambitious goal of reaching every country in the world through vision 195 to give a contribution today call us if you're listening in the United States call 800-772-8888 or you can give online at inside org slash donate take it from Chuck's window there's nothing quite like the beauty of the great frontier wide open skies pristine glaciers with various shades of blue and turquoise mangled within them towering pine trees and all manner of wildlife I'll tell you Alaska is truly a masterpiece of God's creation I've been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things but honestly nothing compares to the beauty in Alaska God is awesome come with us on the inside for living ministries cruise to Alaska July 1st through July 8th 2023 when I'm in Alaska I feel like I'm in an amazing painting created by God let yourself get lost in the majestic beauty spend quality time with those you love allow God to refresh your soul as you reflect on his word and his goodness in your life to learn more go to inside org slash events or call this number 1-888-447-0444 the tour to Alaska is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend ever had a door of opportunity slam shut on you I'm Bill Meyer don't miss Chuck's when dolls message tomorrow right here on insight for living the preceding message when God's discipline strikes was copyrighted in 2019 and 2022 and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2022 by Charles are swindoll in all rights are reserved worldwide duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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